Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Sinking Of USS Oneida...The Infamous Hit And Run On Tokyo Bay

The USS Oneida/SS Bombay Collision
The Infamous Hit And Run In Tokyo Bay




So, I'm finally leaving my home state of Virginia for this post, and when I say 'leave Virginia', I mean go across the country...and the Pacific Ocean...all the way to Tokyo Bay, Japan, where what just may have been the first really notable hit and run collision between any two self propelled vehicles of any kind, ever, occurred.

It was a collision between two ships..being in the middle of a bay pretty much makes that a
 no-brainer...  and became one of the worst peacetime disasters in the annals of the U S Navy, with the loss of 126 lives. It also  involved a ship that I've already mentioned on my Bet-you-didn't-know blog several times...the USS Oneida. Oneida is probably best known for her role in the Civil War's Battle of Mobile Bay, where she played Tail End Charlie when Admiral David Farragut sent a line of wooden warships past Fort Morgan to enter and capture Mobile Bay...for a detailed look at the battle, CLICK HERE. And for a look at Oneida and the other 17 Union Navy ships involved in the battle, CLICK HERE

After the war was over, Oneida spent two years being overhauled and refurbished before reverting to peacetime assignments and finally being assigned to The Asiatic Squadron, home based in Yokohama, Japan, in 1867. Despite being refurbished and overhauled, she was neither a particularly comfortable or particularly pretty ship. She had been built to do a job with creature comforts and aesthetics taking a back seat...heck, the trunk...to function.

 She was small, cramped, and her lines were functional rather than sleek, leading to her being bestowed with the fitting if not overly original nickname of 'The Ugly Duckling. Despite all this, her crew grew attached to her, as ships crews often do, and as far as they were concerned, Oneida was the best ship in the U.S. Navy, or, in fact, in any navy.


Starboard side view of USS Oneida, and the only picture I could find of her after lots of searching. As I noted above, she wouldn't win any beauty contests . Bombay's bow knifed into her starboard side just aft of her mizzen mast...that'd be the mast closest to her stern...and took out the side of her hull from there back as well as taking most of her stern off. She went down in somewhere between twelve and fifteen minutes.


Speaking of her crew, Oneida had the good fortune to have aboard one Dr. Edward Frothingham, who signed on as an assistant to the Ship's Surgeon, an assignment that would end up being a major win for today's history buffs because on top of being a pretty decent 'sawbones' he was also a talented writer. A Navy Surgeon's Assistant's salary wasn't exactly executive caliber pay, so Dr Frothingham used his writing talents to supplement it by writing a series of columns for the New York Times, chronicling the Oneida's exploits and voyages, and sending several of the finished columns back home each time she made port.

These columns exist in the archives of that legendary paper to this day, giving us a detailed account of what it was like to spend three years visiting the exotic ports of the Far East and Africa...and 144 or so years ago, they really were exotic. Today most of the large cities of the Orient and South Africa are so westernized that at times it seems to a a world traveler arriving in, say, Tokyo, that he’s just landed in another version of New York or L.A., or maybe Chicago. In 1870, though, The Far East was still exotic and mysterious. Dr Frothingham's columns became extremely popular, and the readers of  The N.Y. Times looked forward to new installments the way people today look forward to a new episode of Dr Who, or Game of Thrones.

His columns are probably a pretty decent read, too, because from all I read while researching this post, Oneida and her crew’s three year stint in The Asiatic Squadron was definitely not boring. While they were home based in Yokohama, the majority of their deployment was spent at sea, visiting foreign ports, and even getting involved in Japan's Boshin war. They got involved in that little dust-up when the USS Idaho's captain, Commander English, Oneida's own Commander Creighhton, and Prussian Minister Baron Von Brandt were fired on while in Kobe, Japan. They came through the attack unscathed, and in reply Oneida, along with a couple of other U.S. Navy warships, was dispatched to Kobe to show the flag and protect American interests. That deployment ended up being worthy of it's own book, and Dr Frothingham indeed wrote several columns chronicling the adventures and misadventures of USS Oneida's crew during the conflict.  Keep Dr Frothingham in mind here...not only did he chronicle the Oneida's voyages, his story during her sinking was possibly the most tragic among her entire crew.  

Near the end of Oneida's three year stint in The Asiatic Squadron Commander Creighton was rotated home, to be replaced by Commander E.H.Williams, and not long afterwards she had her one and only run-in with bad weather during her entire three year deployment when she found herself brushing the edge of a typhoon. The storm managed to carry away her two long boats without doing much damage to her otherwise, and Cmdr Williams began the paperwork and frustration laden process that he hoped would get them a pair of new boats.  

This probably happened sometime during the late summer or fall of 1869. Then, in November of that same year, Oneida received orders to prepare for her voyage home, with a sailing date near the end of January. In this same group of communications, by the way, was a message denying funds for the two new longboats boats, but granting permission for them to purchase replacement boats with ships funds in Yokohama, where she'd undergo some maintenance and refitting, including new boilers, before she sailed for home. 

Oneida was drydocked, shipyard workers started crawling over her like tool-using ants, and her command staff began haunting the local boat yards, looking for longboats to replace the two that had been smashed into kindling by the unnamed typhoon. And they found some...for two to three times more than they had available funds for. Looked like the Oneida'd be heading for home with only her two smaller 'cutters', and most importantly, minus her two long boats which, between them, could hold the majority of her crew. Their absence would prove to be tragic a couple of months down the road.

Wile Oneida was overhauled and her officer vainly hunted for affordable boats, her enlisted crew  spent their down time socializing with the crews of other warships based in Yokohama, crews who they had gotten to know, and spent a good bit of liberty time with over the last three years. Her officers got in on the pre-departure festivities as well. The Russian cruiser Vsadnick's wardroom had been a regular destination for Oneida's officers when both ships were in port, and Vsadnick's officers invited Oneida's command staff out for a farewell celebration that included a session at a photo studio to get some portraits made of the two crews together. A copy of the resulting portrait would be hung in both ships wardrooms.  

Frothingham had befriended the guardians of a boy whose dad was a Samuri who had been killed in the Bosin war. He became very attached to the child, who in turn came to view him as another father. Frothingham decided that he wanted to adopt the child, and educate him in New York at his own expense. While the adoption process was far far less complicated and ponderous back in 1870 than it is today, it still took loads of convincing and cajoling to get a 'yes' from the boy's guardians, but Frothingham finally got the go-ahead for the adoption. The boy would sail for the U.S. Aboard Oneida.  

