Civil War Navy Displays at the Smithsonian

Yesterday I visited the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in downtown Washington, D.C. with some of my family.  Since the museum reopened a few years ago, it has become one of our favorite stops – with exhibits covering a wide range of themes in American history.  (Although I often hear grumbles about missed subjects.)

On this visit I opted to focus on the displays associated with the naval aspects of the Civil War.  While the “really cool stuff” with regard to the Navy is over at the Navy Yard, the Smithsonian’s collection includes a few artifacts which make a stop there worthwhile.

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Armor Plate from the CSS Virginia

This otherwise plain iron bar is a piece of the CSS Virginia.  It forms part of an exhibit on the use of ironclads during the war.  No the Smithsonian isn’t going to get the really big pieces of the USS Monitor, instead offering models of the ships.

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Ironclad Display

Other ship models depict the river ironclad gunboats used on western waters.

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River Gunboat

As you can see in the background, the model supports an exhibit explaining the course of the war in the west.

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Nearby another exhibit contains Admiral David Farragut’s dress coat and cap, worn at the battle of Mobile Bay.

I find it interesting the items chosen from the vast collection of “America’s attic” used to interpret the naval aspects of the Civil War.  While some may lament that more space should be given to the war, I’d say the space is proportional given the other subjects that the museum has to cover.  And in all fairness, if you really want to get deep into the Civil War or naval topics, there are plenty of other museums in the DC metro area to cater to those needs.

One last exhibit, though, and a bit off the Civil War topics, that I would mention.

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Gunboat Philadelphia

The museum sat aside an entire gallery to the gunboat Philadelphia, a Revolutionary war era lake boat.  The boat is an interesting artifact to study.

I’m heading out shortly to attend the Civil War at Sea Symposium in downtown DC. and will post a report from that event later.