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Fort DeRussy News

Issue 2                                                                     July 1997    

State Pledges Money to

Fort DeRussy

Fort to receive $75,000 in capital outlay funds

During the recent legislative session, a capital outlay bill was approved that will give $75,000 to the Fort DeRussy project. As of presstime, no one at Friends of Fort DeRussy knows exactly how or when this money will be received. Nonetheless, a hearty “thanks” goes out to Representative Charles Riddle of Marksville for his efforts in our behalf, and also to Senator Don Hines of Bunkie for his help on that side of the Legislature.


Donations Continue

Cash, cannonball, bayonet given

Grand Casino Avoyelles and the Tunica-Biloxi Indians weighed in heavily on the side of Fort DeRussy with a $1,000 cash donation to the Friends of Fort DeRussy. The check was presented to member George Alice  Dupuy at ceremonies on July 9, 1997.

CLECO, the Central Louisiana Electric Company, also donated generously to the cause, contributing $500 in cash for the preservation of the fort. Cash donations of $100 were also received from Mr. Jimmy Dauzat of Opelousas, Dr. and Mrs. Jim Guillory of Lafayette, and the West Point Society of the Mid-Gulf (Baton Rouge). The Union Bank of Marksville contributed $50, as did Edward and Candice Cotham of Dallas, Texas.  Other new members donating in excess of their dues included Merlin Coco of Mansura, Martin & Gloria Gaspard of Batchelor, Stephen Henry, Jr. of Baton Rouge, Dr. Walter Laborde of Long Bridge, Mr. & Mrs. Hannon Laprairie of Brouillette, Murray Mayeux of Bowling Green, Ohio, and the Sacred Heart 8th Grade of Moreauville. Members of the Avoyelles Rotary Club also made donations.

A six-pounder solid round cannonball was donated to the fort by Kelly Anderson of Simmesport. Given the caliber and the location at which the ball was found, it is almost certain that the round was fired from the gun emplacement at the southwest corner of the fort, making this shell a particularly valuable artifact.

Mrs. Lucille Ducote of Cottonport donated a Model 1856 Enfield Saber Bayonet to FFD. Mrs. Ducote’s  ancestor, Prudhomme Aymond, joined Walker’s Texas Division near Marksville in January of 1864, so he quite probably served at Fort DeRussy.

All of these gifts are greatly appreciated and will be put to good use.


Corrections & Adjustments

In our last newsletter, we said that the opening in the East wall was the “sally port” (the entrance into the fort). We also said that a notch in the South wall was made by the Yankees in their attempt to tear down the fort in 1864. This is not true. I have been informed that neither of these holes in the walls existed in the 1940’s. The notch in the South wall may have been worn down by cattle, and the “sally port” was probably opened up by the Hunt Oil Company when they had a well on the fort site in 1949.


In Memoriam

The Friends of Fort DeRussy suffered a loss with the passing of Richard J. Dupuy, Sr., on June 1, 1997. Dickie had a keen interest in the history of this area, and had been involved with the Fort DeRussy project since its inception. He will be sorely missed. Our sincerest condolences go out to all of his family and friends.

Cleanup takes place on schedule

Fort can now be seen from road

Inmates from Avoyelles Correctional Center arrived at Fort DeRussy early on the morning of March 17, 1997, and by the end of the day on March 27, eight working days later, the jungle that had been Fort DeRussy had become a showpiece. Working only with ditchbank blades, the twelve inmates cleared the dense underbrush and piled it into several house-sized burn piles. Trash was removed from the site by the prisoners and the City of Marksville, and disposed of by the Parish. A television crew from KALB-TV in Alexandria came out on March 20 and did a story on the improvements going on at the fort.

Before the cleanup, it was not possible to stand at any one point and look at the whole fort. It can be done now, and it is certainly gratifying. For the most part, the walls are in very good shape, and it definitely does look like a fort. Susan Braselton, Director of Programs for The Civil War Trust, and Dale Philips of the National Park Service, toured the fort while the cleanup was in progress and both were favorably impressed with the condition of the fort and the community involvement in its renovation. They rated the fort’s preservation in the top 1/3 of existing Civil War fortifications.

A follow-up cleanup by the City of Marksville and parish prisoners had the fort in great shape for our first meeting. Special thanks to everyone who participated in both cleanups. Job well done!


Grass planted

With the underbrush at the fort cleaned up, it became necessary to plant some sort of ground cover to prevent erosion on the earthworks. To this end, bermudagrass seed was spread over the entire five acres. It seems to have taken well in places, but in general we did not get the desired results. A winter grass will be planted this Fall, and with normal Winter weather we should have better results.

