Vicksburg National Military Park Quarter
This month, I'm happy to present the newest quarter in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program. It honors Vicksburg National Military Park. Vicksburg, Mississippi, was so crucial to the outcome of the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln said, "...Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket."
Vicksburg lies on the Mississippi River, which also played a major role in the war because of its use as a supply route for the entire Midwest. The river was so important, in fact, that a new class of warships was designed just for use on the Mississippi during the Civil War. Featured on the Vicksburg quarter is one of those ships: The USS Cairo (named after the city of Cairo, Illinois).
The Cairo is the only one of that class of warships that's still with us today. But we don't have it because it was carefully preserved since the war. In fact, the Cairo was sunk during the war!
The first ship in history sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo, the USS Cairo lay covered in sand and silt and water for 102 years at the bottom of the Yazoo River. In 1956, three men in a small boat with a compass scanned the river. When they passed over the ship's iron plating, the compass reacted, showing them where to dive. Vicksburg's citizens worked for several years to raise the gunboat and succeeded in 1964.
The ship had sunk in only 12 minutes. Although everyone on board escaped, they left all their belongings behind. Tools, weapons, ship's stores, and many personal items were found on board, perfectly preserved. What a treasure!
The ship was donated to the National Park Service in 1977. Seven years later, after being restored and mounted on a concrete foundation, the Cairo was opened to the public in Vicksburg National Military Park. Under the protection of a canvas canopy, this Civil War ironclad will remain a national historic treasure for years to come!
Find out more about this park on the Vicksburg National Military Park Quarter page.