“A fascinating look into the machinations of Restoration France revolving around the horrific wreck of an Africa-bound ship and the famed painting it inspired that stirred all of Europe. The spellbinding characters and lucid writing make this a genuine page-turner.” Winston F. Groom, author of 1942 and Patriotic Fire
The Wreck of the Medusa
The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century
978-0-8021-4392-1 • $16.00 • Paperback • Oct. 2008
A thrilling and compelling account of the greatest maritime disaster before the Titanic that will appeal to readers of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm and Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea.
The Wreck of the Medusa is a spellbinding account of the most famous shipwreck before the Titanic. Drawing on contemporaneously published accounts and journals of survivors, historian Jonathan Miles brilliantly reconstructs the ill-fated voyage and the events that inspired Théodore Géricault’s magnificent painting The Raft of the Medusa.
In June 1816, the flagship of a French expedition to repossess a colony in Senegal from the British set sail. She never arrived at her destination. At her helm was the incompetent captain Hugo de Chaumareys, who, ignoring telltale signs that they were in shallow waters, plowed the ship into a famously treacherous sandbar. When disaster struck, a privileged few claimed the lifeboats and 146 men and one woman were herded aboard a makeshift raft, abandoned, and sent adrift. Without a compass or many provisions, hit by a vicious storm the first night, and exposed to sweltering heat during the following days, the group set upon each other: mayhem, mutiny, and murder ensued. When rescue arrived thirteen days later only fifteen were alive. Meanwhile, those in the boats who made it to shore undertook a dangerous two-hundred-mile slog through the desert.
Among the handful of survivors from the raft were two men whose written account of the tragedy became a best seller that rocked France. The political aftershocks exposed a corruption that reached as far as the restored Bourbon king.
Miles’s astonishing story, full of action, adventure, catastrophe, and art, takes the reader’s breath away.