He wouldn't be the only addition to the Oneida's compliment. USS Idaho had been scheduled to rotate back home in September, and when she was a day or so out of Yokohama she also did battle with a typhoon...but she ended up being caught smack dab in the middle of hers. She weathered the storm with severe damage, but with her hull thankfully still intact. She managed to limp back into Yokohama on engines only with her masts carried away, and pretty much anything not structurally attached to her deck wiped away cleanly by the storm. She was declared unseaworthy, and assigned the duty of a stores ship..basically a floating warehouse.Most of her crew was reassigned to other Asiatic Squadron ships, with the exception of enlisted crewmen whose hitch in the Navy was about to expire. These guys  were billeted aboard Oneida for the trip home.  

At the same time all of this was going on, negotiations were ongoing for the US to sell some arms and munitions to the Japanese military. Said negotiations were handled as efficiently and routinely as anything involving the Government (Much less two governments) are ever handled, the purchased items were delivered, and the Japanese government promised that the funds would be delivered, possibly in multiple payments, over a agreed upon schedule. Oneida would transport the funds...be it the entire amount or an installment...on her voyage home.

As for the two missing boats, Commander Williams planned to see if he could find a pair at a decent price when he stopped over in Hong Kong. The funds being transported home may or may not have played into this decision. Dr Frothingham's newly adopted son would crash in his cabin. The new boilers had been installed, and Oneida shined like a new penny...at least as much so as the small, aging warship ever would. Final good bye dinners and parties were probably had. Provisions for the voyage were aboard. It was time to head for home. 

The 24th of January dawned clear and chilly, and the day was spent preparing for a 1700 hour departure, with some officers and crew making it back aboard at the last minute, among them Cmdr Williams and the ship’s doctor, Dr James Suddard. Williams had been under the weather over the last week or so, and Suddard had ordered him to stay ashore and in bed, and the two of them were among the last to board the Oneida, Smoke had been drifting from her funnel for hours as she got steam up, and at 1700 hours...5:00 PM...she weighed anchor and her screw began turning, pushing her slowly through the crowded waters of Yokohama harbor as she eased through the heavy traffic. Yokohama was, then as now, the main port of entry/departure for that end of Japan, and was also, than as now, actually the capitol city of Tokyo's port. It was also at the time the most westernized city in Japan.  (These days it's hard to tell where Yokohama ends and Tokyo begins, and if it weren't for the use of the Japanese alphabet on road signs it could almost be any major sea-side city in the world). 

Cmdr Williams made a quick walking tour of his command, making sure everything was in order before turning command over to his executive officer, Lt Commander W. L. Stewart, and retiring below to his cabin, where he gratefully and all but immediately crashed out. Saving money has always been one of the goals of any entity, be it business or government, and when steam power was introduced conserving fuel became one of the most popular methods of doing just that. There was a good solid breeze blowing as Oneida worked her way out of Yokohama's harbor and into the open bay, and once she was clear of the harbor traffic Lt Commander Stewart ordered her sails set and her engines backed off to slow ahead. Her sails cracked and swelled as they filled, and white water began curling at her bow as the wind shoved them towards the Pacific, her slowly turning propeller just providing a little added boost.

Stewart ordered a Southeasterly course, saw that the helmsman brought her head around to the proper compass course smartly, likely made a quick round of the deck himself, then turned the con over to the officer of the deck, Isaac Yates, and headed below, where stomach-growl inducing aromas were drifting from the galley. The crew began to settle into the routine of a sea voyage while the majority of the officers gathered in Oneida's wardroom and began swapping stories of the last three years’ adventures and misadventures as well as talking about the homes and families that they hadn’t seen for three years.

Yates sent a messenger below to ask the Navigation Officer, Lt. Commander Muldaur, to come to the bridge and confirm their course…he and Lt. Commander Muldaur were both concerned about a point of land to their east called Saratoga Spit, a long, narrow wedge-like peninsula that lanced out from the eastern shore of the bay, not far from where it dumped in to the Pacific. Specifically the two officers were concerned with the shoal water surrounding ‘The Spit’, and after Muldaur confirmed their course and headed back to the wardroom Yates sent word to the helmsman to ' Watch your course and be careful of The Spit'. (Saratoga Spit, by the way, is now called Futtsu Cape, and is home to Kenritsu Futtsu Park) and set an extra look-out to watch for the buoy marking Saratoga Spit's shoal water,

The helmsman probably nodded, glanced at the compass binnacle to check his course, and parroted the course back to Yates. Yates wasn’t that concerned about Saratoga Spit…they had three and a half miles of open water between Saratoga Spit's shoal water and the bay's western shore, plenty of sea room for them to both avoid ‘The Spit’ and give plenty of room to the inbound ship whose lights they had just spotted and were keeping a close eye on. As she drew closer they could see that it was a steamer. While I wasn't privy to the conversation at the chilly post that was Oneida's open air helm on that long ago January evening on Tokyo Bay, I can make a bet on its gist. 

“Wonder what ship she is?” One of them likely asked off-handedly as they watched her lights approach. Soon they could make out her outline. 

“Merchant steamer from the looks of her...She's a big one, too...” 

'She' was the iron-hulled Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co steamer Bombay, inbound to Yokohama, under command of Arthur Wellesley Eyre, and she was indeed 'A Big One'. Built in 1862, she displaced nearly a thousand tons more water and was a hundred feet longer than Oneida. They could see her masthead light as well as her green starboard navigation light. The two ships would pass starboard to starboard with plenty of sea room between them if they continued on their present courses…Yates made note of that fact as both of them watched her approach.


A P&O steamer in Venice, Italy in 1870...probably not the  Bombay, but very likely of the same class as major shipping companies tended to use the same blueprints for several ships in a single class. She was way bigger than Oneida.

Now, the lower end of Tokyo Bay isn’t a straight shot out to the Pacific…that end of the bay’s shaped a bit like a taffy-stretched ‘S’ so back in the day an inbound ship would have to make a gentle turn to port, than begin an almost immediate turn to starboard to stay in the channel. (The modern channel appears to be a bit more of a straight shot, with only one turn, to starboard. according to Google Maps). Oneaida was coming up on Saratoga Spit when she spotted the City of Bombay at a range of about three miles, which meant the City of Bombay had either just come out of her starboard turn or was coming out of the turn and straightening out when Yates and Oneida’s helmsman spotted her.

