In April 1865, the Civil War was all but over. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on the 9th. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated five days later and John Wilkes Booth run to ground and killed, on the 26th. Thousands of former POWs were being released from Confederate camps in Alabama and Georgia, and held in regional parole depots.
The sidewheel steamboat Sultana left New Orleans with about 100 passengers and a few head of livestock, pulling into Vicksburg Mississippi on the 21st to repair a damaged boiler and pick up a promised load of passengers.
With a bulging seam on her boiler, the ship’s mechanic wanted to cut it out and install a new plate, easily three day’s work. Captain J. Cass Mason declined, for fear of losing his passengers. He wanted the seam hammered back into place and covered with…
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