|Owner||Initially Capt. Preston Lodwick, then a consortium including Capt. James Cass Mason|
|Port of registry||United States|
|Route||St. Louis, Missouri, to New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Builder||John Litherbury Boatyard, Cincinnati, Ohio|
|Launched||January 3, 1863|
|Fate||Exploded and sank, April 27, 1865, on Mississippi River seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. Coordinates:|
|Decks||Four decks (including pilothouse)|
|Propulsion||34 ft (10 m) diameter paddlewheels|
|Capacity||376 passengers and cargo|
Sultana was a commercial side-wheel steamboat which exploded and sank on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865, killing at least 1,547 people in what remains the worst maritime disaster in United States history.
Constructed of wood in 1863 by the John Litherbury Boatyard in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sultana was intended for the lower Mississippi cotton trade. The steamer registered 1,719 tons and normally carried a crew of 85. For two years, she ran a regular route between St. Louis and New Orleans and was frequently commissioned to carry troops during the American Civil War. Although designed with a capacity of only 376 passengers, she was carrying more than 2,500 when three of the boat's four boilers exploded and caused it to sink near Memphis, Tennessee.[self-published source] The disaster was overshadowed in the press by events surrounding the end of the Civil War, including the killing of President Abraham Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth, and no one was ever held accountable for the tragedy.
This article or section contains close paraphrasing of one or more non-free copyrighted sources. (April 2022)
Launched on January 3, 1863, Sultana was the fifth steamboat to bear the name. Built for speed and capacity, the vessel measured 260 feet (79 m) long, 39 feet (12 m) wide at the base and 42 feet (13 m) wide at the beam, displaced 1,719 short tons (1,559 t), and had a 7-foot (2.1 m) draft. Her two side-mounted paddle wheels were driven by four tubular, or fire-tube, boilers. Introduced in 1848, they were capable of generating twice as much steam per fuel load as conventional flue boilers. Each fire-tube boiler was 18 feet (5.5 m) long and 46 inches (120 cm) in diameter and contained 24 five-inch (13 cm) flues, tubes that ran from the firebox to the chimney.
The economic advantages of the boilers came with a safety tradeoff. The water levels in a tubular system had to be carefully maintained at all times. The areas between the many flues clogged easily, and the sediment and mineral buildup around the tubes and boiler sides, especially heavy when the river water used in the system carried much sediment, was difficult to scrape off. Even the slightest dip in water level could cause hot spots leading to metal fatigue, greatly increasing the risk of an explosion. With the typical steamboat construction, made up of layers of highly flammable lightweight wood covered with paint and varnish, any such incident would be likely catastrophic.
Under the command of Captain James Cass Mason of St. Louis, Sultana left St. Louis on April 13, 1865, bound for New Orleans.: 12 On the morning of April 15, she was tied up at Cairo, Illinois, when word reached the city that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had been shot in Washington, D.C. Immediately, Captain Mason grabbed an armload of Cairo newspapers and headed south to spread the news, knowing that telegraphic communication with the southern states had been almost totally cut off because of the recently-ended American Civil War.: 27–28
Upon reaching Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mason was approached by Captain Reuben Hatch, the chief quartermaster at Vicksburg, with a proposal. Thousands of recently released Union prisoners of war who had been held in the Confederate prison camps at Cahaba and Andersonville had been brought to a small parole camp outside of Vicksburg to await release to the northern states. The U.S. government would pay US$2.75 per enlisted man and US$8 per officer to any steamboat captain who would take a group north. Knowing that Mason was in need of money, Hatch suggested that he could guarantee Mason a full load of about 1,400 prisoners if Mason would agree to give him a kickback. Hoping to gain much money through this deal, Mason quickly agreed to Hatch's offer.: 29–31
Leaving Vicksburg, Sultana traveled downriver to New Orleans, continuing to spread the news of Lincoln's assassination. On April 21, Sultana left New Orleans with about seventy cabin and deck passengers, along with a small amount of livestock. She also carried a crew of 85. About ten hours south of Vicksburg, one of Sultana's four boilers sprang a leak. Under reduced pressure, the steamboat limped into Vicksburg to get the boiler repaired and to pick up her promised load of prisoners.: 33, 34–35, 38, 40–41
Faulty boiler repair
