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

1stMS-Arty

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Jun 9, 2013
When did this change take place?. And was the exhibit open to the public when the new "roof" was being installed? All through the 90's the boat was under a metal roof. Surely the canvas awning can't be too permanent​
The change took place during 2001....The exhibit was closed to the public during dismantling of the old metal roof and construction of the new canvas cover......during this period a temporary cover was erected over the ship.

The old metal structure was dismantled because of nesting birds and their droppings.....IIRC
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Polloco

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Oh, yeah I forgot about the birds.Destructive little devil's aren't they? I really did enjoy that exhibit. And I would like to see it again someday.
 

James N.

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I can't imagine the NPS giving up anything so I would imagine they still are.
I can - after all they gave the city the southern 1/3 of the park, mainly South Confederate Drive for access to the Interstate when it was being built! But as for Cairo, the NPS still owns it and its securely within the current boundaries of the park.
 

James N.

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more salvage operations....
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Sad to say, the period photo of the gun and carriage is the same carriage now on display inside the museum. It was displayed in the old NPS Park headquarters and museum as early as 1966 when I first saw it. It missed getting treated as early as the others because it was being displayed and shrank noticeably over the years:

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JimW

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My wife and I were there in September; and fortunate enough to chat with a Park Ranger as he was leaving the closed museum.

He let us in the fenced area to take photo; but in speaking with him it wasn't very good sounding news. The Museum is looking at very hard financial times and may close; and it's collection sold off. I hope that does not happen, but we shall see in time I suppose.

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James N.

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My wife and I were there in September; and fortunate enough to chat with a Park Ranger as he was leaving the closed museum.

He let us in the fenced area to take photo; but in speaking with him it wasn't very good sounding news. The Museum is looking at very hard financial times and may close; and it's collection sold off. I hope that does not happen, but we shall see in time I suppose.
Since it now belongs to the NPS and they wanted it so badly in the first place - the collection, not the hulk of the boat - it's hard to believe it would be dispersed and disposed of. However, I can easily imagine the museum being closed until times are better!
 
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December 12, 1862, naval history was made when the Union ironclad U.S.S. Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo River by an electrically-detonated underwater mine, then known as a "torpedo". Cairo ( pronounced "Kay-row", like the syrup and named for the Illinois town of the same name - and pronounciation - at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers ) was one of the so-called "Pook Turtles" designed by engineer Samuel Pook and built by James Eads. A revolutionary design, the "turtles" were armored on the front only, the direction from which enemy fire was assumed to come. Their conventional wooden sides and hull made them vulnerable to "infernal machines" like the Confederate torpedo, a huge glass whisky demijohn ( jug ) filled with black powder and suspended just below the water's surface with a copper wire running into it from the shore by which it was detonated by a human operator using a galvanized battery.

Cairo lay largely forgotten for the next 98 years until a group led by Vicksburg NMP Chief Historian Ed Bearss discovered the hulk resting on the bottom of the Yazoo north of Vicksburg. The Union navy had removed her funnels and flagstaff to discourage her salvaging by the Confederates, apparantly then forgetting about her. When raised, the vessel and her contents, including the complete component of cannon and shot, served as a virtual "time capsule" of life and service in the Civil War-era U.S. Navy. Sadly, the old vessel, retained as the property of the city of Vicksburg, was allowed over the next decade to steadily decompose in the inhospitable Gulf climate at Pascagoula, Miss., where she was supposed to be restored. Unfortunately, the city was never able to realize its grandiose dream, relinquishing the hulk to the NPS who salvaged as much as possible for display inside Vicksburg NMP.

Cairo now rests outside the National Cemetery and beside a specially-built museum which houses the hundreds of artifacts that were discovered in the muck and silt which filled the vessel when she was raised. The NPS always valued the contents more than the ship, but has done as good a job as possible in stabilizing the wooden remains, probably about half of which survive. The accompanying photos date from a visit in 2007, though I was also there earlier this summer and can say she looks about the same. In the starboard view, note the railroad rails used as "armor" on the casemate sides. The octagonal iron-plated structure with sloping sides atop the casemate is the pilot house. The smokestacks or funnels, removed by the Federals at the time of her sinking, have been suggested in modern wood in a method known as "ghosting". Note also the large tent-like canvas cover that somewhat protects the ship from the elements.

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The stern views show what's left of the paddle wheel, only its twisted iron frame; note also the open space to allow it to operate. Two cannon are mounted on either side to allow some protection rearward. The guns and their carriages are all original.
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These two views of the starboard side show the flat iron plates ( the rails were bent and used on the forward curve of the hull only ) and articulated shutters on the gunports. Various now-lost superstructure elements have also been "ghosted" for a better idea of Cairo's wartime appearance.
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The Cairo was “lost” until discovered by Mr. Bearss in the same sense that the West Indies were lost before Columbus discored them. A local physician, Dr. Walter Johnson, knew full well where the ship lay because it was just a few feet from the east shore of the Yazoo, atop shose bank Dr. Johnson owned a farm. Dr. Johnson’s home in Vicksburg was at the fork shere Cherry Street goes left down into Marcus Bottom and straight, into Short Cherry, which parallels Drummond St.; the house filled a pie slice-shaped block. Dr. Johnson knew where the Cairo was long before the attempts to raise it intact because the super structure was visible whenever the Yazoo fell on a low Mississippi gauge at Vicksvurg. I think it was he who told NPS where the ship sank. Exploratory fivers confirmed it.Dr. Johnson’s sons went to Carr Junior High School and H.V. Cooper High School with me in the 1950s and 60s. Once it became common knowledge that some entrepreneurs were going to try to raise it, divers quickly realized that there was a vast amount of cannon ammunition aboard. The Navy sent in an OOD team to handle that issue. They would remove the live shells down river to a pit dug on the west shore and set them off with small modern explosives. The reports of these explosions made quite an impression on local livestock and it wasn’t long before all after school visitor traffic onto the Johnson farm was interdicted. But before that occured, it was a common after school junket for a carload of us boys to ride up there on the chance that we’d be present when the hull fully reappeared between the salvage barges. No such luck. What finally appeared was a mass of tangled timbers and random iron bearing little resemblance to a ship. The whole of it was relocated to Ingalls Shipbuilding at Pascagoula-Moss Point, and set under continuous sprinklers dispensing water and/or ethylene glycol. I remember Mr Bearss well, especially his distinctive high pitched unusual voice. He spoke to our Boy Scout troop on a couple of occasions and was frequently to be seen answering tourists’ questions at the original white frame visitors center and museum that was located north of the Jewish Cemetary on East Clay Street. Once the modern Cairo museum opened I was several years delayed in visiting the site. Once I did I was transfixed by the ship itself but amazed by the artfacts including an enlisted man’s low quarter lace boot not unlike the still shoes worn at sea by enlisted ranks in the 1960s-70s, a bottle of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce in a bottle indistinguishable from those in my ship’s wardroom in 1968, and Babcock $ Wilcox boilers, a brand still used in the Navy’s pre-nuclear ships when I was serving. The Navy had not changer much in that one hundred years.
 
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