Friends of Fort DeRussy, Inc.

The Official Site of Fort DeRussy, Louisiana



Upcoming Events

Fort DeRussy Facts



Donations & Membership


Contact Us

Fort DeRussy News

Issue 9                                                  October 2002


Schedule of Events

Thursday, Nov. 7

Noon     Reenactor check-in opens


Friday, Nov. 8            Free Admission

6 AM – until     Reenactor check-in

10 AM – 2 PM     School Day     

     (Call 253-8954 to schedule)


Saturday, Nov. 9        Free Admission

9 AM – 5 PM  Camps open to public

11:30 AM        Educational Presentation of 1860’s Uniforms and Ladies Garments   

      1 PM                Formation and Drill Preparation for Battle

2 PM                Battle


Sunday, Nov. 10        Free Admission

9 AM – 2:30 PM  Camps open to public

11 AM                  Church Services

12:30 PM              Formation and Battle Prep.

1 PM                     Battle

Log Book Project Update

The transcription of deck logs of US Navy gunboats in the Red River during the Civil War is moving ahead at a much faster pace than was initially expected. The project is still probably years away from completion, but given the magnitude of the task, the work being done by our volunteers is very impressive.

The fort’s collection of deck logs includes paper copies of twenty-seven logs and microfilm copies of eight. Of these, eight transcriptions have been completed (USS Choctaw, Essex, Gazelle, Lexington, Osage, Ouachita{’64 and ‘65}, and Pittsburg{‘64}), and four more (USS Carondelet, Neosho, Nymph, and Tallahatchie) are with our volunteers in various stages of completion.

The transcription project has already allowed for an accurate calculation of the time of the arrival of USS Eastport at the fort on the evening of the capture. The time of the Eastport’s firing on the fort, as written in her log, was obviously in error; by checking the times that other gunboats heard her firing, an accurate time was determined, and the time of the fall of the fort was then able to be narrowed down to a lot closer than “near sundown.” We have also learned of a previously unknown burial at the fort, as well as details of skirmishes between gunboats and Confederate soldiers near the fort.

By the time this project is completed, we expect to uncover a lot more heretofore unknown facts about the Red River Campaign.


Lewis DeRussy Presentation

On March 1, 2002, Fort Historian Steve Mayeux gave a presentation on “The Life and Times of Lewis DeRussy” at the Fort Jesup State Historic Site near Many, LA. DeRussy was stationed at Fort Jesup from 1826 to 1842 while serving as Paymaster for the US Army’s Red River forts. DeRussy’s first wife and a sister-in-law were buried at Jesup until their disinterments and removals (along with all of the other graves there) to the Alexandria National Cemetery in the early 1900’s. Although author J. Fair Hardin quotes the inscriptions from both of these ladies’ tombstones (and several others from the Ft. Jesup cemetery) in his book on the history of Northwestern Louisiana, Mrs. DeRussy’s stone is the only one that made it to the National Cemetery. All of the other reinterments from Jesup are marked only by one small stone inscribed “25 Unknown Soldiers.”


State Parks Report

Fort DeRussy is not currently operational as a State Historic Site. Tours are available, however, for field trip groups upon special request, subject to staff availability. Marksville State Historic Site will continue to provide staff support for tour requests. Special programming at the site, based on requests from groups for site access, will be provided with approval from the Office of State Parks. To arrange a tour or special event at the site, call 318-253-8954.

Capital outlay funding of $850,000 for the site master plan, design and development was approved during the 2002 legislative session, but funds won't be available until approval is given by the State Bond Commission. State Parks is proceeding with plans for restroom facilities and parking at the site.

Bo Boehringer

Public Information Director

Louisiana State Parks


Microfilm Reader Donated

A microfilm reader has been generously donated to the Friends of Fort DeRussy by the Alexandria Historical and Genealogical Library. It will be used for transcribing those gunboat deck logs that we have on microfilm into a more usable research format. Thanks to John Lawson of the AH&GL for locating the machine for us.


Storm Damage Minimal


Fort DeRussy suffered a glancing blow from Tropical Storm Isidore and a direct hit one week later by Hurricane Lili on October 3, 2002. We are happy to announce that other than a few broken branches, there was no real damage to the fort or any of the improvements thereon.


Are Your Dues Due?

Please check your mailing label (upper right corner) for whether or not you’re up to date on your dues. Rising postage costs are causing us to have to drop those of you who are no longer paying dues.

Mascots Come and Go

Or do they silently linger?


Two new beaver dams, one above and one below the new bridge, have made for some interesting sightings for visitors to the fort this summer. In the past, Barbin’s Bayou frequently dried up or became extremely low; but the dams, about a quarter of a mile apart, now hold water under the bridge throughout the summer. This has apparently encouraged some alligators to make their homes in the area. The first of our reptilian visitors, a four-footer appropriately named Vicious Aloysius, appeared in early May and stayed around the bridge through most of that month. Aloysius quickly learned to come to the bridge for treats of wieners and road-killed squirrel, but left when a heavy rainfall put the bayou out of its banks. He hasn’t been seen since, but in early July a six-plus footer arrived.

Essex, named for the Union ironclad that spent several weeks at the fort during the summer of 1864, was, like her namesake, the master of the waters she patrolled. In addition to marshmallows, chicken necks, and a steady diet of road-kill, Essex also helped herself to numerous turtles, at least one beaver, and an unfortunate neighborhood dog that apparently tried to share some of her tidbits. After only a few weeks, Essex learned to come to the bridge whenever she heard footsteps. She disappeared in mid-August, made one last appearance in early September, and has not been seen since. Hopefully she will be back with the coming of spring, perhaps with a companion.