At first they weren’t all that concerned. Again, they had three and a half miles of sea room, and Tokyo Bay was deep enough for most of that width that they shouldn’t get closer than a half mile of each other…shouldn’t being the key word. Because by now, her foreshortened hull should be elongating as she drew nearly abreast of them, but that foreshortening effect that comes with viewing an object at an angle stayed constant. They couldn’t see her port running light, so she wasn’t coming straight at them, but she was definitely starting to crowd them.

“The hells he  doing?? Give her some sea room…”
“Aye Aye, Sir” The helmsman replied as he eased the helm to starboard…actually turning her to port. Back then helm orders hailed from the era when ships were steered by tiller rather than by a ships wheel and therefore were reversed. With a tiller, you pushed the tiller in the opposite direction that you wanted to turn, so back when tiller-based helm orders were the rule, the order to turn to port (Left) would be 'starboard (right) and the wheel, likewise, would be turned to the right to turn the ship to the left. 

With a shudder and sense of dread they realized that the steamer seemed to be following their slight turn. And she kept turning.  If her turn stopped right then she’d go astern of them, but that wasn’t going to happen because, for reasons unknown to this day, Captain Eyre had decided that he wanted to pass Oneida port to port, and was trying to cross her bow.

Yates and Oneida’s helmsman  watched in horrified disbelief City of Bombay’s red port navigation light became visible, meaning that she was now heading straight at them. She was also only a couple of hundred yards away by now, and she was getting’ it too, probably upwards of ten knots, her bow shoving a four or five foot bow wave aside as she bore down on them.


On the left's a diagram of the collision from the original U.S.Navy report on the collision and loss, showing the relative positions of the two ships, their positions when Oneida spotted Bombay, and the location of the collision/sinking site. I added more legible labeling of Saratoga Spit and the shoal water surrounding it. On the right, a screen cap of the Google Maps map of Tokyo Bay today,with the approximate courses of both ships, each ships position (Approx) when Oneida spotted Bombay, and the sinking site added.

Yates thought fast…he’d been at sea for decades, and the order came to him almost before he thought it. If he kept turning to port with City of Bombay still turning, the steamer’d track his turn, and still get him broadside, even if the steamer’s captain reversed his turn right then…by now there wasn’t enough sea room to maneuver…

“Reverse the helm!!! Hard to port!!!!” He could try to ‘port around’ the onrushing steamer’s bow, hopefully making the collision a glancing blow or, even better, letting her pass astern of them.

“Aye,aye Sir!!” The helmsman replied even as he started spinning the wheel to port, the wooden spokes becoming a semi-blur.  Oneida’s bow started coming around…it looked like the crew on the steamer’s bridge had finally realized what was happening, and her turn had stopped…better yet they seemed to realize what Oneida was trying to do…the City of Bombay’s bow may have even started moving to port as well…another few seconds, and the steamer just might go astern of them after all…the angle between Oneida and the City of Bombay  was becoming smaller by the second…

Yates realized that wasn’t going to happen just an instant before they hit, bellowed a curse, and dived for the port side of the bridge as, below him, the helmsman jumped in the opposite direction. Less than a second later the iron cliff that was City of Bombay’s bow knifed into Oneida’s wooden hull at about a 45 degree angle a few feet aft of the starboard mizzen chains, between the mizzen mast and the stern, with the crackling crunch of splintering wood mingled with the shriek of the steamer’s iron hull scraping across splintered timbers.


A contemporary woodcut of the moment that Bombay's bow knifed into USS Oneida's starboard stern quarter.  Pic's from Forgotten Stories.net.

Oneida heeled to port and slewed around as City of Bombay slammed into her and began ripping a wedge shaped chunk out of her hull.  Below, in the wardroom, the officers went from pleasant conversation while dining to being tossed across the wardroom along with their meal in less than an eye-blink. The forward bulkhead all but exploded inward towards them, and, as china and crockery shattered against the deck, they had the surreal experience of watching the bow of another ship slam into the end of the ward room table and splinter it into kindling as it ripped up deck timbers. For several seconds all they could do is count the rivets on the black-painted hull as it slipped past, iron shrieking against jagged wood.


Just aft of the wardroom (I’m assuming here, from descriptions I’ve read) the Captain's clerk, William Crowninshield, had found a quiet spot to crash out for a quick nap that was rudely and violently interrupted as he was tossed across the compartment. The city of Bombay’s bow ripped through the stern at almost the same instant, shoving Oneida bodily aside, minus a roughly wedge shaped hunk of her starboard stern quarter maybe forty or so feet long by ten or twelve feet wide at it's widest point. The steamer was clear of Oneida now, and the warship had probably been spun around by the impact, so when Crowninshield picked himself up off of the deck and turned around, checking himself for protruding bone ends and spurting blood, he had an even more surreal experience than the occupants of the wardroom…where the starboard side of the hull used to be was now occupied by a window-wall quality view of Tokyo Bay…minus the window.

