U. S. S. Cairo at Vicksburg National Military Park

1950lemans

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The Cairo's exposure to the gulf elements at Pascagoula did more damage than the original mine.
Absolutely! The Cairo was like King Tut's tomb for the CW navy. In a frozen moment in time it captured what life was like for sailors on the Miss. and on one of the river ironclads.
The ship's stove, made in the North with the model name "Southern Belle", was crushed during salvage and allowed to rust in Pascagoula.
Some of the more interesting stuff found that didn't disintegrate with time:
  • bottles containing ground pepper
  • a bar of soap
  • a block of tobacco
  • can of blue paint with chunks of paint in it that did not fade
  • sponges, candles and parts of two Bible covers.
  • sutures which began to disintegrate immediately and had to be put back in water until they were preserved in clear crystal blocks.
it's a good thing underwater archeology has come a long way since the 50s!

Trivia question: what are the other two ironclads that were preserved from the CW?
 

James N.

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pilothouse.jpg


Mark makes a good point about the wood backing being an important element of the protection system. If it stopped a projectile, it would be as much due to the strength and flexibility of the wood as the iron facing.

To be fair, the budget they could scrape together for the raising and restoration probably wouldn't keep the power on in the museum today...

The Cairo's exposure to the gulf elements at Pascagoula did more damage than the original mine.

Unfortunately culpability and stupidity played a large part in "helping" destroy much of Cairo. This 1965 photo shows my first visit to the "ship": it was taken by my fiance down by Vicksburg's waterfront levee that fronts the old Mississippi River channel, now the Yazoo River Diversion Canal. We were visiting Vicksburg NMP and had gone to see the retired sternwheel towboat Sprague ( which has long since burned ) that uased to be moored there as an attraction. I noticed this derelict THING sitting forlornly in one end of the parking lot; any guesses as to what it IS?

I had seen a couple of poor photos taken prior to the raising of Cairo; to "whip up" interest and enthusiasm ( and no doubt some BUCK$! ), several items were dredged up from the wreck and put on display - one of the 42-pounders and its carriage was in the old pre-Mission 66 NPS Visitor Center. Another photo showed THIS, and I recognized it: this is the pilot house! One of its sides had been wrenched off and can barely be seen behind, resting against the levee wall; inside it was the remains of a campfire, littered with wine and beer bottles. At the time, it was virtually COMPLETE, backed by all its wooden structure, studded with huge square nails holding it together. A coat of light gray "rust proof" ( yeah, right ) paint had been slathered over the iron plates.

If you'll notice, today only the iron plates remain, suspended above the casemate - all the rest was allowed to disintegrate or wind up as souvenirs. ( I have a chunk of the wood and one of the nails! ) Soon after Cairo was put on display in the park, I looked down the service road behind the museum and saw KEGS of those square nails of various sizes!
 
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Growing up in the 50's, we used to dive off that pilot house when the Yazoo River was a little low and it stuck out of the water. It was a well known civil war boat to the locals and many visited the banks when it was exposed by low water. They tried to raise it with cables and a crane and broke it into three pieces when they first tried to raise it. Many artifacts spilled out when it broke. Recovering artifacts off the bottom after it was finally removed, exposed a complete skeleton of a mastodon that the Cairo had come to rest upon. The tusks were a great perfect huge pair. After the recovery, I visited the site and recovered a single grape shot. I still have it.
 
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Unfortunately damage is still being done.

This is an article from 10 years ago:
http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=2330


They have been taking steps to slow down the deterioration but eventually all the wooden parts of the ship will be gone. They have already removed the original gun carriages because they had degraded to the point they could no longer support the weight of the guns.

It really needs to be inside a climate controlled environment but I doubt if the NPS will ever spend the money for that.
I couldn't open the article, so I don't know if they mentioned the new canopy that was installed a few years back. But even with the new canopy, I've always thought the vessel should be in a climate controlled environment. But you're right, due to funding issues that will not happen anytime soon.
 

James N.

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Absolutely! The Cairo was like King Tut's tomb for the CW navy. In a frozen moment in time it captured what life was like for sailors on the Miss. and on one of the river ironclads.
The ship's stove, made in the North with the model name "Southern Belle", was crushed during salvage and allowed to rust in Pascagoula.

The Southern Belle "lives" on in another place I visited a few years ago, the old Cavalry Barracks Museum at Fort Sill, Okla. One of the 1870's barracks has been restored and fully furnished as if all the troopers of the company had just "stepped out" leaving all their gear and the furnishings of the barracks. Behind it is the mess hall and kitchen for one company, including a replica of the stove! ( And that's how the guide described it - a replica of the one on the Cairo. )
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I don't see it...


The one from the Cairo looked like this (poor image, but still)...

Expired Image Removed

or am I misunderstanding?
 
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1950lemans

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The one from the Cairo is the one pictured above, and that's the one I was thinking of. It was a cooking stove. There were some unique features of the stove - like how bread was baked (but I'm not positive about that). To modern historians that's why the stove is important because of how food was prepared.
 

James N.

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I don't see it...


The one from the Cairo looked like this (poor image, but still)...

Expired Image Removed

or am I misunderstanding?

YES, you don't! Sorry - I didn't make it clear; the stove is appropriately in the company kitchen, which I didn't at the time think to photograph. This is the barracks itself - the mess hall and kitchen are through the door at the rear. But it looks substantialy like an unsquashed version of the photo, including the Southern Belle name cast into it!
 

James N.

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My recent visit to Vicksburg allowed me - armed with a much better digital camera! - to photograph items recovered from the wreck and now displayed inside the USS Cairo Museum there:

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Above, Cairo's buoy at top right next to a broken-off anchor fluke and some manacles or irons from the ship's brig; below, items from the galley like stoneware crocks, glass bottles, and cooking utensils.

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Weaponry included shells, fuses, and gunnery implements above; and small arms like swords, pistols and revolvers, and muskets for the ship's contingent of Marines below.

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Cairo's own deck gun was found to be missing when she was raised, so this one from a sister gunboat, mounted on its original wooden carriage, has been displayed in its place above.

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Personal effects of crew members included items like the ones above: belt buckles, scissors, pocket knives, straps and belts, and even a cap talley and sailor's knotted tie or scarf at right. Below, one of the original unrestored gun carriages found on the gun deck. (The broken barrel or tube is a fiberglass replica.)

DSC05984.JPG
 
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Thanks for the interesting & informative post James N. :smile:

I love ironclads, i have just this (and the CSS Arkansas) as 3D models for a game. I made them enter-able, since it's a fps game. I'm still quite uncertain how the interior of CSS Arkansas looks. Maybe there's something on this forum tho, i just joined today. So great to see there's a whole section with Siege of Vicksburg!
 
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