While the paroled prisoners, primarily from the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia,: 226–290 were brought from the parole camp to Sultana, a mechanic was brought down to work on the leaky boiler. Although the mechanic wanted to cut out and replace a ruptured seam, Mason knew that such a job would take a few days and cost him his precious load of prisoners. By the time the repairs would be completed, the prisoners would have been sent home on other boats. Instead, Mason and his chief engineer, Nathan Wintringer, convinced the mechanic to make temporary repairs, hammering back the bulged boiler plate and riveting a patch of lesser thickness over the seam. Instead of taking two or three days, the temporary repair took only one. During her time in port, and while the repairs were being made, Sultana took on the paroled prisoners.: 40
Although Hatch had suggested that Mason might get as many as 1,400 released Union prisoners, a mix-up with the parole camp books and suspicion of bribery from other steamboat captains caused the Union officer in charge of the loading, Captain George Augustus Williams, to place every man at the parole camp on board Sultana, believing the number to be less than 1,500.: 50, 55–56 Although Sultana had a legal capacity of only 376, by the time she backed away from Vicksburg on the night of April 24, she was severely overcrowded with over 2,200 paroled prisoners, 22 guards from the 58th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, over 100 paying cabin passengers (most of whom were mothers with children), and 85 crew members, for a total of more than 2,500 people. Many of the paroled prisoners had been weakened by their incarceration and associated illnesses but had managed to gain some strength while waiting at the parole camp to be officially released. The men were packed into every available space, and the overflow was so severe that in some places, the decks began to creak and sag and had to be supported with heavy wooden beams.: 62
Sultana spent two days traveling upriver, fighting against one of the worst spring floods in the river's history. At some places, the river overflowed the banks and spread out three miles wide. Trees along the river bank were almost completely covered, until only the very tops of the trees were visible above the swirling, powerful water.: 24 On April 26, Sultana stopped at Helena, Arkansas, where photographer Thomas W. Bankes took a picture of the grossly overcrowded vessel.: 72 Sultana subsequently arrived at Memphis, Tennessee, around 7:00 PM, and the crew began unloading 120 tons (109 tonnes) of sugar from the hold. Near midnight, Sultana left Memphis, leaving behind about 200 men. She then went a short distance upriver to take on a new load of coal from some coal barges, and then at about 1:00 AM started north again.: 74–79
At around 2:00 AM on April 27, 1865, when Sultana was about seven miles (11 km) north of Memphis, its boilers suddenly exploded.: 79 First one boiler exploded, followed a split-second later by two more.
The enormous explosion of steam came from the top rear of the boilers and went upward at a 45-degree angle, tearing through the crowded decks above and completely demolishing the pilothouse. Without a pilot to steer the boat, Sultana became a drifting, burning hulk. The terrific explosion flung some of the deck passengers into the water and destroyed a large section of the boat. The twin smokestacks toppled over; the starboard smokestack backwards into the blasted hole, and the port smokestack forward onto the crowded forward section of the upper deck, hitting the ship's bell as it fell. The forward part of the upper deck was collapsed onto the middle deck, killing and trapping many in the wreckage. Fortunately, the sturdy railings around the twin openings of the main stairway prevented the upper deck from crushing down completely onto the middle deck. The men located around the twin openings quickly crawled under the wreckage and down the main stairs. Further back, the collapsing decks formed a slope that led down into the exposed furnace boxes. The broken wood caught fire and turned the remaining superstructure into an inferno. Survivors panicked and raced for the safety of the water, but in their weakened condition they soon ran out of strength and began to cling to each other. Whole groups went down together.: 79–85
While this fight for survival was taking place, the southbound steamer Bostona (No. 2), built in 1860 but coming downriver on her maiden voyage after being refurbished, arrived at about 2:30 AM, a half hour after the explosion, and rescued scores of survivors. At the same time, dozens of people began to float past the Memphis waterfront, calling for help until they were noticed by the crews of docked steamboats and U.S. warships, who immediately set about rescuing the survivors.: 129 Eventually, the hulk of Sultana drifted about six miles (10 km) to the west bank of the river and sank at around 9:00 AM near Mound City and present-day Marion, Arkansas, about seven hours after the explosion.: 164 Other vessels joined the rescue, including the steamers Silver Spray, Jenny Lind, and Pocahontas, the navy ironclad USS Essex and the sidewheel gunboat USS Tyler.: 146–147, 168–176
Passengers who survived the initial explosion had to risk their lives in the icy spring runoff of the Mississippi or burn with the boat. Many died of drowning or hypothermia. Some survivors were plucked from the tops of semi-submerged trees along the Arkansas shore. Bodies of victims continued to be found downriver for months, some as far as Vicksburg. Many bodies were never recovered. Most of Sultana's officers, including Captain Mason, were among those who perished.
