Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Port Hudson State Historic Site - Zachary, Louisiana

Confederate Earthworks at Port Hudson
Although its story is often overshadowed by that of the Battle of Vicksburg, which took place at the same time, the Siege and Battle of Port Hudson was one of the monumental confrontations of the Civil War.

After a failed attempt to retake Baton Rouge in August of 1862, Confederate forces in Louisiana withdrew about 30 miles up the Mississippi River to Port Hudson. A small community located atop high bluffs overlooking a bend of the river, Port Hudson offered the ideal place for a citadel to prevent Union warships from reaching the vital junction of the Mississippi and Red Rivers.

Garrison Flag that flew over Port Hudson
Over the months that followed, the position was heavily fortified and by early 1863 a Confederate force of around 7,500 men held the position and manned the heavy guns that aimed down on the channel of the Mississippi. A flotilla of Union warships commanded by Admiral David G. Farragut tried to blast its way past Port Hudson on March 14, 1863, but only two of the vessels made it. The U.S.S. Mississippi was destroyed and the other ships had to turn back. Port Hudson had proved its worth as a defensive position.

Cannon at Port Hudson, Louisiana
Determined to eliminate the Confederate bastion, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks moved against it with more than 30,000 men in May of 1863. The severely outnumbered Confederates dug in even deeper and devastated the Union army in its two major attempts to storm the works. An attack on June 14, 1863 went so bad for the Federals that they suffered casualties of 1,792 men compared to only 47 of the Confederates, giving Southern General Franklin Gardner one of the most lopsided tactical victories of the Civil War.

Port Hudson held out until after the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in July of 1863. The fall of that city gave Union ships coming down the Mississippi access to the river's confluence with the Red River and there was no longer any reason for the Confederates in Louisiana to continue to hold out. Gardner surrendered on July 9, 1863, having withstood until then the longest total siege of the Civil War.

To learn more about the Siege and Battle of Port Hudson and to see photos of Port Hudson State Historic Site and other points of interest in the area, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/porthudson.

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