The Great Sultana Disaster

One of the greatest maritime disasters in United States history is not widely known within U.S. borders, and is often overshadowed by events at the time. 

Photograph of the Sultana in 1865

Photograph of the Sultana in 1865

In 1865, in the closing weeks of the U.S. Civil War, the steamboat Sultana exploded on the Mississippi river when one of the four boiler’s exploded, killing an estimated 1,800 passengers of the total 2,400 passengers on board (almost 300 more passengers than that which perished on the R.M.S. Titanic).

The majority of passengers on board were Union soldiers who had been recently released from Confederate prison camps and were being transported back home. 

The reason this event is not widely known in the United States is that it happened shortly after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (12 days), and the subsequent hunt for John Wilkes Booth, events which overshadowed the event of the Sultana disaster.