I have visited the museum twice in the last few years, once
before and once after its Reconstruction. The new museum
certainly has fine physical facilities—no faulting it
there. The display of the C.S.S. Jackson’s burnt-out hull,
with an added outline of what the complete ship looked like, is
both eerie and inspiring. Unfortunately, technical sophistication
and pretty exhibits do not make up for the politically-correct
cleansing that the museum has undergone. Here are a few examples
of the substantive changes in the museum’s content:
Before: Appropriate period flags of all Confederate
states hung from the ceiling.
After: No flags.
Before: Portrait and biographical information on Horace King, former slave who earned his freedom and
became an engineer, was prominently displayed. King helped design
the ironclads built in Columbus, as well as bridges over the
Chattahootchee and the stairs of the Alabama Capitol.
After: Black Confederates aren’t politically
correct. All references to King have been omitted from the new
Before: Many items were available in the gift shop
featuring the Confederate battle flag (and similar navy jack),
and it flew outside the museum.
After: The battle flag is verboten. Not only in the
gift shop, but everywhere. The Stars and Bars is used wherever a
Confederate flag is needed, but no flags featuring the St.
Andrew’s cross are to be found. At least they haven’t
actually airbrushed the flags out of the photos and paintings
(yet!). An enormous Union gridiron gets top billing on the huge
ship’s halyard flagpole outside. A smaller Stars and Bars
flies beneath, among numerous naval flags.
Before: Numerous references in the exhibits to
Confederate valor and ingenuity.
After: The new exhibits are a paean to the glories of
the mighty Yankee navy. They seem to view the Confederacy’s
attempt io create a navy as a thing to be pitied for its
inadequacies rather than admired for its resourcefulness. In
addition, the museum features a totally new (and seemingly
inappropriate) recreation of a section of a wooden Union warship
(as well as a recreation of the USS Monitor). I guess they felt a
need to “balance” the Confederate ships with some
Union ones. Also, the new interactive display, designed to give
visitors the feeling of being inside an ironclad during a battle,
features a film of a Yankee crew in a skit blowing up a
Confederate ironclad with a mine. Great. As if I couldn’t
tell from the burnt-out hull of the C.S.S. Jackson who won.
In short, the National Civil War Naval Museum is a technical
wonder, but a historical disappointment and a cultural atrocity,
in true Madison Avenue style, it is “New and
Improved” with 75% less Confederate heritage. It retains
the form of the Confederate Naval Museum, but little of the
substance. However, I encourage every Southron to visit once, if
only to see the somber and awe-inspiring display of the C.S.S.
Jackson. Just be sure to let the museum personnel know how you
feel about its Reconstruction, in other words: “ALL HANDS
ON DECK! PREPARE TO REPEL BOARDERS!”