According to author, historian and member of the Sultana Association, Jerry Potter, there are several reasons why Tennessee, a state that seceded from the Union, still had a strong Union presence that led to many Tennessee soldiers to be on the Sultana.
Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union in June 1861.. The state voted overwhelming in February 1861 not to leave the Union, including the counties in west Tennessee mainly along the western side of the Tennessee River, from which the 7th Tennessee Cavalry was organized. When Lincoln asked Tennessee after Ft. Sumter for 75,000 soldiers, this led most of Tennessee to support the Confederacy. In addition, Union sentiment was extremely strong in Eastern Tennessee, particularly around Knoxville. As a result, many men from that area enlisted in the Union, forming the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry, and ended up on the Sultana. Because of this history, the Sultana Survivors Association was founded in Knoxville, met there for many years and was responsible for erecting the Sultana monument at Mt. Olive Baptist Chuch in the city.
The land along the Tennessee River is very hilly and is not suited for growing cotton., so there were not as many slaves in this area, leading the residents to be less pro-Confederate. Interestingly, some of the strong pro-Union men who fought for the Union were slaveowners. For them, preservation of the Union was the mainly factor that led to them in siding with the North.