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The Sinking: Ingredients for Disaster

The vessel had a known history of boiler problems.

The boiler had been parched or repaired at Natchez and Vicksburg on two previous trips.

When the Sultana was ten hours south ofVicksburg on her final trip, rhe chief engineer, Nathan Winrringer,

discovered steam escaping from a small crack on the port inboard boiler.

The leak was serious enough for him to refuse to go any farther than Vicksburg unless the necessary repairs were made.

When the Sultana docked at Vicksburg on 23 April, local boil ermaker R. G. Taylor inspected the crack and discovered a bulge on the port inboard boiler.

He raid Captain J. Cass Mason and Wintringer that two plates on the boiler needed to be replaced.

He further stared that if he were nor allowed to make the permanent repairs he thought fir, he would have nothing to do with the boar.

The captain, concerned about the rime required to replace rhe two plates, eventually persuaded Taylor to limit his repairs to a parch measuring a mere 11 ” x 26″.

D uring the repairs Taylor rold the chief engineer that he first needed to force back the bulge on the boiler before applying the parch.

This he was nor allowed to do; the parch was fitted direcrly over the bulge.

Even so, it rook over 20 hours to complete rhe process.

Winrringer hastily approved Taylor’s work, staring that rhe repairs were adequate to continue upriver.

Taylor, however, is on record as staring that all of the boilers on Sultana appeared to have been burned by rhe rime rhe boar reached Vicksburg.

Ironically, just weeks earlier, on 12 April 1865, an inspection certificate had been issued at her home port certifying that the Sultana,

including her boilers, was structurally sound and fir for employment without peril to life.

While Taylor was making rhe repairs, the captain and rhe local agent for his company, the Merchant’s and People’s Line,

were purring considerable pressure on local federal authorities to obtain as many prisoners as possible for the Sultana to take homeward.

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