tv The Civil War Recovering the USS Cairo CSPAN March 23, 2019 6:00pm-6:56pm EDT
i'm not a quitter, i'm not running for vice president. i said, i know you are not running for vice president, but more people become president by first becoming vice president. that was the only time there was any serious friction between us. announcer: watch the entire program on president george w. sunday atjames baker 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern on "the presidency," here on american history tv. in 1956, while working as a historian at vicksburg national military tok, and when bars set out recover and preserve the uss cairo, a warship sunk in 1962 during the civil war. rss details. bea the challenge of removing the ship from the yazoo river in mississippi. bearss is the author of
"hardluck ironclad." the talk was part of a daylong virginia. farmville, mr. bearss certainly does not need an introduction, but i will give a brief one. he is a legend in civil war historiography, battle preservation. joined theschool, he marines, served in world war ii and was seriously injured. after the war, he received a bs ma fromorgetown, an indiana university. he is best-known known for his work at the national park service. atwas parked historian vicksburg and became chief historian of the national park service until his retirement. he published many books, primarily relating to the
western theater of the war. he has a campaign history of vicksburg, which is viewed as a classic. in 2015, legislation was introduced to award him a congressional gold medal for his contributions. his talk today is recovering the uss cairo from the yazoo. bearss. bearss: thank you so much. always a pleasure being where we are today at longwood university, to talk about the grazing of the cairo. if you want to find out how to raise a vessel, you will not do it the way we do it. inn i arrived at vicksburg
1966, i injured on duty, and after i had been there for about a year, the superintendent said, ed,in and i want you to see if you can find the gunboat cairo. of seven ironclads built by the united states. i said yes, i would be interested. vessel was not under fire when it was sunk. knew the location of where she sank was roughly 20 miles north of vicksburg.
askingmediately started locals. to the bluff and i said, you know where the cairo is? it is right down below you. i wondered, have i been wasting my time? locals that is a raft that the confederates placed across the yazoo river to keep union gunboats from entering the yazoo river. they said, you are just a yankee historian. [laughter] me bearss: well, that pissed off, because that is a put down if you are in vicksburg. the begin doing research on
cairo. river,nto a man of the dr. walter johnson. thes too familiar with river because he is going to drown in the operation. you never think you know more about a major river. we did some research and came to the conclusion that cairo was justin the yazoo river below the bluff. is one of seven sister ships all named after cities on the ohio and mississippi river. by theompanied
information from dr. johnson, a man of the river and the day, ist on armistice ,efuse to call it veterans day in 1966, we got in a small boat and went up the yazoo river. here you see the map of the area. you see vicksburg. now as you look up the yazoo river, you will see the yazoo river at that time flow into the mississippi at the head of the point. you look up the river and you blanks plantation. we go up there and you think we have found the site of the cairo. .e run into two scuba divers
a television personality in mississippi and a united states marine, both scuba divers. and we have enthusiasm, but not much heavy equipment. this is in mid-september. we borrowed a world war ii puppy jackson fire department, which you can see out in the middle of the river. you can see this small boat. it took them longer to rediscover the cairo than it did for us to find it originally. we have a lot of enthusiasm. if you are wondering about how to raise gunboats, don't do what we do.
they located the cairo in a cocoon of mud in the bottom of the yazoo river. started telling this story about a year or so ago. because we needed heavy equipment. my next-door neighbor on one side was agnes anderson. ran the largest logging company in the state of mississippi. because they break were now ready to raise the cairo climate house --
pilothouse. agnes's boyfriend was part, and bart brings agnes home one night. andrew, if you touch the car isator car and the not in park or neutral, it goes ahead with considerable power. his car ran into the back of my car. [laughter] mr. bearss: and did quite a bit of damage. ?ho shows up at my house by the next morning, she says and i are thatrt way. she says, last night he brought me home and was giving me a good night kiss and stepped on the when the car is in gear, and wham!
