Ruth and I found 3 offbeat attractions in Columbus, GA. The most interesting was the National Civil War Naval Museum on Victory Drive. Ruth and I got lucky. This museum closes at 4:30, so its Director of Collections and History, Jeffrey Seymour, took pity on us and gave us a personal tour so we wouldn’t miss the more important exhibits, like its large collection of Civil War naval flags.
Since Seymour had a class to teach, we finished exactly at 4:30 or he, a complete expert in a very esoteric subject, would have continued. This is the only museum in the world that tells the story of the Union and Confederate navies that existed during the Civil War.
This museum contains all that is left of 2 Civil War vessels. There are 4 more elsewhere. The Union’s navy had 75 ships, and The Confederacy planned to build 23. The remains of 2 of them including the CSS Jackson seen above, are here. Here’s the Jackson’s story according to signs and the conversation we had with Jeffrey Seymour. In 1862 the Confederate Navy Department established a naval yard on the Chattahoochee River at Columbus, GA. This facility was told to build an ironclad ship. When the CSS Jackson was half-built, it was realized that its paddlewheel would not generate enough power to move it. Adjustments were made and the Jackson was launched in 1864 but never saw service. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, so it was set ablaze and drifted for 2 weeks before sinking. Rediscovered in 1961, what was left of it was laboriously brought to the surface and made its way to this museum in the year 2000.
If it hadn’t have been for Jeffrey Seymour, I would have walked right by the story of Horace King. King was a slave of African/European descent who learned bridge construction. Doing contract work for The Confederacy, he supplied the timbers seen above for the CSS Jackson. But more importantly, between 1830 and 1880 he built truss bridges across many rivers in Georgia, Alabama, etc. The display about Horace King called him “a free man of color”. I call him an unheralded success.
Jeffrey Seymour also pointed out an important Confederate naval uniform on display in his museum once owned by Catesby Jones, Commander of the Merrimac (also spelled Merrimack). This was the famous ironclad of the Civil War that had a confrontation with The Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads. Being the first fight between 2 such vessels, it made history. The Merrimack was burned and sank near the beginning of the Civil War.
Seymour told me that his museum was unusual in that Civil War memorials usually focus on armies and land battles. I asked Seymour about the ship outside his museum, figuring I’d take photos of it. Don’t bother, he told me, it’s a fake. I appreciate honesty and this museum.