Dr. Jenkins Death Recalls Sultana

Survived Ship Tragedy in Mississippi River

Paroled Union Soldiers Crowded on Board

Total of 1,338 Lost Lives

 

The death of Dr. Samuel W. Jenkins, survivor of the sinking of the Sultana, at his

home in Bakewell Thursday, recalled to memories of a few old-timers the story of

that ill-fated steamer whose destruction cost 1,338 lives. Dr. Jenkins was 84 and

was spared in his youth to tell the tale of the Sultana.

The boat, loaded with 1,990 persons, including about 1,200 paroled Union soldiers,

sank in the Mississippi river in April of 1865. Two nations - the United States of

America and the Confederate States of America - were shaken by the stark horror of

the disaster and yet chronicles of was scarcely mention it - if at all, the Associated

Press reported.

There was nothing glamorous about the disaster - no brave men charging into

cannon, no rebel yells and no waving flags. It was just death without the tinsel of

romance. The steamer either blew up or turned over from weight of its passengers.

Anyway its human cargo was thrown into the mad Mississippi and most of the men

and women drowned.

Acts of congress and snatches of history in documents of the "war of rebellion"

mention the disaster. The prisoners were paroled by the Confederates in the

Vicksburg area and were loaded on boats to go home. The Sultana steamed up the

river and 1,900 persons were loaded aboard. Some documents say there were

protests against herding so many men on one little ship.

But she started north and up the river she went down. Experts examined pieces of

her boiler and testified as to causes of the disaster. The men who would have known

what happened were dead - victims of the river. The secretary of war ordered an

investigation.

One record says a captain was responsible for the large number of passengers and

another document places blame on another Union officer. There were court martials.

An ensign from the U.S.S. Ironclad Essex testified Union soldiers at Fort Pickering

fired on him and his crew when they sought to save drowning soldiers. Other

authorities said the ensign's report was not true. There were charges and

counter-charges, but somehow the story of the Sultana died down.

The funeral of Dr. Jenkins was held at the Soddy Congregational church yesterday.

Dr. A. L. DeJarnette officiating, assisted by the Reverend W. O. Peeples. Interment

was in Varner cemetery.  
The Chattanooga Times , January 21, 1933

Submitted by Recs Jenkins
genealogy@l-s-s.net