The exact death toll is unknown, although the most recent evidence indicates that at least 1,547 died, though most sources conclude that it was most likely over 1,800. On May 19, 1865, less than a month after the disaster, Brigadier General William Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners who investigated the disaster, reported an overall loss of soldiers, passengers, and crew of 1,238. In February 1867, the Bureau of Military Justice placed the death toll at 1,100. In 1880, the United States Congress, in conjunction with the War Department, reported the loss of life as 1,259. The official count by the United States Customs Service was 1,547. In 1880, the War Department placed the number of survivors at 931, but the most recent research places the number at 969.[self-published source] The dead soldiers were interred at the Fort Pickering cemetery, located on the south shore of Memphis. A year later, when the U.S. government established the Memphis National Cemetery: 206 on the northeast side of the city, the bodies were moved there. Three civilian victims of the wreck of Sultana are interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
Since Memphis had been captured by Union forces in 1862 and turned into a supply and recuperation city, roughly 760 survivors were treated by the latest medical equipment and trained personnel upon being sent to numerous local hospitals. Of this group, there were only 31 deaths between April 28 and June 28.[self-published source] Newspaper accounts indicate that the residents of Memphis had sympathy for the victims despite the ongoing Union occupation. The Chicago Opera Troupe, a minstrel group that had traveled upriver on Sultana before getting off at Memphis, staged a benefit performance, while the crew of the gunboat Essex raised US$1,000 (equivalent to $17,702 in 2021) 
In December 1885, the survivors living in the northern states of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio began attending annual reunions, forming the National Sultana Survivors' Association. Eventually, the group settled on meeting in the Toledo, Ohio, area. Perhaps inspired by their northern comrades, a southern group of survivors, men from Tennessee and Kentucky, began meeting in 1889 around Knoxville, Tennessee. Both groups met as close to the April 27 anniversary date as possible, corresponded with each other, and shared the title National Sultana Survivors' Association.
By the mid-1920s, only a handful of survivors were able to attend the reunions. In 1929, only two men attended the southern reunion. The next year, only one man showed up. The last northern survivor, Private Jordan Barr of the 15th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, died on May 16, 1938, at age 93. The last of the southern survivors, and last overall survivor, was Private Charles M. Eldridge of the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, who died at his home at age 96 on September 8, 1941, more than 76 years after the disaster.[full citation needed]
The official cause of the Sultana disaster was determined to be mismanagement of water levels in the boilers, exacerbated by the fact that the vessel was severely overloaded and top-heavy. As the steamboat made her way north following the twists and turns of the river, she listed severely from side to side. Her four boilers were interconnected and mounted side-by-side so that if the boat tipped sideways, water would tend to run out of the highest boiler. With the fires still going against the empty boiler, this created hot spots. When the boat tipped the other way, water rushing back into the empty boiler would hit the hot spots and flash instantly to steam, creating a sudden surge in pressure. This effect of careening could have been minimized by maintaining high water levels in the boilers. The official inquiry found that the boilers exploded because of the combined effects of careening, low water levels, and the faulty repair made a few days earlier.
The most recent investigation into the cause of the disaster by Pat Jennings, principal engineer of Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, which came into existence in 1866 because of the Sultana explosion, determined that three main factors led to the disaster:
1) The type of metal used in the construction of the boilers – Charcoal Hammered No. 1, which tends to become brittle with prolonged heating and cooling. Charcoal Hammered No. 1 was no longer used for the manufacture of boilers after 1879.
2) The use of the sediment-laden Mississippi River water to feed the boilers. The sediment tended to settle on the bottom of the boilers or clog between the flues and leave hotspots.
