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Seeking sources/expertise on mind-19th century steam vessels

Greetings:

I'm seeking information on small steamships in the mid-19th century to help me make sense of my sources who refer to the difficulty encountered with one at a crucial scene in my work.

Specifically this is a small river steamer something like 35 feet long brought to Alaska in 1865 from, apparently, New York. The sources refer to a type of engine newly patented. 

I hadn't intended for the boat to figure so prominently in the story, but you just never know about these things. So I'd appreciate any insight or source suggestions.

thanks

Jeff Johnson

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