The ILL-fated Sidew heeler Sultana
I r was devastating … first, the explosion, then the ripping and rearing of wood and metal as.
AMERICA’S WORST MARITIME DISASTER the entire superstructure surrounding the boilers shattered,
flinging charred bodies and material inro the night sky.
The intensity of rhe explosion drove live coals and splintered timber like shrapnel through the upper decks.
The massive smokestacks roppled like felled timber. Scalding steam and boiling water burned,
killed and maimed passengers beyond recognition.
This was the horrifying scene that enveloped Sultana at two in the morning on 27 April 1865 just north of Memphis, Tennessee.
The wooden-hulled sidewheel steamboat Sultana was built in 1863 at the John Lirherburg Boar Yard in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The fast packer was 260 feet long with a 4 2- foor beam and a hull depth of 7 feet,
AMERICA’S WORST MARITIME DISASTER drawing slightly less than 3 feet.
She was fitted with four tubular boilers, each measuring 18 feet long and 46 inches in diameter.
On the day of the disaster, the Sultana, registered to carry 376 passengers, was crowded with 2,400 Union soldiers,
plus civilians and crew, bringing the total to over 2,500 people.
Most of the soldiers had been released from rhe infamous Confederate prison camps at Andersonville, Georgia, and Cahaba, Alabama.
More than 1,700 of them died, making it the worst maritime disaster in US history and one of the worst of all rime.
Thus, the Sultana shared a similar fate to fo ur earlier steamboats with the same name.
Among the five vessels there were three accidents with fatalities and three fires.
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