- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767909062
- ISBN-13: 978-0767909068
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum Paperback – June 8, 2004
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“A dramatic and compelling narrative of New York's saddest tragedy before 9/11 . . . a fascinating probe into the inferno that killed hundreds of women and children . . . O'Donnell does a spellbinding job of making the calamity come alive.”
“An impressively written account that effectively conveys the horror of New York’s second-worst disaster ever.”
“Compelling . . . O’Donnell’s story is a testament to the strength of a unique people in an equally unique city . . . Unforgettable.”
From the Inside Flap
There were few experienced swimmers among over 1,300 Lower East Side residents who boarded the General Slocum on June 15, 1904. It shouldnt have mattered, since the steamship was chartered only for a languid excursion from Manhattan to Long Island Sound. But a fire erupted minutes into the trip, forcing hundreds of terrified passengers into the water. By the time the captain found a safe shore for landing, 1,021 had perished. Ship Ablaze draws on firsthand accounts to examine why the death toll was so high and how the city responded. Masterfully capturing both the horror of the event and the heroism of men, women, and children who faced crumbling life jackets and inaccessible lifeboats as the inferno quickly spread, historian Edward T. ODonnell brings to life a bygone community while honoring the victims of that forgotten day.
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This book does a marvelous job of telling the story while remaining completely accurate to first-hand sources contemporary to the time of the General Slocum sinking in 1904. The book gives equal treatment to all the important details: the stories of the doomed and helpless passengers who perished—mostly women and children, the many narratives of the cowardly and heroic and callous and self–serving actions of the ships owners and the incompetence of the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service involved in the event.
Other details of interest are not neglected. The author covers every aspect in detail: thorough information about the ship itself, details of the aftermath of human suffering, investigations into the accidental and deliberate causes responsible for this catastrophe—and even offers reasonable suppositions as to why this event is not forever imprinted on our minds like other similar fiery tragedies from the same era, such as the Iroquois Theater Chicago fire and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire—even though these two events are much better known but had far fewer casualties. This seems rather odd when one considers that the fiery destruction of the Slocum was an event which played out directly within the view of millions of New Yorkers.
The book is a stellar example of how to retell, with all its nuances, an event so horrible that it should not be lost to the dusty archives of history.