Louisiana in the Civil War

 

Between April 17,1862 and May 18, 1864 20 major Civil War battles and engagements were fought in Louisiana. The following sites focus on the most significant of the State's battles.  This tour can be started from either Shreveport or New Orleans.

Forts Jackson & St. Phillip (April 16-28, 1862) - Early Union plans had called for the division of the Confederacy by seizing control of the Mississippi River. One of the first steps in such operations was to enter the mouth of the Mississippi River, ascend to New Orleans and capture the city, closing off the entrance to Rebel ships. In mid-January 1862, Flag-Officer David G. Farragut undertook this enterprise with his West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The way was soon open except for the two forts, Jackson and St. Philip, above the Head of the Passes, approximately seventy miles below New Orleans. In addition to the forts and their armament, the Confederates had placed obstructions in the river and there were a number of ships, including two ironclads, to assist in the defense. Farragut based his operations from Ship Island, Mississippi, and on April 8th, he assembled 24 of his vessels and Comdr. David D. Porter's 19 mortar schooners near the Head of the Passes. Starting on the 16th and continuing for seven days, the mortar schooners bombarded Fort Jackson but failed to silence its guns. Some of Farragut’s gunboats opened a way through the obstruction on the night of the 22nd. Early on the morning of the 24th, Farragut sent his ships north to pass the forts and head for New Orleans. Although the Confederates attempted to stop the Union ships in various ways, most of the force successfully passed the forts and continued on to New Orleans where Farragut accepted the city’s surrender. With the passage of the forts, nothing could stop the Union forces: the fall of New Orleans was inevitable and anti-climatic. Cut off and surrounded, the garrisons of the two forts surrendered on the 28th.

Fort Jackson - Until Farragut passed them in 1862, this fort guarded the mouth of the Mississippi River for the Confederacy.  Please check the Fort Jackson website for its status following the past hurricanes.

New Orleans (April 25–May 1, 1862) - Union Flag-Officer David G. Farragut's squadron had passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, on April 24, 1862. After the Union fleet had passed the forts, the Union occupation of New Orleans was inevitable. Union Flag-Officer David G. Farragut, with his squadron, continued up the Mississippi River and demanded the surrender of the City of New Orleans the next day. The city surrendered on April 28th. On May 1st, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler’s army began landing at New Orleans and occupying the city. The capture of New Orleans, the largest city in the Confederacy, was an event that had major international significance.

New Orleans has several sites of interest including the Confederate Memorial Hall which has an outstanding collection of Civil War flags, uniforms, weapons, medical instruments, currency, and personal effects of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee among other southern leaders. East of New Orleans is the Fort Pike State Historic Site. In 1861, the silence of Fort Pike was broken. Before the actual start of the Civil War, the Louisiana militia captured the fort and held it until the Union forces took New Orleans in 1862. Federal forces then reoccupied the fort and used it as a base for raids along the Gulf coast and Lake Pontchartrain areas and as a protective outpost for New Orleans. In spite of all this activity, not one cannonball was ever fired in battle from Fort Pike.

Baton Rouge (August 5, 1862) - An attempt to regain control of Louisiana, the Confederates wanted to recapture the capital at Baton Rouge. Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge planned a combined land/water expedition with his corps and CSS Ram Arkansas. Breckinridge's troops advanced west from Camp Moore to around ten miles from Baton Rouge on August 4th. The Confederates reached the outskirts of the capital early in the morning, formed for an attack in two divisions, and drove back each Union unit they encountered. Union gunboats in the river began shelling the Confederates. The Arkansas could have neutralized the Union gunboats, but her engines failed and she did not participate in the battle. Union land forces fell back to a more defensible line. The Union commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams, was killed soon after and the new commander, Col. Thomas W. Cahill, ordered a retreat to a prepared defensive line nearer the river and within the gunboats’ protection. The Confederate troops attacked the new line without success and the Federals finally forced them to retire. The next day the Arkansas’s engines failed again as she closed on the Union gunboats and she was blown up and scuttled by her crew. The Confederates failed to recapture the state capital.

Port Hudson (May 21-July 9, 1863) - In cooperation with Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s offensive against Vicksburg, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ army moved against the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. On May 27, after their frontal assaults were repulsed, the Federals settled into a siege which lasted for 48 days. Banks renewed his assaults on June 14 but the defenders successfully repelled them. On July 9, 1863, after hearing of the fall of Vicksburg, the Confederate garrison of Port Hudson surrendered, opening the Mississippi River to Union navigation from its source to New Orleans.

Interpretive programs illustrate the story at Port Hudson State Historic Site. The area includes part of the battlefield, viewing towers, trenches, guns and a cemetery for more than 3,000 Union soldiers, most of whom are unknown. The Battle of Port Hudson was one of the first battles in which freed black soldiers engaged in combat on the side of the Union.