she says it is not going to cost . cent to get your car fixed there will be no questions asked. all you do is go pick it up at 5:00. ever needys if you art, come tom b me, because living across the street on the other side of us is marie. she would be the town gossip. everyone in town with no -- agnesknow that bart and reporting. she says, if you ever need any help, see me. heart said, we are
the only part of the vessel not buried in the mud of the river. in fact, the mud of the river comes up to the level of the ports and the pilothouse. , and in up the river the afternoon the mayor of vicksburg, like all politicians, vicksburgppy to get named jason tenniel city for the civil war. he is -- named a centennial city for the civil war. bart, and get see him to come up the river with that heavy equipment. there comes the tug riptide, crew with an a- frame on the front, a dragline
on the rear. they come up the river. they go down in the water and they will sink wires . the wires will go through two opposite sides. eight wires. it is 6:00 in the evening, getting dark. it is getting time for the mayor to show up. the mayor shows up. so they start lifting. earlier they had tried to use the dragline, and the dragline had -- unfortunately they had this a-frame -- but fortunately they had this a-frame on the front of it that would lift 50 tons. passdrop down there and
re, andes through the just as it is getting done, up comes something no one had seen, the pilothouse of cairo. she is sheeted with an inch and a half of our. -- armor. pulls my leg and says, i think i found a canon cannon down there. hart goes down, and what comes gun. a 10-inch navy not only does a gun come up, the carriage comes up. the carriage had been made of oak, and it has been somewhat strengthened. pilothouse gets everybody enthused in vicksburg.
so we have enough enthusiasm that the ani board in mississippi says, we are going to give you some money. if you get into something ships, you get to know lots of nuts. [laughter] mr. bearss: i know my first speaker met his share of nuts. nut isused jack -- my jackson james. he is a scuba diver, always have to worry about scuba divers. he comes up and says, i am bringing my new england maritime museum down here from newport, rhode island. remove the mud from the cairo. we are going to do a cheap
because we do not have to pay much for that. they are going to construct an airlift, and there you can see they have removed the casement of the cairo. the cairo casement has been removed. you can see the paddlewheel spiders. the cairo is roughly 130 feet in length. wide on thet keyhole, 50 feet wide on the deck. chimneys thehe yankees had pulled down to hide the grave of the cairo from the confederates, to keep them from --vaging the other
when you look at these pictures -- we get on the left senator stennis. senator stennis, if you wanted something done, because he was hard jim crow people in the south, he has good relationships with both north and south. you can see he gets the eod unit from charleston. the guys you see in the hats and coats are the eod unit from charleston. up. come black, almostare
all the people in the mississippi state penitentiary are black. so in this working crew, we see the eod unit from charleston and the guyersonnel you see is the guard of the prison. the prisoners like to get out of the prison. this is the second kamman we have brought up. it is loaded, and we are ready to go to the next slide. if we had been smart, we would have started charging people to come up and see the cairo and see the operations. we would always raise a cannon
on the weekend. you have big crowds. mistake --ke a big we don't charge them. [laughter] mr. bearss: the other big thing time to liveorst in mississippi if you are black ider is atom r this time, because there will be several grim murders. you may remember the three ders that were murdered and buried in an earthen dam. we get lots of publicity because they are sitting around waiting for the fbi to break the case. as they are sitting around, they get that. here they are disarming the gun. oft is the officer in charge
the emd unit, and he is disarming the cannon. this is what we should have in riding excursion boats up there and let people watch and charge them, but we don't do it. so we raise some money. raise, a goodwill , and weives us $20,000 get $20,000 on the civil war challenge. that gives us $40,000 and we are ready to go to work raising the cairo. we are going to do a cheap. -- do it cheap. the siltall, to remove
from downstream, upstream, and back out stream is going to take us about 30 days. anythingu are wearing sluice.e constructed a it runs off and we scream. how many people were in the navy? you remember the p jackets you were in the navy that had hard, rubber buttons? we had lots of hard rubber -- pea off the p jackets jackets. the background is grinding away as we are unloading. we now got considerable interest
decide, and, and we we removed all the cocoons of the sand and silt that the cairo .ad sunk into the cheapest way to raise the cairo -- look at that bank. that bank had a lot of trees on it. this is three months later, and you do not see many trees. this is close to the november kennedy was assassinated. what we are going to do is sing two barges. these are gasoline barges. they are 240 feet long.
