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Sultana : surviving civil war, prison, and the worst maritime disaster in Americ
Alan Huffman
Adult Nonfiction E595.S84 H84 2009

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The explosion and wreck of the Mississippi riverboat Sultana in 1865, which killed 1,700 passengers, mostly Union soldiers recently released from Confederate POW camps, is but the capstone of this engrossing survey of the many varieties of suffering in the Civil War. Journalist Huffman (Mississippi in Africa) doesn't even get aboard the Sultana until the last third of the saga. Before that, he fills in the backstories of four Yankee survivors as they fight in the battle of Chickamauga, go raiding with Sherman's cavalry and finally get captured and sent to the infamous Southern prison camps at Andersonville, Ga., and Cahaba, Ala. There they endure the torments of starvation, exposure, festering and maggoty wounds, predatory criminal gangs, lice and diarrhea-a scourge, Huffman notes, that was far deadlier to soldiers than bullets. Making skillful use of war diaries and memoirs, the author makes these quieter ordeals just as moving as the Sultana's doomed voyage, with its "hellish scene[s] of hundreds of screaming people being burned alive" or drowning each other in panic. Huffman fits the climactic disaster into a meticulously researched, harrowing look at the sorrow and the pity that was the Civil War. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Journalist Huffman (Mississippi in Africa) here chronicles the lives of three Union troopers in the Civil War, Romulus Tolbert, John C. Maddox, and J. Walter Elliott. Elliott recorded the threesome's impressions of the war, including their daily fight to stay alive in multiple Confederate holding pens throughout the Deep South, covered by Huffman in his long prelude to the maritime disaster of the subtitle. On April 27, 1865, upriver from Memphis, the paddle-wheeler Sultana's boilers exploded, and she sank, taking with her an estimated 1700 out of 2400 passengers, mostly Federal soldiers recently released from rebel POW camps and on their way home. Huffman's graphic accounts here are stories of both cowardice and selflessness, but certainly not recommended for the squeamish. The author rightly attributes this maritime catastrophe to corner-cutting and bribery involving steamboat captains, their agents, and the Union military in Vicksburg, all committed to getting as many of the newly freed troops aboard the Sultana as possible. There were tribunals and inquiries, but scarcely anyone was punished for overloading the vessel. Huffman's final chapter traces the later lives of survivors Tolbert, Maddox, and Elliott, showing how their earlier afflictions incurred during the war, captivity, and the Sultana debacle directly led to their incapacitation and ultimate deaths. His afterword is both a fascinating discussion of his historical methodology and his perspectives regarding both the triumphs and the long-term tragedy of human survival. Huffman succeeds in establishing the Sultana's rightful place in Civil War historiography. Recommended for all Civil War and U.S. maritime collections and for all large libraries. (Bibliography, acknowledgments, and index not seen.)-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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