Scenes from Vicksburg, Day 3 (part three)

part of a series

After a wicked cool firing demonstration provided exclusively for us by Vicksburg National Military Park, we took a trip to the northern tip of the park to visit the USS Cairo. The Cairo was a city-class brownwater ironclad that has the distinction of being the first ship ever sunk by an electronic mine—or, as NPS historian Ray Hamel described it, what today we’d really describe as an IED. Ray gave us a great tour and then as a special bonus let us check out the museum’s collection of ordinance recovered from the Cairo.

Cairo hole

The hole created by the explosion can be seen here in the center of the photo, below the ship’s waterline. Amazingly, no one was killed in the explosion even though two gun crews were working in close proximity.

Cairo Ray

Ray Hamel explains the history of the Cairo, which spent 102 years underwater before being recovered in the 1960s.

Cairo guns

Tons of armor plating on the side of the ship provided protection.

Cairo armor

The bow of the ship had extra armor called “railroad armor” because it was literally made of railroad rails. The full ship couldn’t get the extra armor because it would’ve made it too heavy.

Cairo interior

A walk around the interior of the ship provides a look at the mechanics of how the vessel operated.

Cairo paddlewheel

Standing underneath the skeletonal frame of the Cairo’s paddlewheel.

Cairo catamarant

The Cairo is actually a catamaran: the decks of the ship sit across two main flotation “pontoons.” Each had a rudder, one of which can be seen here. Connor Townsend stands beneath the paddlewheel, which churned water out between the two rudders.

Here’s a look at some of the ordinance recovered from the Cairo:

Cairo artillery 01

Cairo artillery 03

Cairo artillery 02

Click here to learn more about the Cairo.