Scenic USA - Mississippi

USS Cairo Gunboat

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USS Cairo Gunboat - Vicksburg Military Park, Mississippi

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Realized early in the conflict, controlling the Mississippi River was a key objective of the North's overall Civil War strategy. USS Cairo Heavy Gun (32-pdr Navy smoothbore) - Vicksburg Military Park, Mississippi Ironclads were among the ideas to control the river and the Union included the U.S.S. Cairo in their flotilla. The city class, steam-powered gunboat was built in Mounds City, Illinois, and put into service in 1862. The Cairo was one of seven formidable ironclads named after cities along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Not entirely made of metal, the ironclad hull was built of white oak, covered in iron sheeting and fitted with 13 heavy cannons.
      On December 12, 1862, the Cairo came under attack as it headed toward Confederate batteries just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. When the Cairo turned broadside to fight, two quick underwater explosions hit the ironclad and the heavy, armor laden ship slipped out of sight into the Yazoo River. Although disputed by some, the Cairo was the first ship sunk with an electrically fired torpedo.
      Edwin C. Bearss, historian at Vicksburg USS Cairo Model - Vicksburg Military Park, Mississippi National Military Park, began a search along the river bottom for the missing Cairo. Some 90 years had passed before a positive identification was finally issued. In 1965, the Cairo was raised from the muddy Mississippi and necessary preservation quickly began at the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula. In June, 1977, the Cairo was returned to Vicksburg for public display. Today, the ship and museum filled with Cairo artifacts, is one of the key attractions at the Vicksburg Military Park, adjacent to the Vicksburg National Cemetery.

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