This little fellow, affectionately known as The Vicious Aloysius, homesteaded near the new bridge during May, 2002. Not long after he left, a much larger gator took up residence there.

New Map Discovered


Dr. Gary Joiner of Shreveport has notified us of the existence of another 1864 map of Fort DeRussy. Unfortunately, the map is in such poor condition that standard Xerox copies are unable to be made. The map is in a library in New York State, and it is hoped that sometime in the future we will be able to arrange for some sort of duplication.


Descendants Visit


Fort DeRussy was honored this summer to have visits from several descendants of officers who served at the fort with Hutton’s Artillery (Co. A of the Crescent Artillery).

On July 4th, Dr. Thomas H. Handy and his son Kim made the trip from Mississippi to visit the location where their grandfather and great-grand-father fought in both the first and second battles at the fort. Lt. Thomas Handy also took part in the capture of USS Indianola, and served so valiantly in that fight that he was appointed prize-master of the Indianola after it was captured. The Handy’s also presented the fort with previously unknown information about the lieutenant.

In August it was the editor’s pleasure to escort Ms. Holly Hervey and friend through the fort. Ms. Hervey is the great-granddaughter of Lt. William Hervey, who participated actively in all three battles at the fort, as well as in the capture of the Indianola. She also provided us with information concerning her ancestor. Thanks to you all.



I had the good fortune to spend some quiet time at the fort at sundown on July 4th. It was miserably hot and humid, as July 4th’s in Central Louisiana tend to be, but it was also serene, peaceful, and really quite beautiful. I stood on the bridge listening to a hawk cry from a nearby cypress tree, and watched two small raccoons amble awkwardly along the bayou bank while Essex the Alligator silently eyeballed the dead squirrel that hung below the bridge (as she patiently waited for me to leave).

The point I’m getting at is that even in the oppressive heat of July, when the fort is arguably at it’s most unattractive, Fort DeRussy is a really beautiful place. In the fall and spring, even local people have expressed astonishment at how lovely the area is.

When developed, Fort DeRussy is going to be an incredible asset to the State Parks system. We have been notified (see page 3) that the Legislature is providing $850,000 for the fort, so apparently they realize what they have here. It’s not happening fast, but it is happening, so we hope that all of you will continue on as Friends of Fort DeRussy and help with the process.


History of Fort DeRussy

An exhaustive history of Fort DeRussy by Fort Historian Steve Mayeux seems to be nearing completion. The text of the Civil War portion of the history has been completed, although continuing discoveries of new first-hand sources require occasional rewrites. No expected publishing date is known at this time. The book should tell most people more than they actually want to know about the fort, although there will still be a few unsolved mysteries for the die-hard history buff to contemplate. As soon as a publisher and expected in-print date are known, that information will be  made available.


Arizona Recovery Update

Is she or Isn’t she?

A lecture on the attempts to locate and confirm the identity of the wreck of the first USS Arizona will be held on Sunday, November 17, 2002, at 2 PM at the Port Hudson State Historic Site north of Baton Rouge.

The discovery of the Arizona was reported in Issue 8 of this newsletter, but since that time there has been some controversy over whether or not the wreckage located in the Mississippi below New Orleans is actually that of the gunboat that was involved in the Second Battle of Fort DeRussy. Mr. Ron Veilleux of Phoenix, Arizona, will be present to discuss the latest sonar findings concerning the wreckage and the possibility of any artifact recovery attempts that may be made.


Presentation Distributed

PowerPoint and video presentations on the history of Fort DeRussy were completed by the 5th and 7th grade classes of St. Joseph School of Plaucheville, LA, in May, 2002. Copies of the presentations were sent to all Avoyelles Parish schools and library branches. The presentations were created with a grant from the National Park Service, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development. The presentations were made under the supervision of Vickie Mayeux, who spent innumerable hours of her own time fine-tuning the project.



In Memoriam


We regret to announce the passing of Mr. Lee  J. Dauzat of Bluetown in September, 2002. Mr. Dauzat was a decorated veteran of WWII. He and his children sold 53 acres to the fort in 1999, resulting in the acceptance of the fort as a State Historic Site.

Battle Reenactment at the Fort

First Time Ever on Actual Site

Reenactment Set for November 8, 9, 10 [2002]

For the first time ever, a Civil War reenactment will take place on the grounds of Fort DeRussy. This event is being sponsored by the Louisiana Office of State Parks and hosted by the Cenla Historical Reenactors Group. It will be the first public State-sponsored event at the fort, and everyone is invited to come out and make it a success.

The Third Annual Fort DeRussy Reenactment (which was previously held on the Bill Belt property a few miles from the fort) will feature two battle reenactments, living history encampments, an educational presentation of military and civilian clothing of the 1860’s, and several sutler’s tents selling Civil War era items to reenactors and spectators alike.

The camp sites are always interesting for adults and children, as they show authentic style uniforms, equipment, cooking methods, campsite living, and also ladies’ and children’s’ clothing styles. The sutlers’ tents are favorites of everyone, and sell old-style items, children’s toys, civil war era clothes and uniform items, sarsaparilla, and other unique treasures that are seldom found elsewhere.

Admission is free, and everyone is encouraged to come out and “Support the Fort.” Also, anyone who would be willing to serve as a “tour guide” at any time during the weekend is encouraged to contact Ward Zischke (rhymes with “whiskey”) at the Marksville State Historic Site, (318) 253-8954, for details. You’ll be trained and given a work schedule that will fit your available hours.