The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

No. 2.--Report of Maj. Gen. Cadwallader C. Washburn, U. S. Army, commanding District of West Tennessee.

Memphis, Tenn., May 23, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of the testimony taken in regard to the destruction of the ill-fated steamer Sultana; also  the report of the commission appointed to investigate the matter. This commission had been organized by me before your order was received. It appears from the testimony and report, as you will observe, that the explosion was occasioned by the want of water in the boilers. It is also shown that the boilers were defective and known to be so, and that the vessel was detained thirty-three hours at Vicksburg for the purpose of repairing them, and that they were imperfectly repaired. The quartermaster's department at Vicksburg is censured in the report of the commission for not having remonstrated with greater earnestness against the placing of so many men on one boat when there were other boats present and anxious to take a portion of the soldiers on the same terms. I think this censure is not deserved. It is plain that Colonel Hatch, chief quartermaster of the department, and Captain Kerns, master of transportation, said all that was necessary for them to say, to have a portion of the troops placed upon the steamer Pauline Carroll, and that they interested themselves to such an extent as to draw upon themselves the accusation of receiving bribes from parties interested in the boat, of which there is no proof. The business was taken out of their hands of shipping these troops as it had been in previous instances by the assistant adjutant-general of the department, whose orders must be presumed to have been by order of the commanding general, and not to be resisted by the quartermaster. There appears to have been a general suspicion on both sides that bribery was being used. Each party was accusing the other, but there is no proof to sustain such accusations or suspicions. All the parties belonging to the boat who were in any wise responsible for the disaster lost their lives at the time of the explosion or have since died.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



 Hon. E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.

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