CWT Presents Gene E. Salecker - Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion April 27, 1865

Added to Calendar: 06/02/21

lelliott19

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at 8:30pm EDT
CivilWarTalk Presents:
Gene E. Salecker
author of
Disaster on the Mississippi:
The Sultana Explosion April 27, 1865

in a Free Live Video Presentation

At two o'clock in the morning on 27 April 1865, seven miles north of Memphis on the Mississippi, the boilers of the sidewheel steamboat Sultana suddenly exploded. Legally registered to carry 376 people, the boat was packed with 1,970 recently released Union prisoners of war. More than 1,200 people died, making it the worst marine disaster in U.S. history. To focus on the personal stories of the victims, both civilian and soldier, the author meticulously collected material -- from hundreds of letters, period newspaper stories, and other sources. The narrative is interwoven with personal reminiscences, including those of the heroic rescuers, resulting in a work that emphasizes the human-interest aspect of the Sultana's loss.

Gene Eric Salecker is a military historian whose five published books include Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865 (1996) and The Second Pearl Harbor: The West Loch Disaster, May 21, 1944 (2014). A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, he is a retired police officer and retired middle school teacher, currently acting as the historical consultant for the Sultana Disaster Museum. He owns a vast collection of Sultana artifacts and memorabilia which he has generously placed on long-term loan to the Interim Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion, Arkansas. Mr. Salecker lives in River Grove, Illinois with his wife, a rabbit, a cat, and dozens of tropical fish. He is currently working on a new book on the Sultana which will be published in the spring of 2022.

REGISTER TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT
Seating is limited. You don't have to be a member of CivilWarTalk to attend.
Don't forget to mark the date on your calendar!
Sultana Disaster Museum sultanadisastermuseum.com
Sultana Association, a group of descendants and friends with an interest in the Sultana thesultanaassociation.com
 
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Ole Miss

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I have a new internet provider and am able to use the we again! I have signed up for this program and as the Sultana exploded about 90 miles from where I live, and I am looking forward to hearing more about this tragic event!

I have wanted to visit the Sultana Museum in Marion, AR* when it reopens in June but the Memphis Bridge is closed for repair and the old I 55 bridge is really overloaded and takes about 60 minutes to get across the Mississippi!
Regards
David

*https://www.sultanadisastermuseum.com/
 

bdtex

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Very much looking forward to this one. I visited the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion, Ark. in June 2017. I also read Mr. Salecker's book and posted a review of it here in CivilWarTalk. Great book.
 

lelliott19

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Gene is 'the absolute contemporary expert' when it comes to Sultana.
I understand he is working on a new book for 2022 and will update us on his latest research findings tonight.

You guys don't delay; go ahead and register now and plan to attend tonight! Looking forward to Mr. Salecker's presentation. REGISTER TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT
 

lelliott19

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Please plan to join us tonight at 8:30 pm EDT when our guest will be Gene E. Salecker on the Sultana disaster! REGISTER
 

lelliott19

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If you missed Mr. Salecker's presentation, you missed a very engaging and informative one! We all learned a ton about the Sultana disaster and Mr. Salecker's slide deck was amazing! They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the photo of the Sultana loaded down with the passengers as Mr. Salecker pointed out all the tiny details was captivating. His descriptions were clearly presented, easy to understand, and certainly helped to explain the various factors that contributed to the disaster.

As promised here is the content from the chat log:
07:35 PM @Gary Morgan - How will your new book on the Sultana differ from Disaster on the Mississippi?

07:42 PM @lelliott19 - A couple of people have asked about what happened last week. A regional Zoom outage impacted 3900 meetings including ours. We have rescheduled LTC Knudsen for SATURDAY June 12 at 7:30pm EDT Link to the new announcement with registration

07:49 PM @Gary Morgan - Do you know how many Andersonville prisoners were on board/killed?

07:52 PM Kathleen S. - I just visited the Sultana monument near Knoxville TN.

08:00 PM @gentlemanrob - Great Presentation

08:02 PM @NFB22 - Wasn't there also some confusion on the actual count of passengers being loaded because the officer keeping count left for some reason, or something along those lines?

08:14 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - Sultana had a total of four interconnected boilers, which allowed the water to slosh from one side of the boat to other, causing hot spots on the boilers which eventually led to the boiler explosion. Why were the boilers interconnected, as opposed to separate? There isn’t any reason I can think of to make the water feeding the boiler be interconnected in that way, since you can always have separate filler pumps for each boiler. So what was the reasoning to that design? Was it just misguided economy on the part of her designers?

08:17 PM Larry DeM. - Was the Sultana involved in a race with another steamboat during the accident?

08:21 PM @RLowe - Great and interesting presentation, Gene! Well done.

08:22 PM Rip E. - Excellent presentation

08:25 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - Interesting thought: had the Sultana been sunk by a coal torpedo and not a boiler explosion as it actually was, would the tragedy have actually had a lower body count?

08:26 PM Richard S. - what a heart thumping story.

08:28 PM @Ole Miss - What was the ambient and the water temperature at the time of the accident?

08:38 PM Bruno P. - Superb presentation!

08:38 PM @ucvrelics - Another Great Presentation. Thanks Gene.

08:39 PM Richard W. - Great presentation!

08:39 PM Rip E. - Who will be publishing your new book?

