A Crew of Immigrants
Had you stepped aboard the USS Cairo
during the Civil War, the conversations may
have surprised you. So many languages! Stroll
the decks and you might have heard French,
Danish, Russian, German, and accents from
Ireland, England, and the Caribbean. Nearly
half of the boat's sailors were immigrants.
This group of men came from many walks of
life. They were black and white. They were
farmers, teachers and butchers. Most had no
sailing experience. They learned their duties
on the job. U.S.-born or not, these Union
sailors were fighting for the survival of the
country they called home.
When Cairo went down, her crew of
158 sailors and 17 officers had no time
to save their personal possessions.
Thousands of items sank with the
boat—and were recovered during