Blockade Runner Golden Pledge 1864

Iron paddle steamer Golden Pledge (ex-Ardentinny) of Liverpool, built 1851 Thomas Wingate, Clyde, ON 6344, 109 grt, 163 x 16 x 6.5ft, 72hp engine.
First service from Glasgow to Loch Goil and Loch Long.
Sold to Londonderry 1858 and registered there for use Londonderry-Moville (within Loch Foyle).
1864, fitted out at Birkenhead for use as a Confederate Blockade Runner, owned M G Klingender, renamed Golden Pledge.
Voyage Liverpool to Havana with coal. Captain Bartlett.
23 July 1864, collided with SS Cognac (captain Williams) in Crosby Channel and sank.
3 crew lost. Golden Pledge held responsible. Wreck dispersed.

By 1864, Confederate blockade runners were being sunk or disabled very effectively by the Union Blockade. Rather than relying on private entrepreneurs to provide the service, the Confederate Government sought to acquire suitable vessels directly. In order to comply with Britain's neutrality, they were registered in the name of British merchants - often those who had had previous links to the Confederate agents.
  One such merchant was Melchoir G. Klingender, of Liverpool, who acted to support the Confederate cause. He had, technically, owned the Gibraltar which was arrested for carrying weapons; he supported the "Southern Bazaar" held at Liverpool to fund confederate causes, and he was the nominal owner of the Golden Pledge.
  The Golden Pledge was a rather desperate choice - an old, small, river paddle steamer. She was refitted at Birkenhead - presumably adding a "turtle deck" to give her protection from waves across the Atlantic and, most probably, stout iron deck side-walls to give some protection from gun-fire when running the blockade. Unfortunately, she did not make it very far - about 3 miles only.

Glasgow Herald - Wednesday 27 July 1864:
A fatal collision took place between two steamers on Saturday night, at the entrance to the Mersey from the Crosby Channel, and not far from New Brighton. The result was the destruction of one of the steamers, and the loss of three lives. Between 10 and 11 o'clock the steamer Golden Pledge, belonging to Messrs. M. G. Klingender & Co., and fitted out in the Birkenhead Docks, with the intention, it is understood, of running the blockade of the Confederate States, went down the river with a clearance for Havannah. She was heavily laden, and, having her coals on board for the voyage, was very deep in the water. About half a mile outside the Rock Lighthouse, she was run into by the steamer Cognac, inward bound from Cadiz, one of the vessels belonging to Messrs. P. & J. Harrison. The Golden Pledge had a large hole knocked in her hull, and she received such serious damage that she almost immediately sank. The two engineers and one fireman, unhappily, went down with the vessel. The captain, the mate, and another man saved themselves by clinging to the Cognac. It was a moonlight night, and ten others were fortunately saved by a boatman named Plunkett, who was towing in his boat at the stern of the Golden Pledge at the time of the disaster. Most of these men had to swim for their lives until they were picked up. The Cognac was not seriously injured and she was docked on Monday. Large quantities of timber from the wreck were observed floating about during the day. The hull of the Golden Pledge now lies on the bank at the west side of the Crosby Channel. - Liverpool Courier.

An inquest held at Liverpool names one of the lost crew as Samuel Kay, engineer, age 27, whose body was found.

MDHB report: sunk by collision with SS Cognac 23 July 1864, at 10:50pm, SW by S 1/3 of a mile from C6 Red Buoy.
Paddle wheels and paddle boxes removed by blasting, in August and September 1870. Depth 30ft over wreck at LWS.
Position quoted (translated to WGS84): latitude: 53 27.72'N; longitude: 03 3.33'W is based on iron wreckage found later. This is close to charted "unknown" wreckage at 53 27.719N, 3 3.269W in 9.9m depth.

Report of Inquiry into Collision

From Shipping and Mercantile Gazette - Wednesday 15 March 1865:
This was an action brought by the Owner of the late steamship Golden Pledge, 93 tons register, against the Owners of the iron three-masted schooner-rigged screw steamer Cognac, 376 tons, to recover for the total loss of his vessel in the Crosby Channel, at the entrance to the River Mersey, about 10:30 p.m. on the 23rd of July last. For the Golden Pledge the wind was stated westward; for the Cognac it was represented about W.S.W.; and it was agreed between the parties that the weather was fine.

