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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, September 8, 1864


Captain Kidd, of the ill-fated steamer Washoe, has been accused, according to telegraphic reports from Sacramento, of ungenerous and unfeeling conduct, in remaining with the wreck of his boat after the explosion, instead of accompanying the maimed and dying sufferers by the catastrophe to Sacramento. In defence of himself, he says he was satisfied that the wounded would be as well and kindly cared for on the Antelope as if he were present him self, and that he thought the most humane course for him to pursue would be to stay behind with some of his men and search among the ruins of his boat for helpless victims, and rescue them before they became submerged by the gradually sinking vessel; he believed some of the scalded and frantic victims had wandered into the woods, and he wished to find them also. He says that his course was prompted by no selfish or heartless motive, but he acted as his conscience told him was for the best. We heartily believe it, and we should be sorry to believe less of any man with a human soul in his body. His search resulted in the finding of five corpses after the Antelope left, and these he sent up on the small steamer which visited the wreck on the following day. However, he need not distress him self about the strictures of a few thoughtless men, for that class of people would have blamed him just as cordially no matter what course he had pursued. Whether one or more flues collapsed, or whether one or more boilers exploded, or whether the cause of the accident was that too much steam was being carried, or that the iron was defective or the workmanship bad, are all questions which must remain unsolved until the Washoe is raised. At present, and so far as anything that is actually known about the matter goes, one of these conjectures is just as plausible as another. Captain Kidd thinks the cause lay in the inefficient workmanship of the boilermakers. The surviving engineer says he looked at the steam-gauge scarcely two minutes before the explosion, and it indicated 114 pounds to the square inch (she was allowed to carry 140;) he tried the steam cocks at the same time, and found two of them full of water. The boat carried 120 to 125 pounds of steam from San Francisco to Benicia, and from here to where the accident occurred, it was customary to carry less, as the water grew shoaler, because, as every boatman knows, a steamer cannot make as good time, or steer as well, in shoal water with a full head of steam as she can with less; from Rio Vista to Freeport, it was customary to carry about 110, and above Freeport about 70 pounds of steam. The Chrysopolis was far ahead, and had not been seen for more than half an hour; and since the last collision Captain Kidd had given orders that the Washoe should be kept behind the line boats and out of danger; he was making no effort to gain upon the Chrysopolis, and had no expectation of seeing her again below Sacramento. Gass & Lombard, of Sacramento, contracted to build boilers for the Washoe which would stand a pressure of 225 pounds, and secure the inspector's permission to carry 150; Captain Kidd appointed Mr. Foster, one of the best engineers on the coast, to stay at the boiler works and personally superintend the work. The workmanship was bad; the boilers leaked in streams around the flues, and the Inspector would only allow a certificate for 113 pounds of steam. The boat made seven trips, but the leaks did not close up, as was expected. Gass & Lombard then contracted with boiler makers here to take out the flues and make the boilers over again, 80 that they would stand 140 pounds - Captain Kidd relinquishing 10 pounds from the original contract. It was done, at a cost of $7,000 - about what a new set would have cost - and after a cold water test of 210 pounds, the Inspector cheerfully gave permission to carry 140. With a margin like this, the boilers could hardly have exploded under a pressure of 114 pounds unless the workmanship was in some sort defective, or the severe test applied by the Inspector had overstrained the boilers; or unless, perhaps, a rivet or so might have been started on some previous trip, under a heavier head of steam, and this source of weakness had increased in magnitude until it finally culminated in a general let-go under a smaller head of steam. The sinking of the boat is attributed to the breaking off of the feed pipes which supply the boilers with water, and which extend through the bottom of the boat; and as the wreck settled and careened, a larger volume of water poured in through the open ash ports forward of the fire doors. The boat sank very gradually, and had not settled entirely until nearly three hours had elapsed. But as we said in the first place, the real cause of this dreadful calamity cannot be ascertained until the wreck is raised and the machinery exposed to view. Captain Kidd leaves to-day with the necessary apparatus for raising his boat, and Mr. Owens, who built her, will accompany him and superintend the work. It will be several months, however, before the Washoe will be in a condition to resume her trips. Captain Kidd says he would raise the boat, anyhow, to satisfy himself as to the cause of the accident, even if he never meant to run her again. Capt. Kidd feels the late calamity as deeply as any one could, and as any one not utterly heartless, must. That his impulses are kind and generous all will acknowledge who remember that he kept his boat running night and day, in time of the flood, and brought to this city hundreds of sufferers by that misfortune, without one cent of charge for passage, beds or food.

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