Long time North Shore Civil War Roundtable member Valerie Protopapas will discuss the sinking of the Sultana. The Sultana was a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, which exploded on April 27, 1865, in the worst maritime disaster in United States history. Constructed of wood in 1863 by the John Litherbury Boatyard in Cincinnati, she was intended for the lower Mississippi cotton trade. The steamer registered 1,719 tons and normally carried a crew of 85. For two years, she ran a regular route between St. Louis and New Orleans, and was frequently commissioned to carry troops.
Although designed with a capacity of only 376 passengers, she was carrying 2,137 when three of the boat's four boilers exploded and she burned to the waterline and sank near Memphis, Tennessee. The disaster was overshadowed in the press by events surrounding the end of the American Civil War, including the killing of President Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth just the day before, and no one was ever held accountable for the tragedy.