The case for the plaintiff was, that, on the day in question, in charge of a duly licensed Pilot, she had left her anchorage in the Mersey, and proceeded down the river on a voyage to Havana, with a cargo of coals on board; that about the time in question she was off the Rip Rap Buoy, heading about N. by W. half W., proceeding at half speed only, the tide being almost two hour's flood, running at the rate of about three knots an hour, carrying her regulation lights, and her Crew keeping a good look-out, when the masthead light and green light of the Cognac were observed about a point and a half on the starboard bow, distant from two to three miles; that the two steamers were not meeting end-on or nearly end-on, so as to involve a risk of collision, but, on the contrary, if each had continued her course, the Cognac would have passed well clear on the starboard hand of the Golden Pledge; that the Golden Pledge was accordingly kept on, but shortly afterwards, she had to starboard to pass under the stern of three vessels standing to the eastward, and to port to regain her proper course; that the green light of the Cognac was then broader on the starboard bow of the Golden Pledge, whose green light must have been conspicuously visible to those on board the Cognac; that the Cognac advanced rapidly, as she was going at great speed and had the tide in her favour; that, by way of precaution, the steam-whistle of the Golden Pledge was loudly sounded, and her engines stopped, and her helm slightly starboarded, but the Cognac came at great speed, with her helm then a-port, rendering collision imminent; that the Golden Pledge, whose way through the water was much deadened, with a view, if possible, to save the collision, put her helm hard a-starboard and reversed her engines, but that the Cognac with her stem, struck the Golden Pledge a fearful blow on the starboard side, just before the paddle-box, causing her to sink, with all her cargo and several of her crew, almost immediately; that the rest of the Crew was saved on board the Cognac; and that the red light of the Cognac was seen before the blow was struck. It was then pleaded that the Cognac was proceeding at an undue rate of speed; that she improperly ported her helm; that when approaching the Golden Pledge, so as to involve risk collision, she did not duly slacken her speed or stop or reverse; that her lights were not duly constructed, placed, and screened, in compliance with the regulations; that she was navigated improperly and negligently; that all these circumstances occasioned the collision, and that it was in no wise caused by those board the Golden Pledge.

The answer for the Cognac was set forth, that she had left Cadiz for Liverpool with cargo and passengers, and that, just previous to the collision, she was steering up the Crosby Channel, keeping on the starboard side, three-quarters speed, heading S. by E. 1/2 E., the flood tide running three knots, and exhibiting her proper lights, a good look-out being maintained on her, and she being in charge of a duly licensed Pilot, when the masthead light and red light, but only a gleam of the green light, of the Golden Pledge was observed nearly right ahead, distant two to three miles. It was then alleged that, the two steamers appearing to be moving in such a direction to meet end-on, or nearly end-on, and so involve risk of collision, the Cognac's helm was ported until she went off one point, and was then steadied; that very shortly afterwards, upon discovering no material alteration in the position of the lights, the Cognac's helm was again ported, and then put hard a-port; and that, on the green light of the Golden Pledge almost immediately afterwards coming fully into sight, the engines of the Cognac were stopped and reversed full speed; but that, nevertheless, the Golden Pledge came into collision with the Cognac, the stern of the latter steamer striking the starboard side of the former steamer just before the paddle-box. It was then pleaded that proper look-out was not kept on board the Golden Pledge; that the Golden Pledge, when approaching the Cognac so as to involve risk of collision, did not duly slacken her speed, stop or reverse her engines; that the side lights of the Golden Pledge were not duly constructed, placed, and screened in compliance with the regulations; that the Golden Pledge improperly neglected to port to her helm when the said steamer and the Cognac were meeting end-on, or nearly end-on, so as to involve a risk of collision, and the Golden Pledge improperly starboarded her helm; that the Golden Pledge improperly neglected to keep out of the way of the Cognac when the two steamers were crossing so as involve risk of collision, and when the Golden Pledge had the Cognac on her own starboard side; that the collision was occasioned by the Golden Pledge not keeping to the side of the channel, and otherwise by the negligence and improper conduct of those onboard the Golden Pledge, and was not in any way occasioned by those on board the Cognac; and that if the collision was in any degree occasioned or contributed by any improper navigation or by anyone on board the Cognac, it was so occasioned or contributed to solely by the fault or incapacity of the aforesaid qualified Pilot, and not otherwise, and the employment of the said Pilot was at the time and place in question compulsory by law. The witnesses for both sides were examined viva voce.

