Monday, December 12, 2005

Today in History: USS Cairo Sinks

USS Cairo
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
Today, in Civil War History (which is a large chunk of my home town of Vicksburg's legacy) the USS Cairo was sunk in an attempt to destroy Confederate batteries in Vicksburg, the key to the South's control of the Mississippi River.

From the website for the Vicksburg National Military Park (where the shell of the skeletal Cairo is now display): On the cold morning of December 12, 1862, [Cairo Skipper Thomas O.] Selfridge led a small flotilla up the Yazoo River, north of Vicksburg, to destroy Confederate batteries and clear the channel of torpedoes (underwater mines). As the Cairo reached a point seven miles north of Vicksburg the flotilla came under fire and Selfridge ordered the guns to ready. As the gunboat turned towards shore disaster struck. Cairo was rocked by two explosions in quick succession which tore gaping holes in the ship's hull. Within twelve minutes the ironclad sank into six (6) fathoms (36 feet) of water without any loss of life. Cairo became the first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo.

The loss of Vicksburg to the North effectively split the Confedaracy in two and ultimately led to the South's defeat. After a long siege, Vicksburg surrendered on July 4th, 1863, consequently shaming the city and thus making an Independence Day celebration in V'burg socially taboo for the next 100 years.

1 comment:

Tricia said...

There was a July 4 celebration in, I believe, 1949 because Eisenhower came to town. But then, in 1963, the city went all out and a festive summer holiday was had by almost all of the city's residents. There was a great parade, then the high school band played at the water front (my cousin was in the band), a big watermelon cutting, a trip to a real "ice house" where my grandfather bought a block of ice (which was cool, no pun intended!) and then that night there were wonderful fireworks over the city. A great memory. But then the city fathers, in their cheapskateness, didn't want to pony up the money for the fireworks so it was hit and miss for decades. Then the casinos came in and they got the fireworks going again. Now there is a big celebration at the water front with tons of fireworks and performances. Being July in Mississippi, however, sometimes I choose to stay in the air conditioned car. I can't take the heat like I could in 1963!!! OH, and it was a big deal when the Cairo was recovered from the canal. Most of the town was there, including me, sitting in a tree!!! And ironically, years later, I actually worked at the Cairo museum. Okay, this has become a major thesis!!! Have a good day!!