Monday, January 15, 2018

United States Greatest Maritime Disaster AND GIVEAWAY!




Okay all you history buffs, it's quiz time!

Without cheating what do you think is the worst maritime disaster in the United States history? 

If you want to enter to win a copy of choice of one of my books scroll on down and leave a comment and tell me what boat/ship you think takes this unlucky title.

Did you guess the Titanic? That would have been my guess. If you guessed that 1912 tragedy you would be wrong. Although, the sinking of the Titanic with 1503 deaths was one of the worst maritime disasters it was not the worst. The worst maritime disaster was 12 days short of being 47 years before the Titanic. 
  It was April 27th 1865, just 12 days after the death of Abraham Lincoln that the Sultana lost 1547 people on that fateful early morning.

So how did this steamboat take the title? It was on April 13th that the Sultana, a 375 passenger steamboat left St. Louis headed for New Orleans, Louisiana. On the 15th while docked in Cairo, Illinois, Captain Mason heard the news that Lincoln had been shot at the Ford Theater. Because telegraphic lines had been severed in the south due to the war, Captain Mason grabbed newspapers of the president's shooting and headed south to spread the news. 

Once in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Captain Mason met up with Lt. Col. Reuben Hatch and the two worked a deal to get newly released Union prisoners home to the North. The United States Government offered a $5 fee for each enlisted man and a $10 fee for officers that made the trip. Hatch took advantage of Mason's need of money bribing Mason to take 1400 prisoners. While waiting for the passengers, Mason leaves Vicksburg and heads to New Orleans to continue spreading the word about the president's death.


Picture is of the 2300+ passengers on board
Heading back to Vicksburg on April 21st and only an hour out of his destination to pick up his 1400 passengers, the Sultana's boiler sprang a leak. With losing one of its boilers the Sultana struggled to get to its destination in the flooded swirling Mississippi River. Once reaching Vicksburg, Mason picked up his released prisoners and found a mechanic to fix the boiler. But when the mechanic told him he wanted to replace a ruptured seam, Mason doesn't go for it. He doesn't want to chance losing the money from the prisoners passage. If the ruptured seam is cut out and replaced it will take 2 to 3 days and Mason knows other boats would take his soldiers north and he will lose lots of money. He and his chief engineer go to the mechanic and convince him to patch up the boiler. 

The Mechanic agreed and riveted a patch of thinner metal over the seam. With the boiler fixed and passengers on board, they headed north on the Mississippi River.  That year had seen the worst flooding in the Mississippi's history. In some areas, at what was the shoreline, only tops of trees could be seen in the rapidly moving water.  There were points where the river overflowed its banks and snaked out for three miles. The steamboat struggled up the river, battling the unusual waters, for the next 2 days. 

Mere weeks had passed since the end of the Civil War and all the death it had brought. The president of the United States had just died and now the Sultana, a 375 passenger steamship overloaded with 2,100 people was about to sail up the Mississippi River and to disaster. 

Captain Williams had loaded everyone of the paroled soldiers onto the Sultana thinking it to be less than 1,500 when in reality there were 1,978 soldiers brought on to the steamship that had a legal capacity of 375. These soldiers were in addition to the paying customers and the crew.  The steamboat and its passengers only made it to Marion, Arkansas a few miles north of Memphis, Tennessee when there was a great explosion.

It was 2 AM in the morning when that patched boiler exploded causing two other boilers to explode. The boiler shot up through the overcrowded decks above and at an angle that it shot through the pilothouse leaving no way to steer the ship. The boat, now on fire, went adrift in the swirling and freezing waters. As the fire blazed and floors collapsed, people were left with the decision to either burn or jump into the freezing waters. In a panic the people chose the river.




The soldiers, already in weakened condition from their incarceration now would have to try to swim in a frigid river, but due to their fragile state they soon ran out of strength and the men began to cling together and went down in large groups. Many drowned or died from hypothermia. 

When news reached some of the other ships they raced to aid in the rescue. Confederate soldiers who only weeks early fought these Union soldiers now risked their lives to rescue their fellow Americans. The exact number lost is not known. The US Customs Service recorded the loss at 1,547 lives. However, in May of that same year Brig. General William Hoffman, commissary General of Prisoners investigated the accident and his numbers came in much lower at 1, 238 total loss of life.


Photo taken by By Pete unseth - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60662412
No one was ever held accountable in the disaster. Captain Mason perished, Hatch who bribed Mason quickly left the military, Williams who placed the men on board was a West Point grad and they wouldn't prosecute their own, and Speed who released all 1,978 was charged but then his conviction was overturned.

Because of the death of the president this great tragedy received very little coverage and is little known today. 

So in actuality the Titanic could very well be the US worst maritime disaster. It depends on whose report you believe.

GIVEAWAY: If you take a guess at the worst maritime disaster or tell me of something that surprised you I'll enter you to win a copy of choice of one of my books. You must leave your email address to be entered so don't forget!

Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children's Director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland Sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband take pleasure in camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.




The Charleston earthquake has left destruction like nothing Doctor Andrew Warwick has ever seen. On a desperate mission to find the lady who owns his heart, he frantically searches through the rubble, where he finds her injured and lifeless. After she regains consciousness, the doctor’s hopes are quickly dashed as he realizes she doesn’t remember him. Things only get worse when he discovers she believes she’s still engaged to the abusive scoundrel, Lloyd Pratt. Now Drew is on a race with the wedding clock to either help her remember or win her heart again before she marries the wrong man.

