“…haunts me in my dreams.”

I am working on a middle grade historical fiction about a group of boys in the Memphis area and their adventures around the Sultana disaster. The steamship Sultana sank just north of Memphis, TN in April of 1865 on the overloaded boat carrying Union soldiers northward to home after the end of the Civil War. The tragedy resulted in the death of 1547 people–more people than died in the Titanic disaster.

sultana2_Helena

This quote is from a survivor of a Confederate prison camp and the Sultana explosion, J. Walter Elliot,  in his submission to Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors, edited by Chester Berry

“I’ve seen death’s carnival in the yellow fever and the cholera-stricken city, on the ensanguined field, in hospital and prison and on the rail; I have, with wife and children clinging in terror to my knees, wrestled with the midnight cyclone; but the most horrible of all the sights and sounds of that hour. The prayers, shrieks and groans of strong men and helpless women and children are still ringing in my ears, and the remembrance makes me shudder. The sight of 2,000 ghostly, pallid faces upturned in the chilling waters of the Mississippi, as I looked down on them from the boat, is a picture that haunts me in my dreams.”

sultana_aflame

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2 responses to ““…haunts me in my dreams.”

  1. It’s amazing how many devastating events like this have been forgotten in time. This story reminds me of the General Slocum steamship disaster in the early 1900’s that occurred in the East River off the Bronx. It was the single greatest loss of life in New York City prior to 9/11, and most people have never heard of it.

    Good luck on your story!

    • Diane – Thanks! One of the most incredible things about the Sultana disaster is how it wasn’t really a big story, even at the time. The Civil War had just ended and the wounds were still deep. Lincoln had been assassinated just weeks before, and Wilkes-Booth killed. The majority of passengers were POWs just released from the horrors of Andersonville and Cahaba Confederate prisons. There was so much sadness weighing down the country at this time, it seems people generally wanted to shut out this one more horrific event.

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