Columbus was founded in 1821 . Before its incorporation, the town site was referred to informally as Possum Town, which remains its nickname even today. Columbus' existence owed to the failure of a flooded settlement across the river, Plymouth, which was established in 1817 . The Plymouth Bluff (above the ruined settlement) eventually became an environmental center for Mississippi University for Women . Early in its history, Columbus was referred to as "Columbus, Alabama" due to a mistaken estimate of the territorial boundary. During the American Civil War, Columbus was a hospital town. As a result, it largely avoided Union attack. Many of the casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were brought there, and thousands were buried in the town's Friendship Cemetery. The decision of a group of ladies to decorate the Union and Confederate graves with flowers together on May 29, 1866 is credited as part of the founding of Memorial Day . Another result of Columbus's history as a hospital town was the sparing of its antebellum homes, making its collection second only to Natchez as the most extensive in Mississippi. Columbus has hosted the Columbus Air Force Base since World War II . Columbus boasted a number of industries during the mid-twentieth century, including the world's largest toilet seat manufacturer and major mattress, furniture, and textile plants. Columbus is also the birthplace of famous playwright Tennessee Williams. His birthplace, formerly the rectory of nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church, is now the welcome center for Columbus (300 Main St., Columbus)
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