Fact Du Jour – July 20, 2019 – Sultana – Worst U.S. Maritime Distaster


The Sultana a day before its demise. (Photo credit: Thomas W. Bankes, Helena, AR – Cowan’s Auctions).

What happens when you cram too many people on a steamboat into a heavily flooded river and don’t properly repair a boiler? Well, in the case of the Sultana, you would get the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history (estimated death toll 1,168). There were an estimated 2,137 people aboard the ship – designed for a capacity of 376 total passengers – when the ship’s boiler exploded on April 27, 1865 in the (heavily flooded) Mississippi River near Memphis, TN.

Sadly, no one was officially held accountable for this disaster…


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