3) The design of the boilers. Sultana had tubular boilers filled with 24 horizontal five-inch flues. Being so closely packed within the 48-inch (120 cm) diameter boilers tended to cause the muddy sediment to form hot pockets and were extremely difficult to clean. Tubular boilers were discontinued from use on steamboats plying the Lower Mississippi after two more steamboats with tubular boilers exploded shortly after the Sultana explosion.
Traditional alternative theories
In 1888, a St. Louis resident named William Streetor claimed that his former business partner, Robert Louden, made a confession of having sabotaged Sultana by the use of a coal torpedo while they were drinking in a saloon. Louden, a former Confederate agent and saboteur who operated in and around St. Louis, had been responsible for the burning of the steamboat Ruth. (Thomas Edgeworth Courtenay, the inventor of the coal torpedo, was a former resident of St. Louis and was involved in similar acts of sabotage against Union shipping interests. However, Courtenay's great-great-grandson, Joseph Thatcher, who wrote a book on Courtenay and the coal torpedo, denies that a coal torpedo was used in the Sultana disaster.) Supporting Louden's claim was the fact that what appeared to be a piece of an artillery shell was recovered from the sunken wreck. Louden's claim is controversial, however, and most scholars support the official explanation. The location of the explosion, from the top rear of the boilers and far away from the fireboxes, tends to indicate that Louden's claim of sabotage of an exploding coal torpedo in the firebox was pure bravado.
Two years later after Streetor's account came a claim that 2nd Lt. James Worthington Barrett, an ex-prisoner and passenger on the steamboat, had caused the explosion. Barrett was a veteran of the Mexican–American War and had been captured at the Battle of Franklin. He was injured on Sultana and was honorably discharged in May 1865. There is no apparent motive for him to have blown up the boat, especially while on board.
In 1903, another person came out with a report that Sultana had been sabotaged, by a Tennessee farmer who lived along the river and cut wood for passing steamboats. After a few Union gunboats filled up their bunkers but refused to pay, the farmer supposedly hollowed out a log, filled it with gunpowder and then left the lethal log on his woodpile. As stated in the 1903 newspaper article, the log was mistakenly taken by Sultana. However, Sultana was a coal-burning boat and not a wood-burner.
An episode of the PBS series History Detectives that aired on July 2, 2014, reviewed the known evidence, thoroughly disputed a theory of sabotage, and then focused on the question of why Sultana was allowed to be crowded to several times its normal capacity before departure. The report blamed quartermaster Hatch, an individual with a long history of corruption and incompetence, who was able to keep his job through political connections: he was the younger brother of Illinois politician Ozias M. Hatch, an advisor and close friend of President Lincoln. Throughout the war, the elder Hatch had shown incompetence as a quartermaster and competence as a thief, bilking the government out of thousands of dollars. Although brought up on courts-martial charges, Hatch managed to get letters of recommendation from no less reputable personages than President Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant. The letters reside in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. After the disaster, Ozias M. Hatch refused three separate subpoenas to appear before Captain Speed's trial and give testimony. He died in 1871, having escaped justice because of his numerous highly placed patrons—including two presidents.: 193–197
Lack of accountability
In spite of the magnitude of the disaster, no one was ever formally held accountable. Captain Frederick Speed, a Union officer who sent the 1,960 paroled prisoners into Vicksburg from the parole camp, was charged with grossly overcrowding Sultana and found guilty. However, the guilty verdict was overturned by the Judge Advocate General of the United States Army on grounds that Speed had been at the parole camp all day and had not personally placed a soldier on board Sultana.: 197–202 Captain George Williams, who had placed the men on board, was a regular Army officer, and the military refused to go after one of their own.: 202 Captain Hatch, who had concocted a bribe with Captain Mason to crowd as many men onto Sultana as possible, had quickly quit the service to avoid a court-martial. Captain Mason of Sultana, who was ultimately responsible for dangerously overloading his vessel and ordering the faulty repairs to her leaky boiler, had died in the explosion. In the end, no one was ever held accountable for what remains the deadliest maritime disaster in United States history.: 198, 200, 202
Monuments and historical markers to Sultana and her victims have been erected at Memphis, Tennessee; Muncie, Indiana; Marion, Arkansas; Vicksburg, Mississippi; Cincinnati, Ohio; Knoxville, Tennessee; Hillsdale, Michigan and Mansfield, Ohio.
