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The Civil War was a defining time for the United States. The Sultana was something that should have never been relegated to the back pages of history, but time and circumstance conspired to bring this tragedy to an almost unknown portion of history. When the tragedy struck, President Lincoln had just been assassinated. The hunt for his killer was front page news. As the nation mourned the loss of its President, hundreds of families mourned their lost loved ones. Men, women, children were all victims of this explosion. Soldiers, families, lives and careers lost in the blinding explosion that ripped through the early morning hours.

Families along the Arkansas shores woke to the screams and cries of the wounded. Many sprang into action, saving hundreds from a watery grave. Others slipped from their reach and were lost to the murky waters of the river.

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The explosion on the Sultana claimed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic, but due to its placing in history, has been lost to the annals of time. While the public cried out for someone to pay for the loss of life, investigations continued, but no one would pay for the loss in full measure. Few were blamed, and those who should have carried the cost were lost to the military tribunal, simply by having resigned from the army before the investigation was concluded. This tragedy is something that should not be lost entirely. The sinking was a tragic wake up call to those who sailed the river, and those who traveled along its banks.

While the Sultana has been found and mostly reclaimed from the depths, the mystery still remains as to what could have caused the explosion. Sound theories have been put forth, but none have permanently answered the question satisfactorily so far. While the Sultana is once again reclaiming its history and time is allowing us the chance to find and know the names of those who were on board, we may never know its full answer.

We might never get the entire list of names of those were lost, and those who survived. To this day, there are families of those who were lost aboard the Sultana and those who survived who still meet yearly.

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They are determined to not allow history to swallow this tragedy. For as someone once said "as long as someone remembers my name, I am not entirely lost to time. It gave a rather interesting look into some of the lives of the men who survived the Civil War - living through the horrors of the prison camps, only to lose their lives while headed home.

We get the before, the during and the after in this book. We see what could have caused the explosion, the overcrowding which brought the number of the dead to horrific highs.

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This is a pretty decent book, and one that allows for those who want to do more research a great jumping off point. Happy Reading! Sep 25, Hasso von Moltke rated it really liked it Shelves: netgalley , american-civil-war , us-history.

I have long held a fascination with the Sultana disaster. When I was in elementary school every year the fifth graders did a project on the Mississippi River and its history. They would line the hallways of the school and younger students would go down the hall following a line of blue tape while being taught by the older students about the Mississippi from it's start in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Voyages

I remember being enthralled by the stop for the Sultana, captured by the story of disaster an I have long held a fascination with the Sultana disaster. I remember being enthralled by the stop for the Sultana, captured by the story of disaster and heroism. Finally, when I reached the fifth grade, I used our brand new first computer to scour the nascent internet for the stories of those individuals who made that fateful voyage in the spring of Therefore, the Sultana and its destruction hold a special place in my mind.

When I heard about the release of this book, I was very eager to dig back into the history of the Sultana. I did not initially realize that this was probably intended for a younger audience until I started reading after acquiring an electronic copy through Netgalley. The first quarter of the book was a bit of a slog as I read through a very basic description of the Civil War, its prison camps, and steamboat.

I would have preferred a bit more detailed account of each of these subjects. However, I am very pleased that I kept on reading. The book shines when it actually gets to the ill-fated voyage itself. I became invested in the interactions between individuals involved on the trip from Vicksburg back to the north, and appreciated the authors ability to compliment the various eyewitness accounts. The explosion and subsequent chaos was the best section of the book, followed by a solid description of the aftermath, from rescue efforts, to the hospitals that cared for the victims, the resumption of the soldiers' journey home, legal proceedings, and the birth of a veteran's association.

One minor caveat, the author has a bit of difficulty making the individuals who are soldiers stand out from one another. All were captured at some point, other than guards placed on the vessel, and held in prison camps in the South. When the story started picking up it became a bit difficult to remember who was who. All in all, I enjoyed the book. It's a good little narrative of an overlooked disaster that so often gets swallowed up in the larger American Civil War. In spite of some flaws, I gave the book some leeway because I would certainly have loved it had I come across it in fifth grade.

It is a good book for younger readers and adults may find many positive qualities in it as well. Jun 07, American Mensa rated it it was amazing. Sinking the Sultana, by Sally M. Walker, was an intriguing nonfiction account of the Sultana, a prisoner-of-war transport ship that tragically sunk during the Civil War. The Sultana accident took as many lives as the Titanic, but has garnered far less attention.

This book takes the reader on a journey from the end of the Civil War to the night of the tragedy, through personal accounts from real soldiers. It is incredibly detailed and packed with informative diagrams and descriptions. I could viv Sinking the Sultana, by Sally M. I could vividly imagine the physical and emotional struggles of each soldier onboard, who only wanted to get home to their families after a long, bloody war. The Sultana was not just a story of loss and tragedy, however. It also showed the power of human emotions in the face of tough decisions.

Captain Speed and General Dana, the two people in charge of loading the ships from the prison camp, made some terrible decisions. They piled the Sultana with nearly 2, liberated soldiers, far over capacity, just to make a higher profit. Worse yet, they sent away two empty transport ships that were ready to help. Chasing money, they lost sight of the most important thing: transporting the soldiers safely. Many sacrificed themselves and spent their last hours throwing objects from the boat to the cold waters below, that others could use to get to land safely.

Because of their actions, they had no time to escape and sunk with the ship.


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I found this simply unfathomable, and I was very moved upon reading about it. I would recommend this book to girls and boys 12 and above, who enjoy history. This book was enthralling, but may not be appreciated if the reader does not have background knowledge regarding the Civil War. This book received five stars because it was informative and captivating.

Nov 26, Linda rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , middle-grade , read , young-adult , picture-books Thanks to Candlewick Press for my copy of this book. My first thought after finishing this book refers to the author's note. In it, Sally Walker writes: "History and research are all about making connections.