On the morning of December 12, 1862, the Union gunboat Cairo, nosing her way up the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, triggered two Confederate demijohn mines. Within minutes the 512-ton ironclad had sunk six fathoms to the muddy bottom with no loss of lifeâ€”the first armored war vessel ever downed by an electronically activated mine. A whole new era of naval warfare had begun.
In Hardluck Ironclad Edwin Bearss tells how he and two other Civil War historians discovered the Cairo almost a century laterâ€”still intact at the bottom of the Yazoo, her big guns loaded and ready to fire, much of the gear aboard just as it was that December morning when the crew abandoned herâ€”and how, almost miraculously, she was later salvaged and restored.
Edwin C. Bearss is a research historian with the National Park Service and winner of the Harry S. Truman Award and the Nevins-Freeman Award for significant contributions to Civil War scholarship.
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