Thursday, April 15, 2010
One of the best-known tragedies of the Civil War, the sinking of the Sultana took place when the overloaded paddlewheel steamboat tried to carry more than 2,000 released Union prisoners of war up the Mississippi from Vicksburg. A boiler explosion (or torpedo, according to one post-war confession) ignited a fire on the boat and the loss of life was horrendous. It is thought that around 1,800 men died in the fire and sinking. Another 300 died from burns and other wounds in the weeks and months after the accident.
When the prisoners were freed at the end of the war, they were taken first to Vicksburg.From there they embarked for home aboard the Sultana, which went down in Arkansas on April 27, 1865.
The ruins of the Cahaba prison are now preserved as part of the Old Cahawba Archaeological Site near Selma, Alabama. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/oldcahawbaprison.