The Sultana, a side-wheel steamboat built in Cincinnati in 1863, was 260 long and was designed to carry only 376 people along with its cargo.
On April 24, 1865, the Sultana docked in Vicksburg to pick up Union soldiers recently released from Confederate prisons. The Federal Government paid steamboat lines $5 per soldier for the trip to Cairo, Illinois.
Prior to its arrival in Vicksburg, it was discovered that one of the four boilers was leaking. Instead of taking the time to replace the boiler, and perhaps lose the commission to ferry the men, a metal patch was placed over the bulge in the boiler. The time that it took to make repairs allowed for more soldiers to crowd onto the decks of the boat until it overflowed with more than 2,300 souls.
The Sultana made several stops along its northward journey up the Mississippi. When it was 7 miles north of Memphis in the early morning hours of April 27, three of the four boilers exploded. Over 1,700 people were killed in the explosion, the fire that followed, and in the swift flood waters of the Mississippi.
Sponsored by The J. Mack Gamble Fund of The Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, The Friends and Descendants of the Sultana