Many Americans may not know it, but Cairo, Illinois – the small town at the southernmost tip of the state played a key role in the Civil War and the rise of the man who would become the 18th president of the United States.
Cairo was home to Fort Defiance, known as Camp Defiance, a military post located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
From there Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Union troops launched raids into Confederate territory in Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Tennessee in the first year of the war gave Union forces access to stragetic rivers that allowed them to penetrate into the Deep South.
President Abraham Lincoln was so impressed with Grant’s successes he promoted him to major general of volunteers.
After the war, Fort Defiance became a state park. It fell into neglect but was resurrected by the citizens of Cairo.