One of the Civil War Ironclads: U.S.S. Cairo

Ironsides and ironclads… are common vernacular from the American Civil War. Ironclads refer to the steam-powered metal armoured ships that roamed the Mississippi Delta during the war.

They defied logic (much like airplanes)… and stayed afloat even though they were heavily plated with defensive steel. It took a ton of coal each hour to keep the paddlewheels moving so they had to be continually fed coal even when moored.

There are only four surviving Civil War-era ironclads in existence: the USS Monitor, CSS Neuse, USS Cairo, and CSS Jackson and not one of these lasted long on the river… most sunk within a year of commission. The Cairo is no exception: it was commissioned on January 16, 1862, and torpedoed on December 12, 1862.

No one died but the sinking was so sudden and rapid that no one had time to retrieve any belongings. Very quickly the boat was covered in river mud and forgotten in a well preserved underwater museum. So, when it was raised on December 12, 1964, it was a treasure trove of preserved Civil War artifacts.

The U.S.S. Cairo is currently a part of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Speaking of ships… thanks to the recent East Coast bomb cyclone, an illegal slave ship from 1860 was found in Mobile, Alabama in abnormally low water levels.

In the summer of 1860, half a century after the United States banned the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Capt. William Foster sneaked 110 African slaves into Mobile, Ala. — and knew that the floating evidence of the illegal deed could get him killed.

The Clotilda was burned and sunk to hide the crime. State and federal officials are currently investigating the wreck.

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