Waking in a makeshift hospital, Olivia Macqueen finds herself recovering from a head injury. With amnesia stealing a year of her memories, she has trouble discerning between lies and truth. When her memories start returning in bits and pieces, she must keep up the charade of amnesia until she can find out the truth behind the embezzlement of her family’s business while evading the danger lurking around her.

38 comments:

  1. I am not a history expert at all and never heard of this disaster, very tragic. Thanks for the chance to win :)
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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    1. Hey Lisa, I think even some history experts might have gotten this one wrong!

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  2. I was not aware of the Sultana being a maritime disaster. The Titanic was my guess. I have your books, thus do not need to be entered in the giveaway. Thank you for this great history lesson.

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    1. Hey Marilyn! Thanks for coming by and sharing. I love it when I run across unusual tidbits in history. There is so much out there to learn!

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    1. It is sad. I find it interesting how quickly men forgot they had fought against each other at this moment of tragedy. It is inspiring to hear that 2 weeks prior they tried to kill each other and then when calamity strikes those same men risk their lives to save their fellow Americans. I think that is part of what makes our country so great.

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  4. Great post! Tragic story. If you pick my name, draw again. I'd love someone else to be able to read your fantastic stories!!

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  5. Yes I would have chosen The Titanic. To learn about the Sultana was very interesting. I love historical facts. Thanks for such a great article. It’s sad to think those men really didn’t have a chance,,
    jhdwayne@peoplepc.com

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    1. And so often it seems these huge disasters are caused by man. Just like the Titanic not having enough life boats, and this ship being way over its passenger limit.

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  6. That is so awful. To have survived those terrible prisons and then perish because of greed. Sad.

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    1. It is heart breaking to read. You know, Carrie, I was thinking about all those family members who were rejoicing that their men made it through the war and were coming home only to find out they lost them because of greed.

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  7. Such a great post...so interesting! Thank you for sharing. mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hey Melanie! I'm glad you enjoy it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. I had never heard about the Sultana disaster. Thanks for sharing. I think the sinking of the RMS Lusitania was pretty bad too. Thanks for the giveaway and good luck everyone.
    princessdebbie1_2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Yes, that was terrible and a lot of loss of life, also. Thanks for sharing and coming by, Debbie.

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  9. Had never learned about this. How sad, greed led to so many deaths.

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    1. It really is sad. As I shared above with Carrie, those poor families who thought their loved ones were coming home only to find out they lost them to this man's greed and then for no one to be held accountable for the loss is another tragedy!

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  10. Forgot to leave email
    rebunting[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  11. I knew about this but not in great detail. Thanks for the interesting information. paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Paula. I'd not heard about it until I ran across it in my researching of history.

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  12. I vaguely remember hearing about the Sultana. Such a sad thing how one man's bad decision can destroy so many lives, especially those of soldiers who'd survived such an awful war.

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  13. My first guess would have been the Titanic. I love History and love reading Inspirational Historical Fiction and I felt kinda bad that I didn't know about this other tragedy and how many lives were lost. I agree with Vickie about how one decision can change the course of History and affect so many! My children often ask me if I could if I would go back and make it so my father didn't pass away at the age of 40, mere months after his birthday and retirement from the Marine Corp. I told them that if that happened, then there would be a chance that I wouldn't have met their father. Its not like Im choosing one family member over the other, it's that God has his plan and even though it took me awhile to accept that, I believe God has his plan for all our lives. It still doesn't mean it isn't sad.Has anyone else ever been posed this question or one similar? Wonderful blog post and a lot of food for thought!

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    1. Hey Mamma G, No I don't believe I've had anyone pose that question on here. And yes, I am in agreement, God is in control of all lives. He knew this would happen. There were several military men that were involved in this, so even though it was one man's greed there was several men responsible.

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  14. Wow! I have never heard of this disaster. Whether it is the worst maritime loss of life or not, it certainly is very sad.

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  15. I had never heard of this disaster, Debbie. What a tragic event! But I did know steamboats were a dangerous method of travel. It was common for boilers to explode and the boats to sink.

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  16. I have read about this disaster, but I would have still guessed the Titanic is the worst. Fascinating, but sad history! Becky lelandandbecky (AT) reagan (DOT) com

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  17. Wow I did not know this. Very cool. I love learning about history. I would have guessed the Titanic.
    quilting dash lady at Comcast dot net

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    1. Hey Lori! Thanks for coming by and sharing. I love learning about history, too! Why didn't it seem so interesting in school?

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  18. I would've guessed the Titanic off the top of my head, but I kinda assumed that must not be it or you wouldn't have asked the question (knowing that would be to easy.)
    The second thing that came to my mind was Pearl Harbor, but then I realized you meant just one boat/ship.
    So, yeah. I had no idea.

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    1. Oops! Forgot my email, lol.
      jcservantslaveATicloudDOTcom

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    2. Oh yes, Pearl Harbor what a tragedy. That was a good guess too! Thank you for coming by, Elly. Good luck!

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  19. Congratulations, Debbie C! You won a copy of my book. I'll be contacting you shortly.

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