The loss of the steamship General Slocum was one of the largest vessel tragedies in New York State history. The General Slocum was a large ship, over 264 feet long, and a side wheel steam ship of the era that tragically caught fire and sank near Astoria, New York. It sank off North Brother Island close to what is now the modern LaGuardia Airport, on the East River.
The General Slocum was carrying a large group of worshipers and vacationers from Saint Mark’s Church in Manhattan in 1904, on a hot June 15th day. The vessel steamed along merrily, and everyone on board was having an excellent day, and the weather was bright and sunshine filled.
At some point, where no one is exactly sure, fire broke out on board the General Slocum. The people on board the vessel were making an annual excursion to Locust Point aboard the side wheel steam vessel. The vessel was passing close to Astoria, New York when it was discovered that the vessel was on fire.
At first everyone seemed to respond correctly, and the fire appeared at first to be under control. But then the fire seemed to get out of hand, and panic began to overtake the passengers and crewmembers on board.
The brave crew tried to beach the vessel, and the captain headed the vessel toward the shore, and many of the passengers on board the vessel tried to jump into the East River to avoid the flames and the fire. A few people made it and were either rescued or swam to safety.
The General Slocum had nearly 1100 people on board that day, and despite the efforts of its Captain to try to make the beach, the vessel sank before it reached shore, just off North Brother Island. The current location is in murky water, and most of the wreckage has not fared well over the years, there is not a great deal left after 100 years.
Of the 1100 souls on board the General Slocum that June day, the final death toll was 1,024 people.