The Boatburners

The BoatburnersAmong the steamboats destroyed on the Mississippi River, the one with the largest single loss of life was the steamer Sultana. The boat had been loaded with over 2000 people, most of them Union POWs returning from Southern prison camps. When the Sultana exploded and burned, as many as 1800 people were killed—as many Union soldiers died on the river that night as died on the battlefield of Shiloh. With them died a number of women, children, and civilian men.

Sheer numbers are what make the Sultana stand out from the other steamboats destroyed on the river during the war years. People died on the other steamers, too, yet their lives, and deaths, have been virtually forgotten. They merit remembrance as much as do the victims on the steamer Sultana. These web pages will have a great deal of material relating to the Sultana, but will also provide information on the other known steamboats destroyed and the people connected with them.

Sabotage of the Sultana…

From the groundbreaking North & South magazine article, featured on The History Channel in Civil War Terror, and upcoming in PBS History Detectives.

The story of Confederate boatburner and spy, Robert Louden, called the “murderer of the age.”

Among the steamboats destroyed on the Mississippi River, the one with the largest single loss of life was the steamer Sultana. The boat had been loaded with over 2000 people, most of them Union POWs returning from Southern prison camps. When the Sultana exploded and burned, as many as 1800 people were killed as many Union soldiers died on the river that night as died on the battlefield of Shiloh. With them died a number of women, children, and civilian men.

Was it an accident? Or sabotage?

“Seven miles out of Memphis, at 2:00 a.m. on April 27, 1865, the steamer Sultana chugged northward loaded with over twenty-three hundred people, most of them Union soldiers returning home from southern prison camps. Without warning, an explosion ripped through the boilers, scalding steam burst out, and a shower of flaming coal shot upward into the night, raining down on the crowded boat, which in moments was engulfed in flames. Over seventeen hundred people died, making the destruction of the Sultana a maritime disaster worse than the sinking of the Titanic.”

excerpt from Sultana: A Case for Sabotage

Sultana A Case For SabotageSultana: A Case For Sabotage

Now in print and on Kindle at Amazon.com and on Nook at Barnes & Noble
The story of Confederate boatburner and spy, Robert Louden, called the “murderer of the age.”

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