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Hearts of Oak

SS Amazon


Destruction of the Steamship by Fire with Great Loss of Life



7th January 1852.


A statement regarding Captain William Symons


The sudden and appalling account of the total destruction by fire

of the Royal Mail steam ship Amazon at the entrance of the Bay of Biscay,

and the loss of the majority of her passengers, officer and crew,

has caused the most widespread sorrow in Southampton

among the numerous persons having friends or relatives on board the ill fated ship.


The Amazon was commanded by Captain William Symons, a gentleman of known and tried courage and abilities. He was only provisionally appointed to the Amazon in consequence of the absence from England of Captain Chapman of the Tay, who was destined to be her permanent commander, the directors having intended Captain Symons to assume the command of the new steamer ORINOCO, now on the Thames and nearly ready to take her station on themain line of the West India mail service.


Captain Symons has recently distinguished himself by great bravery in the Isthmus of Panama, where, by his interpidity and coolness, he prevented the slaughter of a great number of American passengers by the infuriated natives, and where, under heavy fire of musketry and cannon, he succeeded in conveying gold dust to the value of upwards of 2,000,000 dollars in the boats of the MEDWAY on board the United States' mail steam ship CHEROKEE; and further, in recuing the passengers under circumstances of imminent danger, and placing them safely on board the steamer.


Just prior to the sailing of the Amazon, Captain Symons received the subjoined letter from the United States' Mail Steam Ship Company New York, accompanied by a magnificent silver speaking trumpet……


To Captain Symons, commanding the Royal Mail Packet Company's steam ship Medway,

Sir, Captain Widdle, of the Cherokee, one of this company's steamers, has reported to us the prompt and efficient aid rendered by yourself, and the officers under your command, in the recent affray at Chagres, in which the mails, treasure and passengers, were promptly and securely placed on board the Cherokee.


I beg you to accept, in behalf of this company, my best acknowledgement for this high act of courtesy, characteristic alike of British Honour and humanity, and honourable to your flag, yourself, your officers and men. Allow me also the pleasure to tender you the accompanying speaking trumpet, as a slight tetimonial of the company's appreciation of your character and services.


I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

M O Roberts.

Office of the United States' Mail Steamship Company, New York 4th November 1851.







Raymond Forward