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American Captain risks everything to save 160 lives in peril

Year 1796

Read by George Hawkins – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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It is with infinite satisfaction we have it in our power to announce to the public, the safety of the crew and troops on board the Aurora transport, one of Admiral Christian’s fleet which for some time has been given up, as totally lost.

Her masts and rudder were carried away by a violent gust of wind, about three weeks ago, and, from that time, she remained a helpless log on the water, kept afloat only by the manual exertions of the people at the pumps. Three vessels bore down to the wreck, in this intermediate space, but did not, whether from choice or inability, we do not presume to say, offer her any assistance.

On Tuesday last, being about ten leagues west of the Lizard, Captain Hodges, of the ship Sedgely, of Philadelphia, was so fortunate as to fall in with her, and without the least hesitation, determined, at the hazard of his own life and that of his crew, to rescue these miserable people, 160 in number, from that fate which so long had threatened them, and which from that time they must have met within a few hours. It should be recorded to his honour, that his humanity, aided by nautical skill, triumphed over the danger that awaited his exertions in the boat, for he brought the whole of them safe to his own ship, except one man, who was literally drowned in the boat. The troops are Germans, and have behaved with a sensibility that evinces much true gratitude to their behaviour. They have tendered Captain Hodges one thousand guineas, which he has nobly refused, saying, he finds sufficient remuneration in his own breast, for the trouble he has had. One of them on being asked, if Captain Hodges treated them well when he had them on board?

Exclaimed “Sir, this brave American does honour to his country, he gave us all he had; he is a King of men, and we are bound to kiss his feet as long as we live.”

After the Aurora had parted company with Admiral Christian, she had to encounter most dreadful weather. She soon proved so leaky that she purely [?] became useless, and it was with the utmost difficulty that she was kept above water by all hands being employed in baling. – Such was the fatigue experienced by the soldiers and crew, that some were said to have died in consequence – they were all, when taken on board the American, reduced to a very feeble state.

At the time this friendly ship came up the Aurora was scarcely afloat, and every further effort to prolong a painful existence had been given up by the people on board.

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