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Fort DeRussy Bugle

Issue 13       Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc.        January 2007


University of Tennessee to Publish Fort History

The long-awaited Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River, by Steven M. Mayeux, is scheduled to be in book stores in August-September of 2007.

Work on the book began in 1994. The manuscript was submitted to the University of Tennessee Press in March 2005, and a contract was signed in October of that year. The manuscript is now in the final stages of preparation, and should go to the printer some time in April.

The book will be hardback with a list price of $45. It should be somewhere between 350 and 400 pages, and will have over fifty illustrations. ♦

The Burmeister Journal

There are a lot of Civil War diaries, journals and letter collections scattered throughout the country in libraries and private collections. Sadly, most of them are not that informative. On the other hand, some of these items are veritable treasure troves of information. And a very few of these are not only full of information, but they are incredibly interesting as well.

The Burmeister Journal is one of the latter. George Burmeister was a captain in the 35th Iowa Infantry who died of wounds received at the Battle of Yellow Bayou. After reading his journal, I have to think he was a good man. He seemed truly embarrassed by the amount of pointless destruction that his fellow Yankees were engaged in.

His journals turned up recently after a conversation with one of his brother’s descendants, Ginny Torres of Tacoma, Washington. Ginny was kind enough to provide Fort DeRussy with a typescript of the 1864 portion of the diary. Burmeister was at the capture of the fort, and describes in detail a conversation he had with one of the slaves who worked near there. The journals are presently being prepared for publication. ♦


Master Plan Completed

The Fort DeRussy Master Plan was completed and presented to the Office of State Parks in February 2005. The plan was compiled by Joseph Furr Design Studios, LLC of Baton Rouge, with Steve Mayeux serving as Historic Consultant, and Cockfield-Jackson Architects assisting with the architectural programming. Among other things, the plan calls for interpretive pavilions, a reconstructed Covered Way from the Hill Fort down to the Water Battery site, and a reconstruction of a casemated Water Battery with a reproduction 9-inch Dahlgren cannon. The plan also calls for the return of the original Fort DeRussy Cannon (the Model 1829 32-pounder Seacoast Gun) that is currently being held by the Navy in Washington, DC.

Copies of the plan are extremely rare, but one is available for viewing at the Friends of Fort DeRussy home office. ♦

Dues Due

In all likelihood, there was a dues notice enclosed with this copy of your newsletter. We do hope that you will be encouraged enough by the news from the fort to renew your membership in Friends of Fort DeRussy. While we may have been remiss in keeping you informed as to the goings-on at the fort, there has been a lot happening, and we need your dues to keep this up. No one draws any kind of salary, but we do have expenses. 100% of your dues and donations are spent on this newsletter and improving Fort DeRussy. ♦

Another Reenactment?

A meeting will be held at Marksville SHS in mid-January to discuss the possibility of another reenactment at the fort, possibly in late October 2007. The last reenactment at the fort took place in November 2002, and the events have been sorely missed by a large portion of the population, if comments I’ve received are any indication. If all of the logistics can be worked out, and the necessary sponsors can be located and arrangements made, then it is possible that the popular reenactments will return to the fort. ♦


FFD Web Page

Everyone is invited – no, encouraged – to make a visit to Friends of Fort DeRussy’s new web page. It can be found on the Internet at  Please note that it is a .org, not a .com, address.

The website includes links to all of the past newsletters, as well as numerous facts about the history of the fort, copies of official reports on actions at the fort, stories about people who served at the fort, and much more.

We are looking for a sponsor to subsidize the website. It costs about $50 a year, and we could provide you or your company with an acknowledgment on the page.

A word of warning – my tech support consists of my teenage son, who will soon be going off to college. So the web site is not real fancy. I am an old dog trying to learn new tricks, and we all know how that goes. The site does provide information concerning the history of the fort and present day happenings there, but there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles. But please go by and have a look, and if you have any suggestions on what should be added (or subtracted), let us know. ♦


Projector Proves Useful

In January 2004, Paragon Casino and the Tunica Biloxi Tribe gave a grant to Friends of Fort DeRussy for a video projector. This projector has been hard at work since its arrival. Just recently, the projector was used to give presentations to Civil War Round Tables in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and also to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Baton Rouge and the Pointe Coupee Historical Society. Another presentation is scheduled for mid-January for the New Iberia Civil War Round Table, and the newly formed Red River Civil War Round Table in Alexandria will be hearing about the fort at their first meeting in February.

