Speed Town

Speed Town (HM26CO)

Location: Vicksburg, MS 39180 Warren County
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Country: United States of America
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N 32° 20.223', W 90° 52.839'

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—Vicksburg Heritage Walking Trail —

In 1881 Frederick Speed and Thomas Foster purchased the 210-acre Lonewood Plantation in this area. They divided the land into lots that sold for about $600 each. Both partners wanted to name the newly formed town after the other. The final decision came from a coin toss; Foster won the toss and the town of Speeds was born. In 1905 when the City of Vicksburg promised to provide the citizens of Speeds with power, water, sewer, and public transportation, they agreed and were annexed by Vicksburg.

The Sultana - Costly Mistake

In 1865 Frederick Speed, then a captain in the Union Army, was helping with the process to return former imprisoned Union soldiers home after they arrived in Vicksburg by train. The Sultana docked in Vicksburg with a cracked boiler that was still being repaired as the Union soldiers boarded the vessel. Part of Speed's task was to keep up with the number of soldiers placed on each steamboat. Some confusion occurred and the Sultana ended up overcrowded with about 2,331 people on board. Just north of Memphis, Tennessee boilers on the Sultana exploded killing around 1,000 people. The explosion survivors struggled to save themselves in the frigid Mississippi River. The Sultana disaster claimed 1,800 lives and remains one of the deadliest maritime accidents in history.

The death toll was even greater than the Titanic which sank in 1912 killing 1,517 people.

Guilty or Not

Captain Speed was charged for overcrowding the Sultana and pled "Not Guilty". Six months later, after legal issues and major witnesses ignoring their military subpoenas, Speed was court-martialed. Later Speed was cleared of all charges and the court-martial overturned by the Judge-Advocate General arguing the Sultana may have been "overcrowded" but was not "overloaded" and the passengers met their doom because of the explosion.

Simple Math

During the time of the Sultana disaster, cotton bails weighted about 400 pounds each. 7,818 bales of cotton weights over 3.1 million pounds. If the 2,331 passengers on the Sultana weighed 200 pounds each, the load would have been 466,200 pounds. The Sultana was not near its capacity when the disaster occurred.

Photo caption
Steamboat Chas. P. Chouteau, at Natchez, Mississippi, loaded with 7,818 bales of cotton, December 1878.
HM NumberHM26CO
Year Placed2018
Placed ByThe City of Vicksburg
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 at 7:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15S E 699467 N 3579769
Decimal Degrees32.33705000, -90.88065000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 32° 20.223', W 90° 52.839'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds32° 20' 13.38" N, 90° 52' 50.34" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)601, 769
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2322-2398 Drummond St, Vicksburg MS 39180, US
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