Port Hudson History
Port Hudson State Commemorative Area Tour Guide
Port Hudson - Longest True Siege in American History
Walk along the six miles of trails at Port Hudson State Commemorative Area and you'll be back in the turbulent days of the War Between the States.

Why Port Hudson?
Control of the Mississippi River was important to both sides during the American Civil War. The North wanted to control the river and split the Confederacy in two. The South wanted to maintain control and ensure the flow of supplies back and forth across the river.

When New Orleans fell to the Federals in late April 1862, Confederate control of the Mississippi was in jeopardy. The Confederate army had already fortified the river bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi, but it needed another series of river batteries below the mouth of the Red River. The Red River was the primary route for the shipment of supplies from Texas to the heartland of the Confederacy.

The bluffs near the small town of Port Hudson represented a perfect site for the river batteries. These bluffs were the first high ground upstream from Baton Rouge and overlooked a severe bend in the river. This bend presented an additional obstacle for Union warships.

Following their defeat at the Battle of Baton Rouge on August 5, 1862, Confederate soldiers marched to Port Hudson and occupied the area on August 15, 1862. They constructed a series of river batteries along the bluffs and, in the months that followed, erected a 4-mile line of earthworks to protect the land approach to the river batteries.

48-Day Siege
The siege of Port Hudson began on May 23, 1863. Roughly 30,000 Union troops, under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, were pitted against 6,800 Confederates, under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner.

On the morning of May 27, and again on June 14, the Union army launched ferocious assaults against the 4-mile-long string of earthworks protecting Port Hudson. These actions constituted some of the bloodiest and most severe fighting in the entire Civil War.

As the siege continued, the Confederates nearly exhausted their ammunition and were reduced to eating mules, horses and rats. When word reached Gardner that Vicksburg had surrendered, he realized that his situation was hopeless and nothing could be gained by continuing the defense of Port Hudson. Surrender terms were negotiated, and on July 9, 1863, after 48 days and thousands of casualties, the Union army entered Port Hudson. The siege became the longest in American military history.

Native Guards
Prior to the May 27 attack, a bold experiment was decided upon. Two African-American regiments were chosen to participate in the fight. The First and Third Louisiana Native Guards proved their worth by pressing at attack against a well-fortified Confederate position. This action was applauded in northern papers and led to the acceptance of African-American troops into the war effort.

After the siege, the garrison at Port Hudson became a recruiting center for African-American troops. The garrison remained there until the summer of 1866.

National Historic Landmark
In 1974, the Port Hudson battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It joined a select group of properties which have been recognized for their importance in American history.

Port Hudson State Commemorative Area
756 West Plains-Port Hudson Road
Zachary, LA 70791
Tele: 225-654-3775 or 1-888-677-3400

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