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 he would find more adventurous souls than those on the New York waterfront who had denigrated the new steam ship as a "steam coffin." And he was successful, although details are scant. Interestingly, one potential recruit was Moses Rogers's youngest brother, 18-year-old Ebenezer, but his mother, Sarah, 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 (shown here only in part) would not have changed appreciably since Stevens Rogers went there in 1819 to recruit.  While sailing vessels predominate, the presence of four steamboats in the full lithograph, including a Groton-New London ferry, signal the shift from sail to steam navigation, well underway 34 years after the Savannah's history-making voyage.  

Bibliographical note: In 2007 the New London County Historical Society reprinted Caulkins's essential work, first published in 1852, newly typeset with an introduction by Professor Nancy Steenburg, a revised index by Frances Pan, and the Kellogg-Ropes lithograph of New London for the dustjacket design.