The Sultana

The Sultana (HMGC5)

Location: Newport, KY 41071 Philadelphia County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 6.002', W 84° 29.923'

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In 1862, less than a mile upriver from this marker, the John Lithoberry Shipyard in Cincinnati constructed the Sultana, a 260-foot, wooden steam transport. At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. Government contracted the Sultana to transport recently freed Federal prisoners north from Confederate stockades. During the night of April 27, 1865, while carrying over 2,300 Union soldiers - over six times its capacity of 376 passengers - a steam boiler aboard the Sultana exploded. The ship erupted in a massive fireball and sank in the cold, flood-swollen Mississippi River ten miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. Over 1,700 individuals died - some 200 more than those lost aboard the Titanic in 1912 - in what remains the worst maritime disaster in American history. Of the total casualties, Ohio lost the most of any state, with 791 dead. Indiana lost 491 persons, with Kentucky suffering 194 dead. It is estimated that, of the Ohio casualties, over fifty were Cincinnatians.
HM NumberHMGC5
Series This marker is part of the Ohio: Ohio Historical Society series
Marker Number18-31
Year Placed1999
Placed ByOhio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Tim & Chris Heather, Colerain Twp., Ohio, and The Ohio Historical Society
Marker Condition
10 out of 10 (1 reports)
Date Added Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 2:20am PDT -07:00
Photo Credits: [1] MIKE COLEMAN  
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 716299 N 4330856
Decimal Degrees39.10003333, -84.49871667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 6.002', W 84° 29.923'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 6' 0.12" N, 84° 29' 55.38" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)859
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 101-199 L and N Pedestrian Bridge, Newport KY 41071, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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I Saw The Marker

The marker was in very nice condition. The only persons that seem to know this story are civil war historians. This tragedy was the catalyst for the forming of the United States first ever collaborative engineering consulting team with the common aim to eliminate or significantly reduce the chances of these types of industrial events from occurring. This work eventually led to the field of Reliability Engineering (R.E.). R.E. was given a burst at the dawn of atomic energy munitions development, technical advances in aviation, maritime including submarine, and space industry. It is a field of work that is alive and well today and still growing. Though the Sultana incident was tragic, I do receive comfort knowing that as a result of so many losses on that dreadful day, that industrial advances and dramatic step-change improvements in safety can be directly connected to this incident. This incident occurred just after President Lincoln's assassination thus one of the reasons why this story was nothing more than a little footnote in national news at the time and likely the chief reason why so few are familiar with the Sultana incident. One final thought. While it is true that it was Human Factor (too many people allowed onboard) and not engineering design that was responsible for the large numbers of life lost, the fact remains that boilers at that time in history were a very problematic source of energy and the cause of thousands of industrial accidents and loss of lives. The Sultana incident was instrumental in helping garner the right attention sooner than later on how to better make, operate, and service boilers. This led to an ever-faster pace for U.S. industrial advances.

Dec 26, 2015 at 10:01am PST by sultana

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