Civil War Sesquicentennial: Today in 1862

The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1862 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections, for writing this series.

Cruet from the USS Cairo. Accession Number: 1979.23.1ab (Museum Division Collection)
Cruet from the USS Cairo. Accession Number: 1979.23.1ab (Museum Division Collection)

In order to regain control of the Mississippi River and cut the Confederacy in two, the United States ordered the construction of seven ironclad gunboats, one of which was the U.S.S. Cairo, commissioned in January 1862. On December 12, 1862, a flotilla containing the Cairo came under attack on the Yazoo River seven miles north of Vicksburg while trying to clear the river of underwater mines. After being struck by two mines that ripped holes in the ship’s hull, the Cairo sank in just twelve minutes but, miraculously, no lives were lost. For more than one hundred years, the Cairo lay buried and forgotten under sand, silt, and water of the Yazoo River until it was salvaged and restored in the 1960s and 1970s. It has been on display at the Vicksburg National Military Park since 1977. Several artifacts, including the cruet (or small bottle for holding oil, vinegar, etc.) pictured here, were recovered from the wreckage of the Cairo.

Artifacts from the Museum Division collection that are not on exhibit are available for viewing by appointment. Please contact Nan Prince, Assistant Director of Collections, by email to schedule an appointment.


National Park Service, Vicksburg National Military Park, “U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum,”