S.S. Sultana Disaster (150th Anniversary)

CMWinkler

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#21
  • Anniversary of Sultana commemorated at monument

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    Gary Scoville (left) and Bill Lowe reflect on the Civil War soldiers who perished in the Sultana tragedy 150 years ago while visiting the monument on the Hillsdale County Courthouse lawn. NANCY HASTINGS PHOTO
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  • By Nancy Hastings
    Twitter: @nhastingsHDN

    Posted Apr. 27, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    Hillsdale, Mich. HILLSDALE — The 150th anniversary of an event most rarely remembered was cause for a small group to meet on the Hillsdale County Courthouse lawn recently, where a monument commemorates the SS Sultana.On April 27, 1865, the sinking of the SS Sultana claimed the lives of 1,700, creating the largest maritime disaster in United States history.The Sultana was a wooden steamship carrying Union soldiers just released from Confederate prisoner of war camps up the Mississippi River after the Civil War ended.The overloaded ship was only rated to carry 376 passengers and sank north of Memphis, Tennessee, after its boiler exploded, killing many of those aboard or leaving them to drown in the Mississippi.
More: http://www.hillsdale.net/article/20150427/NEWS/150429226/-1/sports
 

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#23
Just to be clear:
The "Sultana Museum" listed on the schedule is just an exhibit that they have been putting up for a couple of weeks every year, for the last few years.

However, the GREAT NEWS is that funding has been secured to start building an actual, permanent museum. This story is from July 23, 2014:
"Sultana Museum Funding Agreement Reached"
 
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#24


  • Hillsdale, Mich. HILLSDALE — The 150th anniversary of an event most rarely remembered was cause for a small group to meet on the Hillsdale County Courthouse lawn recently, where a monument commemorates the SS Sultana.On April 27, 1865, the sinking of the SS Sultana claimed the lives of 1,700, creating the largest maritime disaster in United States history.The Sultana was a wooden steamship carrying Union soldiers just released from Confederate prisoner of war camps up the Mississippi River after the Civil War ended.The overloaded ship was only rated to carry 376 passengers and sank north of Memphis, Tennessee, after its boiler exploded, killing many of those aboard or leaving them to drown in the Mississippi.
More: http://www.hillsdale.net/article/20150427/NEWS/150429226/-1/sports
Hillsdale College was known as an ardently abolitionist institution, and provided Union soldiers way out of proportion to its size:
Over the course of the war, Hillsdale sent as many men into the ranks of the Union army as did the undergraduate programs at the much larger University of Michigan. Hillsdale can claim having sent over 500 students into the Union armies; among this group were three generals, three colonels, five lieutenant colonels, and three Congressional Medal of Honor winners. In the 1880s, the college newspaper estimated that over 200 of Hillsdale's student soldiers died during the conflict. While that number is inflated, many students from Hillsdale did give their lives during the war.
....
One unit which contained an especially significant number of Hillsdale students was the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Company E of that regiment was comprised solely of volunteers from Hillsdale, Michigan, many of them coming from the college. The 4th Michigan was in the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, and saw action in many of the most devastating battles in the Eastern Theater. Of the many battles in which they participated, the men of the 4th Michigan saw perhaps their greatest testing of courage on July 2, 1863, in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg.
Here's the statue of a Union soldier which proudly stands at the front entrance of the campus:
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#25
  • Anniversary of Sultana commemorated at monument
The Sultana survivors' group started meeting in 1885. They had their annual reunions in different towns where the survivors came from or lived. Their 1888 reunion was in Hillsdale. (The group is still in existence, by the way -- composed of the survivors' descendants.)

The way I first found out about the Hillsdale connection was through the works of Max Terman, author of Hiram's Honor and Hiram's Hope, both of them fictionalized accounts based on the real life of Max's gg-uncle Hiram Terman. Max reported that Hillsdale College has an extensive Civil War collection that was useful to him in his research. (Also, Terman has many personal/family connections to the Hillsdale area.)

The real-life Hiram Terman was captured at Gettysburg and imprisoned at Andersonville. His war story, based almost entirely on factual events, is told in Hiram's Honor, and I found it as compelling as any Civil War fiction I have read. The sequel, Hiram's Hope, has more fictional elements in it, but it's of particular interest on this thread since it tells the story of Hiram's friend Isaiah, who is on the Sultana and survives.
 
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#26
There was an article published in the Dec.2001 issue of North &South magazine called the "Sultana:A Case for Sabotage". Written by Debra House Rule.in the article there is the claim that it was a Confederate conspiracy to sink the Sultana and other river boats thru the use of coal torepedo's.it is based mainly on a deathbed confession both has no real proof, just heresay.it does pose an interesting theory but we will never know.it is available thru Amazon Kindle if one does want to read it.
Well, I downloaded and read the Kindle book, and found it very interesting. Sources are plentiful and footnoted, and the appendices help make an impressive case. But even the author admits that there will probably never be conclusive proof one way or another.

