Original Document
Original Document
"Boat Race, Pittsburg vs. Louisville," 1838

To the Editor of the Spirit of the Times.-

Having read some time since in your paper a description of our turf races, I thought an attempt to describe a boat race might not prove unacceptable; and if it is not what it ought to be, you must take the will for the deed." Some time since a challenge was given by the Gipsey barge club of Louisville Ky., to the Glaucus barge club of Pittsburg, Pa., to row at Louisville from 1 to 4 miles, for from $500 to $1000 aside, the Gipsey paying $200 for their expenses, which was accepted by the latter club. Last week the sons of "the Iron city" honored us with their appearance with their Glaucus, and finally agreed the race should come off on Monday the 19th inst., at 3 O'clock P.M., for $500 aside, 2 1/4 miles up the river, and 2 1/4 down, making in all 4 1/2 miles.

About 3 o'clock the shores began to be lined with horsemen, footmen, steam boats, keel boats, skiffs, canoes, barges, yauls, and though last not least, the old-fashioned flat boat, all literally covered with people, and on the steamboats and in the carriages might be seen the bright eyes of beauty gracing the scene with their presence.

Bets were greatly in favor of the Glaucus, in consequence of their established fame, having won two or three races, and the acknowledged strength and powers of endurance of the Pittsburgers, though still the blood of the untried Gipseys rendered them no contemptible opponents, and their friends backed them freely. At 3 o'clock precisely the boats were at the starting point, the Glaucus having won the track; she lay in her beauty like a sea bird upon the water, waiting for her adversary to take the station assigned her, which was done by the gallant Gipsey on the outside, and consequently more in the current. There was considerable anxiety to see which would get the start, so as to keep the shore all the way up for the benefit of having the eddy–odds were offered that the Glaucus would take it, as she had invariably done so-and the friends of the Gipsey were equally sanguine.

At the top of the steamboat bell they started with the fleetness of the antelope; and it was seen that the Gipsey gained something the first pull-the second, still more, and at the third and fourth, shot ahead of the Glaucus, amid the deafening shouts of the "corn crackers," and took the track; the Glaucus, nothing daunted, following close in her wake. The first mile the Gipsey still kept gaining and increasing the distance, till at the second mile there was three or four lengths difference. It was found the Gipseys would not hold out, as they rowed a quicker stroke than the Glaucus, at the rate of 5 to 3. The buoy being close by, there was a smart brush-the Gipseys endeavoring to turn as quick as possible and take advantage of the current down stream, and the Glaucus to lessen the distance between them.

At this time the excitement was intense among the betting gentlemen, aye, and the ladies too. Horsemen were riding up and down, carrying the news to many a fair face. The Gipsey made the buoy about four lengths ahead of the Glaucus, and in turning, the stroke oar of the former came out of its place, and the turn was not made as well as it ought to have been, but the difference was scarcely noticed, when she got round and shot ahead with the speed of thought (almost). The Glaucus coming to the buoy, and turning beautifully, crossed the track of the Gipsey, and taking the outside as they went down, the Gipsey still ahead, and inclining to the shore, while the Glaucus kept (and wisely too) the current, and widened the distance across from one boat to the other. The Pittsburgers, now saw that the Glaucus was getting the advantage, for as the Gipsey kept inclining to the shore, they lost the current, and made the distance longer by going in the bend of the river, so that at, the end of the first mile it was very easily to be seen that the Glaucus had gained a length, though the Gipsey was still considerably ahead.

The boats continued in this position for the next mile, or nearly so, until the last quarter stretch, when the Gipsey's found the Glaucus had not only gained her distance, but was still gaining, and had got a length ahead; the struggle was now tremendous. The Gipsey sprung like a fiery steed goaded with the spur, and the Glaucus exerted all her energies in the last grand effort, the friends on both sides making the air resound with their cheering, and kerchiefs waving from carriage and steam boat, to encourage either crew. and as the Gipsey kept gaining little by little, her friends were sanguine of winning, but the distance was not sufficiently long, (I mean from the time they got out of the bend,) and the Glaucus, amid the cheers of the Pittsburgers that almost rent the sky, came in ahead, winning by a half a length!

Thus ended the first boat race in Louisville, and it was a splendid one; the match was rowed in 26 minutes precisely. The judges were–GARNETI DUNCAN, ROBT. J. WARD,:–PRATHER, Esqrs. and Capt. C.M. STRADER.

It was apparent the crew of the Glaucus was much better disciplined, they having pulled together so frequently in other races; at any rate, they rowed with the precision of a machine. The Gipsey was evidently the fleetest boat, and was rowed the longest distance in the same time, which proved that her crew had as good bottom as blood, and had it not been that their coxswain steered them into the band of the river, they must necessarily have won, for the pilots and all the "river-men," and indeed every one else knows, it makes from 150 to 200 yards difference in distance, besides the loss of current.


Credit: The Spirit of the Times, December 1, 1838.
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