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Sultana Disaster To Be Remembered At Next LWB Program

WHEELING — The Ohio County Public Library’s Next Lunch With Books live stream program will feature The Sultana Disaster — 156 Years Later.

The program will take place virtually at noon on Tuesday, April 27.

The Sultana, a Civil War-era side-wheel steamboat, exploded and burned on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. Acknowledged by Congressional Resolution as the greatest maritime disaster in United States history, nearly 1,200 of the more than 2,200 passengers and crew were killed in the explosion and fire which sank the Sultana near Marion, Arkansas, across the river from Memphis, Tennessee.

Designed to carry only 376 passengers plus crew, investigations revealed a litany of corrupt practices, including kickbacks and bribes paid to high-ranking Union officers, caused the overcrowding of the boat. The disaster has been overlooked in history since it was overshadowed by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Several men from the Wheeling area were onboard.

Speakers for the program will be Gene Salecker and Dr. Louis Intres, who are both associated with the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion Arkansas. Intres is former director of the Sultana Disaster Museum and a History Professor at Arkansas State University. Salecker wrote a book about the Sultana, “Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865,” in 1996 and is currently the historical consultant for the museum. More recently, he wrote a new book on the Sultana which will be published by the Naval Institute Press in the Spring of 2022. The new book encompasses his continuing research over the past 25 years when his first book came out and will dispel many of the myths, stories and “facts” surrounding the disaster.

West Virginia Senator Ryan Weld will read a proclamation in honor of the West Virginia men on board.

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