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Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

Written by Sally M. Walker

Meticulous research and a riveting and little-known story highlight this new work from the master of nonfiction. Had the Sultana not sunk at the same time the country was mourning Abraham Lincoln’s death, history might have taken more notice.

At the end of the Civil War, a naval disaster occurred that rivaled the Titanic in casualties. The author carefully explains each aspect of the factors leading up to the disaster, as well as the disaster itself and the aftermath. One chapter gives great descriptions of steamboats and how they became a favorite mode a transportation. Then the reader learns about the Civil War itself. Next is a description of Civil War prisons, how they were set up, and how overcrowding became the norm. One of the more graphic chapters, this is not for the fainthearted. A series of missteps caused the Sultana to be wildly overcrowded for the transport north of former prisoners from Andersonville and other prisons. Leaving Memphis, the Sultana’s boilers exploded. At least 1,500 people perished as a result. Due to spotty rescue and utter confusion, an exact count was never determined. In fact, survivors were often denied pensions because the Army thought them dead. And many listed as surviving had, in fact, perished in the explosion.

Because many individuals are tracked throughout the story, the reader will wait with the people of the time to learn the fates of the passengers. Great resource for classroom and home.

  • Sinking the SultanaTitle: Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home
  • Author: Sally M. Walker
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 to 6
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Civil War
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7755-8
  • Extras: Roll Call, Author’s Note, Glossary, Source Notes, Bibliography, Image Credits, Index