The worst maritime disaster in United States history in which 1800 soldiers died.

The forgotten fate of around 1,800 union soldiers who gladly boarded a steamboat in the aftermath of the fall of the Confederacy had no idea that despite their escape from hell, a new kind of hell awaited them in the icy Mississippi river.

Around the time of the American Civil War, the steamboats were regarded as both a boom for the local town’s economies and a potentially dangerous mode of transportation. At the time, people and authorities gave more priority to the economy over the safety of the locals.The steamboats carried the stigma of water travel, as it is always not an easy endeavour on a wooden boat, especially if the water it travels in is a raging river. These boats were not adequately sanitised, and conditions were not great health and safety wise.

The Sultana Incident
One of the boilers exploded followed by a scene of sheer agony and confusion. Injuries suffered were from scalding, leg and arms missing, burning soldiers everywhere on board and many more horrific scenes. James saved himself by jumping into the river where he said he preferred drowning to being burned alive. Later, he and others were plucked out of the cold water to safety. The steamer was grossly overcrowded and was a time bomb just waiting to explode.James was lucky to escape the disaster. It was noted that the disaster did not receive the press popularity as one would expect, due to the killing of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth, the day before the sinking of the Sultana.

The Cook Connection