Columbus – On the second day of my two day visit to Columbus, I visited the National Civil War Naval Museum along the Muscogee River. The museum isn’t nearly as big as the National Infantry Museum I visited the previous day, but it is packed with fascinating artifacts, weapons, gear, memorabilia, and models that tell the story of both the Union and Confederate navies during the Civil War. It has two unique displays: the remains of the ironclad CSS Jackson and the gunboat CSS Chattahoochee. Additionally, it has mock-ups of the ironclad CSS Albemarle, ironclad USS Monitor, and the steam-powered sloop-of-war USS Hartford, which served as Admiral David G. Farragut’s flagship. They also feature a very impressive collection of Civil War flags from ships and forts involved in naval engagements. Outside of the museum is a recreation of the USS/CSS Water Witch, a steam-powered sidewheel gunboat that served with both the US and Confederate navies during the Civil War.
The USS Water Witch features prominently at the museum. She began the war in US Navy service, but was captured by Confederate Marines in Ossabaw Sound off of Savannah on 3 June 1864. After her capture, she served with the Confederate Navy as the CSS Water Witch. She remained in the area until 19 December 1864 when she was burned to prevent recapture by approaching Union forces. A recreation of the Water Witch (which is currently closed to tours) is outside the museum and a model of the ship is located in the museum lobby. A Bible from the ship is also displayed with the model. The Water Witch also has a connection with the CSS Jackson, another of the other ships featured in the museum; her Confederate Navy Captain, Lt. W.W. Carnes, was ordered to Columbus to take command of the Jackson.
Originally built and launched as the CSS Muscogee, the CSS Jackson was an ironclad ram launched late in the war on 22 December 1864. She was built in Columbus with machinery built by the Columbus Naval Iron Works. Delays prevented her from being fitted out and seeing action; she was ultimately burned and sunk during the Battle of Columbus on 16 April 1865. Raised almost a century later, her archaeological remains are now on display at the National Civil War Naval Museum. It was incredible to stand before the ship’s remnants and get an idea of the size and construction of a Civil War ironclad. In the photos below, the white structure above the remains of the hull show what the topside of the Jackson would have looked like.
The remains of the CSS Chattahoochee also feature prominently at the National Civil War Naval Museum. The Chattahoochee was a steam-powered gunboat built in Georgia and served in Florida. After she suffered a boiler explosion in May 1863 she was towed to Columbus for repairs. Later in the war, as Confederate held territory shank, she was scuttled in the Muscogee River in December 1864. Almost 100 years later, her remains were located in Fort Benning and raised. Along with the remains of the hull, the Chattahoochee section of the museum also features a variety of equipment and weapons used by Civil War sailors. It also shows uniforms that would have been worn by both US and CS Navy sailors.
The museum features recreations of the turret of the ironclad USS Monitor, the ironclad CSS Albemarle, and US Navy Admiral David G. Farragut’s flagship,the sloop-of-war USS Hartford. You’re able to walk through the recreations of the Albemarle and Hartford, gaining and appreciation for the working and living conditions of Civil War sailors.
The National Civil War Naval Museum is a terrific museum. It was an extraordinary feeling to stand beside the remains of 150 year old warships. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and think it would be a great visit for anyone with an interest in military, naval, or Civil War History.