Sultana memorial.

Sultana, Worst Death Boat in U.S. History

Field review by the editors.

Knoxville, Tennessee

The SS Sultana, a Mississippi River paddlewheeler, exploded on April 27, 1865, killing an estimated 1,800 people, a death toll far higher than on the later, more famous Titanic. Most of the victims were recently-released Union POWs returning north from the Civil War. Some theorize that the ship was deliberately blown up by vengeful Confederates, but most believe that a boiler exploded. It did not help that the Sultana, which was designed for 376 passengers, was instead carrying over 2,000. The captain was paid for each passenger he could pack on board (He did not survive).

Memorials and markers to the USA's number one Death Boat are scattered across several states. This one, although hundreds of miles from the disaster, was erected in 1916 by a small group of local survivors to memorialize Tennessee's victims. It's the oldest and the best.

(The British prison ships of New York City were, collectively, the worst Death Boats of all, but they did their killing before the U.S. officially became a country.)


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Sultana, Worst Death Boat in U.S. History

Mount Olive Baptist Church Cemetery

Address:
Cemetery Rd, Knoxville, TN
Directions:
Mount Olive Baptist Church Cemetery. South edge of the city. I-40 exit 386B. Drive south on US Hwy 129/Alcoa Hwy for 4.5 miles. Turn left (no stoplight) onto Maloney Rd. Drive one mile. Turn left at the stop sign onto Hwy 33/Maryville Pike. Drive a quarter-mile. Turn right onto Berry Rd. Drive a quarter-mile. Turn right into the cemetery. The memorial will be dead ahead.
Hours:
Gated after hours. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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In the region:
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