While the Phoenix was burning, some of the lifeboats try to get to
shore. Around half past three in the morning, people in Sheboygan saw
light of the fire.
The Delaware and Liberty come to the rescue
A sister ship of the Phoenix, the Delaware, was in
the harbor of Sheboygan. Unfortunately, the ship’s steam engine was
off, so it took the ship some time to get on its way. One hour and a
quarter later, the Delaware reached the burning ship. Captain Sweet,
after having reached shore, sent his lifeboat back. Before the boat
reached the Phoenix, the Delaware was already there.
When the Delaware came near the Phoenix, it picked up the engineer,
House, who was still floating on his door. He was the first one to see
the Delaware approach. He told a nearby passenger to hold on just a few
moments longer. Overwhelmed by the idea of being saved, the woman lost
her grip and disappeared in the water.
Besides the engineer, only two other people could be saved by the
Delaware. They were the clerk, Mr. Donohue and Mr. Long, who still
clung to the rudder. Some of the passengers lost their grip, others
died from the cold on their rafts. Among them Tisdale, the cabin boy.
He still lay on his ladder, like a sleeping child. Besides the three
survivors, the Delaware picked up four or five bodies.
One survivor later told the crew of the Delaware had been surprised at
the speed with which the fire had destroyed the Phoenix. Those who
could, took of their hats and looked at the Phoenix being towed back to
Sheboygan. Everyone on the Delaware was crying.
Besides the Delaware, the schooner Liberty helped as well. Because
their was not enough wind for the Liberty itself, captain Porter took a
lifeboat in the direction of the Phoenix. It arrived a few minutes
after the Delaware. No survivors could be found anymore.
The Phoenix was towed back to Sheboygan by the Delaware, where it sank
in seven feet of water. Part of the cargo, mainly chains and other
ironworks, could be salvaged.
After the disaster
In the days after the disaster, the magnitude slowly became clear to
the rest of the world. First there was hope a third lifeboat had made
it to safety. The survivors hoped Mr. Blish, who had been so kind to
their children and the captain, was saved by that boat. On December 1,
1847 captain Porter of the Liberty reported the Phoenix only had two
lifeboats. No hope of any more survivors remained.
After the disaster, fire-stained bank notes began to circulate in the
Sheboygan area. Apparently, it washed up on the shore. Also, a few of
the bodies of the victims washed up. The people of Sheboygan brought
them to a temporary morgue on Penn Avenue between seven and eight
Street. Many inhabitants of Sheboygan helped taking the nameless bodies
to their last resting place.