Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History

Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History

Alan Huffman

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0061470546

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“One of the most riveting war stories I have ever read….Huffman’s smooth, intimate prose ushers you through this nightmare as if you were living it yourself.”
—Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm


The dramatic true story of the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, Alan Huffman’s Sultana brings to breathtaking life a tragic, long forgotten event in America’s Civil War—the sinking of the steamship Sultana and the loss of 1,700 lives, mostly Union soldiers returning home from Confederate prison camps. A gripping account that reads like a nonfiction Cold Mountain, Sultana is powerful, moving, rich in irony and fascinating historical detail—a story no history aficionado or Civil War buff will want to miss.

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117–19 escape attempts at, 122–26 flooding of, 161–64 Melvin Grigsby’s account, 260–62 mortalities at, 110–11, 116–17 overcrowding of, 111–12 Perry Summerville at, 92–93, 109 prisoner releases from, 164–66 raiders at, 112–14 cavalrymen, 50–55, 69–70 Chattahoochee River, 55, 81–82 Chattanooga, Tennessee, 18, 27, 28, 44, 49, 95 Chelf, Simeon, 212, 233 Cherokee Indians, 45 Chicago Opera Troupe, 184–87, 235 Chicago Tribune, 172 Chickamauga, 17–28, 256 Civil War, The

battle was on its way into history, and when Tolbert and Maddox finally arrived in Nashville, the only record of Mathew’s whereabouts was a dispatch noting that he had been wounded and was in the hands of the enemy. Prison camps were squalid, dangerous, disease-ridden places, particularly in the South, and Andersonville, the nearest in Georgia, was by far the worst. But Tolbert likely had more than just his brother’s capture to worry about. He had a lot to learn, and he had to learn it on the

in kind. The Sultana’s main reason for stopping in Memphis was to discharge one hundred twenty tons of sugar, ninety-seven crates of wine, and the herd of hogs. With the cargo went most of the boat’s ballast, and Mason, still anxious about the overloading, was reportedly a frequent visitor to the Sultana’s bar. No doubt the Irish bartenders, McGinty and O’Hara, were nervous, too. But as Chester Berry later wrote of the paroled soldiers aboard the boat, “A happier lot of men I think I never saw

Andersonville collection,” because when he saw him he was dressed only in “a bob-tailed shirt. I stripped & gave him a pair of red flannel drawers.” Stunned to see a dugout canoe pull up to the boat with Daniel McLeod inside, “I helped lift him on board and lay him on deck and gave him a tumbler of whisky.” As the Pocahontas, the Rosadella, the Bostonia II, and the Jenny Lind nosed in and out of the flooded trees, two more steamers arrived: The Rose Hambleton and the Silver Spray. The latter

said it was on the house. McCrory recalled that the survivors congregated on the starboard side, while the dead were placed on the larboard, and that a few who initially survived made the crossing from one side to the other before the boat landed at Memphis. McFarland—who either was obsessed with Big Tennessee or was making things up, recalled that he again saw the big man near Memphis, where he refused to come aboard a rescue boat and swam the rest of the way. Big Tennessee—or, at least, his

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