Cairo (kāˈrō, kâˈrō) [key], city (1990 pop. 4,846), seat of Alexander co., extreme S Ill., on a levee-protected tongue of land adjacent to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers (spanned by several bridges); inc. 1857. It is a center for shipping by river, rail, and highway and the processing and distribution point for a fertile farm area. Cotton and grain are grown, and manufactures include polyurethene, lumber, and cleaning products. The city and its environs are popularly called "Little Egypt" because of the deltalike geographical similarity. Permanent settlement began in 1837. In the Civil War the strategic location was a crowded military camp, a Union supply depot, and General Grant's headquarters during much of his Western campaign. Fort Defiance State Park, the site of a Civil War fort, offers a magnificent view of the convergence of the Ohio and Mississippi.
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