In 1982, a local archaeological expedition, led by Memphis attorney Jerry O. Potter, uncovered what was believed to be the wreckage of Sultana. Blackened wooden deck planks and timbers were found about 32 feet (10 m) under a soybean field on the Arkansas side, about 4 miles (6 km) from Memphis. The Mississippi River has changed course several times since the disaster, leaving the wreck under dry land and far from today's river. The main channel now flows about 2 miles (3 km) east of its 1865 position.
In 2015, on the 150th anniversary of the disaster, an interim Sultana Disaster Museum was opened in Marion, Arkansas, the closest town to the buried remains of the steamboat, across the Mississippi River from Memphis. The museum is only temporary until enough funds can be raised to build a permanent museum. Featured in the museum are a few relics from Sultana such as shaker plates from the boat's furnace, furnace bricks, a few pieces of wood, and some small metal pieces. The museum also features many artifacts from the Sultana Survivor's Association, as well as a fourteen-foot model replica of the boat. One entire wall is decorated with the names of every soldier, crewmember and passenger who was on the boat on April 27, 1865.
- The J. Mack Gamble Fund of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends sponsored a mural by Louisiana artist Robert Dafford and his crew, entitled The Sultana Departs from Vicksburg, as one of the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals. It was dedicated on April 9, 2005.
- Hendricks, Nancy (2015). Terrible Swift Sword: Long Road to the Sultana. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1507764688.
- Thom, James Alexander (2015). Fire in the Water. Blue River Press. ISBN 978-1935628569.
- Smith, Joe W. (2010) Sultana! J & M Printing. ISBN 978-1-931916-64-6. Illustrations by Linda L. Smith.
- Jay Farrar of the band Son Volt wrote a song called "Sultana", paying tribute to "the worst American disaster of the maritime". Farrar calls the boat "the Titanic of the Mississippi" in the song, which was released on the American Central Dust album (2009)
- King's German Legion – "Blues in the Water" tells a stylized version of the Sultana disaster on their EP release Marching Orders.
- Josh Ritter's song "Monster Ballads" includes several references to the Sultana, including mentions of "Cairo" and "When the boilers blew".
- Cory Branan's song "The Wreck of the Sultana" tells the story of the disaster, though the song gets a few details wrong, calling it "deadlier than the Titanic's legendary fall."
- In 2018 a movie called Remember the Sultana was released detailing the maritime disaster, directed by Mark and Mike Marshall and starring Ray Appleton, Mackenzie Astin, and Sean Astin.
- Given as the "John Lithoberry Shipyard" on Ohio Historical Marker 18–31 (1999) on the Ohio River at Sawyer Point.
- Berry (1892), p. 7
- June 2016 to July 2017 research by Gene Eric Salecker, Sultana author and historical consultant for the Sultana Disaster Museum, Marion, Arkansas[self-published source]
- "Death on the River". U.S. Naval Institute. August 2009. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
- Photograph identifications from Sultana Disaster Museum historian Gene Eric Salecker[self-published source]
- Salecker, Gene Eric (1996). Disaster on the Mississippi : the Sultana explosion, April 27, 1865. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Inst. Press. ISBN 1-55750-739-2.
- The St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, April 29, 1865, states that the "steamer Sultana left New Orleans on Friday evening the 21st, with about seventy cabin passengers, and about eighty five employees on the boat."
- Remember the Sultana
- Potter, Jerry O. "Sultana: A Tragic Postscript to the Civil War". American History Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-01-28.
- Bennett, Robert Frank, CDR USCG (March 1976). "A Case of Calculated Mischief". Proceedings: 77–83.
- Harvey, Hank (October 27, 1996). "The Sinking of the Sultana". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Section C, pp. 6,3. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
- Fold3.com website, The Civil War, Sultana Disaster, April 1865, Quartermaster vessel file relating to the Sultana, page 68.
- Fold3.com website, The Civil War, Sultana Disaster, April 1865, Quartermaster vessel file relating to the Sultana, page 68-9.
