National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus
|National Civil War Naval Museum|
|Location||1002 Victory Drive
|Type||American Civil War Naval|
The National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus, located in Columbus, Georgia, United States, is a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) facility that features two original American Civil War military vessels, uniforms, equipment and weapons used by the Union and Confederate navies. It is the only museum in the nation that tells the story of the two navies during the Civil War.
The museum opened in 1962 at 202 4th Street in Columbus as the James W. Woodruff, Jr. Confederate Naval Museum, named after the man whose financial support made the museum a reality. In March 2001, the museum relocated to its present $8 million facility at 1002 Victory Drive and received a new name to reflect new exhibits that showcase both the Union and Confederate navies.
The highlight of the museum is the 180-foot (55 m) hull of CSS Jackson (also known as CSS Muscogee), an ironclad ram put to fire in the Chattahoochee River by the Union troops of Gen. James H. Wilson and recovered from the bed of the river in the 1960s. Also on display are what's left of CSS Chattahoochee and an intact rowboat from USS Hartford. Two models of the warships USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (the former USS Merrimack), used in the TNT film Ironclads, and recreated full-scale sections of three other civil war-era warships are among the hundreds of Civil War artifacts located in the museum. There is also a battle experience theater that will put visitors right in the middle of a Civil War battle and an interactive Confederate ironclad ship simulator offering visitors an opportunity to experience 19th century naval combat first hand.
A large Civil War naval flag exhibit is the newest addition to the museum. According to executive director Bruce Smith, it is the largest display of navy-related flags from the Civil War anywhere in the nation. Fourteen flags representing ships and forts from the entire scope of the Civil War are seen in this new exhibit, which is entitled "Ramparts to Topmast: Flags of Triumph and Despair".
Thanks to a family from Ohio, visitors can see a particular flag that was in hiding for 137 years. On the night of July 22, 1862, the captain of CSS Arkansas believed his ship was safe in the harbor at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Then in the darkness, two Union ships attacked it. USS Queen of the West attempted to ram Arkansas. As the two vessels lay side to side, a civilian engineer, John P. Skelton, aboard the Federal ship leaped aboard Arkansas and tore down its flag. He reboarded to his own ship and hid the flag in a barrel of beans. After his discharge, Skelton took the flag back to Ohio, where it remained until 1999 when his ancestors sent the flag back home again. It now rests in a place of honor on the wall of the museum.
The museum also has the largest collection of surviving Brooke cannons made in Selma, Alabama. These four cannon are two 7-inch rifles, one 10-inch smoothbore, and one 11-inch smoothbore. The 11-inch smoothbore is the Largest surviving Brooke.
USS/CSS Water Witch project
The museum finished constructing a full scale reproduction of USS/CSS Water Witch, in 2009 using her original plan drawings. At more than 160 feet (49 m) in length, the ship will become a new landmark in Columbus. The masts will be nearly 90 feet (27 m) tall and plans call for the ship's massive side paddle wheels to actively turn and for smoke to billow from the smokestack.
The original Water Witch was stationed as a Union blockader in Savannah, Georgia during the war and was captured during a Confederate Navy commando raid in 1864 and put into service for the Confederacy. The story of the Water Witch is compelling because she served the navies of both sides during the course of the war, and also because her capture was led in-part by an African-American Confederate pilot, Moses Dallas.
Other activities at Port Columbus
The museum holds an annual symposium, summer camps, and living history programs among the other special events it schedules throughout the year. Another part of the rapidly growing Port Columbus operation is site rental. The museum regularly rents out its galleries for various events from weddings to business meetings.
- National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus New Georgia Encyclopedia
- Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum Historic Columbus Foundation, Inc.
- Water Witch Project, portcolumbus.org; retrieved September 2008
- Water Witch History, portcolumbus.org; retrieved September 2008