Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

208p. bibliog. diag. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Candlewick. Oct. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780763677558.
Gr 7 Up—A comprehensive recounting of the devastating but largely overlooked explosion of the Civil War—era steamboat, the Sultana. In April 1865 the Sultana set off along the Mississippi River, loaded with an excess of 2,000 passengers, including civilians and formerly imprisoned Union soldiers. In addition to the sinking, Walker details peripheral events and factors, such as the appalling conditions at Confederate prisoner camps, which the Union soldiers were desperate to escape from; steamboat officers competing to make a profit; a shoddy last-minute repair to the boat's boiler; and the subsequent investigation, which failed to hold anyone accountable for the disaster. Walker includes numerous first-person accounts, adding an emotional depth to the narrative, although the extensive cast of characters is sometimes hard to keep track of. Diagrams, maps, and photos throughout help clarify technical descriptions and ground readers in the time period, and asides are featured sparingly to detail relevant topics, such as steam power technology. The extensive back matter makes this a valuable source for research. Readers who have already devoured the abundance of material on the Titanic will be drawn to the story of the Sultana, which despite being the "worst maritime disaster in American history" is often overshadowed.
VERDICT A riveting and informative addition to nonfiction collections.

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