April 27, 1865: Sultana: Death on the Mississippi

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After the massive bloodletting of the Civil War, one would have hoped that Death would have taken at least a brief holiday in the US.  Such was not the case.  On April 27th 1865, the SS Sultana, a Mississipi paddlewheeler steamer, constructed in 1863 for the cotton trade, was serving as a transport.  Its cargo was appoximately 2500 Union soldiers, many of them former POWS, some of them survivors of Andersonville.  The Union soldiers boarded at Vicksburg.  The Sultana while in port at Vicksburg had a patch put on its steam boiler.  The repair was clearly inadequate, a new  boiler being needed. 

The number of Union soldiers badly overstrained the Sultana which had a legal passenger capacity of 376.  The boiler blew at 2:00 AM on April 27th, destroying a large portion of the ship.  Over 1800 passengers and crews lost their lives, making the Sultana the greatest maritime disaster in US history.  That men who had suffered so much died so close to returning to their homes is enough to make angels weep.

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