Wreck of the Sultana

and a map of the Islands known as Paddy's Hen and Chickens

Dear Riverauthor:
Do you happen to know the coordinates of islands in the Mississippi called Paddy's Hens and Chickens. I am doing research on the steamboat Sultana which sank due to blowing up its boilers in 1865. Would appreciate your help greatly if you can. Please email me at jblstar@peganet.com. Thanks in advance.
-- Joan Layne

No, Joan, I don't know the coordinates for the Islands, but I recently received a copy of the following map from a book of historic sites on the lower Mississippi. I understand it was published by the Army Corps of Engineers back in the '70s. I also did a net search and found The Sultana Disaster, 1865: Death on a Dark River. It is a very interesting, detailed article once published in American Heritage Magazine. -- Pat

According to my source, the map below was done by Colonel Charles Suter in 1874. It showed the ill-fated Sultana lodged near the head of Hen Island, above Mound City, Arkansas. The wreck is further pinpointed as occuring between Mile 743.4 (Redman Point, Arkansas) and Harrison's and Bradley's landings.

The explosion of the Sultana was the worst marine disaster the United States had ever seen. Union officers put more than 2000 unlucky men on the boat--more than 1500 persons lost their lives! 


You will find MORE on the Wreck of the Sultana in these
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Great River Publishing!

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More on the story behind the islands:

Mile 740.0 AHP
Right Bank, descending

Chicken Island is all that remains of what the French explorers called "the Thousand Islands." Kentucky flatboatmen had renamed the islands, "Paddy's Hen and Chickens."

In 1801, Zadok Cramer numbered four of the little islands, designating them as Islands No. 42, No. 43, No., 44, and No. 45. Island No. 46 was the number assigned to Presidents Island.

About three quarters of a century later, a mapmaker became confused by all the numbers on the islands and accidentally appropriated a number belonging to one of Paddy's "Chickens" and gave it to Presidents Island. The error went unnoticed, and was perpetuated by subsequent maps and charts. As a result, Presidents Island and several islands below it do not bear the numbers today that Zadok Cramer gave them in 1801.

The Wreck of the Sultana

The most terrible steamboat disaster in history was probably the loss of the Sultana in 1865. Some 1,700 returning Union Veterans died... yet the tragedy got very few headlines. Late in April of 1865, the Mississippi stood at flood stage. Four years of war had ruined many levees and dikes, and in the lower reaches of the river the foaming water was over the banks for miles...
(Click Here for the Rest of the story!)

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