are 40 feet wide. hat we planned to do is sink one barge downstream from the cairo, one upstream from the cairo, and cairo would be resting in between the two arees, which unfortunately already divided into nine compartments. if we had lots of money, there would be lots of compartments. and if everything works right, now we have wires under the vessel. we always have to have goodies up there among because the canon a pipe. up and there is
you were in the navy, you said on a pot. if you were an enlisted man, you -- in aa trough on trough on a shelf. if you were an officer, that's where you made your deposits. [laughter] gone well: things had as we work toward the end of november. we've got to use volunteer labor. my wife but comes in charge of the artifacts -- becomes in charge of the artifacts. lanterns,blems with
because lanterns would get smoke on it, and you had to tell them, wipese, ladies, don't the smoke off the lanterns. here are bottles on a sick bay. see the porcelain one on the right? that's where she went if you got , because the diarrhea treatment at the time was the same in world war ii, mercury. that indicates that your grandfather in the navy probably had to worry about gonorrhea. and, of course, these are all medicines. you know what all these medicines are. here is the place you cooled
off. this was a refrigerator. the type they used. the most common thing on the shackles. you did not get them locked on you. you selected through the -- slipped it through the two rings. pin, you slipped it through, and that means you had trouble getting it off. the officers had this in all of their quarters. wedgewood.de by dgewood know we brought
up some of their bowls and pitchers, and they decided not. in the cairo, there were two .xplosive areas this is a copper lantern. it stands -- if i was standing there, it would be standing about midway between my belt and my glasses. that's how tall it is. it is of copper. they have a whale on the left, behind it they have a reflector to get the light forward into where the men will be working, in an explosive area that you do not want to be if it blows up. there was one in the porch magazine, one of the starboard magazine. bellthere is the buckeye foundry.
we had cleaned the bell up. the bell, when it came up, was very muddy. lots of mud in it. that would use a wire brush and got the bell as .hiny as it would be there you have medicines. a deadpan.ave if you are a hospital, you use bedpans, and had hands ain't very comfortable -- bedpans ain't very comfortable. [laughter] mr. bearss: we have now moved into a new year. we are out of 1941. we are into 1942.
wellve done very well, so that the county board of supervisors says, we have $60,000 to aid you in your work. going to have to do most of that work over again, we would try to raise the cairo. we would have four floating drudges that would be sent up the river. ajax. one is boaz. named cairo.ne is it would lift a thousand tons.
wire. using major was where the wire was in the water at the day we were lifting. if you want to know how big the cairo is, that dredge with lifts -- would lift almost 9000 tons. stands more than 70 feet tall. the hookbad for new orleans. why is it bad for new orleans? you couldn't get the cairo barge up the river because the river
is too shallow. they get one of these one of the and we cancome in get cairo up the river and at river and the yazoo to the site. october ofng to 1963. do is liftnned to cairo in a nest of wires, which are three inches in diameter, lift it out of the grave in sincethe cairo has rested she went to the bottom. here, everything is going good.
this is the last good day we are going to have. [laughter] deployed. this is boaz. there is cairo. there is atlas. we have the river blocked with floating barracks. now is sunday. why don't you go listen to the football game? i use a low-pressure steam in my boilers on my cranes. i come back and boy, in my happy. -- am i happy. there is the first part of the cairo that has been above water.
