April 2018 Featured Title - Forbidden Fires

The Sultana Tragedy


Hi! This month my featured title is Forbidden Fires. This story is based on the explosion of the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. This year marks the 153rd anniversary of the tragedy.

The Civil War had just ended, and Union solders who’d just been released from Andersonville Prison were marched to Vicksburg to board a boat for home. The Sultana was designed to carry about 375 people, but those in charge loaded 2,300 men onto the boat.  The steamer only made it to West Memphis before the boilers blew in the middle of the night. It is estimated that over 1800 people perished in the explosion—that’s more than the Titanic, but the loss of the Sultana wasn’t widely reported because of the graft and corruption involved.

I learned about the Sultana in my youth when I visited a steamboat museum in Hannibal, Missouri. It was never taught in school.

There is a Sultana Museum in Marion, Arkansas now. It’s at 140 Washington Ave.