On April 27, 1865, the steamboat Sultana,
labored up the swollen Mississippi River in the dead of night, carrying Union POWs home after a long and bloody Civil War. Laden with livestock, cargo, and 2400 passengers (7 times its maximum capacity) the Sultana exploded just north of Memphis, Tennessee. With more lives lost than in the sinking of the Titanic, this was the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.
Lost In the Wake of the Civil War
However, the story of the Sultana was overshadowed at the time by President Lincoln’s assassination, and the subsequent capture of John Wilkes Booth, which occurred on the same night as the Sultana explosion.
So, as the steamboat’s charred carcass settled into the deep Mississippi mud, its story also faded into the murky past.
The Soundtrack Inspired by the Story
In 2009, singer-songwriter Jeff Stachyra stumbled upon the Sultana story as he researched a backstory for a new song he was writing about an ill-fated steamboat. The Sultana’s lost history captivated his imagination and inspired 4 years of research, the recording of new songs featuring over 60 Binghamton, NY area musicians, and a series of original drawings by folk artist Rick Iacovelli.
The resulting album is a musical opus that plays like a movie soundtrack. Its boutique packaging filled with artistry provokes the listener to dig deeper into the past, shine a light on this forgotten historical disaster, and remember the Sultana!