that would be the section of the vessel on the right side of the casement shield. now, that is the first part of the vessel to see above water, that slide. that is the only picture because it needs to be raised more. we have got to bring it more. what we should have done, we bezo and his sister were not happy with each other because each one wants to inherit pap's business -- papa's business. you ought to keep your vessels appear because you are in mississippi.you are out of jurisdiction of the louisiana courts. here, you can see, it shows we
have got it raised. -- can see pretty well actually, these show up better. there is thebow -- there is the bow of the vessel. you can see the wash of the water. there, you can to the cairo shows up much better here. all of a sudden, these wires clang. they are three inches in diameter. wanted, nothull is i -- wood not iron. it only has iron around the casemate and casemate shield. bezo says, we are going to have to cut the vessel in parts. here, we are doing that. there, you can see all the four
barracks in position. remember, that a frame is 140 feet high, just to give you an idea. the wires were three inches in diameter. is resting inow that area between the floating derricks. next slide. disaster strikes. , i'm going told you to tell you how not to raise a vessel because the board of supervisors has given me $60,000. i go up to the twin cities. everything have been going good when i went to the twin cities. i arrived there and what we have done, we had picked up the cairo
and dropped the cairo down and put her on one of those barges. remember, those barges are roughly 40 feet in width. we find out the river was rising fast. and, the stern of the vessel was on that. where is it now? is in the wires. crushed, is a catamaran and it is crushed. they were happy when i arrived because it was 20 below in the twin cities. beyond the twin cities, i'm now dejected again. now, we going to bring the vessel up in three parts. see, there is the casemate shield.
armor. 2.5 inches of this points upstream. it is 2.5 inches of iron, ship glass iron. backed by 24 inches of oak. that is where the vessel is going to take the heavy hitting. we're going to bring up the bow of the vessel. the forward third of the vessel. to vessel is roughly 90 feet in length. there, we can see again, another view of it. next slide. all right, now the worst happens. midships, -- the which has the engines and the boilers in, has turned 90 degrees.
if it was 90 degrees, everybody would be cheering, but it is now 90 and 90, that is 180. midships of the vessel is at right angles of where it should be, which means we are not doing very well. next slide. so we have had to dismantle. are three of the five boilers. each of these boilers is 240 inches in length. i'm out there. i'm i am the next slide, working right behind where the bow of the vessel had been separated from the miships of the boiler -- mids of the
boilerhips -- midships of the boiler. i am pretty happy that day. this part of the vessel had been jerry-built with armor. next slide. --mud.the month this is really mud. here's the rear third of the vessel. the vessel was catamaraned. two sponsorsthe are divided by the paddlewheel. here, we have got a guy out there. shere is one of the two sponson of the catamaran.
you can see the river is very muddy. here is what we should have done. day of on the 12th december. 1932. sunk roughly 30 years before. see how the banks of the river have been stripped of the timber. , and onll be taken down these big barges and positioned off the seawall. next slide. now you're into the vessel. that is so. soap.
so what have all dissolved in the water. there, you have some tobacco. that is palm soap. you are inside the vessel. next slide. this is in the magazine. is sheeted in lead, secured by copper nails. end of one in each of the magazines. otherwise, you can have a big explosion. isre is what the powder stored in. it is bagged. the bags have generally deteriorated. if you are working in the magazine, there is your walkway.
you go back and forth and you get powder to the left and the right and send it up to the deck. now, we're looking at the vessel's construction. the two anchor chains. to give you a scale, there is an ordinary pen. stand whiche a cat turns and will bring you the anchor chain in. so you can see the armor. how is the armor fastened? ship lap, just like when you are building your house. ship lap and if it's solid together. next slide. this is looking across the deck. the other picture would be looking that way. this is looking to the left.
where the can see other anchor chain would have gone as she is brought in by the below. you can see, the armor is in two inch diameter pins. you heard selfish mentioned selfridge is a graduate of annapolis. he is not up from the mid-shipmen score. this could be his belt buckle. if you are in sick bay, this is porcelain. if you are in sick pay, you are theour book, -- bunk, foreman comes in and give you something to drink. this comes out of a sailor's housewife. there is a key, needles, thread,
buttons. , some say can say they are lonesome for the deep sea. if you cope to this as polyethylene glycol, it looks like the sailor just finished. if you don't have polyethylene glycol, you will recognize that. there's a boot pistol. officers provided their pistols. youryou can see, toothbrush looks just the same that it is now, except it hasn't any bristles on it. this is canister on the left.
