Monday, April 6, 2015

The Haunted Flag of the CSS Tennessee - A Maritime Ghost Story.

Inside the National Civil War Naval Museum, located in Columbus, Georgia, is a glorious collection of assorted ship's flags from the Civil War. Many of these historic items have seen great battles and were flown on some of the Union and Confederate’s greatest ironclads, gunship’s, and blockade runners. 

The Confederate battle flag of the CSS Tennessee on display at the National Civil War Naval Museum
 in Columbus, Georgia.
(Courtesy of Shannon Fontaine) 

All of these flags tell a story, but perhaps the most noted, are the flags from the CSS Tennessee and the USS Hartford. The CSS Tennessee was built in Selma, Alabama and launched in February 1863. She was commissioned a year later as Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan's flagship. In 1864, she was sent to Mobile, Alabama for what would later be recognized as one of the Civil Wars most historical maritime battles. 

On August 5, 1864, the CSS Tennessee occupied the Confederate Navy's position at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay. The Confederate objective during the Battle of Mobile Bay was to bottle neck the Union fleet into the bay. Ships that ventured into the shallows would be hit by torpedoes. 

Torpedoes from the Civil War where not projectile discharges but rather
an anchored barrel of floating black powder.
Torpedoes in that time were essentially more like floating mines, with an anchor or weight tied to a wooden or metal barrel rigged with black powder. The Confederate stronghold in Mobile was Fort Morgan. The fort’s position in the bay gave the Confederates the ability to force passing ships that ventured too close to land into the floating mine field. 

That afternoon, Union Admiral David Farragut’s fleet of Federal ships roared into Mobile bay. As Farragut entered the shallows aboard his flagship, the USS Hartford, a submerged torpedo struck a smaller gunship just ahead of him and sank in under two minutes. Farragut was signaled of the ships demise and that torpedoes were in the shallows of the bay. Farragut promptly replied “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” coining one of the greatest military slogans of all times.

The Battle of Mobile Bay - August 5, 1864. 

During the intense battle, the Confederate fleet withstood hours of heavy gun fire and cannon’s suppressed to the absolute demise of the Confederate Navy. While the CSS Tennessee Ironclad held her ground and waged the battle she along with her sailors finally succumbed to the Union Navy but not before a horrible fate would take one engineer’s life by surprise. 

While the battle raged on outside the ship, the men inside the Tennessee clamored to keep her together. At one point, a gun port on the Tennessee was lodged in the open position. An engineer was called down to unhinge the bolt and close the gun-port before it caused any fatal damage to the men inside. The engineer hurried down from the upper deck and used a large wrench on the rusty bolt that was causing the port to remain open. As he leaned against the interior of the ship to gain an advantage over the stubborn iron bolt, he began to tug as hard as he could when suddenly a four hundred pound cannon ball slammed into the side of the Ironclad. The impact from the cannon ball basically liquefied the sailor from the waste up. A report on the incident stated that his remains had to be mopped up with a bucket and thrown overboard. 

The Tennessee was defeated and taken by the Union Navy where she later became the USS Tennessee. The Tennessee was decommissioned in 1865 and sold for scrap two years later. Today, the flags of these ships remain secluded and silent, encased in glass and protected from the elements inside Port Columbus. However, the spirits of these long dead maritime sailors still linger about the museum, possibly attached to these historical artifacts. 

Visitors to the museum often report feeling strange sensations in the flag gallery, particularly near the display of the Tennessee's Confederate Battle flag. Staff and volunteers at the museum have even reportedly seen the apparition of half a man, wearing what appears to be the uniform of a Civil War sailor in the location as well. This maritime phantom has also been spotted on the museum's surveillance cameras, always near the mock replicas of the USS Hartford, also located in the main gallery. 
Watch May Ghost Story - Soul's Adrift on the Bio Channel featuring the National Civil War Naval Museum
and the Alabama Ghost Hunters. 

The ghosts of at the National Civil War Naval Museum aren't limited to any particular location. In fact, they move freely among the living daily. Visit PortColumbus.org and book a ghost tour; you'll get a great history lesson and possibly, a little paranormal experience to.


See this story and more like it in
Haunted Columbus Georgia by Faith Serafin


The National Civil War Naval Museum on, "My Ghost Story - Caught on Camera"
Watch episode, Souls Adrift click here!

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