Crowninshield could already feel the deck slanting sternward beneath his feet…the Bombay had ripped Oneida's hull open almost all the way ‘round her hull to her keel, and the cold waters of Tokyo Bay were roaring through the gaping would in an enraged torrent. Crowningshield’s first thought was to get Cmdr Williams out of his cabin and topside…he managed to pull himself topside through the gaping hope where the quarter deck had been, then made his way to the skylight above the Captain’s quarters …also his quarters…to find it empty.. Two other crew members had already assisted the Commander to the main deck.
Crowningshield dropped down into the cabin, grabbed the warmest coat he could find, swapped whatever he had on his feet for boots, grabbed a cap on the way out of they cabin, then climbed the nearest ladder to the top deck. His footing was becoming iffy as the deck’s angle increased by the second, and going up the ladder quickly became a balancing acrobatic act. Oneida did not have long to live. Once topside he found Cmdr Williams, gave him his assessment of the damage, and was told to see how much water they had under them (There was still some small hope that she'd settle to the bottom with at least her masts above water). Unfortunately all of the sounding gear had been in the stern when it was violently separated from the ship, and Oneida was going down fast. Crowningshield climbed the rigging of the mainmast and watched as the waters of Tokyo Bay swallowed his ship.
Williams ordered a couple of other officers to make a quick tour of the ship, then give him a quick damage report (That was an easy one…most of her stern was gone), and an assessment of whether she could be saved or not, (Pretty much another no-brainer) and stared at the fast receding lights of The Bombay in disbelieving disgust for a second as Yates came up to him and exclaimed ‘Cap, sir, those idiots ran us down…they tried to cross our bow, and cut us down!!’
So I see, Mr Yates” I have a feeling that if looks could kill, the looks the two of them were giving the steamer would have vaporized her in one cataclysmic flame-burst.  "Lets see if we can save Oneida or at least get everyone off of her!...Mr Stewart!! Let's see if we can get her attention and bring her back to us…"
They had already tried to hail Bombay with no luck what so ever, so the next step was to fire rockets as a distress signal. One problem, though, and it was a biggie… the locker where the rockets were stored was on the starboard side of the stern. Which was no longer attached to the ship.
Stewart grabbed the Parrot rifle’s crew and headed for the arms and ammunition locker to grab rounds and powder…it being peace time the ammo was locked up, and the key had been held by a sailor who had been on the starboard side of the stern, on watch, when the collision occurred. Jimmy bars were found and deployed freely, splintering the frame. The rounds and powder bags were loaded onto a cart, most likely,and the crew hotfooted it to the big Parrot rifle.
The managed to load and fire three rounds in three minutes by not worrying about such minor things as swabbing the barrel after each shot…it was literally powder-round-ram-fire-repeat, and someone was looking out for them, because a smoldering grain or three pf powder didn’t cook off a powder bag as it was being rammed home. They had other problems though. Remember, Oneida was going down fast by the stern, with the deck-angle becoming greater with every passing second.
They were getting ready to fire off the 4th round when the angle of the deck and gravity became too much for the lines securing the 8000 pound or so gun. The gun tore loose and started rolling, crushing one of the ensigns to death as it careened across the deck and through the rail. Water boiled up past the gun position...Oneida was beginning her final plunge. The Bombay’s lights were distant glimmers by now if they were even visible at all. 


