There’s a place north of Baton Rouge where you can take a quiet walk with some of the ghosts of the civil war.
KATC’s Dave Baker takes us to the historic site of Port Hudson on this GMA Dave Trip.
While the Battle of Vicksburg was going on during the summer of 1863, the Union’s Major General Ulysses S. Grant ordered General Nathaniel Banks to capture the Confederate grip on Port Hudson. The 48-day “Siege of Port Hudson” would become the longest campaign in US Military history.
It only ended because Grant had taken Vicksburg and the Confederate Commander General Franklin Gardner finally surrendered the port. Because of the fall of New Orleans a year earlier, it allowed the Union to gain complete control of the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. When it finished, over 10,000 were dead from battle or disease and 6,500 Confederate Soldiers surrendered. It’s also the place where the Union chose two African-American regiments to participate in the fight. The First and Third Louisiana Native Guards proved themselves, later making Port Hudson a recruiting center for African American Troops.
Today, Port Hudson is one of Louisiana’s Historic Sites. Located less than 20 miles from our state capital. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior in 1974. It’s one of many select properties that are recognized for their importance to American History. There are daily tours, a museum, historic buildings, and picnic areas. It also holds nearly six miles of well-marked hiking trails. The trails aren’t too hilly, and accessible to most. They’re lightly traveled allowing you to enjoy the sounds of nature. There are viewing platforms, and civil war military artifacts you can see and touch.
Each trail leads to different areas that were significant to the siege, and kiosks are placed so you can learn about them.
After, you can drive a few miles south to the Port Hudson National Cemetery. This is the place where Union and Confederate forces were engaged in the siege of Port Hudson. Several thousand Union troops were killed here, and almost all are buried in the cemetery. Over 500 Confederate soldiers killed were buried where they fell. Only 600 of these soldiers’ names were known. The battlefield at Port Hudson may be the only naturally preserved Civil War battleground. Today, all wars and conflicts are represented. You’ll find familiar names, some a little too familiar. The cemetery is open for burial to all members of the armed forces meeting certain requirements.