Museum Report

By Borden Black

Also conserved are some of the remains of the gunboat CSS Chattahoochee . The boat was brought to Columbus for repairs in 1863 after she was damaged by a boiler explosion. The steam-powered sailing ship was scuttled by Confederate naval officers in 1865 to prevent her capture.

There is much more to the museum, which is also known as Port Columbus. Displays illustrate the development and operation of both Union and Confederate navies as well as showcase some important artifacts of the time. An image of 13-year-old Aspinwall Fuller, a powder monkey from New York in 1864, is used to direct visitors through the 40,000-square-foot facility.

The museum highlights several of the Civil War's most important naval battles, including the face off between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia , the clash between the North's Kearsarge and the South's Alabama , and the Battle of Mobile Bay.

The Monitor - Virginia conflict is showcased, because, as the first battle between ironclad warships, it is considered the beginning of modern naval warfare. The visitor can view a full-scale replica of the Monitor 's gun turret, getting a first-hand look at the technology of the day. Among the displays is a significant uniform—that of Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones, the Virginia 's executive officer who was in command of the ship during her battle with the Monitor .

Visitors can immerse themselves in the culture of the era by viewing reproductions of the berth deck, ward room, and captain's quarters of the USS Hartford . Guests can also stroll a re-created Plymouth, North Carolina, wharf. In the battle theater on board a re-creation of the CSS Albemarle , visitors can experience Civil War naval combat from the viewpoint of an ironclad-ship Sailor.

A million-dollar collection of Civil War naval-related flags is the latest addition to Port Columbus. Among the 16 flags from both sides of the war are those from two famous Confederate Navy ironclads: the Atlanta and the Tennessee . The Atlanta went aground after a brief battle off Savannah, Georgia, and the Tennessee was captured by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut's fleet at Mobile Bay following his famous exclamation: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

Under construction in front of the museum is a full-scale replica of the USS Water Witch . This Union paddlewheeler served in a variety of roles including mail runner, resupply ship, and blockader. She was boarded by Confederate Sailors and captured in June 1864. In December of that year she was burned to prevent her from falling back into the hands of the Union Navy. Her final resting place has not been found, but her likeness will steer visitors to the National Civil War Naval Museum.

The museum is located on the Chattahoochee River off Victory Drive near downtown Columbus, Georgia. It is open daily from 0900 to 1700 except Christmas Day. Admissions are $6.50 for adults, $5.00 for students, and $5.50 for active military and senior citizens. For more information, see the museum's Web site at www.portcolumbus.org or call (706) 327-9798.

 

Ms. Black, a Columbus, Georgia resident, retired after a 25-year career in broadcast journalism and has been a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers for the last three years.
 

Ms. Black, a Columbus, Georgia resident, retired after a 25-year career in broadcast journalism and has been a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers for the last three years.

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