Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Port Hudson Commemorates Siege Sesquicentennial

A replica of the original Port Hudson garrison flag waves proudly in the
breeze at the 150th Anniversary events of the 1863 siege at Port Hudson
State Historic Site, north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Mike Jones)

By Mike Jones
            PORT HUDSON, La. -- Port Hudson State Historic Site, about 16 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana off U. S. Hwy. 61, observed the Sesquicentennial of the Siege of Port Hudson March 23 and 24, 2013. The facility, part of the state parks system, covers about 600 acres which includes the northern portion of the original battlefield.
           The first Union attack on Port Hudson occurred on the night of March 14-15, 1863 when Admiral David G. Farragut tried to pass the guns of the Mississippi River Confederate bastion. At the same time Major General Nathaniel P. Banks led the Union Army of the Gulf up to the outskirts of the land side of the fortress.
          Only two Union ships managed to get by the guns of Port Hudson and the U. S. S. Mississippi was sunk and the others beaten back. Banks' land forces skirmished with the  Confederates, and then withdrew.
          The Siege of Port Hudson, which took place at the same  time as the Siege of Vicksburg, was from May  23, July 9, 1863. The Port Hudson  garrison, commanded by Major General Franklin Gardner, surrendered when it was learned that Vicksburg had surrendered July 4. Port Hudson was the longest true siege in U. S. Military History.
         To commemorate the event, the state historic site presented a gunboat demonstration at a pond behind the park visitor center and museum, cavalry and artillery demonstrations. There was also music by James Hogg and the Zachary High School. Other activities included a Civil War dance class and medical demonstration.
          There were battle reenactments on both days in which hundreds of living history reenactors took part. A reconstructed section of authentic looking breastworks added to the realism to the mock battle. The reenactment scenarios included the Battle of Plains Store, which historically occurred May 21, 1863, and the Battle of Slaughter's Field, which occurred May 27, 1863.
         At the Battle of Plains store  Union forces approaching Port Hudson under the command of Union General C. C. Augur were met by Mile's Louisiana Legion and Boone's Battery. The Confederates, outnumbered, retreated back to Port Hudson after a sharp clash. The Battle of Slaughter's Field was part of a Union effort to storm the ramparts of the fortress, which was beaten back by the Confederates. The field was littered with the Union dead and wounded.
          At the end of the Sunday battle reenactments, the surrender of the Confederate forces was reenacted.
          Click here to go to the Port Hudson State Historic Site.
         Here are some photographs taken at the event, all by Mike Jones:

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