The Sultana

April 27th marked the 154th anniversary of the devastating explosion of the Sultana on the Mississippi near Memphis which took the lives of over 1,500 people – mostly weak and sickly Union prisoners of war who had made their way to the river from the horrific prisons like Andersonville and Cahaba in the deep south to come home.

There are several really good books out there about the disaster – one being Sultana: Surving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History by Alan Huffman (2009) and Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865 by Gene Eric Salecker.

There were many Ohio soldiers on the Sultana when it exploded. If you are not familiar with this story (which even at the time of the event was overshadowed in the national news to coverage of Lincoln’s funeral and the capture and death of his murderer, John Wilkes Booth,  you should read up on it. It’s a horrific event spurred by greed and government inefficiency.

2 thoughts on “The Sultana

  1. K Congdon

    This is fascinating. Thank you for your hard work. I have found two “family members” on your list. However, it is strange that their names get misspelled in the rosters even though they are most definitely the same person. For instance, in the 171st – George Negus Hapgood is listed as “Hopgood” and in the 19th, Asael aka Asahel Adams is also spelled as “Acel”. Do you find this a lot? I would like to know more about these two. If you have additional I do would much appreciate.

    Thanks again!
    K. Congdon


    1. trumbullcw Post author

      Names were commonly misspelled and transcriptions of the documents are not always accurate, either. The 171st was a “100 Day” unit made up of local militia that were activated by their respective governors and offered to the Federal government for service – really the basis for what we know as the National Guard. Mostly, they replaced regular troops guarding prisoners, supply depots, railroads, forts etc. The 171st stumbled into John Hunt Morgan’s men in Kentucky and got into a rumble with the unit having to surrender. Morgan didn’t want to waste time and energy on prisoners, so he let them go. The 19th saw a lot of combat.
      You can request copies of these men’s military and pension records (two different files) from the National Archives.
      It’s not cheap. There may or may not be papers of genealogical value in the pension file. The service file is mostly muster and pay records.

      You may enjoy “A Hundred Days to Richmond: Ohio’s “”Hundred Days”” Men in the Civil War” by Jim Leeke (1999). There are a number of histories and published memoirs involving members of the 19th. (see for a list).



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