Fort De Russy (March 14, 1864) - In early 1864 the Union launched a multi-purpose expedition into Confederate Gen. E. Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi Department which was headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Rear Adm. David D. Porter jointly commanded the combined force. Porter’s fleet and Brig. Gen. A. J. Smith's XVI and XVII Army Corps detachments of the Army of the Tennessee set out on March 12, 1864, up the Red River, the most direct route to Shreveport. Banks with the XIII and XIX Army Corps advanced by way of Berwick Bay and Bayou Teche. After removing various obstructions that the Confederates had placed in the river, the major impediment to the Union expedition was the formidable Fort DeRussy. Fort DeRussy was an earthen fortification with a partly iron-plated battery designed to resist the fire of Union ironclads that might come up river. Union Brig. Gen. A. J. Smith’s command had left Vicksburg on transports and  disembarked at Simsport, about thirty miles from Fort DeRussy, on the 12th. Smith sent out some troops on the morning of the 13th to determine if any enemy was in their path. This force dispersed and chased an enemy brigade, after which, Smith set his men in motion up the Fort DeRussy road. They did not proceed far before night. Early the next morning, the 14th, they continued the march, discovering that a Confederate division threatened their advance. Always mindful of this threat, Smith had to place part of his command in a position to intercept these Confederate forces if they attacked. When Smith arrived at the fort, the enemy garrison of 350 men opened fire. Smith decided to use Mower’s division, XVI Army Corps, to take the fort and set about positioning it for the attack. Around 6:30 pm, Smith ordered a charge on the fort and about twenty minutes later, Mower’s men scaled the parapet, causing the enemy to surrender. Fort DeRussy, which some had said was impregnable, had fallen and the Red River to Alexandria was open.

Mansfield (April 8, 1864) - Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks' Red River Expedition had advanced about 150 miles up Red River. Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, without any instructions from his commander, Gen. E. Kirby Smith, decided that it was time to try and stem this Union drive.  He established a defensive position just below Mansfield, near Sabine Cross-Roads, an important communications center. On April 8th, Banks’ men approached, driving Confederate cavalry before them. For the rest of the morning, the Federals probed the Rebel lines. In late afternoon, Taylor, though outnumbered, decided to attack. His men made a determined assault on both flanks, rolling up one and then another of Banks’ divisions. Finally, about three miles from the original contact, a third Union division met Taylor’s attack at 6:00 pm and halted it after more than an hour's fighting. That night, Taylor unsuccessfully attempted to turn Banks’ right flank. Banks withdrew but met Taylor again on the 9th at Pleasant Hill. Mansfield was the decisive battle of the Red River Campaign, influencing Banks to retreat back toward Alexandria.

Mansfield State Historic Site has a museum with relics, exhibits and a map of the battle. The General Alfred Mouton interpretive trail winds through the park which also includes a cannon and several monuments. A video shown in the Visitors’ Center gives an excellent overview of the battle on April 8, 1864 and the events surrounding the battle. Please click on link below for map. Mansfield Battle Memorial Park (battlefield), Mansfield, Louisiana, United States

Pleasant Hill (April 9, 1864) - By April 1864, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Red River Expedition had advanced about 150 miles up Red River. Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, commander of the Confederate forces in the area, decided, without any instructions from his commander Gen. E. Kirby Smith, that it was time to try to stop the Union drive. Taylor's forces were victorious at Mansfield on April 8th. Banks withdrew from that battlefield to Pleasant Hill, but he knew that fighting would resume the next day. Early on the 9th, Taylor’s reinforced forces marched toward Pleasant Hill in the hopes of finishing the destruction of the Union force. Although outnumbered, Taylor felt that the Union army would be timid after Mansfield and that an audacious, well-coordinated attack would be successful. The Confederates closed up, rested for a few hours, and then attacked at 5:00 pm. Taylor planned to send a force to assail the Union front while he rolled up the left flank and moved his cavalry around the right flank to cut the escape route. The attack on the Union left flank, under the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill, succeeded in sending those enemy troops fleeing for safety. Churchill ordered his men ahead, intending to attack the Union center from the rear. Union troops, however, discerned the danger and hit Churchill’s right flank, forcing a retreat.  Pleasant Hill was the last major battle, in terms of numbers of men involved, of the Louisiana phase of the Red River Campaign. Although Banks won this battle, he retreated, wishing to get his army out of west Louisiana before any greater calamity occurred. The battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill influenced Banks to abandon his plan to capture Shreveport.

The community of Pleasant Hill is creating a Battle of Pleasant Hill interpretive trail by erecting 18 marble markers with narratives and descriptions of the battle from Pleasant Hill to Mansfield. The community also holds an annual reenactment in April.

Please click on link below for map.

Pleasant Hill, Sabine, Louisiana, United States

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Revised 01/25/2011