Voyage on the emigrant ship CONSTELLATION


Part 5

Sunday, Nov 20th, 7am, fine morning, wind calm, ship has not made any way since yesterday, at 10pm a ship in full sail from America passed us, lost sight of her by 1pm.

2pm, A Boston pilot boat in sight on our starboard bow tacking in full sail. Took her at first to be a fishing boat until she came within 3 to 4 miles to us. Soon lost sight of her when she found we were for New York.

2pm, a very heavy fog, wind moderate from, S.S.W. Two deaths today, making a total of 101 up to today.

Nov 21st, 7am, a fine morning, wind very calm, continued so all morning.

3pm, a ship in full sail in sight on our starboard side, coming from America, wind rising, fair, W.N.W.

In better hopes than we have been all day, for I can assure you there is not a living passenger on board but who is heartily sick of being on the water so long. As for myself I did not care as much about it now as I did at first. Ship going about 6mph.

Nov 22nd, 8am, fine morning, but wind calm, a ship on our starboard side coming from America, too far to know who she was.

10am, a brig crossed our larboard bow, but not near enough to speak to her, and there was a very heavy fog at the time.

1pm, a beautiful rainbow, it was the finest one I ever saw.

2pm clearing up a little.

7pm, another fight between the Irish and the poop cabin passengers, it was not a bad one but the poop passengers were obliged to go and get the Captain to protect them. The Captain ordered the ringleaders to be put in irons in the lower hold. For the Irish had sworn to murder some of them.

What the cause of it was I cannot learn. There has been no less than 3 to 4 fights every day this week and best part of the last.

Tobacco is very scarce on board, I sold 2ounces today for 1s, for which I gave 5d in Liverpool. No deaths today, we think the disease has left the ship.

Nov 23rd, 7am, a very dull morning, no wind and very thick fog.

10am, wind getting up a little, ship going 2mph.

9.30am, to the surprise of all, land to be seen ahead of us, had to put about ship, rather too near to it.

10am, a pilot boat bearing down to us on our starboard side, proved to be the boat we got our pilot from yesterday.

11am, wind rising from, W.N.W

2pm, another pilot boat bearing down towards us.

3pm, provision day, only given half the allowance on account of us expecting to reach New York tomorrow.

Several of the passengers have thrown their beds overboard. They will have to sleep on barboards tonight for a change.

3.30pm, the pilot boat came along side, she informs us that several vessels that left Liverpool before us had not yet arrived when she left, nor had she seen any of them.

9am, a light on our starboard bow supposed to be what they call the Highland Light, if so we expect to see Long Island tomorrow morning.

Nov 24th, 7am, fine morning, wind moderate.

7.15am, Yes it is, our eyes cannot deceive us, to our joy a steamer bearing down to us.

Thank God we shall see our New Land before dinner time.

7.30am, the steamer came alongside she is the Underwriter and a curious piece of machinery she is something very different to our steam tugs at home, with their walking beams on deck. She is a small but powerful boat.

Our Captain and the Captain of the steamer were a long time before they could come to terms.

Capt ALLEN, was afraid she was not powerful enough to take us up, but she proved to be too powerful afterwards.

8am, a little inclined for frost, it is bitter cold.

A most beautiful sight of what they call the Highland, the first land to be seen belonging to America. It beats all I have ever saw for grandeur. In fact it is beyond description, and I shall never forget it as long as I live.

8.30am, orders came down for all things of no use, such as spare boxes, tins, beds etc, to be thrown overboard and all boxes to be made up ready for landing, and to have all cleaned up, so that when the quarantine Doctor came to examine us he might pass us with little delay. Although the Captain told us that all vessels with the sickness on board had to ride quarantine for 3 to 5 days, which very much disheartened us, I can tell you.

9am, passed the Highland and entered Sandy Hook.

10am, to our misfortune the hawser broke and the tide was ebbing very fast, we were obliged to let go our anchors, which proved the steamer was too powerful for us. Capt ALLEN asked the Captain of the steamer at the time, if he had a good hawser, for he was afraid it was not good enough to take us up the strong tide that was running at the time.

The Captain said he had, but would not lend it without he pay him 10 dollars, which Capt ALLEN would not, but it perhaps would have paid him better to have given it.

At the time of the misfortune we were 3miles from New York and unfortunately will have to stay here all night.

11am, fine but very cold, about 50 ships have passed us to and fro, all sorts and sizes among them, the ship CHARLEMAIRY, a ship that I have very often attended in Liverpool and am very well acquainted with the mate of her, she was bound for Liverpool.

A great day for business here today, about the time the hawser broke, all the beds etc, had been thrown overboard and they were washing the decks, so that at night out of 830 passengers, not above 30 had saved their beds, we among the unfortunate ones. But, thank God, we are better off than many of them, thanks to the cook.

The ship WESTERN WORLD, from Liverpool, is ashore just above us, about half a mile from land, all her passengers were saved, but she was sunk in about 100ft of water.

9pm, a beautiful starlight night, but bitter cold, and I pity the poor souls who have to sit up all night down below, on the cold, damp deck, it must be miserable.

A woman was hurt very badly with the falling of a block from aloft again, but it was quite accidental this time.

We expect to get up to quarantine early in the morning and land in New York on Saturday or Sunday.

11pm, ship all alive below, fancy we are in a fair, I could write till tomorrow if I were to tell you all that happened today.

