By Jeannette Holland Austin
The USS Cairo was one of the first American ironclad warships built for the Union Navy at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. The Cairo served as the lead ship of the Union gunboats and was named for Cairo, Illinois. After attempt of Confederate Captain Shepperd to sink her failed in June of June 1862, she went on to capture the Confederate garrison of Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River which caused Union forces to occupy Memphis. However, during the Yazoo Pass Expedition, she was sunk on December 12, 1862 while clearing mines for the attack on Haines Bluff. The Cairo was the first ship ever to be sunk by a mine remotely detonated by hand. The hulk of the Cairo can be viewed at Vicksburg National Military Park with a museum of its weapons and naval stores.
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