Although the Twilight traveled in daylight hours only on its initial trip, it was forced to navigate during the night on its second in order to reach the north and turn around before inclement weather arrived.
About 5:30 a.m. on September 10, 1865 near the mouth of Fire Creek just above Napoleon, Missouri, 20 miles east of Kansas City, the Twilight pushed slowly through fog, cautiously approached a bend, then suddenly ripped into a huge sycamore tree hidden under the thick black water. "The hog chains snapped with a report like a cannon and the boat..."hogged" or bulged up in the middle and the ends began to sink," one passenger said. "Water soon rushed into the hatches and the boat careened to the north. The Twilight submerged except for the pilot house and Texas (cabin beneath)." The "almost new boat was a total loss."
All Twilight passengers, in various stages of dress and undress, were put in boats and taken safely ashore along with the crew. By daybreak, a steamer from Kansas City had rushed downriver to rescue the beached survivors and return them to Kansas City. A lady passenger claimed to have lost a tin box filled with gold; she is said to have remained for two or three years near the sinking site, hoping that the tin box might somehow wash ashore. It never did.
(The immediate five-mile stretch of river near the "wood landing" known as Napoleon was said to be a "regular steamship graveyard," the Kansas City Star said. Still on the bottom, by the way, are the Lady Lee, Mars, and the Princess. Walter Stevens wrote in 1921 in the Missouri Valley Historical Review that "A wreck for every seven miles of the Missouri River from Fort Benton to the mouth was estimated several years ago")
Within 20 miles of the Twilight's burial ground was Lexington, Missouri, once the state's third largest settlement. In April 1852, the worst disaster in Missouri River history occurred above Lexington when the steamer Saluda reacted to an enormous steam buildup and exploded in a fiery blast. Its 600-pound safe was blown 200 yards. Bodies of some 100 crew and passengers were recovered but the remains of at least 100 more passengers, thought to have floated downriver, were never retrieved. O'Neil wrote in The Rivermen: "Pilots liked to call for more boiler pressure and hoped for the best to get through tough passages."