Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anchors Aweigh!

The Civil War Naval Museum is in Port Columbus, Georgia. It's along the river, so I guess that's why they call it "Port" although it is Columbus, Georgia, right by the Civic Center. I would guess it is one of a kind and it is truly a gem. It is not very big, but that is an advantage. We love museums, but after a couple hours, one tends to get tired. This one is just right. We have wanted to visit here since we learned about it while visiting the "Cairo" which is on display at the Vicksburg (Mississippi) national cemetery. The Cairo is a Civil War ironclad that was recovered from the Yazoo River nearby. It is housed in a speciality built display outside with a canopy overhead and an attached museum. It is the most complete we have seen, with engines recovered and returned to the ship as well as the propellers, paddle wheels and canon. We were told by a docent there that Port Columbus had a much larger display with the greatest numbers of ironclads on display. That is not true, the Cairo is a better and far more restored display, but that didn't take away from the splendor of the museum.

The focal point in the museum is the CSS Jackson, a Civil War ironclad, which was built not far away on the river. The hull is on display and there is skeletal framework around it which does a good job of depicting the outline of the ship as it once appeared. The size was accurately portrayed and a complete history of the ship was easy to read. There were a lot of photographs, paintings, artwork, etc., depicting the role the ironclads played in the Civil War and the various battles which were fought on water. The ironclads were mostly confined to the rivers and inside waterways as they weren't designed to withstand the stresses of the ocean. There were several that, once built, could not even be floated down the river because they drafted way too much, and they were destroyed or captured where they sat.

Obviously the most famous of the ironclads were the Monitor and the Merrimac. They were completely different in their design. The Monitor was a Union ship as was the Merrimac. The South salvaged the sunken Merrimac and refloated her as the Virginia. She was much larger than the Monitor, but in the the famous battle, it basically ended as a draw. The Monitor has been discovered and a few pieces have been salvaged. It is an ongoing operation, but the fragility of the wreck makes recovery difficult.

Also displayed is another hull, this one of a gunboat, the CSS Chattahoochee. Its mission was to protect the river and potentially help break the Union blockade of Apalachicola. An accidential boiler explosion that killed 19 of its crew resulted in the ship being brought to Columbus for repairs for most of the duration of the war.

Also displayed is a recreated portion of Admiral Farragut's flagship, the USS Hartford, to show the daily life aboard a Civil War ship. In addition, there was recreation of the USS Monitor's rotating gun turret and an ironclad simlulator.

There was a large mural displayed showing many of the ships as they would appear in the water and their size and structure in comparison to other ships. Also in the mural are displayed the many submarines which also played a part during the war.

There is much to see here and a lot to learn. The admission price is $6.50 and it is well worth leraning about this piece of our nation's history. They have done a great job and if you are in the area, it is well worth a visit.

Till next time. . .


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