The USS Cairo was a Union warship in the American Civil War. The Cairo has the distinction of being the first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo, though torpedos of that era we might consider as mines today.

Commissioned in January 1862, the Cairo was one of seven iron-clad City Class gunboats that patrolled western rivers during the war. She had thirteen guns -- the largest of which could fire a 32-pound cannonball half a mile. The City Class gunboats were steam-driven paddlewheelers that could reach a speed of 6 knots -- while consuming up to a ton of coal per hour.

The Cairo saw limited action throughtout the spring and summer of 1862 -- patrolling the Mississippi River and its tributaries. That fall she was taken out of service and overhauled. On December 12th, she took part in an operation on the Yazoo River in Mississippi prior to the Siege of Vicksburg. Here she struck two Confederate torpedos and quickly sank.

The Cairo was rediscovered in 1956. Over the next decade various pieces would be brought up from the wreckage. In 1964 the remainder of the ship was lifted from river. In 1972 the National Park Service was given the responsibility by Congress to restore and display the USS Cairo. Today it stands restored at Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.


The Civil War Album --
The National Park Service --