Meridian Star

December 4, 2012

Event commemorates Cairo sinking


Associated Press

VICKSBURG, Miss. —  

The Vicksburg National Military Park will let Mississippians get an up close and personal look at the USS Cairo Saturday during a special evening candlelight tour of the Civil War ironclad.
 
The event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the boat's sinking in the Yazoo River. Vicksburg National Military Park hours will be extended for the event.
 
"Park employees will be dressed in period military uniforms and costume to explain the history of the Cairo and what happened to it," Will Wilson, park guide and interpreter, tells the Vicksburg Post (http://bit.ly/XiCDCl).
 
The Cairo, one of seven heavily armed and armored gunboats built by Union forces during the Civil War, was engaged in the Campaign for Vicksburg.
 
Built in Mound City, Ill., the Cairo was involved in a scouting mission up the Yazoo River when it was sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo, or mine, about seven miles north of Vicksburg on Dec. 12, 1862.
 
"That was the first time in the United States that an electrically operated torpedo successfully sank a warship," Wilson said.
 
The Cairo was raised from the river bottom in 1964 by Operation Cairo, a group of private citizens. It was cut into three sections, hauled to Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula for repairs.
 
The vessel was transported to the VNMP in 1977 and partially restored. It is now on display at the park.
 
Tours will be held every 30 minutes from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The event is free, Wilson said, but reservations are required. Each tour is limited to 20 people.
 
"We'll have someone dressed up as a Union sailor, and another dressed up as a Union naval officer. A Vicksburg resident will dress up as George Yost, a boy who was on the Cairo, and we'll have a civilian from Vicksburg and a Confederate Navy sailor.
 
"They will give people different viewpoints about the boat and the sinking," Wilson said.