We could still use a screen of our own, as currently we are dependent upon using borrowed screens or blank walls. Anyone interested in donating for that purpose, please contact FFD. ♦



Fort OK, but new road affected

While all of the news out of Louisiana in 2005 seemed to focus on Hurricane Katrina, that storm did no actual damage to Fort DeRussy. This area received only a light breeze and about a quarter of an inch of rain from Katrina. Unfortunately, the storm did cause some indirect damage to the fort’s infrastructure.

Fort DeRussy Road had been in terrible shape for a long time, and in July 2004, after some encouragement from Senator Don Hines, the La. Dept. of Transportation and Development finally agreed to fix the road. Work on the road began in late August, 2005, with the application of a solid base of thirteen inches of soil cement. Work ended on a Thursday, and the surfacing of the road was scheduled to begin the next week.

Hurricane Katrina passed through southeast Louisiana and Mississippi on the following Monday, and while it missed the fort, it struck the headquarters of the company in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, that was to do the  chip seal road surfacing. Their equipment was damaged and their employees scattered. It was over a month before they were able to surface the road. In the meantime, daily traffic on the road loosened the base, and at the end of September, Hurricane Rita dumped ten inches of rain onto the unsurfaced road.

The chip-seal was applied to the road base in mid-October, and the road is now much better than what we had before.  It is a good road, but not as good as it could have been had the chip seal been applied in a timely manner.

Other than that, Rita knocked down a few branches here and there, but did no real damage to the fort. This was not DeRussy’s first hurricane. ♦

    This sketch of a 24-pounder cannon on a barbette carriage comes from the sketch book of David Boyd, chief engineer at Fort DeRussy (and later President of Louisiana State University).

Banks’ Grand Retreat

Reenactment Event to Raise Money for Fort

An extraordinary reenactment event will be taking place in the “howling wilderness” of Kisatchie National Forest on March 14-18, 2007, and Fort DeRussy stands to benefit considerably from the efforts of those participating.

“Banks’ Grand Retreat” will not be your standard reenactment. Hard-core reenactors from across the country (as well as over a dozen from England and France) will meet in the woods near Natchitoches to re-live a 26 mile portion of the Union Army’s retreat from Pleasant Hill. The march will be a test of their physical fitness, and authenticity of food, equipment and clothing will be strictly enforced. The retreating Union troops will be harassed by Confederates throughout the march. The event will not be geared toward spectators, but will be for the “enjoyment” of the reenactors themselves.

The organizers were inspired by the hurricane news from Louisiana to “adopt” Fort DeRussy as their charitable cause, and will be holding raffles and finding sponsors to pledge funds for miles completed by participants. Friends of Fort DeRussy will be the beneficiary of their fund-raising activities, expected to generate several thousand dollars. Anyone wishing to be a sponsor should check out on the Internet.

FFD has already benefited from the generosity of the organizers. The Union unit that they will be portraying is the 81st Illinois Infantry. On March 16, 1864, Lt. Jerome Bishop of Co. D of that unit was decapitated at Fort DeRussy by an exploding cannon. An existing carte de visite, or cdv (a photographic calling card) of Bishop has been known to exist for several years now, but the price was out of reach of FFD. Banks’ Grand Retreat organizers dug into their own pockets to make a donation that allowed for the purchase of the cdv and its presentation to Friends of Fort DeRussy. The image is now in our possession, and will appear in the upcoming book on Fort DeRussy.

(Bishop’s body, minus most of his head, was disinterred from the Fort DeRussy Cemetery in 1867, and now lies in the Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville.)  ♦



There’s still a lot happening out at Fort DeRussy. You haven’t been hearing about it, because I’ve been remiss in getting these newsletters out, but things are happening. The state is finally putting up money for the fort, a history of the fort will soon be published (and that may well have a lot to do with why you haven’t seen any newsletters lately), visitors continue to come by the fort (two tours from the Delta Queen in 2005 with another scheduled this April, Blue-Gray Education Society tours, individuals, military officers, school groups, Boy Scouts, etc.), another reenactment in the works . . . there is still a lot happening at the fort. But we still need your help if we want things to continue happening. Please renew your membership today, and continue to be a part of the revitalization of Fort DeRussy. And don’t forget to check out the FFD Website at  

I’d also like for all of you to remember that while FFD has a substantial membership, most of you live away from the fort. Like in Texas, or California, or New York, or wherever. There’s a handful of us working closely with the fort, but we’re kind of in a vacuum. So let us hear from you. Do you have stories of the fort from when you were a kid? Do you have suggestions? Want to write a letter to the editor – pats on the back or stones to the head, either one? We want you to be a part of the fort. And, of course, donations are always welcome.

