Sultana mystery to highlight PBS show in July

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2014

PBS attempts to separate fact from fiction on the 1865 explosion of the steamer Sultana when its History Detectives series begins a new season. 

A look into one of the worst maritime disasters in the U.S. will kick off History Detectives Special Investigations at 8 p.m. on July 1, according to a news release.

The 260-foot Sultana left the port at Vicksburg April 24, 1865, loaded with Union soldiers headed home after the Civil War. Three days later, three of the ship’s four boilers exploded about seven miles north of Memphis, sinking the overloaded vessel and killing an estimated 1,800 passengers.

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Based on witnesses estimates, the steamer left Vicksburg with between 2,400 and 2,600 passengers, far beyond the legal capacity of 376. Aboard were about 2,100 Union soldiers who had been prisoners of war held by the Confederacy.

The release teased a conclusion that indicated a look-see into Confederate sabotage, corruption in the Union military and involvement by President Abraham Lincoln, who as assassinated nine days before the disaster.

Episodes in the history-themed documentary series run Tuesdays through July 22. Planned are examinations of the disappearance of big band leader Glenn Miller, the Texas “Servant Girl” murders of 1885 and the whereabouts of union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting is on channel 7 for Vicksburg Video cable television subscribers and 29 on DirecTV, DISH and AT&T U-verse.