By the summer of 1863, the Civil War has been raging for two years, with dozens of battles waged across Louisiana. The Union had captured the largest city in the Confederacy — New Orleans — a year earlier, and were now vying for control over Louisiana port cities farther upriver.
Port Hudson, an unincorporated community just north of Baton Rouge, was one of them. The patch of ground that today comprises Port Hudson State Historic Site occupies a strategic spot of high ground overlooking the Mississippi River. While the Union army traveled up the Mississippi in May 1863, the Confederates had already sent reinforcements south from its stronghold in Vicksburg. This site, where the two nations met, became the scene of one of the longest sieges in U.S. military history.
The numbers were not in the Rebels’ favor. Their 6,800 troops were no match for the 30,000 Union soldiers surrounding their stronghold. For 48 days, Port Hudson was the scene of sustained battles, resulting in more than 12,000 deaths and the Confederates’ surrender on July 9th. With the win, Union forces gained control of the entire Mississippi River and its tributaries. The annual battle reenactment each spring provides a look at the Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as the cooks, laundresses, and even salespeople who traveled with them.
Take a guided tour of Port Hudson State Historic Site, where you’ll view artillery displays and ridges positioned above Sandy and Foster creeks. Numerous overlooks and trails are found throughout the park, and the museum will give you an overview of what was at stake in the Siege of Port Hudson.
Nearby attractions include the charming, historic small town of St. Francisville. Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site and the historic towns of Jackson and Clinton are all within a short drive, as is Baton Rouge.
Entrance fee: $4 per person, free for seniors age 62 and older, and children age 3 and younger.