Another contemporary woodcut, depicting the sinking, and a pretty accurate one at that...there was a good 'chop' running the night of the sinking, but no real seas. Her stern's under and she's minutes away from making her final plunge.  The starboard cutter's gotten away safely and is heading for the western shore of the bay...this was Stoddard's cutter, with himself and Ensign Anderson on board. While  Bombay's visible in the left center in the woodcut, she was very likely already out of sight by this point
As Stewart was getting the gun crew set up, Williams sent one of the crew below to assist in getting the wounded topside…the sailor bailed down a ladder way and helped several of his fellow crewmen to the main deck, then made a quick sweep of the below deck areas that were still accessible to see if he’d left anyone behind. As he regained the ladderway, someone shouted down that she was getting ready to take her final plunge, and that he needed to get the hell out of there…he replied that he couldn’t leave until relieved. The sailor who called down to him disappeared, and the orders never arrived.
Dr Frothingham assisted with the injured until someone told him he’d done all that he could, and that he needed to go see to his ward…Frothingham hadn’t forgotten about the boy, who was probably in the wardroom with his adoptive dad and the rest of the officers when the City of Bombay rammed them, by any means,…he’d probably told him to stay below out of the way until he could get him topside and to a boat, and very possibly didn’t realize at first that Oneida was as badly damaged as she was, possibly thinking that most of the damage was above the waterline. Frothingham ran below, searching desperately for the boy…neither were ever seen again.
Commander Williams was really missing those two longboats about now, but it wasn’t much they could do about it…he ordered the two cutters (In davits near the bow) loaded and launched, even as Lt Commander Mauldeur, who had made a quick tour of the damaged area and found the stern just about under, told him that she had three to five minutes at the most. Of course you can get a pair of boats loaded and launched in five minutes when the ship you’re launching them from is slanting backwards at a 20 or so degree angle.
They had one thing going for them…despite some illustrations of the wreck suggesting otherwise, it was a clear, cold, night with just a moderate chop...not even truly rough...running, so they didn’t have a problem with wind and seas, only time. Both cutters had already been swung out, and were loaded quickly, but the port side cutter’s ropes jammed in the davits while she was still several feet above the bay…sailors quickly pulled out knives and made quick work of the ropes, but the cutter dropped maybe 6-8 feet with one end low and slammed against Oneida’s hull before bouncing clear with part of one side stove in, taking on water but upright and afloat. Her crew started bailing and pulled hard for the bay’s western shore.
On the other side of the bow, Yates made it to the starboard side cutter and, after being ordered to board by Williams, jumped aboard as the boat was being lowered. This one was lowered smoothly, released from her falls, and the crew started pulling away from the doomed Sloop of War. The last thing that Yates heard as they pulled clear was Williams…who refused to leave his ship…ordering everyone who hadn’t made it aboard one of the cutters into the rigging, to buy them a few more minutes to wait for a rescue that wouldn’t come.
The sailors remaining aboard Oneida scrambled up the shrouds into the rigging, hanging on for dear life as, for just a moment, some hope was raised that maybe the bay was shallow enough here for her masts to be out of the water when she went down…just a ray of hope…
Oneida shuddered, lifted her bow out of the water, and jerked drunkenly back and down, her masts disappearing last, one long intermingled wail of despair rising into the chilly night as as the surge caused by her sinking washed the sailors from the rigging. Crowningshield yanked off his over coat so he wouldn’t get tangled in it as he tried to swim and pushed off, trying to dive as far from the sinking sloop as he could.
He hit the water just about the time Oneida started her plunge in earnest and was dragged under as she went down…he struggled furiously against the suction, finally breaking free and popping to the surface like a cork, exhausted, a dozen or so feet astern of the starboard cutter…he managed to swim for her and, as he was using up his last reserves of energy, was pulled over the side to collapse in the bottom of the boat.
Stewart wasn't so lucky...he, too, had also dived for it as Oneida started her final plunge, but he surfaced twice as far from the cutter as Crowningshield.
Y…Yates…for Gods sake man, save me!!.”
Yates ordered the cutters crew to back-row towards Stewart, but before they could get to him, he slipped below the surface. Several of the sailors who had been washed from Oneida’s rigging saw the cutter as well, though, and swam desperately for it. Yates and the rest of the guys on the small boat started dragging exhausted sailors over the cutters gunwales, not stopping until she had about twice as many aboard as she was designed to carry.
Yates continued to search for survivors, telling those who wouldn’t fit aboard the cutter to hang on to her gunwales…finally, with about 45 sailors aboard her and several others hanging on to her sides, Yates took one last look towards the debris and humanity laden patch of water that his ship had occupied only minutes earlier, then began gingerly rowing towards the lights of a fishing village on the bay’s eastern shore. Overloaded as she was, with only a few inches of freeboard, it was a long, cold, torturous trip. Yates ordered those who couldn’t row to bail using whatever they could find…boots, hats, anything they could fashion into a water removal tool of any kind, as the oarsmen pulled as gingerly as they could to avoid shipping even more water. The trip took them over an hour that seemed more like a week and when they finally beached the cutter near the village’s dock, they were all but exhausted…
Suddard and the occupants of the port side cutter had a far easier time of it despite their boat trying to ship water through the bashed in section of her hull. They had headed for the the western side of the bay,...first trying to catch and hail a passing Japanese fishing boat, but the fisherman, a classic sailing junk, was to far away. Her crew neither saw nor heard them, and Suddard couldn't catch them. Oneida had been far closer to the bay's western shore, and they also had far fewer sailors aboard than the starboard cutter, so they weren't riding as low in the water. It probably took them somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes less time to to make it ashore, and as luck would have it, they also had a village at their landing site. They made contact with the villagers, hired a trio of guides, probably got warmer clothing, and headed for Yokohama. They knew that they had shipmates in the water and there was the slim hope that her masts had still been above the surface when she touched bottom (They hadn't actually seen her go down, apparently) so Suddard told the other sailors to stand fast and wait for either their return or rescue, whichever came first.  I have a sneakin' suspicion that the two of them really didn't know they were actually setting out on a long, cold 8 hour trip that included having to cross a couple of small mountains...as Suddard noted in his report, it was a 'Very fatiguing eight hour trip'
 Meanwhile, less than an hour after she'd rammed Oneida, the Bombay slipped into Yokohama Harbor, and her captain, Arthur Wellesley Eyre, ordered the rockets designating the arrival of mail for Royal Navy ships at Yokohama fired, then dropped anchor. As mail launches form the Royal Navy ships started arriving and picking up mail, no mention was made to them about the collision, or about the sail and part of a mast draped across her bow...but unbeknown to him, he had been overheard.
...and it would take eight hours or so for the mystery of the sail draped across Bombay's bow to be solved, when Suddard and Anderson stumbled, half frozen and exhausted, to the home of an American  merchant, a Mr Carroll, who Suddard and Anderson knew. It was about 3AM, and it's rare that anything good wakes you up at that hour. Carroll had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be a long morning before he even opened the door to let the two half frozen, near exhausted naval officers stumble inside. His suspicion was confirmed when the two of them let him in on what had happened. And here's one of places where the two sources I found diverge...greatly I might add. So I'll go with the official Navy reports here, them being official and such.
Anderson immediately collapsed from exhaustion. Suddard, on the other hand, managed to draw on a reserve of strength, and he and Carroll made their way to the waterfront, grabbed a boat, and rowed out to USS Idaho, where Suddard identified himself  and his reason for being there to the OOD, ...my bet is it took less than minutes for the two of them to be helped aboard, the Idaho's captain to be awakened and informed, and the story told...The captain told a couple of his sailors to assist Suddard to his cabin...where he immediately and likely gratefully went unconscious...then ordered one of Idaho's cutters to be readied for launch.
A crew from Idaho wasted absolutely no time at all rowing to HMS Ocean. Ocean's officers were also pondering on a mystery. They were the ones who had actually heard Eyre state, in a more than slightly pissed off tone of voice, “I have cut the quarter off a damned Yankee frigate. Serves her bloody well right, she crossed my bows with a starboard helm.” as he discussed the collision with a couple of his own officers, thinking he was out of earshot.
Lets slip back in time a few hours, to when Eyre made that more than a little incriminating comment. It was at that point that Ocean's officers probably said something to the effect of  'P&O Boat Captain Say What???' , confronted him, and asked about damage, survivors, injuries, casualties, whether the 'Damn Yankee Frigate' in question...And they likely knew exactly what ship it had to be, because only one U.S.Navy ship had departed Yokohama the previous evening...was still afloat, to be told that the damage was likely minor (By then the HMS Ocean sailors had possibly spotted Oneida's sails draped across Bombay's bow). Then Eyre mentioned that his ship was damaged, with a timber through his bow. So, Ocean's guys thought, likely, you hit her hard enough to put a freaking piece of the ship you hit through your iron hull, and you don't think she was damaged?!? Ocean's officers asked a few more probing questions while glancing at the smoke drifting from the steamer's funnel...she still had steam up...and suggested it just might be a good idea for Eyre to weigh anchor and head back to the area of the collision to look for survivors. Eyre again referenced the timber through his bow (She was floating on an even keel, not down by the bow in the least, so the pumps were/had taken care of the flooding) and refused..
The contingent from HMS Ocean felt that they didn't have time for a stare-down...they headed back towards their ship. HMS Ocean was a big Prince Consort class wooden hulled ironclad, and her mail launch/ liberty boat was a good sized steam launch, probably capable of 10 or so knots, and I have a feeling they squeezed all ten of them out of her. They probably stopped at Ocean just long enough to report the collision, then headed ashore and made their way first to Royal Navy headquarters, then the local offices of Peninsular And Orient to report the collision to them as well. Orders were cut ordering Eyre to precede to the area of the collision to search for survivors. Ocean's sailors returned to  Bombay with the orders, and possibly officers...both Navy and Corporate...to convey said orders to Eyre directly. Eyre followed this sound advice, and headed back out, nursing the Bombay's damaged bow.
Once Suddard notified the  Idaho's captain of the collision (I find it difficult to believe, BTW. that Ocean's crew hadn't notified them a couple of hours earlier, but from the way the official report reads, they hadn't) Idaho's crew notified the crews of HMS Sylvia and the big Russian cruiser Vsadnick, as well as the American steamer Yangtze, and Ocean's steam launch was put at the disposal of the search fleet. The smaller boats were far more useful in searching the shoreline than larger boats, and proved their worth doing just that, joined by boats from Sylvia, and Vsadnick, as well as a French gunboat, and the Yangtze. The sailors at the two Japanese fishing villages were picked up (A few of them, including Crowningshield, by Bombay) and brought back to Yokohama, and lots of floating debris was spotted, but sadly no other survivors were found.
It took awhile for news of the collision to reach the US...remember, the first Transatlantic telegraph cable hadn't been put in service but four years earlier, a Transpacific cable wouldn't be laid for another thirty or so years, and while the British empire would be connected, world-wide, before the turn of the century that wasn't yet so in 1870. When news of the collision reached the U.S., it did so via the age old ancient method of word of mouth...every ship arriving from the Orient brought new details and information. OF course, once the information made it to the U.S., the news was able to travel pretty quickly. Western Union had built a transcontinental telegraph line in 1861, so the news was able to spread cross-country as quickly as AP telegraph operators could key it...and the American people were, to put it mildly, pissed. There was talk of finding Eyre and graphically demonstrating their displeasure, especially after rumors spread that the Peninsular and Orient captain was to simply be suspended, and the bravery of Oneida's crew was contrasted with the actions taken by Captain Eyre, who was referred to using a number of terms, 'Inhuman Wretch' being among the nicer of them.
Of course, the slow international transmission of information meant that the verdict was almost set weeks before the American people got any news. In contrast, the news of the collision, complete with gory details, made it's rounds around Yokohama real quickly, and the citizens of that city as well as the crews of the various vessels based there discussed lynching Eyre freely and openly. He hid out aboard Bombay, and we can only hope he regretted not attempting to rescue Oneida's crew at least a little. (Events, sadly, would prove that no, he didn't).
Peninsular and Orient, realizing that their captain's health. welfare, and well-being just might be in jeopardy for real, asked that a formal board of inquiry be convened right then, and that is what happened. It's also where things got real...and a bit disgusting, truth be known. See, Eyre preceded to lie his ass off.

