History Detectives: Special Investigations

Civil War Sabotage?

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It was one of the worst maritime naval disasters in U.S. history. Officially, the death toll was 1,500. Unofficially, the count may have been far higher. When it mysteriously exploded on April 27, 1865, the Mississippi steamboat USS Sultana was packed with Union soldiers. The war had ended that month; at every stop more and more men clamored to board the homeward-bound ship, which blew up mid-river. However, the story of the sinking quickly vanished from the papers. What really sank the Sultana? Was it Confederate sabotage? Securing the original investigative report and its archives allows the team to forensically examine and scientifically test theories of the boilers' failure. The team also researches the stories of a Confederate agent and spy who burned Union ships on the Mississippi and was an expert in using "coal torpedoes" and a former Union inspector's deathbed revelation.



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