Get ready for a read that will make you sit back and shake your head...
The Sultana was a ship that should have had a long and glorious career on the Mississippi river. During the Civil War, shipping along the river was slow, but it could be done. Danger, excitement, and money drove the trade during the war years.
After the war, there was even more money to be made, and many boats made money by taking soldiers that had been POWs during the war home. They were to be mustered out of the Army and sent home. Many of them were sick, weakened during their time in camps such as Andersonville that housed thousands more than it was originally constructed for. But the needs outweighed the risks. Many, men like Colonel Hatch, found ways to make money during the war. It was these men that created more risks, and opened the door for later criticism from the public.
The Civil War was a defining time for the United States. The Sultana was something that should have never been relegated to the back pages of history, but time and circumstance conspired to bring this tragedy to an almost unknown portion of history. When the tragedy struck, President Lincoln had just been assassinated. The hunt for his killer was front page news. As the nation mourned the loss of its President, hundreds of families mourned their lost loved ones. Men, women, children were all victims of this explosion. Soldiers, families, lives and careers lost in the blinding explosion that ripped through the early morning hours.
Families along the Arkansas shores woke to the screams and cries of the wounded. Many sprang into action, saving hundreds from a watery grave. Others slipped from their reach and were lost to the murky waters of the river. The explosion on the Sultana claimed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic, but due to its placing in history, has been lost to the annals of time.
While the public cried out for someone to pay for the loss of life, investigations continued, but no one would pay for the loss in full measure. Few were blamed, and those who should have carried the cost were lost to the military tribunal, simply by having resigned from the army before the investigation was concluded.
This tragedy is something that should not be lost entirely. The sinking was a tragic wake up call to those who sailed the river, and those who traveled along its banks. While the Sultana has been found and mostly reclaimed from the depths, the mystery still remains as to what could have caused the explosion. Sound theories have been put forth, but none have permanently answered the question satisfactorily so far. While the Sultana is once again reclaiming its history and time is allowing us the chance to find and know the names of those who were on board, we may never know its full answer. We might never get the entire list of names of those were lost, and those who survived. To this day, there are families of those who were lost aboard the Sultana and those who survived who still meet yearly. They are determined to not allow history to swallow this tragedy. For as someone once said "as long as someone remembers my name, I am not entirely lost to time."
I enjoyed this book. It gave a rather interesting look into some of the lives of the men who survived the Civil War - living through the horrors of the prison camps, only to lose their lives while headed home. We get the before, the during and the after in this book. We see what could have caused the explosion, the overcrowding which brought the number of the dead to horrific highs. This is a pretty decent book, and one that allows for those who want to do more research a great jumping off point.
Sinking the Sultana
Author: Sally M. Walker