When the Board of Inquiry convened, it was made clear that they wanted two main questions answered...were Captain Eyre and Bombay at fault for the collision, and did he do his duty to attempt to rescue Oneida's  crew after the collision. The answers that the board came up with...and the verdict rendered...were definitely not what you'd think they should be. 
 Basically, Eyre claimed that he'd been minding his own business, staying on his side of the channel when all of a sudden, Oneida appeared only yards ahead, cutting across his bow at around 15 knots and only skillful seamanship on their part had kept City of Bombay from ramming her amidships and cutting her in two.  He had assumed that the damage to Oneida  was minor and he hadn't heard anyone  trying to hail him, either shouting or with gunfire, and had seen no lights of any kind. He had even stopped for a good while to see if Oneida was in danger, and posted a lookout astern to watch for distress signals. He and City of Bombay, in other words, were as pure as the new-fallen snow.
 Uh-huh,,,,right. First off, Oneida had never made 15 knots, under either sail or steam, ever...she was rated at 12 knots, and cruised at around seven or eight knots.. Things got even more interesting as the Court of Inquiry continued...All of the Bombay's crew reported seeing Oneida's red port navigation light (Or 'side light' as it was termed back then) meaning that City of Bombay would have been to port of Oneida when the two ships spotted each other...however all of the accounts from Oneida's crew report seeing the steamer's green starboard navigation light, meaning they were passing starboard to starboard. On top of that, the accident report from Oneida's officers included a well drawn and very detailed hand drawn diagram of the two ships courses prior to the collision, also showing the maneuver that caused the collision, that clearly shows the ships setting up to pass starboard to starboard before Bombay turned into them. There's absolutely no way both can be true. Keep in mind that City of Bombay's crew had several days to get their story straight.
The rules of the road weren't as standardized in 1870 as they are today, but common sense has always been around, and one of the rules of the road that has always been in force states something to the effect of  'No vessel shall maneuver in such a way as to impede or imperil another vessel'. Common sense has always pretty much stated 'If, when approaching another ship, both ships maintaining their present course will result in safely passing each other, do nothing'.  Eyre blithely and blatantly broke both of those.
We won't even get into the 'A Ship under sail is the privileged vessel and has right-of-way over a powered vessel thing because that wasn't an officially written rule of the road in 1870...but, again, common sense, people!
Eyre himself  had basically busted himself by stating that 'Common law states that vessels are to keep to the starboard side of the channel', (Thereby passing port side to port side) or words to that effect, thereby all but admitting that he maneuvered to pass Oneida port to port. Again, Oneida's surviving officers and deck crew, to a man, reported seeing the British steamer's green side light...her starboard navigation light. So Bombay had been on the port side of the channel when Oneida's crew spotted her, and to get to the starboard side of the channel, Bombay  had to do exactly what she did do. She tried to cross Oneida's bow, and in doing so Eyre royally screwed up his estimate of speed versus distance.
As for thinking he'd only caused minor...or at least not fatal ...damage to  Oneida, Eyre himself asked if Tokyo Bay was deep enough for Oneida to sit on the bottom with at least her masts out of the water, so it was a good bet he knew he'd wounded her badly. (A 40ft x15ft or so foot section of her stern quarter...basically her entire stern quarter..ripping away in a crunching flurry of splintering timbers should have been his first clue). Asking that question definitely refuted his claim that he thought it had been a glancing collision that had barely scratched Oneida.
Everyone for miles had heard Oneida's guns, including most of the citizens of Yokohama, and several officers on board the Russian cruiser Vsadnick. Oneida had also sounded her steam whistle until her boiler room flooded, putting her fires out. (It was sheer and absolute luck that her boilers didn't explode, BTW, when that cold water hit them). Me thinks there's absolutely no way that Eyre, and everyone on the Bombay, didn't hear all of the above as well.
You'd think that Eyre would have been toast, given all the evidence against him, but he apparently also had a really awesome lawyer, because he not only got a light sentence, he was cleared of all blame for the collision. It was stated that, while Eyre broke every rule in the book and possibly even a few he made up, and Oneida was following the rules of the road, Oneida should have followed local custom rather than Naval regulations (Really, people?? Really????).
The Court of Inquiry did find Eyre guilty of abandoning Oneida's crew to their fate, but still dropped the ball, punishment-wise. His only punishment was a six month suspension of his Master's Certificate, meaning simply that he couldn't be in command of any ship until mid-summer. He could still sail aboard any ship in commercial service, and could hold any officers position other than Master (Captain), so after ramming and sinking an American warship, and causing the death of 125 of her crew, who he left for dead, he not only faced no jail time or criminal sanctions...he still had a freaking job.
The US Naval authorities in Yokohama (And in the U.S., when the news reached them) were, to put it mildly, displeased. They wanted him extradited to the U.S. right then to be tried on multiple counts of manslaughter, but the British authorities hemmed, hawed, and delayed (All the while motioning to Eyre to get the hell outa Dodge because they couldn't keep this up but for so long, and if he made it to American soil, he was as good as toast).
Eyre took the hint, and left aboard the next ship heading for Britain, which happened to be the good ol' Bombay. To add insult to injury, he signed aboard as her first mate (Second in command), so he was still employed, and still receiving Officer's pay. Again, the U.S. Authorities were not happy...with either Eyre or their British counterparts...and this is what resulted in the Peninsular and Orient line being essentially banned form U.S. Ports for a couple of decades.
A couple of days after Bombay left Yokohama, the crew of a Japanese fishing boat found Commander Williams' body drifting out to sea...They brought his remains back to Yokohama, and the U.S. Minister (What we'd call Ambassador this day and time) arranged for burial in the Yokohama foreign cemetery with full military honors. The same ceremony and interment...on either side of Williams' grave...was provided for two more of Oneida's sailors whose bodies were recovered later. The citizens of Yokohama raised funds for a monument to the three sailors, which still stands to this day.
On British soil, Eyre appealed his already light sentence, very likely convinced that the suspension would be overturned...and the Court refused to hear the case, stating that the Court of Inquiry in Yokohama had been far too lenient, and that Eyre was exceedingly lucky that he wasn't in the brig of an American warship, on the way to the U.S. to be tried for Manslaughter.
As for Oneida, the Navy wrote her off as a total loss, and left her to sit on the bottom of Tokyo Bay as a grave for the 126 sailors who went down with her. She'd soon be forgotten...
Except that she wasn't forgotten. There are two stories about her salvage (That I've found) and while many details, including just who arranged the dive, are the same, the time line varies by 20 years and change. The first story has her wreck being sold to a Japanese marine salvage contractor named Tatchobonaiya, whose company dived on the wreck and recovered numerous artifacts as well as the remains of many of the doomed sailors. What isn't made clear is when the dive was made...digging into it a little more, the remains were buried in a solemn and dignified ceremony in a common grave on the grounds of Ikegami Temple, in Tokyo, at the expense of the salvage company. . Mr Tatchobonaiya raised funds for an ornate headstone with inlaid copper letters telling the story of Oneida's sinking, which was erected as a memorial to the interred sailors. The first version has this happening only a few years after her sinking, the other version of the same story has her salvage taking place when her wreck was cleared as fortifications were built on Saratoga Spit in the 1890s. Obviously, only one version can be the real  story. While later events proved that her wreck wasn't cleared, the burial of her crews' remains took place in the early 1890s, so I'm going with that as the approximate date of her salvage.


