Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Commercial Advertiser, a New York City newspaper, on March 17, 1831 - exactly 190 years ago today! Many thanks to HRMM volunteer researcher George Thompson for finding and transcribing this article. The following is a verbatim transcription (early 19th century spelling and all).
The first passage of the season to Albany. — A gentleman who left this city on Monday evening, in the steam boat Constitution, writes from Albany on yesterday morning, as follows: — We arrived here at half-past 7 o'clock, last evening, in the steamboat Commerce, Captain Murray. The Constitution began to encounter floating ice immediately above the Highlands, and pretty large fields of it were met before reaching Poughkeepsie — at which place we came to, until morning. In the course of the night, the Commerce come up, and likewise anchored at our stern. On leaving our berths yesterday morning, the ice appeared completely to block up the river two miles above. Capt. Hoyt thereupon determined to proceed no further with the Constitution; the mails were sent ashore, and despatched by land; and the passengers went ashore likewise. It was soon ascertained that Capt. Murray of the Commerce, was determined to push on, and plough his way through the ice as far as possible. — We accordingly took that boat, and started at half-past seven o'clock — encountering fields of drift ice, frequently stretching across the whole river, and covering its surface as far as the eye could reach; but the boat dashed on impetuously, without being absolutely stopped, until we passed Hudson. Here, the ice having lodged upon the flats, the whole river was blocked completely across. The Swiftsure having penetrated to Coxsackie, during the night, was no perceived above, on her return, attempting to beat her way down — this immense floe of ice having been brought into this cross-position by the tide, after the Swiftsure went up. Both boats were now set to work, like two large battering rams, and in about two hours, succeeded in beating through. At Coxsackie, we found that the ice for the whole distance above, reposed unmoved, as it had been left by the late vigorous winter. Nothing doubting, however, the captain of the Commerce dashed on, and, strange to tell, the power of her engine, and the strength of the timbers of this powerful boat, enabled her to knock her way through a field of unbroken ice, varying in thickness from four to fourteen inches, for a distance of sixteen miles, i. e. to Castletown! From this place to Albany, the ice was broken, and our speed was of course much accelerated. It must have been a novel sight to the villagers along the shore, to find this vessel thus cutting her way through such a continuous field of ice, as yet unbroken, though in may places it had become very porous; and their pleasure was often announced by cheers and the firing of the "big guns." Not the slightest accident occurred during the whole passage. The arrival of a boat at Albany, was as yet altogether unexpected.
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