Better results have come from the application of the Crossbow™ herbicide that was donated by DowElanco. Work is still in progress, but we seem to be having good luck with controlling a lot of the undesirable broadleaf vegetation (poison ivy, privet, thorn trees, tallow trees and mimosas, etc.) that had taken over the fort grounds.  

 Armadillos, redbugs cause problems at fort

When the fort was cleared of its underbrush, we thought that we might have a problem with relic hunters climbing the fence to dig for artifacts. In addition to being unsightly, this would contribute to erosion. Fortunately, we haven’t had much of a problem in this department (this may be due to the fact that it has been well publicized that anyone caught digging at the fort will be prosecuted). We do have a problem with armadillos doing serious digging all over the earthworks. The digging is going on to such an extent that armadillo control will be necessary.  Any suggestions or volunteers?

The fort has one other problem of a zoological nature. (Actually, we have two, but I figure the chance of someone actually stepping on one of our cottonmouths is too slim to worry about.) Our other serious problem is redbugs, or chiggers. These little mites can cause very aggravating itching, as those of you who attended our meeting may have found out. (Cover the affected area with kerosene, baby oil, or cooking oil to suffocate the miserable creatures.) Our apologies to those of you who were affected. The bugs weren’t there during the winter, and we weren’t expecting the problem.

“Crater” pumped out

On the evening of May 5, Ted Bordelon showed up at the fort with two large pumps provided by the Brouillette Water Works and with the assistance of Nolan Bordelon proceeded to pump out several thousand gallons of water that had accumulated in the crater/cow pond inside the fort. This should aid considerably in mosquito control, as well as in any archeological investigations into this part of the fort.

New Members

Friends of Fort DeRussy continues to grow

We’ve had quite a growth of membership since our last newsletter came out. To all of our new members listed below, “Welcome aboard.”

Kelly Anderson, Simmesport

Alton Bettevy, Hessmer

Erk Bordelon, Marksville

Nolan Bordelon, Marksville

Patrick Bordelon, Hamburg

Ted Bordelon, Marksville

Mark Borrell, Marksville

Susan Braselton, (Honorary), Arlington, Va.

LeRoy & Donna Caubarreaux, Marksville

Errol Barré Clark, Baton Rouge   

CLECO, Pineville

Greg Coco, Bendersville, Pa.

Merlin Coco, Mansura

Edward & Candace Cotham, Houston, Tx.

Derek Dauzat, Marksville

Dyrel Dauzat, Marksville

Jimmy L. Dauzat, Opelousas

Sacred Heart 8th Grade, Moreauville          (Mrs. Susan Decuir, teacher)

Ernest & Geane Desselle, Big Bend

Lucille Ducote, Cottonport

Willy Ducote, Cottonport

Roland & Nathalie Dupuy, Marksville

Gerard A. Dupuy, Moncla

Randal & Libby Dupuy, Moncla

Dr. Sue Eakin, Bunkie

William Ferretto, Hessmer

John Gagnard, Marksville

Elster P. Gaspard, Marksville

James J. Gaspard, Marksville

Martin & Gloria Gaspard, Batchelor

Grand Casino Avoyelles, Marksville

Laura M. Gremillion, Marksville

Sister Mary David Hecker, MSC, Cottonport

Stephen G. Henry, Jr., Baton Rouge

Senator Don Hines, Bunkie

Wilbur F. Joffrion, Baton Rouge

John Ed Laborde, Marksville

Dr. & Mrs. Walter Laborde, Long Bridge

Hannon & Ethel Laprairie

Murray Mayeux, Bowling Green, Oh.

Sam & Marilyn Mayeux, Alexandria

Rusty Rabalais, Simmesport

Thomas W. Reynolds, Pineville

West Point Society of the Mid-Gulf, Baton Rouge

Union Bank, Marksville

These are the people who are making things happen at Fort DeRussy. You can be one of us, too. Join today.

HistoryAmerica to tour fort

HistoryAmerica, a Dallas-based historical tour group known for its Civil War and American West tours, will be bringing a group to Fort DeRussy as part of their Red River Campaign tour in late November, 1997. On their last visit to the fort in December of 1994 they brought visitors from around the country. For further information on their Red River Tour, contact them at 1-800-628-8542, or at 19128 Creek Dr., Dallas, TX 75252.


