How to Use
Determining the Facts
Reading 3: Personal Testimonies
Official U.S.L.S.S. reports explained the facts of a rescue in a straightforward style, but the human element was just as important as the physical details. The following excerpts from letters written to the U.S. Lifesaving Service demonstrate this fact.
Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station
August 18, 1899
We, the undersigned, captain and crew of the wrecked schooner Robert W. Casey, which was driven ashore by an east-northeast hurricane with very high surf and tide on August 17, 1899, at 5:30 p.m., wish to make the following statement:
At that time no person could have reached us, but as early as anything could possibly be done the life-saving crew were on hand with their beach apparatus ready to land us...then they took us upon the beach clear of the surf. They arrived at the wreck about 6 a.m. on August 18, 1899. After landing us they took us to the station three-quarters of a mile distant, and provided us with dry clothing, stimulants, and food; they gave us the very best treatment, and aided us in every possible way to save our effects so far as we could find them on board our vessel.
We also wish to say that these noble, gallant, and heroic life-savers do most dreadfully suffer hardships of life to save, protect, and take care of sailors who may be cast into their care. There was nothing left undone by the acting keeper and crew of the above-named station. They performed their duties most nobly.
Julius Olsen, Master
Adolph Schick, Cook
George Busby, Seamen
George W. Layfield, Mate
Cook George Wilkins
H. P. Russell
Excerpted from Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1900 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), 204.
Avon, North Carolina
February 14, 1895
On February 14, I was logged up with ice off Hatteras Banks, about 3 miles from land and without assistance, and being in a dangerous position I hoisted my flag at 8 A.M. At 9:30 A.M. the
keeper and crew of Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station were discovered beating their way through the ice, coming to my assistance. They reached me at 11 o'clock, almost exhausted, wet, and cold. They took me in their boat and proceeded to shore, which we safely but narrowly reached at 1 P.M.
To the keeper and crew of Little Kinnakeet I owe my life,
knowing that had it not been for their heroic labor and risk in endeavoring to take me ashore, I surely must have perished in consequence of the cold and dangerous position in which I was placed.
In Conclusion, allow me to congratulate them for their kindness.
I am your obedient Servant
H. C. Miller, Master and Owner Sloope (sic)
Inez, of Avon, North Carolina
Excerpted from Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1895(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896), 234.
Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station, North Carolina
May 28, 1900
Please accept thanks of myself and crew for your kindness in taking care of us and feeding us in our destitute condition, and for taking care of our schooner and cargo, which drifted ashore near your station May 6, 1900, until I arrived at Cape Hatteras Station, where I had been carried by the crew of that station, who rescued us from a small yawl on May 5, our vessel having been sunk off Cape Hatteras. I am glad, as a seaman, to be able from personal experience to recommend this crew for doing their whole duty. In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the general superintendent for having such good and accommodating men in his service as I have found during my stay here.
Very truly yours,
J. W. Sabiston, Master of the Schooner Hettie J. Dorman.
Excerpted from Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1900 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), 211.
Questions for Reading 3
1. Why were these letters written?
2. What happened to each of these ships, and in what way were the captains and crews in need of assistance?
3. Why do you think it took so long to complete a rescue?
4. The rescue Captain Miller describes in his letter relatively simple, yet he terms it "heroic labor" by the keeper and crew of Little Kinnakeet. Why? For what reason does the crew of Robert W. Casey refer to the Little Kinnakeet lifesavers as "noble, gallant, and heroic"?
5. What opinion of the U.S. Lifesaving Service as a whole do you get from these letters, and why?