Soon the foresail burst into flames, and one by one the topsails and topgallantsails took fire.Every effort was made to cut the sails from the yards, but the men were driven back exhausted, and the firemen, who by this time had arrived with their engines, refused to work on board or near the ship for fear of falling blocks and gear.She carried a fifteen horse-power engine on deck to hoist the yards and to work the pumps, this being the first time an on the fore-, main-, and mizenmasts, the after- or spankermast being barque-rigged. Business was suspended, and the schools were closed in order that every one might have an opportunity to see the launch of the Great Republic. It was estimated that thirty thousand persons crossed by ferry to East Boston, while Chelsea Bridge, the Navy Yard at Charlestown, and the wharves at the north end of the city were thronged by at least as many more.The shipping at the Navy Yard was gayly dressed with bunting, and the harbor was filled with steamers and pleasure boats crowded with people.Captain Mc Kay, and Captain Ellis, representing the underwriters, had a hurried consultation, and it was decided, in order to save the hull, to cut away the masts.The fore- and foretopmast stays and rigging were cut and the mast went over the side into the dock; the topmast in falling broke short off 'and came down, end on, through three decks.She moved slowly at first; then, gathering way, fairly leaped into the sea, amid smoke and fire from the burning ways, the roar of artillery, the music of bands, and the cheers of the vast multitude.So swiftly did she leave the ways that two anchors and the powerful steamer R. Forbes barely succeeded in bringing her up, close to Chelsea Bridge.
Every means was used to extinguish the fire, but she burned for two days until the flames reached the water's edge.
The bowsprit was 44 inches in diameter and 30 feet out-board; the jib-boom 23 inches in diameter, and 18 feet outside of the cap, and the flying jibboom was 14 feet long including 6 feet end.
Her fore and main rigging and fore- and maintopmast backstays were 12½ inch, four-stranded Russian hemp rope, wormed, and served over the eye and over the ends to the leading trucks.
WO other ships built in 1853 deserve notice here, though they were not constructed for the California trade.
They were Donald Mc Kay's Great Republic and the famous packet ship Dreadnought. Mc Kay had contemplated building a ship for the Australian trade, but failing to find any one to join in the undertaking, and stimulated by the success of the Sovereign of the Seas, he resolved to build her for himself.
The firemen now got to work, and toward morning succeeded in putting out the fire on deck.