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 Nikolaus Bender

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Nikolaus Bender

Birth
Gernsheim, Landkreis Groß-Gerau, Hessen, Germany
Death 27 Apr 1865 (aged 22)
Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas, USA
Burial Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 174334882 View Source
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As was his older brother Georg (George), Nick is listed as barber on the 1860 census. Joined Union Army as a corporal in Company B, 4th KY Calvary on 5/26/1863 in Louisville for a three year term, captured 4/5/1865 Centreville, AL. The unit was recruited from Jefferson, Bullitt and Spencer counties in KY.

Corporal Bender was killed in the explosion of the steamer Sultana which was returning Federal POWs to their homes along the Mississippi and Ohio River cities. The Sultana had a legal capacity of 376, but was overloaded with an estimated 2400+ passengers and crew. No more than 100 were paid guests, with the rest being recently released soldiers. Of these, between 1700-1800 were killed when one of the Sultana's boilers exploded on the Mississippi above Memphis. This explosion caused the remaining two boilers to explode, engulfing the wooden vessel in flames.

This tragedy is the largest maritime disaster in US history. On April 25, 1865, after loading passengers and cargo and making repairs to its boilers, the Sultana left Vicksburg and headed for scheduled stops in Memphis, TN, Cairo, IL, Evansville, IN, Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH. Shortly after taking on fresh reserves of coal and water near Helena, Arkansas, nine miles north of Memphis, the steamboat Sultana's three boilers exploded, either by sabotage, as some have claimed, or accident. Ohio lost 791 men, the most of any state. Tennessee lost 514, Indiana 459, Michigan 310 and Kentucky 194. Small numbers of men were lost from Virginia, Illinois, Iowa and Pennsylvania. The event is largely forgotten in US History. The country had suffered incredible loss of life in battles that ravaged the land for four years, and news at the time focused on the end of the war, the assassination of Pres. Lincoln and killing of John Wilkes Booth.

Nick's mother Elisabeth applied for his pension benefits on 8/9/1869. Records indicate that his body was recovered and originally buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. The victims were later moved to the Mississippi River Cemetery now known as the Memphis National Cemetery. During this transfer, the coffins had the names of the soldiers written on them in chalk as they were removed from Elmwood. While the coffins were waiting to be re interned a rain storm came up and unfortunately the names washed off during the storm so now the Sultana victims all lie in graves marked unknown.


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