Fort DeRussy News
Issue 1 March 1997
DeRussy’s Sword Donated to Friends of Fort DeRussy
Myles DeRussy Family Makes Gift of Lewis’ Sword
The Friends of Fort DeRussy received a true Christmas miracle in 1996 when the Myles DeRussy family donated Lewis DeRussy’s dress sword to our organization on Christmas Eve. The donation had been mentioned as a possibility a month earlier, and a surprise phone call from Chicago confirmed that the DeRussy sword would indeed return to Louisiana. The sword is an 1860 Model US officer’s dress sword, 37½ inches in length, with approximately 80% of the original bluing remaining on the blade. It was made in Solingen, Germany, and imported by Schuyler, Hartley & Graham of New York, some of the most active military outfitters of the Civil War Period. DeRussy was a veteran of the War of 1812 and also the Mexican War, but this sword was probably either given to, or purchased by, Colonel DeRussy upon his taking command of the 2d Louisiana Infantry in 1861.
Along with the sword, the DeRussy family also donated a .32 caliber ri mfire Dog’s Head Cane Gun, manufactured by the Remington Arms Company sometime between 1866 and 1888. Only 1,000 of these weapons were made, making this quite a rare item for any museum’s collection.
The weapons were displayed at meetings of La Commission and the Alexandria chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and were a big hit with a local junior high Louisiana History class.
The Friends of Ft. DeRussy
Who are “The Friends of Fort DeRussy”?
In March of 1996, Fort DeRussy was purchased from Mrs. Mary Ann Frey Wilt of Goodlettsville, TN, by La Commission des Avoyelles, the Avoyelles Parish historical society. The Friends of Fort DeRussy was organized as a subgroup of La Commission for the purpose of preserving Fort DeRussy. There are no oaths to take, no passwords or handshakes to learn; you don’t even have to be a member of La Commission, if you don’t wish. But if you care about what happens to the fort, then you can, and should, be a member of the FFD.
Dues are $10 per year. Any additional donations will be appreciated and put to good use. These can be in the form of cash, services, labor, or even just moral support. We encourage the donation of money, but we do recognize that there are certain other contributions that can be just as important to our efforts. A small part of the dues will go toward keeping members informed as to what is happening at the fort, but most will go toward improvements at the fort. FFD has no salaried employees.
What are the benefits of joining the FFD? Well, you’ll be on the mailing list for this newsletter, which will be published on an irregular schedule, as news comes up or as we get time to put one together. We’ll try to keep you posted on what’s happening with the fort’s restoration. But mainly, you’ll have to settle for that warm inner glow that comes from knowing that you are part of something that will last long after you are gone.
If you, are someone you know, would like to become a Friend of Fort DeRussy, contact Steve Mayeux at 7162 Hwy. 29, Cottonport, LA 71327, or phone him at (318) 876-3702. Information about the group can also be obtained from the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism, 1-(800) 833-4195.
Looking for Descendants
If you are a descendant of a soldier who served at Fort DeRussy, let us know. We are compiling a list. So far, we have two individuals in “Sons and Daughters of Fort DeRussy”, both descendants of men who served in the 32nd Iowa Infantry. There are a lot more of you out there, so let’s hear from you.
What’s Been Done So Far
Where are we going, and where have we been?
Our main accomplishment so far has been the purchase of the main redoubt of the fort. This happened through a joint effort of La Commission des Avoyelles, the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, various governmental agencies and elected officials, and several concerned individuals. With the purchase of the fort came a moral obligation to preserve it. To that end, a fence has been built to protect the fort until it can be opened to the public, with labor provided by the Avoyelles Correctional Center and material provided by the Marksville Chamber of Commerce and La Commission des Avoyelles.
The underbrush in the fort is scheduled to be removed in mid-March, 1997, and that work should be completed by the time you read this. The fort will remain wooded, but the dense understory will be removed to give a better view of the works. The planting of a ground cover will be next on the agenda, but is not yet scheduled.
The south wall of the fort shows noticeable erosion in some places, particularly at a notch in the wall that was made by the Yankees in their attempt to tear the fort down. The west wall is in remarkably good shape, and cannot be climbed without the use of hands. The north wall is basically destroyed, and the east wall is in relatively good shape, with the sally-port in this wall. Our main objective is preservation of what we have. At this time, very little restoration is intended; any restored areas will be clearly marked as such. The “Crater” where the magazine was blown up may require some restoration.
The job has begun, but we still have a long way to go. Stay involved for further developments.
Donations Continue to Come In
Generous Donors Make Work on Fort Possible
Donations to the Friends are coming in a steady stream. At the risk of being repetitive, thank you all! Although we do as much as we can with volunteer labor and a considerable amount of help from the State Department of Corrections, there are still times when we need cash. The following is a list of donations to date:
Without the help of people like the above, we cannot restore the fort. With their help, and the help of others like them, Fort DeRussy will once again live.
The Friends of Fort DeRussy is a sub-group of La Commission des Avoyelles, a non-profit organization. This being the case, donations to FFD are actually donations to La Commission, and as such, are tax-deductible.
Officers, La Commission des Avoyelles
President, Carlos Mayeux, Jr., Hamburg
Vice President, Faye E. Truex, Mansura
Sec-Treas., Marilyn B. Coco, Hamburg
Historian, Dan Michel, Marksville
Reporter, Myrstice Juneau, Cottonport
Executive Officer, Clyde Neck, Marksville
Friends of Fort DeRussy
Chairman, Steve Mayeux, Long Bridge
Advisor, Randy Decuir, Marksville
Advisor, Marc Dupuy, Marksville
Did you know that no US gunboat ever successfully passed by a defended Fort DeRussy?