A Civil War Wrap-Up, Part One: The National Civil War Naval Museum

Posted on May 25, 2016


On our way north from a winter in Alabama, we decided to wrap up a five-year foray through the history of the American Civil War with two stops in Georgia.

download (2)The National Civil War Naval Museum, formerly the Confederate Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia, is the only institution in the nation focused exclusively on the stories, artifacts and history of the navies of both the North and South.

The Museum is located along the Chattahoochee River in an area once known as Port Columbus. Founded in 1828, the town was situated at the beginning of the navigable portion of the river, which eventually empties into the Gulf at Apalachicola, Florida. Port Columbus was essential to the state’s cotton plantation economy as it provided a way to access the international cotton market via the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Port Columbus/Columbus ramped up their industries, soon becoming one of the most important industrial centers in the Confederacy. During the war, Columbus ranked second to Richmond in the manufacture of supplies for the Confederate army with  textile mills, an iron works, a sword factory, and a shipyard for the Confederate Navy.

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In 1865, the Union army set fire to the unfinished CSS Jackson and set it adrift in the Chattahoochee River, where it burned to the water line. It was raised in 1961 and later installed in the museum where a “ghost superstructure” has been built to give viewers a better idea of the ship’s original appearance.

Because of its location, the Museum has become the repository of an astounding array of Confederate naval memorabilia, including the remains of two ships, the CSS Jackson and the CSS Chattahoochee. Also on display are full-scale replicas of the USS Water Witch, and a section of the USS Hartford; the USS Monitor’s famous turret, and a dockside exhibit featuring an exterior and interior reproduction of the CSS Albemarle.

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USS Water Witch

And if that’s not enough, there are numerous scaled-down models of many other Union and Confederate ships, uniforms, a variety of miscellaneous artifacts, a great film, and an amazing display of naval flagsimages (3) and ensigns from both the Union and Confederate navies.

Numerous events and reenactments are held along the river annually, ranging from academic symposia to living-history activities in which an original Confederate navy cannon is fired over the river.