Unsung Heroes

An Editorial

The Fort DeRussy Project owes its existence to a lot of work by a lot of people. I try to thank those people in this newsletter, but I don’t always manage to mention everyone who should be mentioned. Sometimes this is because of a poor memory on my part, and sometimes it’s because some individuals are doing their jobs so quietly that I’m not even aware that a particular job was done.

Several people spring to mind in this category. In no particular order, I present to you a few modern-day Fort DeRussy heroes.

Carlos Mayeux of Hamburg, president of La Commission des Avoyelles, was the “master-mind” behind the purchase of the fort. He assembled the task force that made the Fort DeRussy Project a reality. Among those people that he assembled was Marc Dupuy, a Marksville attorney who spent a tre-mendous number of hours working on title searches and all of the other legal work involved in buying property. Also involved from the beginning was Eleanor Gremillion, of the Marksville Chamber of Commerce, who can always be counted on for behind-the-scenes assistance. And Randy Decuir, Marksville newspaper editor, has been everywhere, handling publicity, copies, research, Web Page,  and more.

   I’ve listed the names, but I haven’t said much about what these individuals have done. That’s because I really don’t know everything they’ve done. They just do what needs doing, and don’t hang around for a pat on the back. These people are the backbone of the Friends of Fort DeRussy.


Fort DeRussy Wants You!

Yes, you too can be a Friend of Fort DeRussy. It’s easy, it’s simple. Dues are $10 a year, and you can send yours to Friends of Fort DeRussy, 7162 Hwy. 29, Cottonport, LA  71327. Membership puts you at the forefront in the effort to preserve Central Louisiana’s premiere Civil War site. Let’s save this place for our grandchildren to see and walk over. Join today.

State Commemorative Area???

Office of State Parks to Conduct Feasibility Study

House Concurrent Resolution 168 made its way easily through both houses of the 1997 Louisiana State Legislature. The resolution urged and requested “the Office of State Parks to study the feasibility of making Fort DeRussy in Avoyelles Parish a state commemorative area and to report the findings of such study to the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources prior to the beginning of the 1998 Regular Session of the Legislature.” Copies of the resolution were to be sent to Virginia Plauche, Assistant Secretary of the Office of State Parks; Phillip J. Jones, Secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism; and Lt. Governor Kathleen Blanco.

The Resolution was introduced by Representative Charles Riddle of Marksville.

If the decision to designate a site a commemorative area is based on its historical significance, then Fort DeRussy should be an easy pick.

Flags Arrive

Fort DeRussy now has two flags to go on the flagpoles that were erected by the ACC inmates during the cleanup at the fort. The flags, both 3’ x 5’, are reproductions of the 1864 era flags that would have actually flown over the fort, as shown in the sketch of the capture of the fort that appeared in the April 9, 1864 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated. The flags are a 34-star US and a Confederate Second National. Unfortunately, the Second National, or “Stainless Banner” as it was also called, is arguably the least attractive of any of the several Confederate flags used during the war. But it was felt that, in this case, artistic excellence would have to surrender to historic accuracy.


Happy Birthday, Virginia

Congratulations to little Virginia DeRussy Dodenhoff of New Orleans (and her parents) on her birth this past February. Virginia is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Lewis DeRussy. One would assume that she is one of his youngest descendants.

Cannon-fire Rocks Fort for first time in years

On May 17, 1997, the Friends of Fort DeRussy held their first meeting. Approximately 120 people showed up to tour the fort, and 25 new members were signed up. Attendees included over thirty re-enactors (infantry, cavalry, artillery and civilian elements) in period costume. The presence of the re-enactors definitely added to the atmosphere of the meeting, and their replica 12-pound mountain howitzer was no doubt responsible for the meeting being described as a “roaring” success. Also adding to the Civil War feel of the meeting was the plaintive fiddling of Gerard Dupuy, a local musician and a descendant of Evariste Barre, a Fort DeRussy veteran.

A business meeting was called to order by Steve Mayeux, who spoke on the history of the fort and plans for the future. Short talks were also given by State Senator Don Hines; Carlos Mayeux, president of La Commission des Avoyelles; Eleanor Gremillion, of the Marksville Chamber of Commerce; and Mark Borrell, of the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury. Warden Baron Kaylo of Avoyelles Correctional Center was recognized for his Center’s contributions to the cleanup at the fort, and Red Holsomback, president of the Cenla Historical Re-enactors Group, also spoke briefly, and offered the services of his group to assist the FFD in our efforts to preserve the fort. Several members told of ancestors who had served at the fort.