Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2008 Issue

Historic and Signed Documents from Stuart Lutz

Sultana

The grossly overloaded Sultana, on its way to disaster.


Item 50 is a 1936 baseball player's contract, signed by famed baseball man and National League President Ford Frick. The contract was between the Pittsburgh Pirates and John J. (Jack) Tissing of Denver. For a salary of $400 per month, Tissing was to participate in all training sessions, exhibition games, regular season games, and the World Series. Wishful thinking! The Pirates finished in fourth place that year and did not make it to the Series again until 1960. Tissing was long gone by then. In fact, he wouldn't have made it to the World Series in '36 even if the Pirates had won the pennant. Tissing was cut or otherwise departed the team on May 30, after just two months. It was his only year in the majors. Tissing was a pitcher, and he finished his season and career with a 1-3 record, along with 3 hits in 11 at bats. He returned to Colorado where he died in 1963. $200.

Item 54 is a letter from General, later President, Ulysses Grant concerning a shady figure in America's worst maritime disaster ever. On July 31, 1864, Grant wrote Quarter Master General Montgomery Miegs concerning the interest of Reuben Hatch to be appointed Chief Quarter Master at New Orleans, or if not, some other post. Hatch was already a dubious character, having been tried for accepting bribes, but exonerated with the help of powerful friends, notably a brother who was a public official from Illinois with connections to Lincoln. Perhaps Grant was torn, deciding how to recommend yet not recommend Hatch, for he says, "I would in no instance recommend a chief for any staff Dept. to a Dept. Commander desiring always to be in a condition to hold commanders responsible for short comings within their commands. If however you can assign Col. Hatch to the second choice here leaving the Dept Commander to say who shall have the first, I will be pleased." So Grant attempted to get him a job, though not the top one, and yet by the following year, Hatch was Chief Quarter Master for the Mississippi. It was in this position that he approved the placement of some 2,300 people, mainly returning prisoners of war from the South, aboard the steamship Sultana. The ship was to take the Union soldiers home. Its operators were to receive $5 per soldier and $10 per officer to return them north. The Sultana had an improperly repaired leaky boiler, but the Captain would not replace it as it would take too long and he might lose his passengers. So, 2,300 people were placed on board the Sultana, designed to hold 376, and upriver, the boiler exploded and some 1,700 lost their lives. Hatch was never convicted of anything, but he was found with a wad of federal money he was forced to return. The suspicion is that money represented a bribe from the Sultana's Captain to place all of the soldiers on his ship, rather than divide them among several ships available. $4,500.

Stuart Lutz Historic Documents may be reached at 800-428-9362 or HistoryDocs@aol.com. Their website is www.HistoryDocs.com.

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