Pook Turtles was a nickname given to the seven City Class (also called Cairo Class) gunboats designed by Samuel M. Pook for the Union Army during the American Civil War. They got their nickname because of their appearance and speed (or lack thereof). These riverboats were named the USS St. Louis, USS Carondelet, USS Cincinnati, USS Louisville, USS Mound City, USS Cairo, and the USS Pittsburgh. The first was commissioned in October of 1861 and the last in January of 1862.

These iron-clad paddlewheelers were 175-feet long, 51-feet wide and weighed 512 tons -- nearly a quarter of this weight was in the 2.5 - inch thick armor plating. They had a draft of just 6-feet and their 22-foot tall, 15-foot wide paddlewheel was encased to protect it from enemy fire. They were coal-fired steamboats both slow and awkward to maneuver, but effective.

They patrolled the Mississippi River - each with 13 cannon and a crew of nearly two-hundred. They played a significant role in the capture of Fort Henry, Fort Donaldson, Fort Pillow and the cities of Memphis, Tennessee and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Preceding the Siege of Vicksburg, the USS Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo River by Confederate torpedos. The next summer the USS St. Louis met the same fate -- but after she had been renamed the USS Baron De Kalb.

The Carondelet, Mound City, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati were all decommissioned in 1865 at the end of the war and subsequently sold. The only remaining "Turtle" is the Cairo. She was found and salvaged in the 1950's and 60's. Today she stands restored at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Sources:
Naval Historical Center -- http://www.history.navy.mil/
National Park Service -- http://www.nps.gov/

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