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:
Tragedy - The 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.