THE SULTANA DISASTER

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The Sultana, a Civil War-era paddle-wheel 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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION...

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Sally M. Walker, Sinking the Sultana

Candlewick Press, 2017

Jerry O. Potter, The Sultana Tragedy

Pelican Publishing, 1992

Chester Berry, Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors

University of Tennessee Press, 2005

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Gene Salecker, Disaster on the Mississippi

Naval Institute Press, 2015

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Remember the Sultana

(Documentary, 2018)

Gene Salecker, Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana,

Naval Institute Press, 2022