The The Wreck of the Medusa

3791 Words16 Pages
“In the moonlight’s ghostly glow, I waken in a dream. Once more upon the raft I stand, Upon the raging sea. In my ears the moans and screams Of the dying ring, Somewhere in the darkness The siren softly sings…” “The architects of our doom Around their tables sit, And in their thrones of power, Condemn those they’ve cast adrift. Echoes down the city street, Their Harpies laughter rings. Waiting for the curtain call, Oblivious in the wings.” Excerpt from the lyrics, “The Wake of the Medusa”, By The Pogues “The Raft of the Medusa”, by Theodore Gericault, 1819, was inspired by the catastrophic wreck of the French frigate, The Medusa, on July 2, 1816, off the west coast of Africa, during a voyage to Senagal. The ship ran aground on the Arguin Reef, in calm seas. In an attempt to preserve the lives of 400 passengers aboard, the crew, soldiers, sailors and passengers built a raft, manned the lifeboats and the raft, and abandoned the Medusa. What followed was a most harrowing experience that would challenge the soul and condemn the government of a world power. In 1816 the newly formed French government sent a small fleet of ships to the British port of Saint-Louis, Senegal, carrying the appointed French Governor, Colonel Julien-Desire Schmaltz and his wife, for the formal return of the colony to France. The fleet consisted of four ships, The Argus, The Loire, The Medusa and The Echo. The Medusa was to transport the governor along with 400 passengers, to re-establish the colony. Soon after departing the Port de Rochefort on June 17, 1816, the Medusa, piloted by an inexperienced captain, Hugues Duroy De Chaumereys, sailed quickly away from the rest of the fleet, leaving The Medusa, her crew and passengers to the mercy of the Atlantic. De Chaumereys, an incompetent sea captain, achieved his high ranking position due to political influences, and affiliation to the French Ministry of the Marine. He had prior experience as a customs officer for more than 20 years, and served against Napoleon, gaining him favor of the new Bourbon government, and disfavor among the crew. He resisted the advice of subordinate officers and the personal experiences of more seasoned sailors and caused the wreck of the Medusa on the Arguin Bank. De Chaumereys attempted to save the Medusa by lightening her load and discarding precious cargo designated for the Senegalese colony, into t... ... middle of paper ... ... in the control of a less than qualified captain, and thus jeopardized the entire fleet, the crew and the contents designed for the colony at Senegal. A cover-up was affected, and Captain De Chaumereys was the person deemed liable and summarily court martialed, ruining his naval career. According to Savigny and Correard, “…men decorated with ribbons of all colors, who counted very well the number of their ancestors, but of whom it would have been useless to ask an account of their studies, being called to superior commands, have not been able to show anything but their orders and their unskilfulness. They have done more, they have had the privilege of losing the vessels and people of the State, without its being possible for the laws to reach them; and after all, how could a tribunal have condemned them? They might have replied to their judges, that they had not passed their time in studying the regulations of the service, or the laws of the marine, and that, if they had failed, it was without knowledge or design. In fact, it would be difficult to suppose that they intended to their own destruction: they have but too well proved that they knew how to provide for their own safety.”
Open Document