One Of The Worst Disasters In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Arkansas
The sinking of the Sultana was vastly overshadowed by another event. You see, the day before the ship burned down to the waterline near Helena, Arkansas, a man named John Wilkes Booth had shot President Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, the Sultana disaster was a heartbreaking, far-reaching tragedy. In fact, it was the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. More people died in the sinking of the Sultana than the sinking of the Titanic.
Despite the fact that the Sultana’s maximum capacity was only supposed to be 376 passengers, the captain of the steamboat was being paid per passenger by the U.S. Army to transport former prisoners of war back north after the close of the Civil War. The desire for quick transport for those veterans seems to have overruled caution. At the time of the disaster, the Sultana was carrying 2,427 passengers, mostly officers and enlisted men on their way home, though some women and children were also in the cabins.
On April 27, 1865, at around 2:00 am, three of the four boilers aboard the Sultana exploded. Witnesses would later say that it took only twenty minutes for the Sultana to burn all the way down to the waterline. An estimated 1,700 people were died in the tragic explosion, or in the swift waters of the Mississippi immediately after the catastrophic malfunction.
The remains of the Sultana came to rest on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi. Those remains are said to be buried beneath the soil of a soybean field in Northeast Arkansas. Today in the town of Marion, a historical marker serves as a reminder of this terrible event.
Many of the bodies were buried in Memphis, as the tragedy occurred just ten miles north of the city. Some of the bodies, however, could be identified despite the horrific manner of their demise. Many of the families of those who could be identified were able to bury their loved ones in their hometowns. The tragedy took place on the Mississippi and ended on Arkansas's shore, but it was mourned by families all across the nation.
For many of those families, this tragedy would put an end to hope. They were awaiting the return of soldiers they had loved, and instead found themselves planning funerals for men who had survived so much only to be killed by an overloaded steamboat with faulty boilers and the might of the swift Mississippi River.
For more Arkansas tragedies that will shock and horrify you, click here. To read about a stunning murder that will make you incredibly sad, try this one. If you want to be shocked, horrified, and sad all at the same times, this is the article you should read.