The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn't the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River - and it could have been prevented.In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln's assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn't find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat's boilers exploded, plunging theSultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal - more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana's disastrous fate?
"It may surprise many to learn that the worst maritime disaster in American history was not the sinking of the Titanic. It happened 47 years prior, but the story begins during the Civil War, when the prisoner exchange system ended and the Andersonville prison camp swelled with Union soldiers. Once the war ended, these prisoners needed to be returned home, and transporting troops became a lucrative business for steamboats along the Mississippi River. Walker sets the scene for the Sultana disaster as she describes the captain's greed (allowing 2,400 passengers when the legal capacity was 376), the chief engineer's decision to repair rather than replace a deteriorating boiler, the flooded river, and other factors that would come into play. She tells the story through the lens of select soldiers and paying passengers, who each met different fates aboard the steamer. The author not only relates the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed 1,537 lives but also why it was almost forgotten. History buffs, and even adults, will be the biggest fans of this crossover YA title.--Leeper, Angela Copyright 2017 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Drawing on letters, diaries, and other eyewitness accounts, Walker (Winnie) delves into America's worst maritime disaster: the 1865 sinking of the steamboat Sultana near Memphis, Tenn., with more than 2,000 paroled Union prisoners aboard. Beginning by detailing modifications to steamboat construction that allowed for Mississippi River navigation, Walker thoroughly investigates this forgotten disaster, whose loss of life exceeded that of the Titanic. She paints not-always-flattering portraits of key Army personnel and the crew, soldiers, and passengers aboard the luxurious Sultana, reconstructing-almost hour by hour-the crucial loading of the soldiers onto the ship and the aftermath of the boiler's explosion. Replete with vivid details, including the terrible conditions in Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, Walker's engrossing narrative builds to a horrific description of the terrified passengers' actions and ensuing civilian rescue efforts. Although Walker conveys astonishment, even outrage, that no one was held responsible for this tragedy, she presents the evidence with an even hand. After closing everyone's story, she exhorts readers to apply the lessons from this preventable catastrophe to the present day. Period photographs, maps, a glossary, source notes, and bibliography are included. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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