The pilothouse was the nerve center of the gunboat. From there, the pilot read the river and guided the gunboat through the shifting, often treacherous, river channels. The Commander, too, often occupied the pilothouse. They communicated with the engine room through a signal board or by shouting through a speaking tube. Pilothouses on Cairo and the six other City Class ironclads were dangerously exposed to enemy fire.
Vicksburg National Military Park