Mississippi has a new quarter. It's part of the America The Beautiful Series commemorating national parks.
The coin was issued for the first time at a ceremony in the Vicksburg Park at the Cairo Museum. There was much fanfare with singers and speeches and school children, who have a story for their grandkids now about how they were there the first day this coin was released.
Not every state will have a coin and not even every National Park gets one. Mike Madell, the superintendent of the Vicksburg Park says this is indeed an honor.
"It's such an honor for the Military Park. Of 395 units of the National Park System only a small number are going to have the park or its resources memorialized on one of the America the Beautiful Quarters," said Madell.
Of the over 1,300 statues and monuments in the park, the Gunboat Cairo was selected as the iconic symbol of Vicksburg. Mike says that is appropriate.
Madell says, "I think it is what everybody has come to associate Vicksburg National Military Park with. Or many people anyway. It's not unusual at all for us to have visitors come in to the visitors center and say, Where's that boat at? So they know it's here. The word's gotten around. Of course you can't miss it coming down the hill from the Navy monument looking out on the Mississippi. There she is. Such a beautiful vista."
And I am assuming this is the only gunboat left isn't it? There are none anywhere else are there?
"No. That's correct. I forget how many thousands of artifacts we brought up with her. Everything from canister shot to cannon balls and personal effects of the sailors who were on it. It's an amazing resource. We owe Ed Barss a lot the legwork he did to rediscover her," said Madell.
When asked what he planned to do with your quarters, Madell said, "Well I have a two-year-old grandson who is probably a little young to appreciate it so far, but we'll save a couple for him."
The Gunboat Cairo was raised from where it was sunk in the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg in 1962; 100 years to the day from the day it struck a Confederate mine and sank during the Vicksburg Campaign in the Civil War. The remnants of the gunboat are on display at the Vicksburg National Military Park. And will also be on the back of some 65 million U.S. quarters.
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