The Court, addressing the Elder Brethren, said: Gentlemen, I am of opinion that the decision of this case will mainly turn upon one single question of fact; and before I come to that question of fact, I should wish to dismiss, in two or three words, a matter respecting which many witnesses have been examined, and some observations have been made. The state of the lamps, as I think, had really nothing whatever to do with this collision. Whether the lamps of the Cognac were properly placed or those of the Golden Pledge, I care not, for it was a perfectly fine night, and each vessel saw the other, according to their own witnesses, from three to four miles off. The important matter is - were these two vessels meeting stem on or not? The 13th Article says - "If vessels under steam are meeting end-on, or nearly end-on, to involve risk of collision, the helms of both shall be put to port [helm to port means turn to starboard], so that each may pass on the port side of the other". If you should be of opinion that these two vessels were meeting end-on - and as to the fact I will say a few words presently - then it is perfectly clear that the Golden Pledge did not put her helm to port, and she did not obey this 13th Article, and she is to blame for this collision, and that the Cognac is not to blame by reason that she did put her helm to port. Then the 14th Article states: "If two ships under steam are crossing so as involve risk of collision, the ship which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out the way of the other". If you should consider they were not meeting end-on, then I should ask you which vessel had the other on her starboard hand. Assuming that the Golden Pledge had the other vessel on her own starboard hand, it was her duty to keep out of her way, and she had her choice of so doing either by starboarding or porting. Supposing that was the state of things, then it is just as clear that the Cognac would be to blame, because, in the case I have just mentioned to you, it would have been the duty of the Cognac to have kept her course, and not ported, as she would fall under the 18th Article - "Where, by the above rules, one of two ships is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course, subject to the qualifications contained in the following article". It appears that the course of the Golden Pledge was N. by W. half W. down the Mersey, and that of the Cognac was S. by E. half E. up the Mersey, and they would be courses which would probably lead to a collision. It is said that the Cognac, according to custom and usage, was coming up the right side of the river, and, therefore, she would keep closer the west side. Formerly the law was, that steamers should always keep to the starboard side whenever they were coming or going down. That law is now altered, but still there is a usage and custom which, I apprehend, is not easily departed from, and, according to the evidence, the Cognac was keeping to the westward as she came up the river. You will consider the facts and that fact spoken to that they passed the Crosby lightship on the left hand; and, looking to the place where is proved, I think satisfactorily, the Golden Pledge sunk - I will not say the actual sinking, but merely the place where the collision occurred, and where the Golden Pledge was found - taking these combined circumstances, you will endeavour to form a judgment as to the probabilities of the statement on each side, and come to a conclusion which you deem entitled to credit. I cannot help saying, in my humble opinion, that if it was the duty of the Golden Pledge to port, I really cannot see there was any real difficulty in her doing it, and that is one of the excuses set up; and I do not for this reason - because, even supposing the story to be perfectly true, that there were three vessels, so that it was necessary for her to starboard to pass them - yet, I cannot understand why she should not have ported at an earlier period or at a later period than that, because I have the evidence of the Pilot of the Golden Pledge, as it was truly observed by Mr. Lush, that there was nearly a mile distance between the Cognac and the Golden Pledge after they had gone under the stem of the last vessel. If you think these vessels were really and truly meeting end-on, then the consequences of the law will necessarily follow; but if you consider that they were not meeting end-on, then the matter will be difficult; but I do not think the difficulty will be such that we shall not be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion. You will also take into your consideration the nature of the blow - almost at right angles - and the effect thereby produced upon the vessels.

The court and Elder Brethren then retired for consultation, and upon their return. Dr Lushington said: we are of one opinion, that the Golden Pledge was solely to blame for this collision.