It was called a race by some while others denied the accusations. Whatever the truth, the steamboat Henry Clay burned on the shore of the Hudson River at Riverdale taking dozens of innocent lives. Death Passage on the Hudson: The Wreck of the Henry Clay chronicles the catastrophic events that occurred on that July day in 1852 along with its devastating aftermath.
In Part One of this two-part, illustrated and documented volume, Kris A. Hansen details the final death passage of the steamboat Henry Clay. The author brings to life the personal stories of several victims and survivors set within the tragic circumstances of the disaster. Some passengers of prestigious stature became victims while others, normally ordinary people, became heroes. For one person in particular the praises of bravery would not come until all the facts were determined.
Hudson River Valley families with names such as Downing, DeWint, Schoonmaker, Bailey, and Kinsley were among the many affected by the tragic circumstances. The disaster, reported in the major newspapers of the day, drew national attention. Families, friends, and thousands of New Yorkers shared emotions of grief and disbelief, which were often intertwined with anger and outrage.
Speculation arose that a race with the competing steamboat Armenia was responsible for the disaster. Negligence was suspected and the public demanded retribution. In the second part of the book, the author employs witness testimony and information obtained from legal documents to detail the public's search for truth at the official inquest and subsequent legal wrangling in the courts.
Hansen has included within the text and attached appendices, information about several survivors, the known perished, the missing, and the unrecognized. More than 50 illustrations, including photographs, copies of legal documents, original newspaper articles and a map add to the understanding of the disaster.