08:39 PM Nick G. - Fantastic presentation. Thank you so much

08:39 PM Gordon M. - Very good presentation. Thanks!

08:39 PM @Gary Morgan - Have you ever looked at the two other nautical disasters that happened that month, the General Lyon fire (29 survivors out of 500-600 on board) and the collision of the transport steamer Massachusetts with the picket boat Black Diamond?

08:39 PM James M. - Thank you.

08:40 PM @bdtex - how many known Sultana fatalities are buried in Memphis National Cemetery?

08:42 PM @NH Civil War Gal - Mr. Salecker's book, Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865 is available on AMAZON.COM. Be on the lookout for his new book on the Sultana planned for publication in 2022.

08:46 PM @NH Civil War Gal - Mr. Salecker would like to call your attention to the Sultana Disaster Museum and his vast collection of Sultana artifacts and memorablilia on exhibition there. Visit the website at sultanadisastermuseum.com

There is a Sultana Association of Descendants and Friends. Their mission is to preserve the memory of the Sultana Disaster, the largest maritime disaster in American history, and the memory of the nearly 1,200 men and women who lost their lives that fateful evening of April 27,k 1865. Membership is also available to non-descendants. Visit their website at the sultanaassociation.com

08:47 PM @A. Roy - Did I understand correctly: Is the wreck of the Sultana all buried now? Has there been any thought of doing archaeological work there? Would that be practical or fruitful?

08:54 PM Jim C. - I believe your representation of the heeling effect is in error. The boilers were connected at their lowest point by the mud drums. This was the only passage for water among the boilers. In your heeling depiction you show a gross affect across all the boilers. This is inaccurate. Each of the boilers would have virtually the same area of exposure, not greater from the end boilers.

08:55 PM Keith S. - Awesome presentation!

08:58 PM Mike L. - Excellent presentation, thank you.

09:02 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - Yes for some reason they are omitted, I think I found that illustration for steamboats.org

09:05 PM @NH Civil War Gal - Coming up next Wednesday, our guest will be Charles R Knight, on his brand new book "From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee's Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865"

09:08 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - Generally, low water explosion tend to occur in fire tube boilers above the firebox\furnace. The low water lets the boilers get too hot in a particular spot, that then lets go explosively. Logically, that hot spot is usually above where the fire is. Generally the result is an explosion which blows out the arch above the firebox. That can be seen in the boiler failure at the Gettysburg RR in the 1990s.

In that particular case, there was actually a built in weakness in the boiler, so the boiler gave out in a rather more controlled way. That was because the loco in question was a Canadian design. Leave it to the Canuks to build a better boiler.

09:10 PM @bdtex - @Rick Featherston and I visited the museum in June 2017. Pretty neat.

09:10 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - Most of my boiler knowledge comes from the RR context, the steamboats used very similar but not exactly the same technology. Marine boilers are a bit of a mystery to me, but boiler explosions are not! All too common back in the day…

09:15 PM Keith S. - AWESOME!!!

09:17 PM Sue Anne B. - I enjoyed the talk just as much as the first time I heard it. It is true that the Sultana disaster is not well enough known. Great presentation.

09:30 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - I’m not so sure I’d want burning, melting sugar aboard in a fire!

09:42 PM @Western Reserve Volunteer - The pilot may have been more concerned with navigation and not the weight distribution, which in a flood would have been pretty all consuming (so many opportunities to hit snags) so really it’d definitely be both the responsibility and fault of that 1st Mate.

It’s interesting though that other steamboat captains were more than willing to take on way more passengers than was strictly legal. The riverboat business back then was pretty cutthroat. Agreed I’d never heard of it before tonight
 

Ole Miss

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@lelliott19, @NH Civil War Gal and @MS2623
Laura, Tina and Ashley: Ladies as always y'all have provided and shared---despite the weather and myriad technological difficulties---excellent programs for everyone! But last night was special as I have been to all the stops the Sultana made and somehwere in the field she lay for over 150 years. A friend I and were given directions and believe we there!

Museum has been closed but hope to visit it soon if and when the Hernado DeSoto Bridge is repaired and there is not an hours wait to cross the river.

Fantastic effort Ladies! Thank you very much
Regards
David
 

Paul Yancey

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A really informative presentation regarding one of the great tragedies associated with the war. Mr. Salecker has done a tremendous amount of research on the subject and I look forward to reading his new book when it comes out next Spring.
 

A. Roy

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But last night was special as I have been to all the stops the Sultana made and somehwere in the field she lay for over 150 years. A friend I and were given directions and believe we there!

So did I understand correctly that the ship is completely buried? Wonder whether there has ever been an archaeological study of the site.

ARB
 

lelliott19

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So did I understand correctly that the ship is completely buried? Wonder whether there has ever been an archaeological study of the site.

ARB
Sorry I missed your Q Roy. There were some direct messages in my chat box and I failed to see your message with that Q. Ill ask Gene to reply here.
 
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Sorry that I missed this one. I picked up virus And it sent me on a loop..
There's a new thing on the board. Go up to the toolbar at the top of the page that has the alert bell and the home and forum buttons. If you click on the one that says "Resources," that has the videos of past presentations, including last night's. It got mentioned briefly toward the end last night. So you can still catch it!
 
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