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Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865

Gene Eric Salecker

19 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1557507392 / ISBN 13: 9781557507396
Published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1996
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Major Allen's Books (Northglenn, CO, U.S.A.)

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215pp + afterword + 90pp appendices + 70pp notes + glossary + bib + index. Includes listing of all known prisoners and passengers, their hometowns and their fates. The worst maritime disaster in American history has received little historical attention, even though more people died from the 1865 Sultana explosion than drowned when the Titanic sank in 1912. Gene Eric Salecker painfully reconstructs the events leading up to the tragedy, when more than 2,000 federal troops crowded onto a side-wheel steamboat built to carry fewer than 300 people. Most of them were former prisoners of war, paroled after the Confederate surrender and finally heading home after years of struggle. We will never know why three of the Sultana's big boilers blew up and claimed 1,700 lives, although Salecker runs through several possible causes. Disaster on the Mississippi is an authoritative account of a forgotten chapter of American history. Bookseller Inventory # 005411

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana ...

Publisher: Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD

Publication Date: 1996

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Edition: First Printing

About this title

Synopsis:

At two o'clock in the morning on 27 April 1865, seven miles north of Memphis on the Mississippi, the boilers of the sidewheel steamboat Sultana suddenly exploded. Legally registered to carry 376 people, the boat was packed with 2,100 recently released Union prisoners of war. More than 1,700 people died, making it the worst marine disaster in U.S. history.
To focus on the personal stories of the victims, both civilian and soldier, Gene Eric Salecker patiently collected material from hundreds of letters, period newspaper stories, and other sources. Readers are first introduced to the individuals involved while they are languishing in Confederate prisons and follow their release to an exchange camp outside Vicksburg and their eventual crowding onto the Sultana.
The author's knowledgeable narrative is interwoven with personal reminiscences, including those of the heroic rescuers. He offers unprecedented details about the captain's handling of the steamboat and corrects some long-held myths about the placement of the soldiers on the Sultana and newspaper coverage of the disaster.
A large portion of the book covers rescue attempts, both successful and failed, and the aftermath of the disaster as it affected those involved. With its emphasis on the human-interest aspect of the Sultana's loss, this book brings to the literature a critical point of view and much new research.

Review:

The worst maritime disaster in American history has received little historical attention, even though more people died from the 1865 Sultana explosion than drowned when the Titanic sank in 1912. Gene Eric Salecker painfully reconstructs the events leading up to the tragedy, when more than 2,000 federal troops crowded onto a side-wheel steamboat built to carry fewer than 300 people. Most of them were former prisoners of war, paroled after the Confederate surrender and finally heading home after years of struggle. We will never know why three of the Sultana's big boilers blew up and claimed 1,700 lives, although Salecker runs through several possible causes. Disaster on the Mississippi is an authoritative account of a forgotten chapter of American history.

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