The smell of gunpowder drifted across East Feliciana fields April 25-26 during the Battle of Jackson Crossroads.
Not far from the original battle site in Jackson, “soldiers” and cannons from the Southeast region of the United States participated in a reenactment sponsored by the Jackson Living History Association, which works to make the event as historically accurate as possible, organizer Rafe Stewart said.
History books tell the story of the continuing war for control of the Mississippi River between the Confederacy and the Union, which culminated in two major sieges at Port Hudson and Vicksburg in the summer of 1863.
Because of these campaigns, many smaller skirmishes took place in communities of less strategic value, which otherwise may never have directly experienced the sights and sounds of battle, Stewart said.
Two such engagements occurred in Jackson in 1863 as a result of the Union campaign to take Port Hudson. The first occurred when a large Federal foraging expedition was moving through the area.
About 200 wagons with cavalry and infantry escort, commanded by Col. Halbert Greenleaf, set forth from the Federal siege lines at Port Hudson on their way to Jackson on the morning of June 20.
The wagon train, which stretched over two miles in length, reached the intersection where the Jackson-Port Hudson Road crossed the Jackson-Clinton Road. As the Federal expedition sought out the Keller Plantation just north of the crossroads, Col. Thomas R. Stockdale’s Mississippi Cavalry Brigade swept over the column with little warning, according to historians.
The brief fight stampeded the huge wagon train giving the Confederates ample opportunity to take 50 prisoners, 50 wagons and 200 mules as their own.
The second engagement occurred when a recruiting expedition from Port Hudson, numbering between 350 and 500 men under the command of Lt. Moore Hanham, reached Jackson on Aug. 2 to recruit black men for the Twelfth Corps d’Afrique. On the following evening, a force of about 500 Confederate cavalrymen struck the Union soldiers drawn up in a battle line on the campus of Centenary College in Jackson.
After a brief stand, the Federals were routed from the town with the loss of 80 to 100 men, two field pieces and numerous supply wagons, however, it’s been said that Logan admitted to losing only 12 men, either killed or wounded.
Before Federal forces isolated Port Hudson from the surrounding countryside, Confederate troops used Centenary buildings in Jackson as a hospital, and at one point, the Lake Providence Cadets of the 4th Louisiana Regiment, were commanded by Captain Charles R. Purdy to guard the town.
Spectators visited campsites to observe calvary demonstrations, unit inspections and drill competitions, as well as Sutlers Row, which featured artifacts, leather goods, military clothing and weaponry from the era.
To learn more, visit www.battleofjacksoncrossroads.org.