St. Patrick’s Day event at Port Columbus explores Civil War soldiers of Irish descent

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus is presenting “Paddy Goes to Sea: Irishmen in the Civil War” Saturday.

Museum director Ken Johnston said the program will explore the contributions of Irish immigrants and Irish Americans who served in the Civil War navies.

Johnston takes on the role of R.B.K. Murphy, who was wounded while fighting for the U.S. Navy when he was the boat pilot of the Water Witch. A full-size replica of the Water Witch is adjacent to Victory Drive.

Other first-person interpretive performers include Ali Thompson as Susie King Taylor, a former slave who learns to read and becomes a nurse and teacher. Susie’s friend Katie O’Connor is played by Samantha Johnston (Ken Johnston’s daughter). Katie is a Savannah resident who defies her father and teachers her friend Susie how to read.

Ani Thompson (Ali’s twin sister), takes the stage in during a song and dance session at 3:30 p.m. She and Ken Johnston will demonstrate sean-nos, a free-style dance that is the precursor to modern-day tap and clogging. The audience will be urged to dance during this interactive program.

The Persnickety Players will provide music, playing Irish and English folk songs.

Besides telling the story of the Irish in America during the Civil War, Johnston also wanted to tell the story of women during the same period for Women’s History Month.

Ani Thompson believes playing the role of a real person is important.

“We have a responsibility to tell the truth,” she said.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer