News from 1872: Oceanic I Rescues the Crew of Mountain Eagle



Trying to verify J. W. Shackford as officer who was on lifeboat rescue

Multiple obituaries of Captain John William Shackford (1839-1905) state that he was a first officer on the Oceanic and in January 1872 was on the lifeboat that rescued the crew of the Mountain Eagle. Wondering if there is any other source information to verify this. THANKS!

Mark Baber

Staff member
1. The Sun, New York, in its 11 January 1872 article describing the rescue, states that "The second officer, Mr. Shackford, jumped into the boat, exclaiming 'Follow me!' In an instant the boat was manned and on its way to the brig. The men were taken from the wreck, and Mr. Shackford and his brave crew returned." His officer record, however, does not appear in the online White Star Officer Books index.

2. The article with which this thread was begun in 2005 seems to have gone missing, so here it is again:

The New-York Times, 11 January 1872




Capt. Jarvis, of the brig Mountain Eagle, which left Elizabethport
Dec. 15 with coal for Portland, reports that Jan. 6, at 8 P. M., the
Highland light bore W. 10 miles, the wind N. W.; was compelled to take
in all the light sails, the sea increasing, and the vessel laboring
heavy he hove to under close reefed topsail and double reefed
mainsail. At 4 A. M., 7th, a heavy squall came from N., with thick
snow. The vessel iced up very fast, and making water. All hands were
constantly at the pumps. At 5 A. M. had to cut the peak and throat
halliards, there being too much ice on them to be cast off, and let
the mainsail down by the ran, and kept off before the wind, as the men
could not stand to the pumps on account of shipping so much water,
vessel laboring very heavy and sea increasing. At 6 A. M., blowing a
hurricane, the fore-topgallant and royal were blown to pieces in the
gaskets. At 7 A. M., galley and cook-stove and every movable thing on
deck went overboard; forecastle half fall of water, and water
constantly coming into the cabin, wetting all the provisions. All
hands were still at the pumps, and the vessel iceing up very fast.
Several of the men were frost-bitten and disabled. He kept running
before the wind, in order to get in the stream to get clear of the
ice. On the 8th they fell in with the steam-ship Oceanic. The men were
all worn out and all hands thinking it best to leave the vessel set
the ensign, union down, when the steamer very kindly lowered his
life-boat, and took them off, saving nothing but what they stood in.


Mark Baber

Staff member
Here's the article from The Sun, which I mentioned the other day:

The Sun, New York, 11 January 1872
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

The perilous Voyage of the Oceanic---Rescuing a Sinking Ship's Crew---A
Frenchman's Determined Attempts at Suicide

The steamer Oceanic, Capt. Thompson, of the White Star Line, left Liverpool
on the 20th of December with 47 cabin and 133 steerage passengers, all bound
for New York. Among the steerage passengers was a small, light-haired
Frenchman. His face was clean shaved and he had light blue eyes. The
passengers describe him as evincing an unusually restive disposition even at
the beginning of the voyage. He was accompanied by two friends who spoke
Alsatian, but who both subsequently professed to know little or nothing of
the previous history of their companion. On Dec. 21 the steamer made
Queenstown, and received the mails for New York. She then put to sea, and
experienced fair winds and pleasant weather until Dec. 23, when the wind
suddenly changed to the westward, and a heavy sea prevailed. This weather
continued until Dec. 26, when it was discovered that two of the fans of the
propeller had been broken entirely off, and one had been partially damaged.

