“The Sultana Tragedy” at August’s Round Table

On Sunday, August 10th at 3 P.M., the Franklin Civil War Round Table will present Memphis attorney and historian Jerry O. Potter, who will speak on “The Sultana Tragedy.”

The greatest maritime disaster in United States history occurred on April 17, 1865, when the Sultana, a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, exploded, killing an estimated 1,900 of her almost 2,500 passengers. Most of the victims were Federal soldiers just released from Confederate prison camps at Andersonville and Cahawba, including many who saw action at Franklin.

Sultana, contracted by the U.S. government, was far above the legal capacity of 376 when three of the boat’s four boilers exploded near Memphis. Survivors were badly burned and endured the bitter cold and current of the Mississippi River. With the assassination of President Lincoln on the day before, the Sultana disaster was pushed off of the nation’s front pages and even to this day most Americans are not aware of the disaster’s incredible loss of life.

Potter, a 1973 graduate of UT Martin and the University of Memphis Law School in 1975, has spoken and written extensively on the Sultana disaster as well as Nathan Bedford Forrest in publications such as Blue and Gray and  American History magazines.  He continues to research America’s greatest marine disaster and is often a consultant for presentations concerning it.

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