And if you’re coming to visit, let us know. There are still “No Trespassing” signs up all around the site property, but if we know you’re coming, we can get you in. It’s not a problem, and we want you to feel welcome. It’s your fort. ♦

In Memoriam

We regretfully report the passing of four of our charter members. Miriam Bordelon Andrews, whose grandmother was born at the fort just three days before its capture, died on March 6, 2006. Mansel Mayeux, another long time member and strong supporter, passed away on July 24, 2006. Marvin Mayeux, another generous donor to the cause, has also left us. And lastly, in late November 2006, the gracious Kathleen Gremillion passed on to her reward. Our condolences go out to their families. We will miss them all.

New Books

It’s truly amazing how many new books are coming out every year related to the Civil War in central Louisiana. These books frequently go in great detail into areas that have not previously been covered. Just recently there have been two new books on regiments that served at Fort DeRussy. In 2004, we saw Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Steve Skelton’s edited book of the letters of Capt. Harvey Wallace of the 19th Texas Infantry. Capt. Wallace will be remembered as the man who would have “hid his slaves in the woods” before allowing them to work at Fort DeRussy. Spartan Band, Thomas Reid’s book on Burnett’s 13th Texas Cavalry, is an excellent regimental history. It came out in 2005, as did Dr. Richard Lowe’s in-depth coverage of Walker’s Texas Division. And in 2006 we had Gary Joiner’s Through the Howling Wilderness, a study of the Red River Campaign that is fast gaining on Ludwell Johnson’s Politics and Cotton as the authoritative work on the campaign.

This list is by no means complete. New books come out every few months. Your contributions make it possible for the Fort DeRussy library to stay on the cutting edge of Fort DeRussy research. ♦   


New Manager

Doyle Jennings, formerly Manager at Rebel State Historic Site in Marthaville, has taken over as Manager of Marksville SHS, which makes him the newest Commanding Officer at Fort DeRussy. After meeting with him, I foresee good things happening from this arrangement. Welcome aboard, Doyle. ♦


Editorial Staff

This newsletter is written, edited and published by Steve Mayeux, President, Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc. Anyone who has any comments or suggestions concerning the contents of this newsletter may contact me by mail at 7162 Hwy 29, Cottonport, LA 71327; by phone at (318) 876-3702; or by e-mail at Membership in Friends of Fort DeRussy is encouraged, and may be started by sending a check for $15 payable to Friends of Fort DeRussy. Additional donations are appreciated.

    This sketch of a 24-pounder cannon on a barbette carriage comes from the sketch book of David Boyd, chief engineer at Fort DeRussy (and later President of Louisiana State University).

Fort Gets Funding – Again


After completion of the Fort DeRussy State Historic Site Master Plan in 2005, the Louisiana State Legislature voted to provide funding for the site in the amount of $850,000. Of that amount, $150,000 was to be made immediately available for architectural design for the visitor center and walking trails, and the other $700,000 was to follow the next year for construction. Unfortunately, before the Bond Commission could meet to approve those funds, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita arrived and all of that money was washed away, along with a good portion of the southern part of the state.

The possibility of obtaining funding in 2006 was considered hopeless, but thanks to the heroic efforts of Senator Don Hines of Bunkie, the funding legislation was reintroduced and passed through both houses. In September 2006, the State Bond Commission met and approved the first $150,000 for design and acquisitions.  

So, after six years of effort on the part of Friends of Fort DeRussy, the initial funding for the project has finally arrived. Contracts have not yet been let out, but the project has begun. We hope to see construction begin at the fort sometime in the next few years. It would be nice to see it sooner than that, but this is a state project, and they tend to move slowly.

For more information on the Master Plan and the effects of the hurricanes on the fort, see the rest of this newsletter. ♦

My Apologies

It has been two years now since the last issue of the Fort DeRussy Bugle has appeared. This is unacceptable, of course, and there is no one to blame other than yours truly. There is far too much happening at the fort to justify such a break between newsletters. I promise to make every effort to see that there is no such gap between issues in the future.