The headstone for the common grave at Ikegami Temple, where Oneida's crew was buried. You can still see where the copper letters telling the story of the sinking were inlaid into the headstone, though the letters themselves were removed and melted down for the Japanese war effort in W.W.II


That still wasn't the last anyone heard of her. Remember the funds that were allegedly on board...the payment for arms and ammunition and such? Well it was a pretty good bet that the strongbox containing those funds was still somewhere within the wreck, which sank pretty much intact. (It's also a pretty good bet that this money was one of the main items that Mr. Tatchobonaiya was looking to salvage when he bought the salvage rights.).

She lay basically undisturbed until 1955, nearly a hundred years after she went down, when another attempt was made to salvage the money. That year a crew, funded by a gentleman named Takeshito Haseo dived on the wreck to look for the strong box. They recovered quite a few artifacts, including coins, personal belongings, the steam gauge from the engine room, and some remains missed by the original salvage and recovery effort (Thy were interred with the rest of their fellow crewmen), but no strong box...no money at all except for the vintage coins found among the wreck's timbers.


She spent another peaceful 55 years on the bottom of Tokyo Bay, until 2010, when another attempt...this one covered by one of the Japanese TV Networks, and sponsored by one of Takeshito's relatives...came up just as empty handed as the 1955 attempt, mainly because they weren't even sure they'd relocated her. They found a shipwreck that resembled her, and they're pretty sure that it was indeed her, but they weren't absolutely sure. (Really guys?? Just how many Civil War era American warships are there on the bottom of the bay near the former Saratoga Spit?? )
 
It's a pretty good bet that, with a strongbox full of cash (144 or so year old cash, but cash none the less) still supposedly aboard her, Oneida will be dived on again...let's be honest, she won't be but so hard to find. ...at least all of her crew and her one unfortunate young passenger have been given proper burial, so the next team of divers who explores her won't be disturbing a grave.

For now, though, she's a memorial to 126 lost souls and a reminder of what just might be the first fatal hit and run accident between self propelled vehicles. Ever.


<***>Notes, Links, and Stuff<***>


This one also kinda came out of the blue...no, seriously, it did. I hadn't even heard of the sinking of the Oneida until I researched Admiral Farragut's Battle of Mobile Bay fleet, and when I read about the sinking I knew it had to be included in this blog. Especially when I realized that the story of Oneida's  sinking, and the loss of 125 of her crew as well as a young boy who was also on board was virtually unknown...How does one of the worst peacetime disasters in the long and storied history of the U.S.Navy become virtually forgotten?

 When I did  run up on Oneida's  story, I thought the article would be one of those nice, quick one week or so to write, edit, find pictures for, and post deals....after all I found only one source (Initially)...Knock it out in a couple or three two or three hour stints in front of the 'puter while consuming munchies and such...Start on Saturday and have it posted before the next weekend rolled around. Guess what...Didn't happen that way. 

 After I'd gotten it most of the way done with, I ran up on all of the official reports which of course, served to refute a good 50% of what I'd written. To say those documents are an interesting read pretty much redefines the term 'understatement. And no, I can't figure out why they didn't show up on my search for info the first time...I was actually looking for a pic of the Bombay when I found the reports.

One thing's for sure though...When you read about the sinking, you just shake your head and ask a couple of questions:

 1) WHY isn't this better known than it is...I mean 120+ sailors went down with her, making it one of the worst peace time naval disasters on record, yet you never hear it mentioned. In fact, I did a search for 'Worst Peacetime Losses In U.S.Navy History, and found several lists that didn't mention Oneida's sinking, but did detail losses that weren't as severe. As a good friend of mine noted 'This would make a great documentary for History Channel or Discovery Channel.

2) 'Just what was Eyre thinking...oh, right, that he didn't want to get gigged for turning into another ship when just holding his course would have resulted in passing safely. Then you have to wonder just how the hell he thought he was going to get by with it.

As noted above, I got lucky while I was researching this one...with it being as obscure as it is, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find much info, but I found both the official reports and Court of inquiry minutes and a blog post that outlined the collision, as well as the events leading up to it and the events afterward, pretty thoroughly (If not, according to the official reports, completely accurately). Of course, there was also Wikipedia..and if you read the account of the collision contained with-in Wikipedia's article about the Oneida, you almost wonder if it was written by one of Eyre's relatives. Yes, it's that slanted.

