Death On The Dark River

Most terrible steamboat disaster in history, probably, was the loss of the Sultana in 1865. Some 1,700 returning Union veterans died—yet the tragedy got very few headlines.

Late in April of 1865, the Mississippi stood at flood stage. Four years of war had ruined many levees and dikes, and in the lower reaches of the river the foaming water was over the banks for miles. But in the towns and cities of the lower valley the high water was only an incident, and the dominant feeling was one of relief. For the Civil War at last was ended.

 
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The Passion Of Hernando De Soto

In Florida the great conquistador hoped to find a Golconda. Instead, he found a Golgotha.
An American Heritage Book Selection

Before the days of the explorers, the Mississippi was an Indian river. Spreading in a vast belt from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico was a multitude of tribes—Fox, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Iowa, Illinois, Winnebago, Miami, Masouten, Chickasaw, Oto, Quapaw, and others. These Indians were in a constant state of turmoil, fighting one another and moving up and clown the river. Even the Sioux, now associated with the Great Plains, were once a river tribe and paddled fleets of war canoes on the upper Mississippi.Read more »

Heyday Of The Floating Palace

Nicholas Roosevelt’s fire canoe transformed the Mississippi.

More than 270 years had slipped by since Hernando de Soto first stumbled onto the Mississippi, and in all that time the river had been host to an increasing variety of boats. For longer than anyone could reckon, the sleek canoes of the Indian had been there, but slowly and almost imperceptibly they began to be outnumbered by the arks, keelboats, and flatboats of the white man, laden with furs and less romantic cargoes, making the lazy trip down river.