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USS Cairo was a 512-ton "City" class ironclad gunboat built at Mound City, Illinois.  She was commissioned in January 1862 as part of the U.S. Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla. In April and May 1862, USS Cairo participated in the campaign to capture Fort Pillow and fire her guns during the May 10th naval action there.  She also battled with Confederate warships during the action off Memphis, Tennessee, on 6 June 1862.  Cairo continued her operations on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

On 12 December 1862, while engaged in mine clearance activities on the Yazoo River, Mississippi, Cairo was struck by a Confederate mine.  She was rocked by two explosions in quick succession which tore gaping holes in her hull and sunk to 36 feet of water in twelve minutes.  Cairo thus became the first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo. 

Over the years the gunboat Cairo was slowly covered by silt and sand. Recovering her was not easy. Edwin C. Bearss, Historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, and two companions--on Jacks and Warren Grabau--used a pocket compass and iron bars to probe the ship. Against a hostile environment that had heavy accumulation of silt, swift current of the ever-muddy river, in 1956, they found the Cairo.  However, not until 1959 that they could bring up an armored gun port to confirm the find.  A year later, the pilothouse and an 8-inch smoothbore cannon with its white oak carriage brought to the surface proved to be very well preserved by the mud.

Hopes of lifting the whole ironclad were crushed in 1964 when the three inch cables being used to lift the Cairo terribly damaged its wooden hull.  Then the ship had to be cut in three sections to be lifted up.  In the summer of 1965, three parts of the Cairo were transported by barges to Ingalls Shipyard.  There the armor was removed, cleaned and stored. The two engines were taken apart, cleaned and reassembled.  Sections of the hull were braced internally and water was sprayed continually to keep the structural timbers from warping.

In 1972, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation authorizing the restoration of the Cairo for display in Vicksburg National Military Park.  In June of 1977, the vessel was transported to the park and partially reconstructed on a concrete foundation near the Vicksburg National Cemetery.  The recovery of artifacts from the Cairo revealed a treasure trove of weapons, naval and personal gears at the time of the Civil War. 


This USS Cairo model features:

  • Scratch-built from official plans

  • Superior hollow hull construction (very important)

  • All parts are wooden or metal

   24" (61 cm) long x 10" tall x 8" wide    $1,700   S&H is $90  

For display case, please click here: Model Ship Display Case

And please click on the blue wording to check out our beautiful CSS Virginia model and USS Monitor model, and USS Tecumseh model

"I received them yesterday [4/8/2014] and they were magnificent.  Thank you.  I look forward to the next two ships [Kearsarge and Monitor]. Regards, Hans."

One of our USS Cairo models is permanently displayed at the  
Kenosha Public Museum.