Port Hudson, LA was only one of many battlefields along the Mississippi River during the Civil War Era. The siege of Port Hudson (May 22 – July 9, 1863) was the final engagement in the Union campaign to liberate the Mississippi in the Civil War. At Port Hudson, Fort Desperate was the location of one of the bloodiest battles of that time. Soldiers were deserting their posts due to unbearable living conditions and lack of leadership quality from their commanders.
Today you can visit the Port Hudson State Historical Site and tour the museum, listen to stories from times past, view Civil War artifacts, and walk along some of the same trails the soldiers walked along.
Walking through the dense woods and reading the informative plaques, I could picture some of the battles that took place there. Deep ravines where men fought to their death. Their wives and children waiting for news, any news, of their loved ones whereabouts and health. You see, it was not uncommon for these soldiers to find their death due to malnutrition, heat stroke, or battle wounds.
The topography of the land has been well preserved by the Port Hudson State Historical Site. Most of the area has been untouched by human hands. Nature has done her duty to protect these grounds. Knowing the area was as it was in those days, I could visualize men digging their way through the tangled vines and the thick undergrowth. Their horrified screams echo against the Live Oak and Sycamore trees. The still air hung with the scent of old blood.
In my tennis shoes, shorts, and short sleeve shirt, I trudged through the trees in the sweltering heat. Hot, sticky, muggy Louisiana heat. Sweat rolled down my back. Yes, it was hot. But I knew that at the end of my walk I would feel the comfort of cool air from my air conditioned car. These men didn’t have that privilege. No, they fought in this heat in their thick wool uniforms without the comforts we often take for granted. And the fighting and discomforts went on for days and days.
This tour and many others like it, are reminders of the sacrifices these soldiers made for all American’s freedom. Let’s never forget what these men have done for us. Freedom and dignity for all!