The Earthquake

Was again felt in this town late on Sunday night last (the 12th inst.) or else very early on Monday morning; for the hour was not precisely noticed.  The shock lasted some minutes, accompanied with a noise like that of an approaching storm, as heard in a forest; and was so violent as to agitate the houses, and awake many persons who were sound asleep.  Since our last, much information has reached us concerning this very extraordinary earthquake, as felt in various distant places; but from the similarity of particulars to others before published, and as no material injury had ensued, except in one instance, we shall confine our notice to the latter.  We are persuaded it will excite a lively interest in all who read it. — A gentleman, on his passage, in a barge from Cincinnati to N. Orleans, has addressed to his correspondent here a long letter (now before us) describing the phenomenon as experienced on the Mississippi.  It is dated, Chickasaw Bluffs [now Memphis, Tenn.], 21st December.  From this it appears the concussions there were truly alarming, and in their effects disastrous.  From the 15 to the 20th December, inclusive, no fewer than 40 shocks were distinctly noticed, besides many others particularly enumerated. The first shock happened on the 16th  ult. at half after 2 A.M.  The writer’s barge, then at anchor, in 15 feet water, about 17 miles below N. Madrid; it lasted, with violence, about 40 seconds, and set the barge adrift ‘as if rubbing hard on a shoal, or running over a floating log at the rate of 6 miles an hour.’  The hands on board immediately sounded, but found no bottom!  Fifty fathoms of cable were next reeled out before she could be brought up. 

We are told that the bed of the river, on which she was anchored, had sunk; that the current was increased to thrice its former velocity and that the crew of a boat, in shore, informed the writer the water had risen 6 feet; that a few minutes after half past seven, A.M. there was a second shock, more violent than the first, which lasted 40 seconds, threw up sand and logs from the bed of the river, and tumbled down large portions of its banks. — Logs that had probably lain prostrate for ages beneath the river’s bed, were instantly bolted upright; one end firmly fixed in the bed, the other appearing above water; & so numerous, so thickly planted together, as to render the navigation imminently dangerous, if not impractical, for the flat bottomed craft called N. O. Boats.  At the Little Prairie, the inhabitants all fled to the highlands, and the only brick chimney in the place was thrown down. From the eastern shore the barge was hailed by some hunters, who said the earth had been cleft in hundreds of places, at the Bayou River, with fissures sufficiently large to swallow up a man, and that they were vomiting up torrents of water.  An island, a short distance above the river was most violently agitated, and cut in every direction with gaping chasms. At Plum Point, two boats, laden with port, the property of a Mr. Joseph Atwell, were, in the twinkling of an eye, destroyed; the one shivered to pieces, the other upset; fortunately, the crew were saved.  Thus was a worthy, industrious man, deprived of his all. The writer appears to have been deeply impressed with a belief that N. Orleans is destroyed, and the mouth of the Mississippi changed — but letters in town, both from Natchez and N. Orleans, of dates posterior to the earthquake, make no mention of it.  It seems there were twenty shocks felt on the 16th (exclusive of the two already mentioned) with intervals between them, in the morning from 10 to 20 minutes; in the afternoon they were from 30 to 55 minutes; in the evening and during the night from one to two hours. On the 17th shocks were felt as follows:  at 30 minutes past 2; at 6 o’clock; at 40 minutes past 11 A.M.   This shock was nearly as violent as the second, and continued 8 seconds.  There were several other shocks which happened during the night.   On the 18th, at 7 min. past 8, and at 30 min. past 11 A.M.—at 6 o’clock, and at 5 min. past 6 P.M.   Three other shocks at night.  On the 19th at 7 o’clock A.M—at 44 past 12 P.M. at 45 min. past 2, at 35 min past 10, and at 45 min, past 10, besides several slight shocks during the night. On the 20th at 20 min. past 8; at 35 and 49 past 11 A.M.; at 7 P.M. and at 9.  The earth continued to tremble the day on which the letter was written — and from the long continuation of the earthquake with us, there are strong grounds for believing it was not sooner over on the Mississippi. The letter adds that the lake waters were forcing their way into the river, and that on the on the 16th during the whole day, the feathered tribe, such as swans, geese and ducks could find no place whereon they dared to rest; and were therefore constantly on the wing.  It is also added, that for three days previous to the earthquake the weather was very hazy and the air strongly scented with sulphur.  We are still in anxious expectation of soon hearing from the Missouri.

Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the
History Department of Hanover College.


How to cite this article: "The Earthquake," Western Spy (Cincinnati, Ohio), 18 Jan. 1812, p. 3, available at