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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Answer Man

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Q: Where did the largest maritime disaster in United States History take place?

A: An educated guess would be about eighty five miles south of the old ferry landing at Cottonwood Point in the Bootheel.

The month was April of 1865. The two year old steamboat Sultana was a few miles north of Memphis on the Mississippi moving along under the weight of twenty- four hundred souls, mostly made up of survivors from the horrors of the Confederate prison for Union soldiers at Cahaba, Alabama, or the even worse Andersonville in Georgia.

It was a clear night and most of the injured or emaciated soldiers were sleeping on the deck breathing fresh air and dreaming of finally going home. Several of the passengers were already at death's door after fighting many Civil War battles and then living in the Confederate prisons where there was a constant lack of food and pure water. For months they had been witness to disease and death brought about by deprivation, exposure, and filth.

At 2 a.m. three of Sultana's four boilers exploded. Within twenty minutes the boat went down in flames. An estimated seventeen-hundred people were to die.

Days earlier the Sultana had landed at Vicksburg, Mississippi with the Captain and crew knowing that one of the boilers had a leak. Hasty repairs were being made. Eager to load the vessel, however, commissioned agents crowded twenty-four hundred soldiers and regular passengers on board a ship that had a desirable capacity of three-hundred seventy five. It was a doorway to death and disaster.

Many people were instantly killed when steaming water from the ruptured boilers fell down on them. Others suffering severe burns had to jump into a Mississippi already swollen by flood waters. Clinging to anything they could they washed downstream hoping for rescue from boats coming out of Memphis.

It is to the credit of Memphis that the citizens there took many former enemies into their homes for medical care and provision.

Relative to our history it is actually no mystery why so many people could die and for the most part forgotten. General Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, and the Civil War for all intents and purposes was over.

There was jubilation everywhere until the nation was brought to their knees by the assassination of Abe Lincoln. The search was on for John Wilkes Booth. All of this put the tragedy of the Sultana on the back pages.

Some of the remains of the Sultana were found many years later in an Arkansas field.

Q: Is this this the last year for the Cardinal's Tony LaRussa.

A: Many people hope so, but sometimes we get what we don't want.

Although LaRussa is in the top four or five all-time winning managers his winning percentage of games is only .535. Not enough many would say. But there again he is among an elite group because most of the winning percentages for top managers is above .500 but not .600.

It might be a surprise that Miller Huggins who managed the "Murder's Row" of Ruth and Gerig never made it to a .600 percentage. His percentage win was .555.

It is extremely difficult to win baseball games at above 60 percent as proven by the fact that only three managers in the history of the game have done it.

Charles Cominsky in 1,114 games won at a .608 percentage, and Jim Mutrie in 1,410 games at .611. Joe McCarthy of the New York Yankees is the all-time winner in 3,477 games at a .615 clip.

Baseball is not football. Can you imagine the fans of one of the Top Dog college teams being satisfied with winning only 60% of their games? Former coaches would be thumbing rides and begging door-to-door.

The Answer Man will appear on occasion in the Daily Dunklin Democrat, and will provide answers to various and sundry questions about local people, etc.

Readers are invited to submit their queries to

The Answer Man by e-mailing them to bhunt@dddnews.com.

The Answer man
The Answer Man