 Ok, on to the notes!

<***>

I know everyone's asking 'What ever happened to Eyre?? Thing is...no one's really sure. It's a known fact that we never got him over here to try him, and it seems he never commanded another ship for Peninsular and Orient (Or anyone else for that matter). One source has him dying only a few months after his appeal was heard and denied, but another has him marrying in Tasmania in the early 1880s (If the latter's true, I hope the woman he married was the most God-awful shrew that's ever existed)

<***>


Bombay, according to the Court of Inquiry minutes, carried seven boats...a pair each of  life boats and cutters, as well as three smaller boats. Enough to have picked up all of  Oneida's crew without even breaking a sweat.


<***> 


The Bombay didn't exactly lead a charmed life after the collision, either. She ran between Hong Kong and Yokohama as a mail and passenger steamer for half a decade or so before being retired and converted into a floating warehouse at Woosing...and that's where she was on Christmas Eve of 1880 when she caught on fire and burned to the waterline.


<***>


Speakin' of the Bombay... my two sources gave her name as either Bombay or City of Bombay. The official reports on the accident give her name as Bombay, so that's what I went with. And yes, in fact  I did have to go through the post, and delete 'City Of' from her name in several places.

<***>

Remember the portraits the crews of Oneida and Vsadnick had taken before Oneida's ill-fated departure? The portrait of Oneida's crew in Vsadnick's wardroom hung there, surrounded by black crepe, for years after the sinking.

<***>

Vsadnick's crew not only kept the portrait hanging in their wardroom for several years after the sinking, they kept searching for any sign of Oneida's crew for a month or more after she went down, using another Former U.S.Navy Warship that was also a Civil War Veteran. 

 The USS Aroostook  was one of the several Unidilla class gunboat that the US Navy had built at the beginning of the war...during that conflict the Aroostook was right in the middle of several battles and campaigns, and after the war she was refurbished and assigned to the Asiatic Squadron. She was again a very busy ship during her deployment, but when it came time for her to be rotated home, there was a big  problem. The  Unidilla class boats had been thrown together real quickly using unseasoned lumber and because of this her hull aged far more quickly that normal (A nice way of saying that the hull was already rotting slam out less than a decade after she was built...a problem with all of this class of gunboat). Her hull was so badly rotted, in fact, that there was no way she could safely cross the open ocean. She was decommissioned in Hong Kong, and sold to a commercial owner.
And that's how she got involved with the search for the Oneida's crew. She was chartered by the ranking naval officer at Yokohama, and manned by volunteers...many of them from the Vsadnick's crew...to continue the, unfortunately, fruitless search effort, which lasted for well over a month.

<***>

The memorial to Oneida's crew still stands on the grounds of Ikegami Temple, in Tokyo, but the inlaid copper lettering telling the story of the sinking is long gone...in fact it's been missing for about 70 years. During World War II the monument had the had the ironic distinction of being a memorial to an American warship located in the capitol city of a country locked in mortal combat with the armed forces of the United States. But that in itself is not the reason the copper letters disappeared...the reason for their removal was actually far more practical...Japan needed all the metal it could get for the war effort. SO the copper letters were removed and melted down with tons of other copper items for use in munitions.
<***>

While the copper letters on the memorial at Ikegami Temple was never replaced, a far more elaborate memorial to the crew of he Oneida was erected recently at Kosano Park, at the US Navy's Yokosuka Naval Base, which is almost directly across Tokyo bay from what used to be known as Saratoga Spit, and not far from the site of the village where Suddard and Anderson launched their trek to Yokohama.

 The memorial was erected in the summer of 2006, and dedicated in October of the same year, and consists of a large, oval paved in crushed stone and concrete.  the center area features a trio of  black marble memorial stones, the center one raised on a podium and telling the story of the sinking while the other two give the history of the Oneida, and list the names of the sailors lost in the sinking.
Take a look HERE for pictures of the memorial, with much better descriptions than I just gave, by far...it's a very impressive and moving memorial.


<***>

Peninsular and Orient...now usually known as P&O...is still around. They were still a pretty large, worldwide organization until 2006, when they were purchased by DP World...a purchase that led to their port operations  in the US being sold off because of security concerns. (DP World is based in Dubai...this caused serious controversy, political manevering, and Homeland Security types to have a conniption.

P&O still has a couple of Port operations in Europe, and they have several major ferry operations, as well as a very successful marine services division. They also have a joint ownership of a successful cruise line with American interests. Safe to say that their ban from U.S. ports is no longer in effect.


<***>


While I've referred to the body of water where the a collision and sinking occurred as 'Tokyo Bay' throughout this post for convenience sake...after all, it's been 'Tokyo Bay' for over a century...the bay was known, by sailors from countries other than Japan at any rate, as Yokohama Bay at the time of the sinking...Tokyo hadn't existed as 'Tokyo' for but two years at the time of the sinking (The city's original name, BTW, was 'Edo') 

<***>  
 
While the loss of USS Oneida's been seemingly all but forgotten, the name still lives on. She was actually the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name...the first was a brig commissioned in 1809. There have been three other commissioned warships bearing the name since:

A patrol boat, commissioned in 1898
Another patrol boat (SP-765), commissioned in 1918
The last was an Attack Transport (APA-221) commissioned in 1944


<***>LINKS<***>

I got lucky on this one...As I noted above, I found two good sources about the Oneida's sinking.  First one's the official report to Congress on the sinking, courtesy of Google Books, and the second is an interesting, if not entirely accurate article located on one of the coolest blogs I've had the luck to run up on. The blog's 'Forgotten Stories, and it features interesting stories about just about anything you can think of...including the sinking of Oneida. The article is in three parts, and covers Oneida's deployment to the Asiatic Squadron in a bit more detail than I do here.

http://tinyurl.com/k8nh7al :    Google Books copy of the minutes of the Court of Inquiry concerning the collision and the official reports of the surviving officers from Oneida. Interesting find...and read! Wish I'd found this before I found the 'Forgotten Stories' article...numerous changes and rewrites resulted from this discovery, let me tell ya! 

Next, the three part article on the sinking from Forgotten Stories




http://forgottenstories.net/ And 'Forgotten Stories' home page. This site is legitimately awesome. Trust me...you'll loose complete track of time if you start reading these stories.

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