Wreck of the Phantom.
The Phantom was probably the fastest clipper ship built in Medford, with the exception of the Herald of the Morning. She was designed for the California service just after the discovery of gold had made the prices of necessities in California very high, and speed was the first [p. 61] requisite. She had experienced the usual share of disasters at different times in her voyages around the Horn. This item appears in the Boston Shipping List of February, 1854: ‘Ship Phantom of Boston, Hallet, fr. Callao via Rio Janeiro for N. Y., went ashore morning of the 16th in a snow storm, on Flying Knoll, near Sandy Hook. She had a bad list to leeward.’ The following notice is found in the Boston Courier of May 26, 1853:
Ship Phantom, Hallet, hence to San Francisco, experienced very heavy weather Feb. 27 to Mch. 17. Lost overboard two sailors and carried away head and three feet of the stem below the bowsprit, stove in cabin windows, started 10 channels, and disabled 12 or 15 men by washing them under the spars—the sea making a complete breach over the vessel a greater portion of the time. Mar. 24, lat. 29-30 S. lon. 105 W. experienced a hurricane and carried away Swingle & Hunt's patent steering apparatus.On July 12, 1862, the Phantom, under the command of Captain Henry Jackson Sargent, Jr., was wrecked on Pratas shoal in thick, heavy weather. No blame was attached to Captain Sargent, and all hands were saved in the boats, although not all escaped a plundering by Chinese pirates. The Phantom carried $500,000 in specie and this was saved, largely through the resourcefulness of the commander, who received great credit for his courage and judgment. At this time the China sea was infested with piratical junks and all ships sailing to that part of the world were armed with guns and small arms to repel attacks. With a fair wind and good headway, a large ship had little to fear, as she could run them down like cockle shells, as their armament was rarely of sufficient weight to make any impression on her. But in a calm, or in case of disaster, a fleet of these junks would bear down upon a vessel and overpower her by weight of numbers. The Chinese and Malays have no fear of death, and though [p. 62] half of them may perish, the rest will continue while there is a chance of success. The Boston Shipping List of September 20, 1862, has the following:
Ship Phantom of Boston, Sargent, fm. San Francisco (May 30) for Hong Kong was lost July 13, on Pilot reef, Pratas shoal. The third mate and three seamen have arrived at Hong Kong. A British gunboat had gone to rescue the remainder of the crew. The Phantom was a good 1 1/2 ship of 1174 tons, built at Medford in 1852, and was owned by D. G. and W. B. Bacon of this city. Further accounts state that the Phantom had $500,000 on board. Captain Sargent took the specie in his boat but had not been heard from at last advices.In the shipping news of November 22, 1862, is the following: ‘One of the boats containing the second mate and six men, part of the crew of the ship Phantom, before reported lost, was picked up by pirates about 30 miles S. of Swatow, and taken inland as captives. Some Hong Kong Chinese merchants, hearing of the capture, ransomed the men for $20 or $30. They were taken to Swatow and ar. at Hong Kong Aug. 27.’ Later accounts reduced the amount of specie carried by the Phantom considerably, according to the following account:— ‘Nov. 18, 1862. Ship Phantom lost on Pratas rocks, had about $6,000 in merchandise and $50,576 in treasure. Upon the cargo about $5,500 was insured in San Francisco and $46,000 in eastern and foreign offices.’ Her commander, Capt. Henry Jackson Sargent, Jr., belonged to the Gloucester family which has produced many eminent writers and artists. He was twenty-nine years of age at this time and soon after took command of the clipper barque Emily C. Starr at Nagasaki, with a cargo of lumber, and she was never heard from. In the marine news of that time is the following item: ‘2/7, 63, bark Emily C. Starr of Camden, N. J., Sargent, [p. 63] from Nagasaki Oct. 15, had not arrived at Shanghae Nov. 24 and there was little doubt that she had foundered. Ship Camden at Shanghae from Puget sound reports having passed a vessel of about 400 tons bottom up, with drift lumber close by, near the Loochoo group, and as the bark was known to have had a large quantity of lumber on board it was believed that this was the wreck of the missing vessel.’