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The Official Site of Fort DeRussy, Louisiana



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Fort DeRussy Bugle

Issue 12          Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc.         January 2005

Lt. Governor Visits Fort

VIPs See What Fort has to Offer

    On a nippy November morning with a cold wind blowing out of the north, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu dropped by Fort DeRussy to eat gumbo, talk to State and local officials, and take a quick tour to see what Fort DeRussy has to offer to the tourists who will be coming when the fort is developed.

    Landrieu was met at the fort by State Parks personnel, the Friends of Fort DeRussy Board of Directors, State Representative Monica Walker, and other parish and local officials. After a tour of the fort, the group adjourned to a National Guard tent set up under the trees and had gumbo cooked by a Louisiana Knights of Columbus State Gumbo Cooking Champion, FFD’s own Nolan Bordelon. Bordelon was assisted by James Bordelon and Dyrel Dauzat.

    The weather was perfect, the gumbo was delicious, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Dr. Stuart Johnson, head of State Parks, and Lt. Gov. Landrieu both expressed a desire to bring Fort DeRussy on line as soon as funding was available.

    Special thanks to our cooks and to Company B, 769th Engineer Bn., La. National Guard, for the loan of their tent.

    Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, flanked by former Avoyelles Representative (now District Attorney) Charles Riddle and current Representative Monica Walker, grins after enjoying a good bowl of gumbo at Fort DeRussy.

New Map of Fort Found

Flaugher Map Added to Collection

When Nehemiah Flaugher wrote home to his father on June 13, 1864, he enclosed sketches of two forts he had recently seen, and asked his father “to preserve them.” In September, 2004, we were honored to receive copies of these maps of Fort DeRussy and Fort Humbug (near Simmesport) from Mr. Richard Ruth of New Jersey, Flaugher’s great-great-grandson who now owns the originals.  

The map of Fort DeRussy is very similar to the well-known Harper’s Weekly map of the fort. In fact, it appears that Flaugher probably copied that map for his father, with the addition that Flaugher added the southeast gun emplacement which was not shown in the Harper’s map. So the Flaugher map may possibly be considered an “improved” version of the Harper’s map.

The map is a valued addition to our archival collection. Unfortunately, the yellowing of the paper makes the printing of a copy of the map in this newsletter impossible.


La Commission Buys Barracks Property

Soon to Become Part of Site

A Sheriff’s Sale was held at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office on August 11, 2004, at which the 3-acre Barracks Property was auctioned off to “La Commission des Avoyelles”, the high – and only – bidder. La Commission already owned about 96% of the property. Negotiations are currently underway to have the property turned over to the Office of State Parks to become a part of the Fort DeRussy State Historic Site. (“La Commission des Avoyelles” is the Avoyelles Parish historical society.)

The Barracks Property is indicated on Civil War era maps of the fort as being the site of the fort’s barracks. Archaeological testing of the site should prove interesting.


No Letup in Tours

There has been no letup in the steady parade of tours through Fort DeRussy. In addition to the West Point Staff Ride in June and the VIP Tour in November,  there have been several other groups visiting the fort since our last newsletter.

On March 16, 2004, a group of ladies from the Alexandria Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were shown around the fort and cemetery. A few days later, on March 20, Dr. Henry Robertson brought a group from LSU-A down to the fort as part of their Red River Campaign class. On March 23, two gentlemen from the USS Arizona Civil War Gunboat Foundation dropped by the fort to inspect the Water Batteries and the site of the capture of the USS Queen of the West. The hectic month of March ended with several out-of-towners, in the area for the Red River Campaign Symposium at LSU-A, coming by the fort on the last weekend of the month.

On September 1, about twenty-five members of the Blue and Gray Education Society made a stop at the fort as part of their Red River Campaign tour. They were led by Edwin Bearss, Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service and Dr. Gary Joiner.

On October 8, a group of five gentlemen from Indiana toured the fort, but were driven off early by a hard rain shower.

    Ed Bearss (National Park Service) and Steve Mayeux (Friends of Fort DeRussy) conducted the Fort DeRussy leg of the September BGES Tour.

