Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center Crossroads Museum
The Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center covers the bloody two-day Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 in nearby Tennessee, the subsequent Union siege and capture of the critical railroad crossroads in Corinth, Miss., and the unsuccessful Confederate attempt to retake the town that fall.
“It has two videos that roll through the day, from six to eight minutes each,” said Kristy White, executive director of the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The first is an overview of the Battle of Shiloh, the second is an overview of the Battle of Corinth.”
The center also has interactive exhibits about the battles and the siege.
The interpretative center is part of the Shiloh National Military Park and is near the site of a federal fortification where some of the bloodiest fighting during the October Battle of Corinth took place. Several miles of rifle pits, trenches and artillery positions still exists in the area, and there is a full-scale reproduction of earthworks at the center.
A walkway leading to the center is lined with bronze replicas of “battle detritus” left in the aftermath of the battle; at the entrance are bronze statues of six Civil War soldiers marching into the center.
“In the courtyard is a large fountain that represents the stream of American history leading up to the war and to the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments,” said White. “There is a lot of symbolism. Groups can arrange for a ranger program on the significance of the fountain.”
The Crossroads Museum in the former train depot in Corinth has an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts.
“A lot of people think they are one and the same,” said White. “The interpretative center is more about information; the museum is more about artifacts.”
Fort Sumter National Monument
The 30-minute boat ride through Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter gives groups “two items for the price of one,” according to National Park Service ranger Rick Hatcher.
“On the boat ride, there is an information tape that gives a historical background, and you get an abbreviated harbor tour.”
Shots fired early in the morning of April 12, 1861, at the Union garrison on Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Civil War. Although Fort Sumter is now “a stabilized ruin” that doesn’t resemble the original fort, it provides a sense of place.
“The significance is unchanged,” said Hatcher. “It is where the war began.”
The fort was later the centerpiece of constant bombardment during the 587-day siege of Charleston, the longest siege in U.S. military history. “Over the course, the Union fired 7 million pounds of artillery projectiles,” said Hatcher. “There was significant damage. What used to be 50-foot walls are now 25 feet.”
After the boat ride, groups have an hour at the fort, where they can listen to a 10- to 15-minute talk by a ranger or spend the full hour on a self-guided tour.
A large concrete battery built in the middle of the parade ground during the Spanish-American War houses a museum with exhibits about the construction of the fort, events leading up to the April battle and the later history of the fort, which was used periodically until World War II.
Artifacts include a storm flag that flew over the fort during the bombardment and the first Confederate flag over the fort. The top of the battery provides a good view of the harbor.
The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center on the mainland, where the boats depart for Fort Sumter, has extensive exhibits that tell the story of the growing sectionalism that led to the war. It has the remnants of the large garrison flag next to a 20-foot-by-36-foot replica of the flag.
Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus
An often-overlooked aspect of the Civil War is the critical role played by naval forces.
“It is a pretty big subject; a lot more happened than people realize,” said Jon Ezell, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus. “It was a very pivotal part of the war. The blockade was one of the things that helped the North win.
“We are the only museum in the nation dedicated to telling the entire story of the Civil War navies, both North and South. There are others who talk about a specific ship or are a maritime museum in general, but we are the only one that that is our sole mission.”
The museum, located about a mile up the Chattahoochee River from the site of a Civil War shipyard, has the remains of two original Confederate ships — the ironclad Jackson and a smaller gunboat — and re-creations of portions of other ships, including the Hartford, the flagship of the Navy’s first admiral, David Farragut.
Ezell said the museum also has numerous artifacts, such as a large navy-related flag collection, uniforms, weapons and personal items, “things sailors used on a daily basis.”
He said the emphasis of the museum is on the personal stories of the men who served in the navies. “We try to make it not just dates and names,” he said. “We try to make it about the personal stories as well, what these sailors and marines experienced, what the human element was to this history.
“Personal stories make it much more interesting. We talk about daily life and the shipboard experience.”
Visitors can also walk inside re-created interiors of some of the ships to get a feel for what it was like to serve on them.
Ezell said there are several living -history programs throughout the year that further explore the personal side of the war.