(Kathy’s A to Z posts are tidbits of fact gleaned from her research for her historical-fiction novel LIKE A RIVER.)
Vicksburg, Mississippi was a port city on the Mississippi River at the time of the Civil War. (The river now flows a little more to the west of it.)
In the Union’s mission to control the Mississippi, Vicksburg was the last obstacle. The city’s elevated location on a ridge above the river made it hard to penetrate. After several failed attempts of fighting from points on the river, the Union Army tramped miles inland across swampland to invade from the east and south.
Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863 (one day after the Battle of Gettysburg).
It was at Vicksburg that the boat was overloaded to more than five times its intended capacity. The Sultana traveled north in her overburdened condition, making stops in Helena, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. About seven miles north of Memphis, she met her fate. It was under a black sky, at about 2AM, when the boilers blew, sending hundreds to a watery grave. Nearly 1,800 passengers lost their lives in what remains the worst U.S maritime disaster.