The Official Site of Fort DeRussy, Louisiana
Fort DeRussy Bugle
Issue 14 Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc. November 2007
For the first time since 2002, cannons will roar and soldiers will once again charge
across the fields of Fort DeRussy. Louisiana’s Office of State Parks will be sponsoring
another Fort DeRussy battle reenactment this December 1-
We expect the weather that weekend to be clear and chilly, or maybe even overcast
and chilly, but it should be perfect for a reenactment. For those of you who’ve been
to the fort in the summer, this should be a welcome change. No mosquitoes, redbugs,
or water moccasins, plenty of living history for the whole family, and lots of friends
sharing an interest in our past. Come on out and join with us in an educational and
“US Ironclad Steamer Essex, off Fort DeRussy, Red River, March 17, 1864 Admiral: . . . I will mention, only, as a result of our experience, that a gun weighing over 9,000 pounds can be slung (dragging) to the axles of an army wagon and drawn by eighteen mules. . . Robert Townsend, Commander, US Navy.” Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, V. 26, p. 32.
In this Fort DeRussy sketch, from Grand Army Picture Book (1890), the pullers are oxen, not mules. Thanks to Frank Furman of Rolla, Missouri, for locating this woodcut for us.
Who ya gonna call?
Ghost hunters – more specifically, members of Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigators
La. Spirits is “a serious group of professional and analytical individuals dedicated to the investigating of paranormal activity.” They came to the fort armed with numerous electromagnetic pulse indicators (EPDs) and both audio and video recorders. Early in the evening, the EPDs were going off on a regular basis, which had some of the members declaring that the fort was one of the most active sites they had ever investigated. But when the excitement died down, it was determined that the ‘spirits’ seem to have been more related to active cell phones than to any dead soldiers. A recent check of the Louisiana Spirits web site shows that the Fort DeRussy investigation is not even mentioned. It seems that the spirits that haunt our battleground have a little too much dignity to participate in playing parlor games with technological gizmos. ♦
Lt. Jerome Bishop
81st Illinois Infantry
The handsome young man depicted here is Lt. Jerome Bishop of the 81st Illinois. This picture was made when he was stationed at Vicksburg, Mississippi, a few months before he was decapitated by an exploding cannon at Fort DeRussy on the night of March 16, 1864. Lt. Bishop’s body was later removed from the Fort DeRussy Cemetery to the Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville.
More on “The Book”
Just how good is this new book on Fort DeRussy? According to the book reviews showing up on the Internet, it seems to be just what some readers have been waiting for. Below are a few excerpts from published reviews:
“Astutely analyzed, exhaustively researched, well written, and beautifully illustrated,
Earthen Walls, Iron Men is an original contribution to the historiography of the
Drew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors Blog
“There’s a lot to like in Mayeux’s book. . . The good things start with the cover. . . Good job. Well worth the price.”
George E. Wright, Jr., Amazon.com review
“If one is interested in learning the no-
W. Rome, Amazon.com review
“This probably has more previously unpublished Trans-
Thomas Reid, posted on History-
To go along with these good reviews, one should also consider that, to date, there have been no bad reviews.
The price of the book varies widely depending on where it is sold. While the list
price is $45, it has been seen advertised for sale at anywhere from $30 to $70. To
anyone buying their copy over the Internet, Amazon.com has consistently advertised
the cheapest price ($29.70, with free shipping). Should you choose this route to
purchase your copy, we would like to recommend that you visit History-
Copies signed by the author can be purchased from Steve Mayeux for $44 (shipping and packaging included in the continental US), at the address found on the bottom of the last page of this Bugle. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Friends of Fort DeRussy. ♦
Banks’ Grand Retreat
There are reenactments, and then there are reenactments. “Banks’ Grand Retreat” was one of the latter. It was a reenactment such as you’ve never seen before – and for good reason. As one of the reenactors said, “We hate spectators.” More to the point, they won’t tolerate spectators, and have no use for them. The reenact for their own enjoyment. And they came from all over the United States, England, and France to do it.
