Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana
The Sultana was a sidewheel Mississippi steamboat carrying almost two thousand recently-released Union prisoners-of-war back north at the end of the Civil War. At 2:00 a.m. on April 27, 1865, when the boat was seven miles above Memphis, her boilers exploded. Almost 1,200 people perished in the worst maritime disaster in United States history.
Gene Eric Salecker covers this disaster in detail and dispels the many myths that have been connected to the Sultana for too long. Almost every author who has written about theSultana has relied on the words of a few survivors or referred to the works of previous authors to get their story. Advancing the scholarship, the author has visited the National Archives in Washington, DC to comb through the handwritten transcripts of the three investigative bodies that looked into the disaster or poured over the handwritten testimony from the court-martial trial of Capt. Frederic Speed, the only person tried for the overcrowding of the vessel.
In 1996, after extensive research and using the most current sources available at that time, Salecker wrote Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion April 27, 1865. Still, there were inevitable omissions. After almost twenty-five years of continued research on the Sultana, and all those involved in the disaster, Salecker has gleaned unparalleled knowledge into every aspect of the disaster. His research, covering the National Archives, and thousands of pages of newspapers from around the world and government documents, including pension records and service records, has allowed Gene to tell the story of the Sultana as completely as possible. By bringing his research back to primary sources, Salecker dispels myths and adds to the story of the Sultana.
In Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana: The Worst Maritime Disaster in American History paroled prisoners, civilian passengers, guards, crew members, rescuers, and eyewitnesses tell their stories in their own words. The true, and complete, story about the Sultana and the disaster has finally, and fully, been told.