Located along the Chattahoochee River, the National Civil Naval Museum houses a number of civil war naval relics from both the Confederate and Union sides of the conflict. The first question asked by many of its twenty-five thousand yearly visitors, is ‘Why is a naval museum located in Columbus?” The Chattahoochee River played a key role in the civil war. Although true that it is a long way from a major body of water. In actuality, 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.
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 set adrift by Union troops in what is considered to be the last land battle of the Civil War. It burned for two weeks until it sank in the middle of the river. While the location of the wreck 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 played a most important role in the raising of the ship with volunteers and fundraising efforts to raise the ship.
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.
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.
The museum offers daily guided tours of the museum. Brandon Gilland, an education associate for the museum, is well versed in every aspect of the exhibits. I also had the pleasure of meeting the museum’s archivist, Jeff Seymour. I have included a short interview with Jeff from C-span from February 2015.
The National Civil War Naval Museum it is well worth your time and a visit there will immerse you in moments from the Civil War and the United States naval history.