The Sultana.

by Daniel Russ on September 30, 2014

Post image for The Sultana.



The Sultana, overloaded, poorly repaired, burns in the night


At the end of the Civil War, millions of POWs on either side were being returned home. Not wanting to miss a chance to finally leave the horrid south, a side-wheel steamboat, the Sultana, left port on April 21st, 1865 with about  2,427 men onboard crew included. A bad piece of boiler plating had to be replaced and the repairs were made at a stop in Vicksburg. Instead of doing it properly, a less secure piece of steel was riveted into the plate with the intent to do a better job at St. Louis where the steamer was scheduled to stop.


At Vicksburg, a commotion built in the port as thousands of former Union Soldier POWs clamored to go aboard and make a voyage homewards. Using force and bribes, over 2000 men crowded onboard and filled every single space available. Who could blame them? They were just escaping one of the worse experiences  in the Civil War, the deprivation of dreadfully unprepared and horribly over crowded POW camps.


At 2 AM, the next morning, only miles from Nashville, three of the boilers blew. A tremendous explosion flung bodies hundreds of feet into the air, and they rained down into the water, onto the deck and into trees at the riverbank.  Anywhere from 1300 to 1900 men died, many from the burn wounds they sustained, many drowned in the icy water if the river and others died from hypothermia.


It is to date the worst maritime disaster in US history.





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