Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Sultana Connections

The Compiling of the Sultana Passenger List.

The compiling of the last passenger list of the steamship Sultana began immediately after the tragic explosion of April 27, 1865. One of the primary sources of the list are the Memphis and St. Louis newspapers of the time (The Sultana Tragedy, Jerry O. Potter, pg 195).

In 1892, Chester D. Berry, a survivor of the Sultana, wrote Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors which in Potter's words, "..contained an incomplete list." Gene Salecker is to be credited for his years of research in compiling the names of the soldiers on the Sultana. That list was included in Disaster on the Mississippi : The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865, written by Salecker and published in 1996. Potter clearly acknowledges his debt to Salecker, and combined his own research with Gene's to produce the list that appears in the Appendix of The Sultana Tragedy published in 1997.

My Connection to the Sultana History.

My interest in the Sultana is two fold, involving family history and the history of the area of Hillsdale Co., Michigan where I grew up, Wright Twp. near the town of Waldron.

Wesley Lee, my great-great-great uncle on my father's mother's side, enlisted Aug. 19, 1862 in Co. A of the 102nd Ohio Vol. Infantry. Uncle Wesley was captured by the Confederates at Athens, Alabama on Sept. 24, 1864. He was held at Andersonville until the end of the war. He was on the Sultana when it blew up on April 27, 1865 just north of Memphis. Uncle Wesley was one of the first survivors to make it to shore that terrible night. His account of that tragic experience is told in Chester Berry's 1892 book, Loss of the Sultana, and Reminiscences of Survivors. Wesley Lee finally made it home to Holmes Co., Ohio. He did marry and he and his bride settled in Davisess County, Missouri.

Zebulon Gray, my Great-Great Uncle on my Father's mother's side, enlisted August 1884, in the 18th Michigan V.I. and was in Co. G. The Michigan 18th Reg't was recruited primarily from Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe Counties. Family records indicate Zebulon was with that part of the 18th Reg't captured by the Confederates at Athens, Alabama. According to the family story, Uncle Zeb was detained at Macon, and then at Andersonville until the end of the war. His Andersonville imprisonment is confirmed by his pension records. After their release at the end of the war, a number of the 18th Reg't POW's were on the Sultana when it blew up near Memphis, TN on April 27, 1865. Don Harvey has identified 60 men from the MI 18th Reg't that were killed in that explosion. Uncle Zeb's pension records indicate he was not on the Sultana, but he would have known comrades who were. He came home and raised a family.

Phyllis Rickard, an old neighbor of mine from the Waldron, Michigan area, found in her research references to three men of the 18th MI Reg't. from what was then known as South Wright, but is now Waldron, who were on the Sultana and survived; Christian W. Abbaduska, Nathaniel Fogelsong, and Samuel Stubberfield.

At the time Phyllis and I were growing up, there were still families in that area with those last names. All three of these men came back home, and all three are buried in the Waldron Cemetery. A perusal of the rosters of the 18th MI Reg't will turn up a number of familiar last names for those whose roots go back that corner of Hillsdale Co., MI.

A memorial to the men from Michigan who died on the Sultana was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2001. The memorial is located on the Northeast corner of the County Courthouse square in Hillsdale, Michigan. I hope to have pictures of the memorial up loaded to this page in the near future.

Grave of Christian Abbaduska, MI 18th Inf, Co. F; Waldron Cemetery, Waldron, Michigan

Grave of Samuel Stubberfield, 18th MI Inf, Co. F; Waldron Cemetery, Waldron, Michigan

Grave of Nathaniel Foglesong, MI 18th Inf, Co. A; Waldron Cemetery, Waldron, Michigan


  1. I just came across this tonight, I wanted to say hello cousin. Wesley Lee is my Great Grandfather . My Grandfather is Melvin Alton Lee born 1886 and was from Wesley 2nd marriage. We still own a ranch between Seadrift and Port O'Connor TX that Wesley Lee and my Grandfather started near the turn of last century. My mother is Daisy Lee and the youngest of Melvin's 11 children. Thanks for the post.

    Leslie Dell Arnold

  2. My name is John Fogleman and live at Marion, Arkansas, a few miles from where the Sultana came to rest. My great great grandfather helped rescue Nathaniel Foglesong and others from the Sultana.