This Week in the Civil War - #1078
On Thursday, April 27, 1865, sailing just north of Memphis, Tennessee with her decks overcrowded with hundreds of Union soldiers on their way home Confederate prison camps, the side-wheeler S.S. Sultana’s boilers exploded, hurling soldiers and debris into the early morning darkness. The ship carried 2021 passengers and crew, grossly exceeding her legal limit of 376 individuals. Those surviving the blast had to contend with either fire aboard ship or risk hypothermia in the Mississippi’s cold waters. Estimates of those killed range from 1300 to 1900, with many bodies never recovered. In 1982, an archaeological expedition uncovered what was believed to be the wreckage of Sultana on the Arkansas side of the river some four miles from Memphis. The Sultana disaster remains one of the most lethal maritime tragedies on record.