Nov 26th, 9am, fine but a very cold morning, a thick frost on the deck this morning, slept very comfortable before the fire last night until 3am, when the cook got up and let us go to his bed till 9am.

Then got up and found us anchored at quarantine, it appears another steamer came down for us at 5am and soon brought us up, she was larger and more powerful than the one we had yesterday.

Quarantine is a beautiful place, something like the Mount Cemetery at Liverpool.

10am, the quarantine Doctor came on board and passed us, except those that were sick, whom he ordered to be taken to the hospital at Saten Island. There were 36 sick.

After he had examined and passed us he went below and examined both decks, which pleased him to find they were clean, but little did he know how they had been kept during the passage.

He came up and ordered the ship 48hrs quarantine, and the passengers the same on Staten Island, or most commonly called by the sailors, Louse Island, I can assure you it is not called out of its name.

He then went on shore with the Captain, our Doctor and pilot.

Nov 26th, 10am, had our last breakfast on board, a very fine morning, but very cold.

11am, just giving the cook a hand to kill a sheep, when the steamer came alongside. Had to go below to get our boxes to put on board her. All was in confusion, lost my pocket book, with all my addresses etc, in it, Made inquiries and after a great deal of trouble found it, made the person a present of 2s-6d that found it.

12noon, went to bid the cook goodbye, when they made a present of 12s to me, for my help to them, which was kind considering we had all our meat from them, worth more than any help from me, I didn’t want to take it but was forced.

Such an uproar on the steamer, men looking for what they could find.

Arrived at the Island, and after we got all our luggage from the steamer and stowed it into a shed, what do you think?. They marched all the women to another part of the island, not to meet again till before 12noon, on Monday. Do you not think it was too bad?, but for the best as you will see shortly.

After the women left us and we had our boxes made tight, they marched us up to an old shed. It had formerly been a barn for the stowage of wheat. It had all the windows broken and the remainder of what had been a door. We went in and to our surprise, there was as much straw as we would give a dog at home as a bed, and one horse rug for each man.

To mend the matter, what did they do but land the passengers from the HIBERNIA, to share our comforts.

The HIBERNIA arrived this morning, she left Liverpool 4 days after us and passed us on the banks of Newfoundland, but we got here before her.

About 6pm, they gave us a supper of about, 1lb of very good sweet bread, and a gill of what they call soup. After that we roamed about on our place of liberty.

It was a platform of about 60yds long by 10yds broad and we were all confined to that short space.

About 8pm, we went to our bedroom, where some spent the night in sleep, but I and a lot more, in walking about all night, to keep our blood in circulation.

After all had been landed it appeared that the two ships passengers run as follows ;-

The CONSTELLATION, 930 passengers, lost 101, sick 36.

The HIBERNIA, 380 passengers, lost 33, sick 5.

So that you can see the Constellation lost nearly as much as the Hibernia in proportion to the number of passengers.

Sunday, November 27th, after tea we had a most terrible row. It appeared that the Irish passengers of both ships had made it up during the day to turn us English passengers out tonight, and give us a good thrashing in the bargain, which they did very nicely.

They first took all the straw from us, after a while they returned and took all our blankets, they then turned us out.

After that they began to sing and dance to the tune of a flute.

We sent to the keeper and informed him, when he told us he could not help us. There was only 6 men of them in the place and they would be no good with such rough set as the Irish, so we had to remain on the landing place until 1am, when, we went in, one at a time, but not to sleep for fear of another row. This is the most miserable Sunday that ever I spent in my life, and I hope it will be the last I spend in such a manner.

Nov 28th, we left our prison about 1pm and had a fine sail up the river, and saw some splendid sights.

Passed several lighthouses in the bay and two batteries.

2.30pm, Set foot on American soil for the first time. What a relief after the sufferings we had undergone during the last six weeks since we left our, Dear beloved Country.

We got a cart and went with a friend who had been in America before and had come to England to fetch his wife and family to a very nice and comfortable place in, Front St.

New York is a very dirty place, on our road to the hotel we saw some very curious sights.

The carts here are like cooper’s drays at home, no sides to them, and will only carry, 6 bales of cotton, or, 15 barrels of flour at a load.

What a difference to our carts at home with their, 29 bales of cotton, and 50 barrels of flour. There are no two-horse carts here, and the horses are not half the draught horses we have at home.

Now that we are landed and housed, though not settled, I think I will conclude, as I only intended to keep a journal of our voyage across the Atlantic.

Mortality on the Constellation and Hibernia



There were so many mentions of passengers dying of cholera that I decided to find the arrival report in the New York Times.

Arrival report, New York Times, November 26, 1853

Arrived New York, November 25

Ship Constellation (packet,) [captain] Allen, Liverpool Oct. 21, mdse and 916 passengers to [agents] Kermit & Carew.

Had 100 deaths on the passage.

Many ships were arriving in New York with over 50 deaths from cholera, although the 100 (round figure?) on the Constellation was the largest number that I noted. On one ship, the death of a passenger who had been washed overboard was mentioned specifically :-)

Ships from Liverpool were particularly affected although the arrival of the George Hurlbut from Havre two days later with 75 dead triggered a strong editorial in the NYT (November 28, page 4).

Harry Dodsworth

Wreck of the emigrant ship CONSTELLATION 1869

Copyright 2002 / To date