The Sinking of the Steamship SULTANA near Memphis, Tennessee

On April 27, 1865, the Steamship SULTANA exploded, burned and sank on the Mississippi River about seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee.

The 260-foot wooden ship was much smaller than the famous Titanic and lost many more passengers. It was a civilian steamship carrying mostly military passengers on a contract basis of $5.00 per person.

More than 1,800 men, women and children died in the tragedy. Most of the men were Union soldiers on their way home from Confederate prison camps. About 2,400 passengers were on board---six times the ship's legal limit.

Many of Passengers were Ex-prisoners of War

Most of the soldiers were weaked by malnutrition and disease from their many months of imprisonment at Andersonville and Cahaba Prisons. Hundreds of the passengers who were not killed in the tremendous initial explosion drowned in the cold and swift waters of the flooded Mississippi River.

On board was Sgt. Robert Talkington, of Company H, 9th Indiana Cavalry, a First Cousin-FourTimes Removed to N. Dale Talkington. Robert lived to tell about the experience and his eye-witness story was later published in the Indiana Historical Bureau BULLETIN. He along with several hundred other passengers were held prisoner at Cahaba Prison near Selma, Alabama.

Book Published about Disaster

In 1992, Jerry O. Potter, a Memphis attorney, wrote a 300-page book about America's greatest maritime disaster called: The Sultana Tragedy.

His book is the most in-depth study ever written on the subject. It is an extremely accurate and compelling account of the disaster. The book features a detailed list of most of the crew members, civilian passengers, and 2,317 of the soldiers aboard that fateful evening.

Ohio lost 791 men that dreadful night, the most of any state. Tennessee was next with 514, while Indiana lost 459 men. Michigan lost 310 and Kentucky 194. Token numbers of men were lost from Virginia, Illinois, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Other Published Books

Many detailed books, newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the SULTANA. Here is a selected list of the most widely published books:

Pam Newhouse is the Editor of the SULTANA REMEMBERED, a beautiful quarterly newsletter published by the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends. This well-written publication is packed with interesting stories, pictures, and facts about the SULTANA. Subscription price is $6.00 per year (a real bargain!!!).

The Association holds annual meetings each spring in Knoxville, Tennessee. Their mailing address is 4081 Clark Rd., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105. Pam Newhouse's E-mail address is: (get it...civil war 1865).

Another extremely interesting SULTANA link on the INTERNET is The Gene Pool, by Joanne Todd Rabun, of Eugene, Oregon.

Her great, great-grandfather Rev. Emanuel Hush Yeisley (1840-1931), survived both Cahaba Prison and the SULTANA explosion. He was with the 76th Ohio Volunteers. Joanne offers a lot of interesting information about Rev. Yeisley and various other projects on her Home Page.

Please, please do NOT go to her page before you read every single word of mine. Otherwise, once you experience her pages and pages of BEAUTIFUL might never come back here.

I would suggest making a BOOKMARK at her site the first time you visit, because you WILL NOT have time to read and enjoy every story the first trip. You will want to return, again and again.

Here's just a tantalizing hint of the interesting material she has on her Home Page. She tells the very humorous and true family story about her "Cross-Dressing-Grandma". She cleverly has that story buried deep in the basement of her Home Page.

Ok, you can try THE GENE POOL now......only IF you have read most of my stuff. You will really enjoy her material. (By the way, from the tone of my descriptions you might think that Joanne and I are related. Sadly, we are not. You will wish YOU were related once you read her many genealogy stories.)


Lt. Thomas B. Reeves , Company C, 10th Indiana Cavalry. This is a very beautiful and interesting web page by Greg Reeves, a Great, Great, Great Nephew of Lt. Thomas B. Reeves.

Notable Women Ancestors , The very interesting story of Ann Annis, one of only two women to survive the sinking of the SULTANA. She was widowed three times and each husband drowned.

Major James William Carlin , 71st Ohio Inf. He died aboard the SULTANA, but kept a diary and wrote several interesting letters about his military experiences.

E-MAIL N. Dale Talkington at:


URL Address: