National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus, GA

Located along the Chattahoochee River, the National Civil Naval Museum houses many Civil War naval relics from the Confederate and Union sides of the conflict. The first question many of its twenty-five thousand yearly visitors ask is, “Why is a naval museum located in Columbus?” The Chattahoochee River played a key role in the Civil War. Although true, it is far from a major body of water. The Chattahoochee connects with the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola, Florida. Columbus was an integral part of the Confederate infrastructure as a construction and manufacturing hub for munitions and uniforms. The last major land battle of the civil war was fought in Columbus and the town was burnt to the ground after the battle.

CSS Jackson
CSS Jackson. The metalwork above is how the original ship’s structure was designed

The CSS Jackson, the largest of the four surviving Ironclads from the Civil War, is ensconced at the museum. Launched at Columbus in December 1864, it saw no action and was set ablaze and adrift by Union troops in what is considered the last land battle of the Civil War. It burned for two weeks until it sank in the middle of the river.  While the wreck’s location was known, it spent 100 years at the bottom of the Chattahoochee River until 1961, when the raising of the hull began. Even today, the hull still carries the burn marks from 1865. The Columbus Jaycee Club was important in raising the ship with volunteers and fundraising efforts.

CSS Jackson propeller
CSS Jackson, burn marks on the hull

The museum also displays the wreckage of CSS Chattahoochee, a full-scale replica of the USS Water Witch, a replica of the USS Harford’s captain’s cabin, a ship’s boat from the USS Hartford, a replica of the USS Monitor’s turret and both interior and exterior views of the CSS Albermarle. Many other artifacts have been meticulously preserved and are on display.

CSS Chattahoochee
CSS Albermarle.

The museum houses the largest collection of Civil War related naval flags including ship flags, coastal fort flags, and pennants in the county and are prominently displayed at the museum.

Civil War Flags

The museum offers guided daily tours. Brandon Gilland, an education associate for the museum, is well versed in every aspect of the exhibits.  I also enjoyed meeting the museum’s archivist, Jeff Seymour.  I have included a short interview with Jeff from C-span from February 2015.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?324715-1/css-jackson-national-civil-war-naval-museum

The National Civil War Naval Museum is well worth your time and a visit there will immerse you in moments from the Civil War and the United States naval history.

http://www.portcolumbus.org/

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