that is grape shot. and canister,pe they are not interchangeable. there, you can see tobacco. a guy tries the tobacco. there, you can see lots of shells. this boot has a lapse. we knew the vessel had intercepted people smuggling boots across the mississippi river from memphis to the other side of the river. this is a boot. why?eologists love pipes, because pipes, you can date a
pipe very clearly on the pipe stem. archaeologists love that. they will forgive us for some of the damage we have done. of course, this would be the shackle. that when it been originally issued to the massachusetts militia. the marine detachment unit would be wearing that. most of the coins of cairo were drilled. you were them in your ear. next slide. again, the lesson of preservation. esme had changed it in over 110 years. if you don't use polyethylene glycol, you are going to get objects that have lost their
configuration. esme is perfect. this is very rare. these are direct sighting cannons.or the big it must have a not very good because these were all down in the magazine. it hasn't see, changed a bit. got the cairo?we how many of you guys were in the navy during world war ii? if you were in the navy during world war ii, you were a plat hat. a silk filmhey have in the name of the ship. now, everybody knows what the cairo was. you are on monitor, that
would be saying monitor instead of cairo. if you arennis, playing politics, you have two senators from mississippi at that time. eastland is living in the middle ages as the segregation. stennis is not. s is very liberal on that. boys, as soon as we are out of korea, i'm going to get you $3.5 million. stennis is a man that can get you $3.5 million because he is on the appropriations subcommittee. because the vessel has lost barges, so we are going to do it
like you do one of these articulated dinosaur skulls. wood,e going to see this you are going to fix the arm or be, and that is going to giving the configuration of the casemate. you can see what the vessel would look like. next slide. again, you can see it how the armor fastens on. next slide. guns ine the possession. all 13 guns were saved. next slide. how do you describe it? artifacts and you have got to be careful because if the good ladies are cleaning
they maye of glass, take the emulsion off. if they don't take the emotion off, the picture is still good, off,u can see -- emulsion the picture is still good, as you can see. these are various parts that are some of the objects we have saved. next slide. this assures the ordinance. they have separated it out by degree. next slide. that is where she is exhibited now. that is the navy monument in vicksburg. from thethat old bend mississippi river.
cairo is under that shed, sheltered. that is a story of the cairo. that is very interesting. again, notice what i said. if you are going to find a gunboat, and you are going to raise it, don't use what we did. we were always short of money. that was a big thing. someobably could have had clout with bezo if we would have said, if you don't stay her longer, let the river pool, where going to tell your sister that you are hiding heavy equipment. that is the story of cairo. [laughter] it occupied a lot of my time. we were very lucky.
dayge comes up there one and got very interested in cairo and we began to get money. that is the story. [applause] >> if anybody has a question, if they would come back to the microphone to state your name and ask a question. my question is, how did it sink? how did the ship sink? sunk by anp was infernal machine, tw infernal machineso. -- two in for no machines. an infernal machine is what we would call a mine today. it is set off by electricity.
this man looks real tough there. he would be in a torpedo pit. two copper, you have wires. what happens when you put them together? boom! mineuld be what is a today. that is how she sank. the converters were very successful in them. we have a person coming to ask a question here. >> what date did it sink? december, 2011. [laughter] >> you sure? you sure it's sunk in 2011?
ed: yeah. >> i think it was probably 1863, right? ed: yeah. >> since i have been there, i have a question. once he took the boat from the river, the cairo, and he brought it, how did you get it up the hill through the cemetery? parkom the river to the and come up through the cemetery? or what? how did you get it up to where it sits now? transported on one of those big fuel barges. was transported on one of the big fuel barges. it went down to the shipbuilding, where they get what preservation they could do in the shipbuilding, and then it dismantled andas
is positioned like you can see the pictures here. >> how didn't get up the hill to where it is now for the cemetery? loaded down to vicksburg on this field barges. when they got to vicksburg, there was a big fight over who owns the vessel. does the county on the vessel? that the park service on the vessel? then, the vessel is moved by barge, just like you saw. all the way from vicksburg, down the mississippi river where the navy builds modern destroyers. >> how do they move it back to the expert? ed: they moved it in sections. >> by vehicles?
ed: yes. >> thank you, ed. [applause] >> learn more about the people that shape the civil war and construction only on "american history tv" on c-span3. >> next, investigative journalist, terry mitchell talks about -- jerry mitchell talks about his 30 year career. he talks about how he helped put klansmen in -- four jail. an hour.t is just over jerry: good evening.