|"I used to think that the Civil War was our country's greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were some redeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed on both sides."|
|- Sam Ervin|
Sultana and Monitor
Merrimac and Roanoke
The Sultana was a large side paddlewheel three-deck river steamboat with two tall smokestacks side-by-side, built in 1863 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was used to move goods between New Orleans and St. Louis after the federals secured Mississippi. Meant to carry only 376 people, she was packed with nearly 2,500 people, mostly freed Union prisoners of war, many from Andersonville, when her boilers exploded near Memphis on April 27, 1865. At least 1,547 died. No more lives were lost in any maritime disaster in the history of the United States before or since, including the Titanic in 1912.
*The government thought 1,238 people died, not including some 200 who died later in Memphis hospitals. The captain was to be paid by the number of men he transported. If the total passenger list was 2,300, the death atoll could have been as much as 1,700, 200 more that the Titanic.
The Merrimac began as a wooden U.S. steam frigate docked at Norfollk, Virginia when the war began. It was burned and sunk before Norfollk was abandoned by the U.S. government. Confederate naval officials raised it, rebuilt it as an ironclad, and renamed it the CSS Virginia. The iron-plated Virginia threatened to destroy the entire fleet of wooden Union ships until it was met by the Monitor on March 19, 1862 at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The Monitor was the just-completed Union version of an ironclad and resembled a tin can on a shingle. For several hours the two ships hammered away at each other. Neither could destroy the other, but the Virginia was effectively neutralized for the rest of the war.
The Roanoke was a 65-ton tugboat-gunboat, formerly the Raleigh which was re-named in the last days of the war. A tugboat converted into a small, iron-hulled propeller-driven towing steamer with one to four guns, operating in the coastal waters of North Carolina and Virginia and in the James River. Served as a tender to the CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimac) during the historic battle of ironclads at Hampton Roads. Destroyed by the confederates April 4, 1865 upon the evacuation of Richmond.