The Sultana, a Civil War-era sidewheel steamboat, exploded and burned on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. Acknowledged by Congressional Resolution as the greatest maritime disaster in United States history, nearly 1,200 of the more than 2,200 passengers and crew were killed in the explosion and fire which sank the Sultana near Marion, Arkansas, across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. Designed to carry only 376 passengers plus crew, investigations revealed a litany of corrupt practices, including kickbacks, and bribes paid to high-ranking Union officers caused the overcrowding of the boat. The disaster has been overlooked in history since it was overshadowed by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the search for his murderer. Events at the end of the Civil War conspired to wipe the memory of this tragic event from our national history for over 130 years. In its magnitude, the story of the Sultana is as great as that of the more famous Titanic, and yet much more intriguing.
Several men from the Wheeling area were on board. See: https://weelunk.com/april-1865-burst-historic-events/
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PRESENTER BIO: Louis Intres, PhD, is Museum Project Director for the Sultana Disaster Museum and the Sultana Historical Preservation Society in Marion Arkansas. He is a history professor at Arkansas State University.
FEATURED BOOK: Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History
[Author: Alan Huffman; Publisher: Smithsonian, 2019 | Reserve a copy from the Library ]
The dramatic true story of the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, Alan Huffman’s Sultana brings to breathtaking life a tragic, long forgotten event in America’s Civil War—the sinking of the steamship Sultana and the loss of 1,700 lives, mostly Union soldiers returning home from Confederate prison camps. A gripping account that reads like a nonfiction Cold Mountain, Sultana is powerful, moving, rich in irony and fascinating historical detail—a story no history aficionado or Civil War buff will want to miss.
REVIEW: “One of the most riveting war stories I have ever read….Huffman’s smooth, intimate prose ushers you through this nightmare as if you were living it yourself.”
—Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
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