Explore the ‘cool history’ of the USS Water Witch

The National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus is going to be busy this weekend.

It’s open today.

“We actually are always open on Thanksgiving,” said director of communications Jon Ezzell. It’s “a good day for museums, with everyone having family in town, looking for things to do.”

Friday and Saturday, the museum is offering something special for visitors.

Usually, the museum offers its “Cool History” programs in the summer, but with the full-sized replica of the USS Water Witch nearing completion, executive director Bruce Smith couldn’t resist adding one more “Cool History” program this year.

Last week, crews were busy painting the ship that faces Victory Drive.

Smith said people used to complain that they couldn’t find the museum. Now, visitors are told to turn at the ship. Visibility has improved a lot, he said.

This “Cool History” program is about “The Dramatic Capture of the USS Water Witch.” It’s the first time an entire program will be devoted to the history of the ship.

And what a history it is.

The Union ship was captured June 3, 1864, while in the Vernon River, south of Savannah. It was the middle of the night when Confederate soldiers, led by Lt. Thomas Pelot, boarded the ship.

Smith and other museum staffers will lead groups of 25 around the Water Witch, telling the story of how and where the Confederate sailors boarded the ship and what happened to the crew.

Smith said two Union sailors and six Confederate sailors were killed in the battle. The battle, Smith said, was a bloodbath. Sailors from both sides fought with cutlasses and one-shot pistols. It will be a good stop once night-time “ghost” tours begin next year, Smith said.