USS Cairo vandal on probation for 3 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2001

[03/08/01] JACKSON A California man will spend three years on probation and pay $3,000 in fines for taking a piece of wood off the USS Cairo while visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park last summer.

Charles W. Morfin, 27, of Los Angeles, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Alfred G. Nichols Jr. Wednesday afternoon that he “just got overwhelmed” when he visited the Civil War ironclad display on July 25.

Morfin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of damaging, altering or defacing an archaeological resource on public lands with a cost of $500 or more to restore or repair.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

“My dad brought me up to appreciate the history of this country and I am truly sorry for what I did,” Morfin said.

As part of his sentence, Morfin, who was represented by Vicksburg attorney Richard Smith, must also publish a written apology in The Vicksburg Post and The Clarion-Ledger and write a 5,000-word essay on naval Civil War battles and the importance of the archaeological protection act. He is also prohibited from entering any national park during his probation.

Morfin was facing a possible one-year prison sentence and $100,000 in fines.

Park rangers arrested Morfin after he was caught with an 8-inch-by-3-inch piece of wood from the Cairo display. He was later released on a $2,000 bond.

Morfin initially admitted taking the chunk of wood, but told rangers after they arrested him that he had fallen while touring the ironclad and accidentally knocked the piece off. He was indicted Aug. 10 by a federal grand jury in Jackson.

The Cairo sank in the Yazoo River about seven miles north of Vicksburg after a blast from a Confederate underwater mine on Dec. 12, 1862. It rested on the bottom of the river encased in mud for 102 years before it was raised.

It was moved to Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula in 1965 for restoration and placed on display in the park near the Vicksburg National Cemetery in 1977.