The Official Site of Fort DeRussy, Louisiana
Fort DeRussy Bugle
Issue 15 Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc. December 2009
Book Supplies Low
Anyone hoping to get a copy of Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana and the Defense of Red River (Steven M. Mayeux, University of Tennessee Press, 2007) in its original hardback version, had better get to a bookstore soon. The book sold well and there are only a couple of hundred copies left in the Chicago warehouse. A paperback version is a possibility should the hardbacks sell out, but there is no guarantee that this will happen.
Hurricane Damage Minimal
Direct hit by Gustave; Ike misses
The 2008 hurricane season presented Fort DeRussy with challenges, but nothing that the old girl couldn’t cope with. Hurricane Gustav struck the fort a direct blow in early September, and was one of the most severe storms to strike the fort in recent history. While tree damage in the fort itself was very light, the fort’s cemetery was hard hit, with several large trees uprooted. The fence was destroyed in spots, and while several graves were nearly crushed by the large oak tree that fell, there was no actual tombstone damage.
The road leading to the fort was not so lucky. As you will recall, the road was resurfaced
in 2005, and its base was damaged by the affects of Hurricane Rita at that time.
The two feet of heavy rain following Gustav washed out an eight-
No hurricanes in 2009. Whew! ♦
More Ghost Hunters
Ghost hunters continue to haunt Fort DeRussy and its adjacent cemetery. On September
27, 2008, I got a call from an all-
Anyone who has ever made the trip after dark down the long, winding, tree-
And, no, the injured party did not feel any strange push or shove before she went down. She just tripped on her feet and fell onto a concrete slab.
This particular group of ghost hunters has not been back. However, we look forward to the next ones. There’s never a dull moment at Fort DeRussy after dark. ♦
Great Marksville Cotton Raid Revisited
As a part of the year-
Friends of Fort DeRussy is very fortunate to have corporate sponsors who make donations to the cause of maintaining and preserving the fort. Our most dedicated and consistent sponsor has been CLECO, the Central Louisiana Electric Company. Cleco began donating to FFD back in 1997, and over the years has given over $2,500 to the group. Cleco has made an annual donation of $200 for the past five years. Thanks, Cleco.
Another generous sponsor to our organization has been the Paragon Casino/Tunica-
Of course, we also appreciate everyone who keeps their dues up to date, and especially those of you who make additional donations along with your dues (even when the newsletter comes way too seldom). Be assured that even though your newsletter isn’t coming in as timely a manner as it probably should, there is still a lot of activity – much of it behind the scenes – going on to make the fort an active site. Your contributions are invaluable. ♦
Philip “Duke” Rivet, long-
This particular shell was found on the Mansura battlefield and will make an excellent
display item in the Fort DeRussy museum. It is currently being disarmed by the professionals
at Fort Donelson Relics in Dover, Tennessee, with the cost of the de-
Rapides Foundation Gives Grant
$1,000 Buys Weapons & Accoutrements
A $1,000 grant from the Rapides Foundation has allowed FFD to purchase reproduction
weapons and accoutrements so that school groups coming to demonstrations will be
able to see exactly what types of equipment were used at the fort. The grant money
was used to purchase reproductions of a Model 1853 .58 caliber Enfield rifle (fifty-
Inspired by the donation of the Rapides Foundation, Jack’s Powder Keg threw in a
pound of black powder and a box of cartridge-
New Bridge Finally a Reality
Thirteen Years of Waiting Over
When the Fort DeRussy property was purchased by La Commission des Avoyelles in 1996, the observant visitor would have noticed survey marks in the road in front of the fort. These were for the new concrete bridge that was to replace the old wooden one – the bridge that was to be built “next year.”
Those survey marks disappeared long ago, and have been replaced by at least two sets of other marks over the intervening years, but in September of 2009 the bridge was finally completed. We will miss the rumbling of cars passing over the loose timbers of the old bridge, but tour bus drivers will no doubt feel a lot more secure as they drive their passengers across the new structure.
War Over, but Casualties Continue
The war may have ended nearly 150 years ago, but casualties continue to occur at Fort DeRussy.
