SS Sultana-America’s Worst Maritime Disaster
On April 27, 1865, twelve days after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the SS Sultana, a Mississippi River steamboat, exploded and sank near Memphis, Tennessee, killing 1,547 passengers. Built to carry no more than 376, it was packed with over 2,000 passengers and crew, the majority of them Union Army soldiers recently released from Confederate prisons in Georgia and Alabama. As soldiers they survived combat and miserable conditions like those at Andersonville Prison only to die on their way home. Sadly, this tragic event, the largest maritime disaster in the United States, has received little notice, even though more if the Sultana’s passengers perished than on the legendary Titanic. Lincoln’s death and the hunt for John Wilkes Booth overshadowed this tragedy. We’ve been studying the lists of survivors and victims, many of them from the same towns and counties in Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio. We’ll be telling their stories later here or on our blog. The photo was taken near near Helena, Arkansas, about 80 miles down river from where it sank.