New London Provides the Crew


Hiring a crew was not usually a challenge for the masters of sailing packets and other vessels, but the Savannah's circumstances were new and different. Even though she carried a full set of sails, and her captain intended to use them as much as he could to conserve fuel, prospective hands were apparently frightened off by the fear of mechanical failure (or worse) in mid-ocean, far from land, far from help.  

When a full crew could not be recruited in New York as the ship was being finished, ship's master Stevens Rogers sailed east through Long Island Sound to New London, his home town, where he was well known and respected, hoping to find more adventurous souls than those on the New York waterfront who had denigrated the new ship as a "steam coffin." And he was successful, though details are scant. One potential recruit was Moses Rogers's youngest brother, 18-year-old Ebenezer, but his mother would not allow it. (Busch, p. 187)

This 1853 view of New London on the dustjacket of Frances Caulkins's History of New London, Connecticut would not have changed appreciably since Stevens Rogers went there in 1819 to recruit. Sailing vessels predominate, but the presence of four steamboats in the full lithograph (not shown), including a Groton-New London ferry, signal the shift from wind to steam power, well under way 34 years after the Savannah's history-making voyage.  

Bibliographical note: In 2007 the New London County Historical Society reprinted Caulkins's essential work, newly typeset with an introduction by Professor Nancy Steenburg, a revised index by Frances Pan, and the important Kellogg-Ropes lithograph of New London on the dustjacket.