Sinking the Sultana: a Civil War Story of Imprisonment,
Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home


Sinking the Sultana

In April 1865, the steamboat Sultana departed from Vicksburg, Mississippi, its overcrowded decks carried more than 2,000 recently paroled Union Soldiers. They had been prisoners of war at Andersonville and Cahaba prisons. About forty civilians—men, women, and children—plus a large pet alligator were also onboard. On April 27, after stopping for coal in Memphis, Tennessee the boat resumed its journey on the Mississippi River, heading for Illinois.  Less than two hours later, three of the boat’s four steam boilers exploded. The Sultana quickly became a towering inferno. More than 1,200 people died in what became the worst maritime disaster in United States history.

What reviewers said:

“Replete with vivid details, including the terrible conditions in Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, Walker’s engrossing narrative builds to a horrific description of the terrified passengers’ actions and ensuing civilian rescue efforts. Although Walker conveys astonishment, even outrage, that no one was held responsible for this tragedy, she presents the evidence with an even hand.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In addition to archival illustrative material, Walker makes extensive use of primary sources...a finely detailed, well-researched chronicle of a little-known disaster.”Kirkus Reviews

“Readers who have already devoured the abundance of material on the Titanic will be drawn to the story of the Sultana, which despite being the “worst maritime disaster in American history” is often overshadowed. A riveting and informative addition to nonfiction collections.” School Library Journal

Awards & Honors:
• 2018 Jefferson Cup Award Winner (Virginia Library Association)


ISBN 9780763677558 Candlewick

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