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Otto C. Bardon, Reminiscences of the Sultana Disaster, April 27, 1865

Otto Bardon, detail
Private Otto Bardon was one of two men from Wooster, Ohio who survived the Sultana Disaster on April 27, 1865. The Sultana had left Vicksburg two days before with more than two thousand recently released Union prisoners for which $5 each was being paid to the captain for their transport. Three of the four boilers on the heavily overladen steamboat - her legal capacity was 376 - exploded at around two in the morning about seven miles after a midnight stop at Memphis. The vessel was destroyed and an estimated 1,800 people, mostly freed prisoners of war, perished in what is still the nation's most deadly maritime disaster. The 24-year old Bardon had been captured in September 1864 and had been held in Alabama and then Vicksburg, Mississippi till being liberated on April 22, 1865. Five days later he narrowly escaped death on the journey home. He did reach home and lived a long life as a carriage trimmer in Wooster, had eleven grandchildren, and died peacefully after a stroke in 1930, aged 89. In this document, he gives a colorful account of his army career, recalling his capture, the reaction of the Union prisoners in Vicksburg on hearing of the death of President Lincoln, his release, and finally, a detailed reminiscence of his ordeal in the river. A fellow survivor, Chester Berry, collected and published many such recollections in 1892. (By John Osborne)


How to Cite This Page: "Otto C. Bardon, Reminiscences of the Sultana Disaster, April 27, 1865," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,