Monday, November 1, 2010
In April of 1865 the Civil War had just ended. On April 27 of that year, the greatest maritime disaster in United States history occurred.
The SS Sultana, a Mississippi River paddlewheel steamboat, packed with 2,400 passengers, left Memphis and headed north. Most of the passengers were union troops who had just been released from duty and were headed home. The capacity of the ship was 376. This severe overcrowding made the vessel top heavy and unstable.
At 2:00 AM, three of the four boilers on the ship exploded. The ship began to burn, and finally sank, with a loss of approximately 1,800 souls.
Because of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln 12 days earlier, the tragedy of the Sultana was not given the attention it deserved in the press.