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Chief Engineer Nathan Witringer, Reminiscences of the Sultana Disaster, April 27, 1865, written on April 14, 1886.

The river steamer "Sultana" burning on the Mississippi River, April 27, 1865, artist's impression, further detail
Chief Engineer Nathan Witringer was one of only two steamboat officers 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. A fellow survivor, the former soldier Chester Berry, was collecting accounts from as many as he could, including this from Witringer, and published many of them in 1892. Witringer gives his account from the interesting perspective of being the Sultana's chief engineering officer. He speculates on the cause, blaming defective boilers, defends several of his fellow crewmen from later accusations, and describes his own survival and rescue. He ends with hopes of attending a scheduled reunion of survivors that Reverend Berry is organizing. Witringer gave this account in April 1886, six months before his death on October 11, 1886. (By John Osborne)

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