Worst Maritime Disaster in U.S. History
April 27, 1865
The boilers explode on the steamboat Sultana, near Memphis, killing 1,547 people. The Sultana was designed for a max capacity of 376 passengers, but was carrying 2,155 when three of her four boilers exploded. She burned to the water line and sank. The Sultana was carrying almost 2,000 former Union Civil War prisoners. The U.S. government was paying $5 per enlisted man and $10 per officer for their transport. The ship’s captain had offered a bribe in order to secure the government contract and was maximizing his profits by overloading his ship.