It's altogether possible that Robert Louden, a Confederate "boatburner" who'd already destroyed half a dozen steamboats on the Mississippi, had been convicted and escaped numerous times, and was an all-around "bad boy,"could have sneaked a Courtenay torpedo into the coal pile. (I didn't even know what a Courtenay torpedo was until I read this book.) But it's also possible that the disaster was the result of nothing more than ugly, banal old greed. In that case, some 1,700 soldiers were, in effect, murdered by their own government. I don't know which is worse.

In either scenario, sad to say, Abraham Lincoln must bear some of the blame -- in the sabotage scenario, for having reprieved Robert Louden from execution in 1864 because of his family connections; in the accident scenario, for having earlier helped get Reuben Hatch out of a court-martial for charges of taking bribes (Hatch was the Army officer who kept loading men on to the Sultana until it had six times the number of people it was rated to safely carry).

Either way, the whole thing is as sickening as the battle of the Crater.
 
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Buckeye Bill

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#27
Thanks for posting the longer video link, Bill. It's quite interesting.
I shared this longer YouTube video with family and friends. All of them appreciated the video and the history lesson. Amazingly most history buffs have never heard about this event.
 

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I find it ironic, and annoying, that some tragedies are very well known, even get movies and books produced on them, the Titanic, the Lusitania, the Hindenburg, but others like the General Slocum, the Sultana and the refugee passengers liners filled with German refugees sunk by Soviet submarines in 1945 are barely know outside the ranks of historians. As for the Sultana victims, this is a reminder that life is not always fair. To have survived the prison camp at Andersonville and then to die aboard a boat taking one home just does not set well.
 
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#31
I find it ironic, and annoying, that some tragedies are very well known, even get movies and books produced on them, the Titanic, the Lusitania, the Hindenburg, but others like the General Slocum, the Sultana and the refugee passengers liners filled with German refugees sunk by Soviet submarines in 1945 are barely know outside the ranks of historians. As for the Sultana victims, this is a reminder that life is not always fair. To have survived the prison camp at Andersonville and then to die aboard a boat taking one home just does not set well.
It would be a good day to lower ones flag to half mast today.
 

Buckeye Bill

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#32
I find it ironic, and annoying, that some tragedies are very well known, even get movies and books produced on them, the Titanic, the Lusitania, the Hindenburg, but others like the General Slocum, the Sultana and the refugee passengers liners filled with German refugees sunk by Soviet submarines in 1945 are barely know outside the ranks of historians. As for the Sultana victims, this is a reminder that life is not always fair. To have survived the prison camp at Andersonville and then to die aboard a boat taking one home just does not set well.
Agreed!
 
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#33
A large majority of the passengers were from Andersonville and Cahaba prisoner-of-war camps.
I remember thinking, when I first learned about it, how tragically sad, almost cruel to have survived those POW camps, and we've all seen the pictures of those poor men, and the joy they must have felt to be alive, free and heading back to "home" and have that happen. I mean my heart just sank in my chest when I read the story. This may be a stretch, but I have always puzzled at the huge number of lives lost that day and wonder if the reason may be, in part at least, the wretched condition a lot of those men must have been in? It makes sense to me that a lot of these guys, having survived the blast, were just to weak to save themselves. Truly very sad indeed.
 
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#35
The new Sultana Museum was great! It's in Marion, Arkansas. This video was great too!

On this day in 1865, the steamboat S.S. Sultana explodes on the Mississippi River near Memphis, killing 1,700 passengers including many discharged Union soldiers.

The Sultana was launched from Cincinnati in 1863. The boat was 260 feet long and had an authorized capacity of 376 passengers and crew. It was soon employed to carry troops and supplies along the lower Mississippi River.

On April 25, 1865, the Sultana left New Orleans with 100 passengers. It stopped at Vicksburg, Mississippi, for repair of a leaky boiler. R. G. Taylor, the boilermaker on the ship, advised Captain J. Cass Mason that two sheets on the boiler had to be replaced, but Mason ordered Taylor to simply patch the plates until the ship reached St. Louis. Mason was part owner of the riverboat, and he and the other owners were anxious to pick up discharged Union prisoners at Vicksburg. The federal government promised to pay $5 for each enlisted man and $10 for each officer delivered to the North. Such a contract could pay huge dividends, and Mason convinced local military authorities to pick up the entire contingent despite the presence of two other steamboats at Vicksburg.

When the Sultana left Vicksburg, it carried 2,100 troops and 200 civilians, more than six times its capacity. On the evening of April 26, the ship stopped at Memphis before cruising across the river to pick up coal in Arkansas. As it steamed up the river above Memphis, a thunderous explosion tore through the boat. Metal and steam from the boilers killed hundreds, and hundreds more were thrown from the boat into the chilly waters of the river. The Mississippi was already at flood stage, and the Sultana had only one lifeboat and a few life preservers. Only 600 people survived the explosion. A board of inquiry later determined the cause to be insufficient water in the boiler–overcrowding was not listed as a cause. The Sultana accident is still the largest maritime disaster in U.S. history.


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