Delta Queen to Return

The Delta Queen Steamboat Company has announced that in June, 2005, the Delta Queen will once again be making her way up Red River on a Red River Civil War Cruise. Fort DeRussy is a scheduled stop for a shore tour.


New Casualties Found

Mansfield Site Manager Helps Out

Steve Bounds, site manager of Mansfield State Historic Site, was instrumental in uncovering the names of several more casualties from the 1864 Battle of Fort DeRussy. These men had remained unknown because of their peculiar status – they were members of the 52nd Indiana Infantry, a unit that was not at Fort DeRussy in 1864.

How, you ask, could this be? Shortly before the Red River Campaign, the 52nd Indiana was sent home on veteran’s furlough. Some men, however, had only recently joined the unit and therefore did not qualify for the furlough. When the old-timers went home, the non-veterans were formed into a company and attached to the 89th Indiana, a unit that did fight at the fort. Two men in this company suffered head wounds while charging Fort DeRussy.

Thanks to Steve Bounds for uncovering these elusive casualties.


Hines Finds Money for Fort DeRussy Road

For years, the Fort DeRussy Road has been one of the worst roads in the Parish. State law requires the State Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to maintain the road since it connects to a State Historic Site, but the state Constitution prohibits them from spending DOTD money on parish roads. So the road has been neglected while parish and state waited for each other to fix it.

On July 12, a meeting was held at the office of Senator Don Hines, attended by Hines, Representative Monica Walker, Wayne Marchand of DOTD, and representatives from State Parks, Avoyelles Parish Police Jury and FFD, to discuss the situation. The outcome of the meeting was that DOTD accepted responsibility for building the road if a funding source could be found.

Since that meeting, Dr. Hines has pulled a rabbit out of his hat, funds have become available, and work on the new road is expected to begin this spring. Our sincerest appreciation goes out to Dr. Hines.  We’d also like to thank Wayne Marchand of DOTD for his cooperation in this endeavor.


Happily ever after. . ?

Not All of Them

In the stories from our childhood, most of the tales  ended with “. . and they all lived happily ever after.” But in real life, some of the stories of the men who served at Fort DeRussy did not have that same ending.

Levi “Doc” Miles, of Rising Sun, Indiana, was 44 years old when he joined the 52nd Indiana Volunteers in January 1864. And just three months later, he found himself charging Fort DeRussy. Unfortunately for Levi, a Rebel bullet also found him charging the fort. The ball entered his neck behind the left jaw, just under his ear, and passed through and exited “between the cords of his neck just below the back of his head.”

Levi left the hospital and returned to his unit about a month later, but he was never the same, and was sent home in December. The formerly healthy man could no longer hold down a job, due to frequent seizures in which he would fall to the ground and jerk spasmodically. He was also hard of hearing, and sometimes forgot where he was or what he was doing.

Maybe Levi turned to hard liquor for solace, or maybe he just returned to an old habit. He became a fixture in Rising Sun after the war, where the kids called him “old Uncle Dockey.” No one thought too much about seeing him lying in the street. A lot of people didn’t even know about the seizures, and just assumed he was passed out drunk – which all too frequently was the case.

Levi left his house on Wednesday, December 4, 1872 at 3 PM, headed for town to pick up some pills. Two men saw him lying in the road about dark, and as it was a particularly cold night, they returned a short time later to move him but found he was already gone.

Levi never made it home that night. Dazed and disoriented, either from the whiskey or a seizure, he took the wrong fork in the road on his way home and wandered over a bluff and drowned in the Ohio River. Three days later, his wife finally got around to inquiring as to his whereabouts, leading one to believe that he may not have been too sorely missed.

His body was found in the river in May, about four miles downstream. The river had only recently thawed from the winter freeze, and the body was in a good state of preservation.

Years later, Levi’s widow Catharine would file for a pension, claiming Levi’s death was the result of his head wound. The pension was denied. But there can be no denying that Levi Miles did not “live happily ever after.”

