For its 153rd anniversary, the Siege of Port Hudson was re-enacted Saturday and Sunday for hundreds of visitors to Port Hudson State Historic Site in Jackson near Zachary.
Artillery, cavalry and infantry branches along with cooks, laundresses, sutlers (civilians who sold provisions) and tradesmen were portrayed, along with a scale reproduction of a gunboat fleet on the park’s pond.
Re-enactors of all ages from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and from around Louisiana dressed in Union and Confederate uniforms and conducted artillery, history and medical demonstrations, a church service and Civil War-era dance class, staging activities characteristic of 1863.
Reproductions of Civil War merchandise, including knives, muskets, flags, canteens, clothing, quilts, books, food and more were sold along with concessions by the Zachary High School band.
Battle scenarios both days were of the Battle of Plains Store and Battle of Slaughter’s Field.
The Battle of Plains Store occurred May 21, 1863, when Union Gen. Christopher C. Augur led his troops north from Baton Rouge on the Baton Rouge/Bayou Sara Road (now La. 965) to link up with Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks coming down from Bayou Sara/St. Francisville. Augur’s troops clashed with a Confederate picket post at the village of Plains Store. After driving them away, Augur turned west and headed for Port Hudson on the Clinton Road (now Plains-Port Hudson Road).
Augur then battled troops from Col. William Miles’ Louisiana Legion and Capt. R. M. Boone’s Louisiana Battery, forcing them back into the Port Hudson fortifications.
The Battle of Slaughter’s Field occurred May 27, 1863, when several thousand bluecoats from Union Gen. Neal Dow’s brigade of the 6th Michigan, 128th New York, 26th Connecticut and 15th New Hampshire advanced upon the rebel works of Port Hudson, which were manned by Confederate rifle and artillerymen from Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
By the end of the day, Gen. T.W. Sherman’s division, including the 165th New York Regiment of Zouaves, were broken and left leaderless. Dow’s brigade was finished for the day, men beaten and exhausted. The ground was littered with Union dead and wounded.
The siege of Port Hudson began on May 23 and ended July 9, 1863. Roughly 30,000 Union troops were pitted against 6,800 Confederates, and the ensuing battles constituted some of the bloodiest and most severe fighting of the Civil War. After 48 days and thousands of casualties, the Union army entered Port Hudson, and the siege became the longest in American military history.
In 1974, the battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.