When this was discovered the cabin passengers held a consultation, to
determine whether they should advise the captain to return to Queenstown or
to proceed to New York. The result was that the passengers favored


but Capt. Thompson decided to continue on his course. The cabin passengers,
placing implicit faith in the captain's judgment, yielded without a murmur.
The propeller was broken on Dec. 26, at half past 5 in the afternoon. From
this time to Jan. 2 heavy westerly winds prevailed. The sea ran very high,
and the ship had nothing but sails with which to breast the ocean. The wind
was so strong that even the sails were rent into a hundred shreds as soon as
they were exposed, and for a time the danger was such at to strike terror to
the hearts of the bravest among the passengers. Meantime the Frenchman whose
appearance had created so much comment had indulged in various
eccentricities. He made several attempts to throw himself overboard. Once he
attempted to take his life with a jackknife. He next tried to use the weapon
on several of his fellow passengers. It became evident that the man was a
maniac, and Dr. Spruce determined to secure him beyond the means of doing
injury. He accordingly had the knife taken from him, and secured
him by means of handcuffs. The officer of the deck had strict orders


The ship, meanwhile, was battling bravely with wind and waves. Up to the
morning of Jan. 2, the wind was directly against her, blowing from the west,
and her one fan of a propeller was all the means of locomotion at her
command. Nevertheless, on the 6th of January, which was one of the few fie
days experienced during the passage, she made a run of 308 miles. Capt.
Thompson, it is said by the passengers, never took his clothes off, and
never saw his bed from the time of leaving Liverpool to reaching New York.
He was on deck neatly all the time superintending the action of the ship.
Mr. Robinson, a genial red-whiskered Scotchman, was sitting in the smoking
room. One roll of the ship sent him with such violence to the opposite side
that a large gash was cut in his head.


The passengers were growing weary of the long voyage when an incident
occurred to relieve the monotony. On Tuesday morning, at about eight
o'clock, a brig was seen in the distance. She had her colors flying, with
the Union Jack down, indicating distress. Although the Oceanica [sic] was
herself in a condition to demand aid, she immediately made for the disabled

When she came alongside the stranger, a pitiable sight was presented. Seven
men stood up to their waists in water, and the boards were fast sinking
beneath them. The brig proved to be the Mountain Eagle, from Elizabethport,
bound for Portland, with coal. The position of the two vessels was latitude
40 deg. 7 min., longitude 60 deg., 22 min. One of the lifeboats of the
Oceanic was lowered and the men ordered to man her. A heavy sea was running,
and some of the crew were reluctant to embark. The second officer, Mr.


exclaiming, "Follow me!" In an instant the boat was manned and on its way to
the brig. The men were taken from the wreck, and Mr. Shackford and his
brave crew returned.

During this episode the maniacal Frenchman again made an attempt to throw
himself overboard; but he was observed in time and his life saved.. It was
deemed advisable, however, to make him doubly sure in the future, and
accordingly he was bound by cords to his berth, as it was supposed,

The men rescued from the brig were Capt. Francis H. Jarvis, Francis H.
Jarvis, Jr. (mate), Joseph H. Pierce (steward), Richard Forder, Carl Kemp,
Thomas McGrath, and Thomas Davison. The brig had had sailed from keeping off
shore as much as possible. In the first attack of the gale the galley had


and, beyond a little tea which had been made on the cabin stove, the men had
neither eaten nor drunk anything for twenty-four hours. A leak had sprung,
and the men were put at the pumps; but the water gained on them, and when
taken off by the men of the Oceanic they were struggling up to their waists
in water. They were received cordially by the captain and passengers of the
steamer. A subscription of $80 was immediately made up for their benefit,
and they were all offered work on the White Star line. The brig was left to her fate.

The Oceanic made Sandy Hook Tuesday night about 11 o'clock. She anchored to
await the morning tide. The wiry Frenchman was secured to his bed by cords,
and no one anticipated a renewal of trouble from him. At 4 o'clock yesterday
morning he was missed from the berth, and as his port was open it is
supposed that be threw himself overboard through that aperture. The ship
arrived at Quarantine at 10 o'clock yesterday morning. The passengers,
headed by Supervisor Fox, adopted resolutions complimenting the captain,
officers, and crew of the Oceanic for their conduct during the voyage.



Mark - Appreciate your research

Mark - Appreciate your research
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Mark Baber

Staff member
Thanks. Your kind words are much appreciated.