Nelson and Ava Tift volunteered their shipbuilding services to the Confederate Navy

by | Dec 17, 2015 | Alamance, Confederate affiliation

Nelson Tift, my great-great-grandfather, was born in Groton, CT on July 23, 1810. In 1826 he moved to Key West, FL with his brother Asa for business exploration ventures. In 1830 he moved to Charleston, SC to test Southern culture, and in 1835 he 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 by this river access to the Gulf of Mexico. When the Civil War broke out, he and Asa volunteered their services to the Confederate Navy based on their shipbuilding expertise, and 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, with tonnage of 4000 and speed of 14 knots. It was to be made of pine materials with iron armament siding and was to have 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 served one term in the 40th Congress of 1868-69. He continued 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.)

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