Capt. Rogers Heads South


Portrait of Moses Rogers

Artist unknown

Courtesy of John Laurence Busch

In view of his experience and a reputation for integrity and ingenuity, Moses Rogers had become perhaps the most knowledgeable American advocate for maritime steam power after the death of Robert Fulton in 1815.

In 1817 he pursued yet another steamboat project, this time in Charleston, South Carolina, where a boat named for the city was being built for a packet service between its namesake and the thriving port of Savannah, Georgia, one hundred miles down the coast. He had left the association with Col. Stevens and for a time operated the steamboat Eagle in Chesapeake Bay between Baltimore and Elkton, Maryland, where passengers would board stagecoaches to continue their journey northward.  

By now Moses was well known in maritime circles, and unsurprisingly he was appointed captain of the Charleston, making her maiden voyage on December 10.  The new service attracted attention not only for its reliability but for the skill and good character of the captain.

The resumption of trade between Europe and North America following the 1814 treaty ending the War of 1812 encouraged experimentation with steam propulsion, building on the success of Fulton and others. Only three years after the treaty was signed, a historic partnership was formed by Moses Rogers and a group of Savannah businessmen eager to demonstrate that a steam-powered vessel could not only operate safely on the open ocean, but even cross it.  A "dead wind" at sea, near shore, or in port would not impede such a revolutionary craft.  

The partnership that made the voyage financially possible was the Savannah Steam Ship Company, and its president was a prominent local businessman, William Scarbrough.