Sultana explosion: greed or sabotage?
While much about the Sultana disaster remains in dispute, it is a fact the steamboat was loaded beyond its limit.
Perhaps it was a case of greed on Captain James Cass Mason’s part. Since he was one of the boat’s owners, he stood to profit as the Sultana’s owners collected $5 for each soldier and $10 for every officer.
It may have been that Lt. Col. Reuben Hatch, the chief quartermaster at Vicksburg and the man responsible for assigning soldiers to steamboats, accepted bribes to place soldiers on the Sultana. Considering his checkered past, it would not be surprising if he had solicited bribes.
Of course, others involved with the loading process most likely would have been involved, as well.
What is clear is that at least 2,000 soldiers were on a boat designed to carry 376 passengers.