- Aug 2018
- Southern Indiana
I am shocked that the story of the Sultana is virtually forgotten to history, even the Maritime Disasters page of Wikipedia fails to mention it despite it being the worst maritime disaster in US history. The steamboat Sultana, built in 1863 was tasked in transporting Union troops just released from prisoner of war camps North along the Mississippi River. On April 27th, 1865, the Sultana's boilers exploded while carrying well over 2000 troops and about 200 civilians and crew. The boat was grossly overloaded. The captain intentionally packed the boat beyond it's capacity as he was given the equivalent of $70 a passenger and was heavily in debt at the time. He bribed military officials to allow him to pack the boat so full that the soldiers did not even have room to lay down. At 2am, the ship exploded just north of Memphis. 1, 168 people are thought to have died although the exact number is not known. Many of the soldiers were weak and sick from their captivity, those who did not die in the explosion and fire, drowned in the icy water. Bodies were found for months. The fact that Lincoln was assassinated the day prior to the disaster overshadowed the event. No one was ever held responsible for the disaster.