Monthly Archives: March 2018

What are we remembering about the Sultana?

What, exactly, are we remembering when we think about the Sultana? There are so many aspects to the story. But I believe the main thread of the disaster and its aftermath can be summarized in three words or phrases:

TragedyThe word "tragedy" is defined as "an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress . . . ." The explosion, burning, and sinking of the Sultana meets that definition. Had the boat hit a river snag and slowly sank with only the crew aboard, giving them time to safely abandon the vessel, the owners would have suffered a material loss due to the destruction. They would also, no doubt, have been distressed to lose their investment. The actual event, however, is called the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. Not due to the loss of the boat and cargo, but rather to the extensive death toll involving almost half of those on board as well as injuries to the majority of the survivors. The tragedy was human, made all the more grievous by the second word we need to consider.

 

The iconic image of the Sultana, stopped in Helena, AR. The superimposed faces in the background are the work of artist James Hance.

Read more

Share Button

Who do we remember in the Sultana disaster?

In the last post, the question was asked, "Why do we remember the Sultana?" In this entry, I'd like to concentrate on who we are remembering.

Naturally, our first thoughts center on those on board the boat. These were mainly Union soldiers, recently released after being held in Confederate prisons for as long as two years at Andersonville, Georgia and Cahaba, Alabama. Many of these men had survived the horrors of war and the cruelty of captivity. Their thoughts turned toward home as they headed north on the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to their ultimate destination of Camp Chase in Ohio to be mustered out. Also traveling on the Sultana were as many as 100 civilian passengers, a number of them women and children. The boat's crew numbered 85. Each person had his or her unique life story to tell. For almost half of them, the story ended in the early morning hours of April 27, 1865.

Reunion of Sultana survivors around 1890

Reunion of Sultana survivors around 1890

Read more

Share Button