Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vicksburg Mississippi, the 'Cairo'

Vicksburg Mississippi sits high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Vicksburg effectively controlled the river traffic from the Gulf of Mexico to Illinois during the US Civil War. The control was deemed totally important to isolate the Confederate South from all contact, by dividing it. Vicksburg was against the war, but reluctantly stayed affiliated with the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln was the most hated President ever, in US History because of the Civil War. A prominent Vicksburg Dr. Richard Pryor, offered a vast sum of money for his assasination. While on this latest tour of the southern USA, this battlefield of the civil war was a drive through, tour worthwhile.

All of the states involved in the battle/siege and brutal occupation of Vicksburg are represented by individual monuments throughout the National Park
  • A story of one attempt by a Commanders troops, to completely disassemble a cannon, manually haul all of the pieces up a big hill, reassemble it to fire upon the confederates entrenched nearby, only to fail to gain any ground, is told.

    Many famous names of Union Commanders are emblazoned on monuments as well as cemetery markers. Lower ranking Soldiers felled in the battle, are never named. No one ever recorded them. Talk about the 'Unknown Soldiers'. Confederates got little or nothing to indicate their deeds. Spoils of war I guess.

    As a school kid, I read about the historic Naval battle between the small maneuverable, Union Monitor, a relatively small Ironclad built in New York, with a pill box turret containing 2 cannons, the turret rotated to allow reload of one cannon while the other one fired, and The much larger Merrimack, (formerly The Virginia) a Confederate Ironclad sent to fight The Union Navy.

    This first ever, monumental battle between Naval Ironclads, brought the end to Wooden Sailing Warships forever. The great Wooden Ships ruled the seas for many hundreds of years. One small gunfight later, they were totally obsolete. I did not realize that the Union North had built seven Ironclads, All named after Northern Citys. All resembling the Merrimak of the Confederacy.

    Cairo (Kay-Ro) Illinois being the namesake for one Ironclad. We found the CAIRO Ironclad warship to be the most interesting display. The Museum is located near the exit end of the tour road at The Vicksburg National Battlefield. A huge, white, cable tensioned tent structure, covers the ship. Welcome aboard.

    This is a big boat, semi-restored, with it's big guns mounted. The CAIRO was the first ever, 'sinking by an electrically detonated device'. An IED (improvised explosive device) by today's descriptions. A five gallon glass jar filled with black powder and an electrical wire to shore. When the ship contacted the jar, the guys on shore applied an electrical charge. A big resulting explosion blew a hole in the port side below water line, sinking the ship in 12 minutes and in 36 feet of water.

    Covered by mud and silt, it lay there from 12 Dec 1862 until found in 1956 by a couple of determined historians with a compass (needle pointed towards the big Iron plates) and long iron rods to probe the mud. In 1977 the museum became a reality. read about the ship on;

    http://www.nps.gov/vick/u-s-s-cairo-gunboat.htm

    This is very worthwhile sightseeing. the number of artifacts collected is amazing.
    The loss of no lives during the sinking within twelve minutes, was noteworthy. They did indeed leave behind thousands of well preserved artifacts that are on display inside the museum.

    Vicksburg itself is a historical site as well. The massive levies to protect it from the Mississippi River floods, are a focal point at the dock area. Casinos are to be expected on Riverboats and such.

    A tornado destroyed a section of the old downtown area many years back, so a lot of the original buildings are a little shorter than historically constructed. Plenty of the old city remains though, to keep you touring the old neighborhoods. Music plays from the many flowerpots along the old mainstreet. It does take a while to get the meandering highways down in memory. It seems they still follow the old paths and roads around the hilly terrain.

    This Great Nation has a treasure trove of fantastic history and culture to see. The rest of the world is traveling to the USA for this fine sightseeing. I often wonder why so many of our own folks go abroad to get their vacation fix. Our own 'Coastal Dwellers' that are of the detached 'Elite' class refer to this part of our nation as 'The Flyover' They could not be more wrong.
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