Alan Huffman's book follows the exploits of a group of young Union soldiers through their enlistment in Indiana and the bloody, chaotic battle at Chickamauga, to the unimaginable sub-life of the Andersonvilleand Cahara prison camps. After enduring more suffering than most would experience in ten lifetimes, they joined nearly 2,700 people aboard the steamboat Sultana for the journey home. The ship was designed to accommodate around 400 passengers and crew. A few miles up the Mississippi from Memphis, three of Sultana's four boilers exploded resulting in a death toll that would far outnumber those who perished onTitanic half a century later. Incisive, gripping, and horrifying, the book is infused with the finest examples of courage and endurance in the midst of some of the most shameful episodes in American history. — Alden Graves
In April 1865, the steamboat Sultana slowly moved up the Mississippi River, its overtaxed engines straining under the weight of twenty-four hundred passengers—mostly Union soldiers, recently paroled from Confederate prison camps. At 2 a.m., three of Sultana's four boilers exploded. Within twenty minutes, the boat went down in flames, and an estimated seventeen hundred lives were lost.
The worst maritime disaster in American history, the sinking of the Sultana is a forgotten tragedy lost in the turmoil of the times—the war's end, the assassination of President Lincoln, the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth. Alan Huffman presents this harrowing story in gripping and vivid detail and paints a moving portrait of four individual soldiers who survived the Civil War's final hell to make it back home.
A partner in the political research firm Huffman & Rejebian, Alan Huffman has been a farmer; newspaper reporter; and aide to a Mississippi attorney general and a Mississippi governor. A contributor to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine and other publications, he is the author of Ten Point, Mississippi in Africa and Sultana.