Port Columbus receives historic Bible from the Water Witch

A visitor to the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus last week was an especially welcome one. Bill Dean of Fort Payne, Ala., brought a Bible dated 1860, and marked “Water Witch,” to the museum.

Dean said his family had been thinking of donating the book for more than a year.

After watching the progress of the Water Witch via the museum's Web site, he made the decision to drive to Columbus.

“We have been watching progress on the museum’s project to rebuild the USS Water Witch and finally decided that this Bible really needed to be a part of the exhibit to go with the ship,” said Dean.

A paper label pasted inside the front cover of the book features an American flag and a printed form indicating that the Bible was presented by the Bible Society of New York City to the “Water Witch”. Above the label is a handwritten inscription which says, “Mess No. 1.”

Port Columbus Director Bruce Smith said the donation of the book was an amazing piece of “serendipity.”

“This Bible was obviously taken as a souvenir from the ship after it was captured by a Confederate Navy commando style raid which captured the blockading ship near Savannah in 1864,” Smith said. “It comes as a great surprise and just in time to be included in the special exhibits for the opening of the ship to the public this April.”

Port Columbus is building a full-scale model of the side wheel steamship on its Victory Drive location in South Commons. The ribbon cutting for the completion of the ship is set for April 3, and the public opening will be the weekend of April 4-5.

“We are coordinating our annual RiverBlast living history event with the ship opening, starting with the first Civil War style ship commissioning since 1865,” Smith said. “We already have dozens of Civil War sailors and marine reenactors set to attend, along with a period Gatling gun demonstration, a 3-D stereo camera and a whole new series of children’s activities scheduled.”

Port Columbus is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tickets are $6.50; $5.50 for active military and seniors 65 and older; $5 for students; children 6 and younger get in free.

Call 706-327-9798 or go to portcolumbus.org 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.