Banks’ Grand Retreat took place in the Kisatchie Hills of north Louisiana back in
March 2007. It was a four-
The 190 participants in this event were not being totally selfish in their enjoyment of this event. Banks’ Grand Retreat raised over $4,000 for the Friends of Fort DeRussy to use for further land acquisition for the fort, and also made other donations that allowed FFD to purchase a CDV of Lt. Jerome Bishop, 81st Illinois, the Yankee officer who had his head decapitated at the fort two days after it was captured. Special thanks go out to Doug Cooper, Fred Baker, Bill Treadway, Tom Yearby, Terre Lawson, Dan Hadley, the Texas Ground Hornets, the Lazy Jacks, and all of the others. ♦
Things continue to happen at Fort DeRussy, and we owe it all to you. Thanks to everyone who paid their dues after the last newsletter came out, and especially to Hugh Ripley, Thomas Handy, Robert Gobtop and CLECO, who all made donations of $100 or more. Your generosity is appreciated.
Along those same lines, we must take note of Doug Cooper and his compatriots from Banks’ Grand Retreat. Doug did not know me from Adam, nor I him. He’s from Idaho, and has no personal connection to Fort DeRussy. When he first called and offered to raise money for the fort, I must admit that I thought it was some kind of scam. It wasn’t. At sundown on March 14th, I found myself in the surreal position of having a man I’d first met in person a few hours earlier giving me several double handfuls of cash and checks, telling me to count it when I got home and let him know how much it was when I saw him again in four days. (For the record, it was $1,039 and change.) And four days later, after more raffle tickets were sold, the same thing happened again. That’s the kind of people who are making Fort DeRussy come to life. That’s the kind of people you are, and I’m proud to be associated with you.
I’d also like to especially thank Dr. Don Hines, president of the Louisiana Senate,
for all that he has done for FFD over the years. He has been term-
Ashe Broussard Weinzettle Architects of Alexandria, La., have been awarded the contract for the design of the Fort DeRussy Visitor Center.
Other Books of Interest
Response to the last issue of the Bugle indicated a serious interest in any books concerning the war in the Fort DeRussy area. With that in mind, we mention the following:
Mr. Lincoln’s Brownwater Navy: The Mississippi Squadron, by Gary D. Joiner. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, paperback, 200 pages. An interesting and exciting narrative of the US Navy’s actions on the Mississippi and it tributaries.
Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries and Memoirs from the Red River
Chicago’s Battery Boys: The Chicago Mercantile Battery in the Civil War’s Western Theater, by Richard Brady Williams. Savas Beatie, 2005, hardback, 638 pages (new edition out in paperback, 2007). An excellent unit history of a unit that participated in the 1864 Red River Campaign, although not at Fort DeRussy.
A Thrilling Narrative: The Memoir of a Southern Unionist, by Dennis Haynes, ed. by Arthur Bergeron, Jr. University of Arkansas Press, 2006, hardback, 170 pages. Edited reprint of a very rare account by a member of the First La. Scouts Battalions (a Union unit). Jayhawkers were not uncommon in central Louisiana, but Haynes was the only one to write a book about his experiences. ♦
Mrs. Martha Yarrington “Monnie” DeRussy passed away sometime in the past two years.
We do not have any details, only that her last newsletter was returned. Mrs. Monnie
was the great-
Book Now Available
Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana and the Defense of Red River,
the first book-
The book, written by Friends of Fort DeRussy president Steve Mayeux and with a foreword by National Park Service Historian Emeritus Edwin Bearrs, has been received with good reviews as well as good sales figures. Research for the book began in 1994, and the writing was completed in 2005. It has been making its way through the publishing process for the past two years, and the completed book’s arrival at the author’s house was celebrated by the author and his wife with a toast of Rebel Yell whiskey.
The book is also available for loan from some libraries – mostly in Louisiana, but strangely enough, even from one in Alberta, Canada. ♦
Delta Queen beached
The steamboat Delta Queen, which has been bringing tourists to Fort DeRussy since 1998, has had her license revoked by an act of Congress. The boat has steamed the inland waters of the United States since 1929, and for many years has had a waiver allowing her to continue carrying passengers even though she does not have a metal superstructure. Although the boat has an exemplary safety record, Congress has decided not to renew the waiver. This is a definite blow to tourism at Fort DeRussy, as Delta Queen is the only steamboat on the Mississippi system that can fit through the locks into Red River. It’s also a blow to the many people who will never again be able to enjoy a steamboat trip up the Red. This is a sad day for us all, and a sad day for common sense.