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The USS Cairo

The USS Cairo

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Published by Bob Andrepont
National Park Service brochure on the USS Cairo.
National Park Service brochure on the USS Cairo.

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on May 11, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/11/2013

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Vicksburg
National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the InteriorVicksburg National Military Park
The USS Cairo
 
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City Class Ironcladson the Mississippi
On a Saturday afternoon inOctober 1861, a large crowdgathered at the Carondelet MarineWays to observe the launching of the first ironclad built in theWestern Hemisphere. As thegunboat was gradually loweredinto the Mississippi River, oneobserver commented that theoperation went so smoothly,
“…that we found the boat floating  gracefully upon the water, and nobody hurt, and not even a lady frightened.”
The builder,
 James B. Eads
, hadwanted the ironclads named forUnion military leaders; however,
 Andrew H. Foote
, Commander of the Western Flotilla, decided thatthe gunboats would instead benamed for cities and towns alongthe Ohio and Upper MississippiRivers. Thus, the
CARONDELET,LOUISVILLE, PITTSBURG,
and
ST. LOUIS 
were built at Carondeleton the outskirts of St. Louis,Missouri, while the
CAIRO,CINCINNATI,
and
 MOUND CITY 
 were constructed on the banks of the Ohio River at Mound City,Illinois.Completed in January 1862, twomonths before the
 MONITOR
and
VIRGINIA
clashed at HamptonRoads, the seven impressivecreations were lined up along theriver at Cairo, Illinois. Under thecommand of Admiral
David DixonPorter
, the ironclads would play anintegral role in the WesternTheatre of operations during theAmerican Civil War.From their first strike at Ft. Henryon the Tennessee River in 1862, tothe Red River Expedition of 1864,the ironclads provided invaluableassistance to the Union campaignon the Western Waters. In manyinstances, the gunboats had the warwounds to prove it.At Ft. Donelson in February 1862,the
ST. LOUIS 
sustained 59 hitsfrom Confederate batteriesoverlooking the Cumberland River.In May of the same year, both the
CINCINNATI 
and
 MOUND CITY 
 were heavily damaged by theConfederate rams during action atFt. Pillow and were run aground toavoid sinking. Later, the
 MOUNDCITY 
suffered one of the heavierlosses for a naval vessel in the CivilWar, with 150 crew killed or injuredwhen a shell pierced and explodedher steam drum in June 1862.The
CAIRO
, under the commandof Lt. Commander
Thomas O.Selfridge, Jr
., sank in 12 minutes onDecember 12, 1862, after hitting twotorpedoes (mines) while in theprocess of trying to clear the YazooRiver of the "infernal machines" -fortunately, with no loss of life.The
CINCINNATI 
was sunk duringthe siege of Vicksburg in 1863 byConfederate batteries firing fromthe bluffs of Fort Hill, but laterraised and refitted by the UnionNavy.
Union gunboats under construction at Carondelet,Missouri. James B. Eads possessed the organizing skillto build the North a fleet of river ironclads.Andrew H. FooteDavid Dixon Porter Thomas O.Selfridge, Jr.James B. EadsBombardment and Capture of Island No. 10,April 7, 1862Porter's Fleet Running the Vicksburg Batteries,April 16, 1863Type of Torpedo that Sank the
USS Cairo
Sinking of the
USS Cairo
, December 12, 1862
 
 
USS Cairo
Pitman Arm
then exhausted to the stack. Whensteam was admitted through onevalve, it forced the piston to theother end of the cylinder where thesame action occurred. Exhaustvalves were employed forexpulsion of the spent steam.
USS Cairo
Paddlewheel
A one-cylinder auxiliary engine,also called "the doctor" because itcured the ills of the steam boat, wasused to drive two cold-waterpumps and two main force pumpsto supply the boiler with water,drawing it from the river. Thecylinder was made of cast iron witha diameter of 8 inches and a lengthto accommodate a 21-inch stroke.The cast iron piston, which was 5inches deep and fitted with metallicpacking rings, was attached to apiston rod which was 1.75 inches indiameter and 3 feet long.Steam ports were 0.5 inch by 2inches, and the exhaust port was 1inch by 2 inches. The steam chestwas 0.5-inch thick. The
CAIRO
 doctor was lost during the salvage,but was traditionally located aft of the boilers between the cylinders of the main engine. The cold-waterpumps sent water into the pre-heater where the water was heatedby exhaust steam from the mainengine. The main force pumps sentthe heated water into the aft muddrum and to the 5 high-pressureboilers. Maximum speed wasroughly 9 mph or 5.5 knots.After salvage, these engines werecleaned and painted with a rust-resistant primer. They are nowlocated aboard the
USS CAIRO
ondisplay at Vicksburg NationalMilitary Park, and have beendeclared a National HistoricMechanical Engineering Landmarkby the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Powering theIronclads
The seven city-class ironclads,designed by Samuel M. Pook andbuilt by James B. Eads, wereconstructed between August 1861and January 1862 at an average costof $101,808 each. They werenicknamed,
“Pook Turtles”
aftertheir designer and because of theirresemblance to mud turtles.The
U.S.S. CAIRO
is the onlysurviving example of a class of warships specifically designed foruse on the Mississippi River duringthe Civil War. The
CAIRO
'sengines and boilers are among theoldest and best-surviving examplesof typical engines designed forboats plying the western rivers.
USS Cairo
Boiler Placement
The reciprocating steam enginewas the universal primer mover inself-propelled craft during that era.These were simple, single-expansion, and either condensingor non-condensing. Thereciprocating engine has a pistonthat slides within a cylinder and isattached by means of a rod to apaddle wheel. The
CAIRO
wasequipped with a two-cylinder non-condensing, reciprocating, mainsteam engine.The cylinders, mounted at a 15
°
-angle were made of cast iron with a22-inch stroke. On one side of thecylinder, at each end, was a supplynozzle, with an opening of 9 inchesby 4 inches, with a flange 15 inchessquare by 1.25 inches thick, forreceiving steam. On the other sideof the cylinder were two similarnozzles for steam exhaust from thecylinder.The cast iron piston, with a 4-inchspace for packing, was attached toa wrought iron piston rod that was4 inches in diameter and 110 incheslong. The engine exhaust steamheated water in the pre-heater, and
 
Auxiliary Engine
The Doctor 
-
USS Cairo
BoilersRestored Boilers on the
USS Cairo
 

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