Sinking the Sultana

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

About the Book

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.

Awards and Recognition

  • Vir­ginia Library Asso­ci­a­tion Jef­fer­son Cup Award Win­ner 2018


 “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)

Sinking the Sultana

writ­ten by Sal­ly M. Walk­er
Can­dlewick Press, Oct 2017
hard­cov­er: 978–0763677558
208 pages, ages 10 and up

Buy the Book