We remember the Alamo and read about Gettysburg. And who doesn’t know about the Titanic, or has seen the movie?
But do you remember the Sultana? Probably not.
I heard the story of the Sultana steamboat while cruising the Mississippi River at Memphis.
April 27, 1865, the Sultana exploded a few miles up river from Memphis. A boat that was designed to hold 376 passengers, was loaded with 2,155. The majority of passengers were Union soldiers. Recently released prisoners of war, they’d been waiting at a parole camp in Vicksburg for a way home.
1,192 died either in the explosion, of hypothermia or drowning.
President Lincoln had been assassinated the day before, so news of the Sultana didn’t make it very far. Horrific loss of life. All for a few bucks.
No one will ever know the story each soldier carried within themselves.
We traveled alongside and over many rivers this summer.
The Pecos, the San Antonio, and the Cumberland Rivers. The Green and the White Rivers. And many more.
It occurred to me too late to photograph them. Honestly… we parked at the KOA campground in San Antonio for two days and never once did I think to take a picture of the lazy river alongside us.
We crossed the Mississippi River several times, in several states, going east and going west. Big river.
A few days before we cruised the Mississippi at Memphis, we boarded the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans. There was a narrator sharing history of the river, but I was too distracted to listen. In fact, I was downright uncomfortable to be cruising on a river that is higher than the buildings on land.
The day was grey and my pictures poor quality… but that city is below the river! It felt like I was bobbing on a giant Weeble, and we might roll off the edge of the riverbank into someone’s house.
My imagination runs overboard sometimes.
My favorite river experience was at the Cape Fear in North Carolina. Probably because that story included family we hadn’t seen in over a year and the best lunch ever at Howard’s Barbecue… right there on the river.
Hush puppies, pulled pork and sweet tea. That’s all you need to know.
The rivers have stories because the people have stories. And I guess that is what captivated me so about our trip…
…other people’s’ stories… the rest of the story… my own story.
These last couple weeks I’ve been working on quilts. My mom unearthed some quilt tops her mother-in-law gave her a bazillion years ago. Or maybe it was more like 70. That’s still a long time.
I’m also repairing an old quilt my husband has had since he was a kid.
I’d love to know more about these women, what their lives were like and what they believed. They didn’t leave much behind and few stories were passed along. Now they’re gone.
And even though I knew my father well, I have so many questions. I’d like the answers to a few more whys and hows. I know he’d tell me, but he’s gone.
The years roll by like the rivers. People come and go. Good things happen. Bad things happen. And most of it gets stuffed away and forgotten.
What if we viewed each day of life, no matter how mundane, as a growing legacy? Something for future generations to learn from. That life may not look or sound exciting today, but it just might hold the key to wisdom or inspiration for someone else down the line.
What if we found ways to tell our story… before it’s too late.
The river’s rollin’…