Rio History: The Sinking of the Globe

By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS

In her book, “Following the Drum” (Budd & Carleton New York 1858), Teresa Vielé tells of her experiences in Texas in 1849. A recent graduate of West Point, Lt. Egbert Vielé had been given the command of Ringgold Barracks on the frontier along the Rio Grande near Rio Grande City.

The young lieutenant and his bride made the perilous journey from New York City to New Orleans, where they boarded the steamer Globe to finish their journey to Texas.

“Two more days at sea brought our old, leaky vessel in sight of the island of Brazos St. Jago (the arms of St. James) and found us most perilously lodged on a dangerous sandbar in sight of land; where the vestiges of the wrecks around us seemed to warn us of what might be our fate, and of the death and destruction that looked us in the face.”

The waves and currents were so treacherous that rescuers were reluctant to row the mile or so distance to where the ship lay firmly wedged upon a sandbar. The Globe was in great danger of capsizing. The author wrote:

“For six hours we lay in the breakers, with the calm blue, sunlit heavens, smiling down upon us, singular accompaniments for a wreck at sea, and yet we knew full well that half the devastation’s around us had taken place under the same circumstances, and not in the midnight storm or under a clouded sky. The waves, as if from a whirlpool beneath, dashed upon the ship, striking us fearfully each time against the bar, producing a terrible shock that seemed like warning from heaven of coming fate. The captain and crew labored most manfully at their duties, but every other voice was hushed with eager anxiety.”

Further on, Teresa Vielé described a scene where “she and her husband procured a telescope with the intention of surveying their surroundings.

“We sat all those hours upon the deck mechanically watching the gulls dipping their wings in the water, and the porpoise, as it gave a leap into the air to plunge again, in an instant, into the wave. When death comes face to face with us unexpectedly, no matter what our horror of it may be, it is strange how indifferently we can look it in the face.”

“During those frightful hours, we traced with a glass, countless wrecks that lay in the nearby waters. Every imaginable vestige of wreck lay around, from the giant mast of some enormous ship to that of the smallest trading schooner. All this gave to the barren, sandy shores, an air of gloom and desolation that words cannot describe.”

This is an oft-repeated description of the virtual wasteland of wrecked ships that lie off the coast of Padre Island. There are those who claim there is a treasure ship gone aground or sunk in sight of land for every mile the Island is long, and that’s counting both the gulf side and the bay side.

Six hours later, the tide changed, and the Globe floated free.

Ironically, this would be the Globe’s last landing at the Brazos Depot. A report in the Sailors Magazine stated simply: “The steamer Globe ran aground just off the pass at Brazos Island during a storm recently. (June 17, 1850). All hands and passengers, (except the captain) were lost as was her cargo.”

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