28.02.

1844: Two American Secretaries Killed in Cannon Explosion

1844: Two American Secretaries Killed in Cannon Explosion
Photo Credit To http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Explosion_aboard_USS_Princeton.jpg

The warship USS Princeton was at that time a sort of a technological marvel and the most modern ship of the U.S. Navy. During the visit of the U.S. state high officials, a large 300 millimeter cannon explosion occurred, killing a significant number of people.

On this day an unusually tragic accident aboard the American warship USS Princeton happened. Namely, during the visit of U.S. state high officials, an explosion of the large cannon occurred, killing a significant number of people.

The warship USS Princeton was at that time a sort of a technological marvel and the most modern ship of the U.S. Navy. She was, in fact, the first to have a propeller steam engine (early steamers were driven by the large and impractical paddle wheels on the sides of the ship). In addition, the USS Princeton had cannons of the yet unseen power – probably the largest that were ever placed on any military vessel.

These two cannons had a caliber of up to 300 millimeters, and the larger of the two was called the Peacemaker and weighed about 12,000 kg. At the gala presentation of the ship the U.S. president, accompanied by ministers and other cabinet officials, was present. As many as 400 people were aboard for the demonstration cruise. One of the highlights of the ceremony was to be the test-firing of the big guns. However, during the firing of the Peacemaker cannon, in the presence of many dignitaries, the explosion caused the gun to burst and killed people in its vicinity.

Secretary of State Abel Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer and other high government officials were killed on the spot, as was a slave named Armistead (slavery was still legal at that time in the U.S.). A considerable number of guests were injured. The U.S. President John Tyler was fortunate to be below deck at the time the cannon vas fired, where he was, it appears, detained by someone with a glass of drink. He survived without any injuries.

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