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SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2007
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Civil War era ship disaster has links to Athens, Elkmont

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2445

ATHENS — Itís a maritime disaster that killed more people than the Titanic. Its story has ties to Athens and Elkmont.

Yet, chances are, this is the first time many in this area have read its history.

Thatís because the tragic story didnít garner media and public attention during the Civil War. Death was nothing new to folks in that era.

The disaster occurred on April 27, 1865, when a steamship called Sultana sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis after its boilers exploded. The disaster killed about 1,800 people. The ship, according to a National Geographic article, was supposed to carry no more than 376 people.

Those on board included former Union prisoners of war, including some captured by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest at Fort Henderson in Athens and Sulphur Creek Trestle in Elkmont.

Sharing story

In April, the Sultana Association will share this tragic story at its 20th reunion, to be held this year at Athens State University.

Knoxville attorney and association founder Norman Shaw said Union soldiers who survived the sinking met annually to keep the story alive.

Now, their descendents continue the tradition.

Shaw said the association chose Athens as its reunion site due to some soldiers ending up on the ill-fated ship after their capture in Limestone County.

The public can attend reunion events April 13. There will be Civil War period music at 3 p.m. at McCandless Hall. At 7:30, there will lectures in the ballroom and displays of family heirlooms and artifacts.

Walking tour

On Saturday, the association will take a walking tour of Athens State at 8 a.m. and then take a bus tour of Fort Henderson and Sulphur Creek Trestle. Registration for that tour is required. Deadline to register is Saturday.

To register, contact Shaw at (865)-693-2171.

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