Sultana Disaster Museum

By admin / July 25, 2020

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The Sultana was a Mississippi River steamboat paddle wheeler destroyed in an explosion on April 27, 1865. This resulted in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.

An estimated 1,800 of the 2,400 passengers were killed when three of the boat’s four boilers exploded and the Sultana sank near Memphis.

This disaster received little public attention, as it took place soon after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and about three weeks after the end of the Civil War.

Sultana Disaster Museum

The purpose of the Sultana Disaster Museum is to tell the story of what happened April 27, 1865, and what led up to it. It is the story of the steamboat and the route it took.

It is also the story of those men who were freed from Andersonville and Cahaba prisoner of war camps and how, and why, they were crowded on a grossly overloaded boat.

The event and the aftermath were a tragedy in many ways, not just a boat exploding. 

The Forgotten Tragedy

The Sultana was a Mississippi River paddlewheel steamboat whose destruction in an explosion on April 27, 1865, the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.

Over 1,800 of the Sultana’s 2,300 passengers were killed when three of the boat’s boilers exploded and the Sultana sank just north of Marion, Arkansas.

Most of the passengers were paroled Union soldiers just released from Andersonville and Cahaba Confederate prison camps.

The US government had contracted with Sultana to transport these former prisoners of war back to their homes in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and other states.

Most of the passengers had been weakened by their incarnation and associated illnesses. With a legal capacity of only 376, Sultana was severely and dangerously overloaded.

The Museum

The Sultana Disaster Museum focuses on the steamboat itself, the passengers- who they were and where they came from, and the aftermath of the disaster. The museum is located at 104 Washington Street
Marion, Arkansas 72364.

Food & Lodging

Marion has a wide variety of places to grab a bite to eat. Whether you’re looking for Mexican, Italian, Chinese, or classic American cuisine, you can find it here.

Marion is also home to several hotels, including the brand new Hampton Inn and an RV park, all with easy access to Interstate 55 that puts Memphis attractions within easy reach.

Future Museum

The future Sultana Disaster Museum will provide the exhibit space for additional artifacts and interactive exhibits.

With higher ceiling heights, LED lighting, and precise temperature and humidity control, the new museum will be able to demonstrate the conditions which caused the boiler explosions, show the workings of the steamboat propulsion, allow the display of fragile materials, and many other exhibit to enhance the visitors understanding of the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.    

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