Tribute to the lone unknown Union soldier still buried at Cahaba,
site of a federal prison during the War Between the States, was paid
Thursday by the April 1865 Society as part of the
150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma.
While a wreath was laid at the soldier's grave, the ceremony
at Cahaba Federal Prison also memorialized the 150 Union soldiers
who lost their lives there and those who died shortly after the war
on their way back home while aboard the steamship Sultana.
This country's worst maritime disaster occurred April 27, 1865,
on the Mississippi River near Memphis when boilers exploded,
killing 1600 of the 2600 men on the overcrowded ship.
Of those, 680 were former Cahaba prisoners.
While prison conditions were harsh, particularly with flooding and vermin,
Cahaba's fatality rate of less than 5 percent was attributed to good artesian
well water and the humanity of its Kentucky-born commandant.
The overall death rate for southern prisons was 15 percent
and for Union prisons, 12 percent. Historians estimate that
more than 8,000 Union soldiers may have been housed
in the unfinished cotton warehouse at Cahaba through the war years.
Sources: Memories of Prisoners of War (Interned at Cahaba Federal Prison)
compiled by John Lundquist, Cahaba Federal Prison, compiled by John Lundquist
and Cahaba Prison and The Sultana Disaster by William O. Bryant