The December 2007 reenactment was the scene of the most recent injuries (not counting
An additional two casualties occurred on the first day of the reenactment itself. One of the cavalrymen involved in the event fell from his horse and broke his collarbone, resulting in a slight delay of the battle as the “wounded” soldier was removed by ambulance. The other injury occurred during the actual battle, when an artilleryman’s arm was impaled by a pin from a cannon primer. In keeping with the spirit of the event, he waited until the battle was over before seeking medical attention.
Other than these unfortunate situations, the December 2007 reenactment was a complete
success. The event was well-
Book Wins Two Awards
Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana and the Defense of Red River has
won two national awards since its publication in 2007 by the University of Tennessee
Press. The A. M. Pate, Jr. Award was presented to the author by the Fort Worth Civil
War Round Table on December 11, 2007 after a presentation in Fort Worth. On September
9, 2008, the author gave a presentation on his book to the Kalamazoo (Michigan) CWRT
after which he was presented the Albert Castel Award. In addition to the award, the
Kalamazoo CWRT also made a $490 donation to FFD. Both awards were for best book of
the year on a Trans-
In just over three years, the Sesquicentennial – the 150th anniversary – of the capture of the Queen of the West at Fort DeRussy will be here. In just over four years, the same will be true for the capture of the fort and the Red River Campaign. These are momentous occasions, and should not go unnoticed.
The question is, will they?
When the subject was first broached about turning Fort DeRussy into a State Historic
Site, the sesqui-
So, come on, Louisiana legislature and Office of State Parks! I won’t be alive in 2064. Very few of us will. We gave you 70 acres rich in history and tradition, a site that will bring visitors to our state from all over the country, from all over the world. Now its time to do your part and make something of this property. And we’ve got to act fast if don’t want the Sesquicentennial to slip by. FFD members, don’t let this happen. Write and call your legislatures. We need your help. Let’s make this happen. ♦
Holtz Confirmed as Sketch Artist
For years, the sketch of the 1863 Gunboat Fight that hangs in the Silver Street Museum in Shreveport, and which graces the cover of Earthen Walls, Iron Men, has been unaccredited as to artist. The sketch was given to the museum by an anonymous donor, and until the sketch was brought to the attention of Fort Historian Steve Mayeux, no attempt was made to determine the artist. Mayeux has long contended that the artist had to have been Helmuth Heinrich Holtz, a sailor aboard USS Estrella. Holtz was present at the battle, and had sent a relatively similar sketch of Fort Burton at Butte la Rose to Harper’s Weekly just a few weeks before the Fort DeRussy battle. Holtz was the one individual to have both the opportunity and ability to portray the fight as accurately as it was portrayed in the sketch.
Mayeux mentioned his suspicions concerning the artist to Monica Pels, who was working at the Silver Street Museum, and Miss Pels, her curiosity piqued, made a detailed examination of the original and found that it was indeed signed by Helmuth Holtz. The inscription is seriously faded, but is unquestionably the artist’s signature. ♦
Book Donated to MSHS
Throughout this newsletter you read of donations to FFD. Sometimes it’s the other way around. This summer FFD donated a reprint copy of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley to Marksville State Historic Site (a prehistoric Indian site) in appreciation for all of the work their staff does at Fort DeRussy.
We regret to announce the passing of Mr. C. Nolte DeRussy, Jr., great-
We lost Elinor Bordelon Mayeux, a charter member, on Christmas Eve of 2007, just six days before her 90th birthday. Elinor was the granddaughter of Angelica Barbin, the baby born at Fort DeRussy just before its capture
Col. William J. Ellenberger of Escondido, CA, passed away on March 26, 2008, a few days after his 100th birthday. He was a life member of our organization.
The passing of Mrs. Monnie DeRussy was mentioned in our last newsletter. It has since been learned that she left us on June 20, 2005, after suffering several strokes.
Visitor Center Design Presented
On October 15, 2009, nearly two years after the contract was awarded, a near final
design for the Fort DeRussy State Historic Site visitor center/museum was presented
to the Louisiana Office of State Parks by the architectural firm of Ashe, Broussard
and Weinzettle of Alexandria, and Joseph Furr Design Studio of Baton Rouge. Although
the design did not fulfill the require-
We are very grateful to Mr. Chis Armand of Signs Plus of Marksville for his donation of a large waterproof “Friends of Fort DeRussy” banner. The banner, valued at over $75, now allows you to locate our booth at events that we attend. ♦