SUBMITTED BY: W. S. Mann (see also “Nelson and Ava Tift” story)
Nelson Tift was born in Groton, CT on July 23, 1810. In 1826, he moved to Key West, FL with his brother, Asa Tift, for business exploration ventures. In 1830, he moved to Charleston, SC to test Southern culture, and then, in 1835, moved on to southern Georgia to pursue other mercantile ventures. In 1836, he founded the town of Albany, GA on the west bank of the Flint River in order to ship pine products to the Gulf of Mexico.
When the Civil War broke out, he and his brother, Asa, volunteered their services to the Confederate Navy, and based on his shipbuilding expertise, Nelson was given the title of Captain. In 1862, Nelson and Asa were in the process of constructing a Confederate ram named “The Mississippi” in Jefferson City, LA. This ship was to be 260 feet in length, tonnage of 4000 tons, with the speed of 14 knots. It was to be made of pine materials with iron armament siding and 20 heavy guns. However, as federal troops moved up the Mississippi River toward Vicksburg, Nelson and Asa decided to scuttle the ram for fear of it being captured and utilized by Union forces. For this, Nelson and Asa were brought before a Confederate Court of Inquiry but were exonerated on April 4, 1863.
After the war, Nelson returned to Albany, GA and was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1867. He also served one term in the 40th Congress of 1868-1869. Afterward, he continued cultivating his business interests and remained active in the Democratic Party. Nelson died on November 18, 1891 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Albany, GA.
(Source: Robert Burrows and Descendants, Volume 2, 1630- 1974; publisher, Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, MI)