NY Herald Covers Story

Map now in Fort Archives

When the USS Queen of the West was captured at Fort DeRussy (then known as Fort Taylor) back in 1863, the story made headlines in New York City. Two of the city’s newspapers, the Herald and the Tribune, covered the story in detail, each devoting several columns to the narrative. Original copies of both of these papers can be found in the Fort DeRussy Library. The map that accompanied the Herald article shows considerable detail of the Fort DeRussy area, including the site of the hospital that occupied one of the Barbin’s Landing outbuildings and locations of the steamers Doubloon and DeSoto. The map is remarkably accurate considering the short time that the Yankees were in the area and the fact that it was raining and they were being shot at for most of that short time. What is even more remarkable is the fact that the Herald published an extensive article about the capture of the Queen even though their correspondent aboard the boat, Finley Anderson, was captured along with the Queen and did not make it back to New York for nearly a year. Anderson’s adventures in jail in Alexandria and Tyler, Texas, were published in articles in the Herald in March, 1864. Anderson held a very low opinion of the Rapides Parish Jail.


By the time you read this, the Fort DeRussy State Historic Site Master Plan will have been delivered to State Parks, and a public presentation can be expected shortly. This, along with the resurfacing of the road leading to the fort, makes an obvious statement – Fort DeRussy State Historic Site will soon be a going concern!

As you can see from the contents of this newsletter, a lot is happening out at the fort, and a lot more is about to happen. And we need your help.

There are a lot more service and pension records of soldiers wounded at the fort that we’d like to have in the archives; there’s a new book out on Walker’s Texas Division that really belongs in our library; a GPS receiver would be nice, so we wouldn’t have to borrow one from a 15-year-old boy the next time we do a Water Battery survey; and making sure that the right people get the right information at the right time costs money.

So, please, if your dues are overdue, send them in – and cash donations are never too small or too large.  Together, we’re making this happen.


Computer Donated

On February 9, 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Coll donated their used computer to Friends of Fort DeRussy, allowing us to replace an old borrowed computer that was on its last legs. Our thanks go out to the Colls. Their generosity is appreciated, and hopefully will be an inspiration to others.


Survey Locates Water Battery Site

On September 24, 2004, Friends of Fort DeRussy conducted a GPS survey in the Fort DeRussy area to determine the location of the Water Battery site. Over the years, there has been some debate as to whether or not a high piece of ground along the old river channel was the Battery Site or simply an old piece of levee. The recent findings were compared with maps from the 1860’s, 1890’s, and 1960’s, and the location of the site was conclusively established. The suspected location is indeed the Battery site. It lies partially on Fort DeRussy property, and partially on neighboring private property.

The findings from this survey were announced at an Archaeology Week presentation at the Marksville Library on September 29, 2004.  


West Point Cadets Visit

Tactics and Strategy Discussed

 Roast Pig Eaten

Led by Lt. Col. Dana Mangham, a class of West Point cadets visited the fort on June 1, 2004, for a stop on the first Red River Campaign West Point Staff Ride. Malcolm Brouillette, Nolan Bordelon, Dyrel Dauzat and James Gaspard braved a severe thunderstorm early that morning to roast a pig on the fort grounds for the cadets. The Cochon de Lait was sponsored by generous donations from the West Point Society of the Mid-Gulf and Mrs. Marjorie deBoisblanc Daigle and her husband. Mrs. Daigle is a direct descendant of Lewis DeRussy.


New Site Manager

The new site manager at Marksville State Historic Site is Susan Sebastian. Ms. Sebastian has replaced Titus Belgard. Ward Zisckhe is still serving on active duty, and is expected back eventually.


Microfilm Reader Ruined

Decklog Project Terminated

For nearly three years, the cooperative project between FFD and the Avoyelles Correctional Center went flawlessly. A large number of gunboat decklogs were transcribed and added to the computer base kept by FFD. But with the transfer of our best workers, the project output dropped to zero, and the project was terminated. When the microfilm reader was returned, it was found that the bulb, bulb socket, and possibly other parts had been removed. As the machine is an old model, replacement parts are no longer available and the machine is now inoperable. We are once again looking for a microfilm reader.