in United States history. The steamship Sultana, a Mississippi River
paddle wheeler, contracted by the U. S. War Department, was loaded
with Union soldiers, just released from Confederate prison camps.
The legal capacity for the ship was 376, but was crowded with 2400
soldiers, desperate to get home. One of the Sultana's four boilers,
poorly repaired just days earlier, exploded, causing the ship to sink
No exact death toll is known, but the official count by the United
States Customs Service was 1,547 and estimates range from 1,300
to 1,900, even more than perished on the Titanic. This disaster
received somewhat diminished attention, since it took place soon after
the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and during the closing
weeks of the Civil War.
My two great-great-great uncles, Peachy and Isaac Bright, born
1841 and 1843, in Madison Township, Montgomery Co, Ohio
and enlisted into service from Howard Co., Indiana in the 24th
Indiana Artillery Regiment, were on board the Sultana. They had
both just been released from the horrific Andersonville prison camp
and were finally on their way home to their loved ones. Sadly, they
both perished in the explosion.
Peachy's pocket watch was given to me by my grandfather, just a
few months before he died at the age of 93. Regrettably, the tin
type photos of both young Bright brothers were separated from the
collection of family albums I am currently scanning and cataloging
into a book for the extended family.