Sunday, May 1, 2011

Forts Randolph and Buhlow Hold Outstanding Sesquicentennial Program

The entrance of Forts Randolph and Buhlow Historic Site
at 135 Riverfront Street, Pineville, La.
(Photo by Mike Jones)
By  Mike  Jones

     PINEVILLE, La. - The recently opened Forts Randolph and Buhlow State Historic Site commemorated the 150th anniversary of the War for Southern Independence Saturday, April 30, with a multi-faceted program which included a "meet the authors" opportunity, an historical forum on the Red River Campaign of 1864 and a battle reenactment.
     The state historic site is located just across the Red River from Alexandria and adjacent to the remains of Fort Randolph. The visitor's center is a state-of-the-art facility with an introductory movie, a small but excellent museum and restroom and picnic facilities.
     The museum has several excellent life-size dioramas. One depicts a Confederate soldier with a spade helping to construct the river fort. Another features a Confederate sharpshooter in a prone position getting ready to fire at a Yankee gunboat. And just across from the sharpshooter is a Union gunboat turret with the cannon protruding. Inside the turret the viewer sees a Northern sailor working the gun. The other diorama is of a young nurse portraying the civilian side of the war.
      Also exhibited are weapons and story boards that colorfully relate the various aspects of the war in Louisiana, and especially  the Red River Campaign. There is also an elevated boardwalk through the adjoining piney woods which takes the visitors around the remains of the fort. There is an overlook of the site in the river of "Bailey's Dam," which was built by Union forces at the end of the Red River Campaign so their gunboats and transports could escape the pursuing Confederates.
      The historical forum featured some of  Louisiana's top historians, including Henry Robertson of Louisiana College, Dr, Terry Jones, ULM professor and author of the classic "Lee's Tigers: The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia," LSU-Shreveport professor Dr. Gary D. Joiner, author of a number of books on the Red River Campaign, and Father Chad Partain, priest and historian for the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria.
    The "meet the authors" program included Jones and Stuart Salling, author of the recently published "Louisianians in the Western Confederacy: The Adams-gibson Brigade in the Civil War."
    The battle reenactment was a brisk skirmish in an adjacent field which included around 30 living history reenactors. Union and Confederate cannons exchanged fire before the Federal infantry drove back a smaller force of Confederate foot soldiers.
    The two river forts were built on the Red River following the Red River Campaign to thwart any further attacks on Central Louisiana. Construction was completed in March, 1865 and the forts were named for two military engineers, Captain Christopher M. Randolph and Lt. Alphonse Buhlow. Stationed in the river adjacent to Fort Randolph was the ironclad C.S.S. Missouri.  The forts were never to see any combat action and were surrendered after the end of the war.
    For more information on Forts Randolph and Buhlow State Historic Site, click here.

This diorama in the visitor center museum depicts a
Confederate sharpshooter getting ready  to open fire on
a Union gunboat. (Photo by Mike Jones)

Another diorama depicts a Union gunboat turret ready
to open fire on the Confederate fort. Behind is a Union
sailor operating the gun.(Photo by Mike Jones)

Below are some highlights of the battle reenactment. (All photos by Mike Jones):

Two zouave reenactors depicting the 165th N.Y. Infantry,
relax after the reenactment at one of the facility's picnic tables.

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