- Fold3.com website, The Civil War, Sultana Disaster, April 1865, Enlisted Branch file (HAAQ 981 EB 1865, page 80
- Crutchfield, James (2008). It Happened on the Mississippi River. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-762-75236-2.
- Fold3.com website, The Civil War, Sultana Disaster, April 1865, Enlisted Branch file (HAAQ 981 EB 1865, page 80. June 2016 to July 2017 research by Gene Eric Salecker, Sultana author and historical consultant for the Sultana Disaster Museum, Marion, Arkansas.[self-published source]
- Memphis Daily Bulletin, and Memphis Daily Appeal, various dates, April 1865
- Ancestry.com, Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1980[full citation needed]
- Huffman, Alan (2009). Sultana: Surviving Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History. Collins. pp. 242–243. ISBN 9780061470547.
- Jennings, Pat "What Happened to the Sultana?" https://www.nationalboard.org/SiteDocuments/General%20Meeting/Jennings.pdf
- "The Sultana Disaster (Coal Torpedo theory)". Civil War St Louis. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- History Detective Episode on Sultana, http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/civil-war-sabotage/
- Tidwell, William A. (1995). April '65: Confederate Covert Action in the American Civil War. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press. pp. 52. ISBN 9780873385152. OCLC 906647559.
- Rule, G.E.; Rule, Deb (December 2001). "The Sultana: A case for sabotage". North and South Magazine. 5 (1).
- National Tribune (Washington DC), May 20, 1886, p. 3.
- Portsmouth [NH] Herald, June 13, 1903, p. 7
- Salecker, Gene Eric (1996). Disaster on the Mississippi : the Sultana explosion, April 27, 1865. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Inst. Press. ISBN 1-55750-739-2.
- "Historic Memphis Elmwood Cemetery". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- The Tribune
- "Sultana Historic Marker". Arkansas: The Natural State. Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Disaster Multiplied". Historical Chronicles Press. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- "The Sultana". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Sultana Monument – Civil War". East Tennessee River Valley GeoTourism Guide. National Geographic. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Sultana Memorial". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Sultana Tragedy". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Jack Schnedler. Sultana museum in Arkansas memorializes 1,800 who died in river, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 3, 2018
- "The Sultana Departs from Vicksburg". Vicksburg Riverfront Murals. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Huffman, Alan (October 2009). "Surviving the Worst: The Wreck of the Sultana at the End of the American Civil War". Mississippi Historical Society. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- Deusner, Stephen. "American Central Dust". Pitchfork Media (Review). Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- "Blues in the Water, by King's German Legion". King's German Legion. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
- Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Ardent Presents: Cory Branan – "The Wreck of the Sultana"". YouTube. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
- Bearss, Margie Riddle (Spring 1978). "Messenger of Lincoln Death Herself Doomed". The Lincoln Herald: 49–51.
- Berry, Chester D. (2005) . Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1-57233-372-3.
- Bryant, William O. (1990). Cahaba Prison and the "Sultana" Disaster. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-0468-1.
- Elliott, Joseph Taylor (1913). The Sultana Disaster. E.J. Hecker. Indiana Historical Society Publications, v. 5, no. 3.
- Hendricks, Nancy (2015). Terrible Swift Sword: Long Road to the Sultana. ISBN 978-1-5077-6468-8.
- Huffman, Alan (2009). Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History. Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-147054-7.
- Potter, Jerry O. (1992). The Sultana Tragedy: America's Greatest Maritime Disaster. Pelican Publishing. ISBN 0-88289-861-2.
- Rule, G. E.; Rule, Deb. "The Sultana: A Case for Sabotage". North and South Magazine. 5 (1).
- Salecker, Gene Eric (1996). Disaster on the Mississippi: the Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-739-2.
- Salecker, Gene Eric (May 2002). "A Tremendous Tumult and Uproar". America's Civil War. 15 (26). ISSN 1046-2899.
- Walker, Sally M. (2017). Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home. Candlewick. ISBN 978-0-7636-7755-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sultana (ship, 1863).|
- "Sultana: Titanic of the Mississippi – Investigation with several videos".
- Raising The Sultana
- Sultana Disaster Records – Records relating to the explosion of the steamer Sultana, including lists of those aboard the boat.