April 9, 2005
J. Mack Gamble Fund of the Sons and Daughters of
Pioneer Rivermen & The Friends and Descendants of the Sultana
SULTANA DEPARTS FROM VICKSBURG:
"The Worst Maritime Disaster in U. S. History"
Sultana, a side-wheel steamboat built in Cincinnati in 1863, was 260
long and was designed to carry only 376 people along with its cargo.
April 24, 1865, the Sultana docked in Vicksburg to pick up Union
soldiers recently released from Confederate prisons. The Federal
Government paid steamboat lines $5 per soldier for the trip to Cairo,
to its arrival in Vicksburg, it was discovered that one of the four
boilers was leaking. Instead of taking the time to replace the
boiler, and perhaps lose the commission to ferry the men, a metal
patch was placed over the bulge in the boiler. The time
that it took to make repairs allowed for more soldiers to crowd onto
the decks of the boat until it overflowed with more than 2,300 souls.
Sultana made several stops along its northward journey up the
Mississippi. When it was 7 miles north of Memphis in the early
morning hours of April 27, three of the four boilers exploded.
Over 1,700 people were killed in the explosion, the fire that
followed, and in the swift flood waters of the Mississippi.
accident is said to be the worst maritime disaster in American
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