December 12, 1862: Hardluck Ironclad: USS Cairo


A book I purchased, Hardluck Ironclad, by Edwin C. Bearss, a distinguished Civil War historian,  was written in 1966 and detailed the history of the Union gunboat Cairo that was sunk during the Civil War, and his ultimately successful efforts to begin to raise her from the Yazoo River.

The centennial observation of the Civil War began an effort across the nation to recover our Civil War past, and the recovery of portions of the Cairo is a prime example of the successes and limitations of that effort.

The Cairo was sunk on December 12, 1862 off Haines Bluff, Mississippi, after it struck a Confederate mine which was electrically detonated, a first in naval history.  The crew got off safely and the Cairo sank beneath the muddy waters of the Yazoo River.  Edwin C. Bearrs located the resting place of the Cairo in 1956.  In an effort spanning 19560-1964, with financial support from the State of Mississippi, the Cairo was raised in sections from the bottom of the Yazoo.  She revealeded a wealth of Civil War artifacts.  The Cairo sections were cleaned, and the engines were disassembled and reassembled.  In 1972 Congress passed legislation authorizing the National Park Service to accept title to the Cairo, and put her on display at the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Lack of funding delayed this until 1977.   The contents of the Cairo were put on display at a museum at the park, and the Cairo is on display under a fabric covering.  Exposed to the elements, the armor of the Cairo has been degrading and the Cairo has been damaged by vandals.  Raising the Cairo was a monumental achievement, but lack of funding has caused this achievement to be diminished.

Published in: on December 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 12, 1862: Hardluck Ironclad: USS Cairo  
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