Learn About the Civil War in South Louisiana
While the Civil War had its effects on the entirety of Louisiana, these sites tell the story of that tumultuous time in the Southern region of the state.
The Old U.S. Mint
A major federal facility at the time of Louisiana’s secession from the Union, the Old U.S. Mint provided the state government with a needed influx of cash. Later, when New Orleans had been captured by the Union, an enraged citizen, William Mumford, tore down a U.S. flag from the mint, for which act he was later hung. Today, the mint is a home for displays operated by the Louisiana State Museum and features rotating exhibits on various topics.
Louisiana’s Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall
The Confederate Memorial Hall Museum is one of the state’s oldest museums. With collection of war memorabilia unmatched in the Deep South, this institution is a must-see for all Civil War enthusiasts. Tucked right in the heart of New Orleans’ museum district, it is easily accessible, and its rotating and permanent exhibits offer the visitor a truly personal experience of the war and its costs.
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol served as Louisiana’s capitol in the decade before the Civil War and again from 1882 to 1932. It was the site of the state’s secession convention in 1861, when the legislature voted to secede from the United States of America and became The Sovereign and Independent Commonwealth of Louisiana, before joining the Confederate States of America. The Confederate state government abandoned the building with the approach of the Union fleet in the spring of 1862 and Union troops quickly took over and used it as a command post, prison and garrison. The building was gutted by fire in December 1862 while occupied by Union troops, and was not remodeled until the movement of the state government from New Orleans to Baton Rouge after the end of Reconstruction. Today, it houses the Museum of Political History, with numerous exhibits on Louisiana’s colorful history.
Capitol Park Museum
Located in the Capitol Park area of downtown Baton Rouge, the Capitol Park Museum includes a nice set of exhibits, displays and kiosks that interpret multiple aspects Louisiana’s history, culture and commerce. At this museum, you can learn about the plight of African Americans before and after the Civil War through exhibits on on slave markets, resistance, revolt and Jim Crow. The “Grounds for Greatness: Louisiana and the Nation” permanent exhibit covers everything from the Louisiana Purchase to the critical role Louisiana played in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, the Civil War and both World Wars. This exhibit features multiple interesting artifacts, including a rare Civil War submarine. This ultimately leads to a display on the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953, which made national headlines and inspired civil rights leaders throughout the South – a significant impact on the Civil Rights movement.
Civil War Submarine at Capitol Park Museum
Louisiana's Old State Capitol
Port Hudson State Historic Site
Centenary State Historic Site
In the rolling countryside of Tangipahoa Parish, Camp Moore served as the primary training ground for Louisiana troops entering the Confederate army in 1861 and 1862. Despite its location in the healthy uplands north of Lake Pontchartrain, it nonetheless proved deadly for many of the young men thrown together in large numbers for the first time. Infectious diseases raged, and the lack of modern medical and sanitary facilities contributed to a high death rate long before any of the men saw the battlefield. Today a small museum can be found at the site with a plethora of displays and artifacts including clothing, shaving kits, dinnerware, artillery, money, uniforms, games and music that soldiers played. You’ll also find a collection of medicines and medical instruments from the period along with a large cemetery for those soldiers who died at the camp hospital.
Port Hudson State Historic Site
In conjunction with Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s offensive against Vicksburg beginning in April 1863, Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks moved his army up from New Orleans to reduce the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson, about 20 miles above Baton Rouge on the Mississippi River. Since it guarded the entrance to the Red River, and provided a safe transportation route across the Mississippi, Port Hudson had to be captured to ensure Union control of the “Father of Waters.” Port Hudson was the longest siege in American military history. The garrison withstood the hardships for 48 consecutive days without relief from the outside. The starving garrison surrendered on July 9, after learning of the fall of Vicksburg a few days earlier.
Today, Port Hudson State Historic Site features reenactments that include more than battles and soldiers. There are “sutlers” (civilian merchants who accompanied armies) selling reproduction items, ladies washing clothes and cooking as it would have been done in the 1860s and a Sunday morning church service. All of these activities show the daily life of the Civil War era, beyond the fighting.
Centenary State Historic Site
The charming little town of Jackson is the site of a skirmish associated with the Port Hudson campaign. Centenary State Historic Site, located in Jackson, is the original home of Centenary College (now in Shreveport). Just prior to the Civil War, around 250 students and 11 faculty members occupied the campus. However, the war forced the school to close as its buildings were used by both Confederate and Union troops. The dormitories became hospital space and housed many wounded and sick Confederate soldiers in 1862 and during the siege of Port Hudson in 1863, and Union troops used the Main Academic Building as an area headquarters. Those who passed on were laid to rest in a small cemetery located on the property.
One of the few homes to survive the back and forth of the Confederate and Union armies in 1862 and 1863 was the well-known Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia. Although her family fled, the Mistress of the house, Mary Weeks, stayed at the Shadows even as Union Troops occupied the mansion to serve as its local headquarters. While Union soldiers took over the Shadows’ main floor and outbuildings, Mary, her sister-in-law Hannah Jane Conrad, as well as enslaved house-servants Louisa, Charity, and Sidney, occupied the family quarters on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The home suffered the usual depredations of hungry troops in search of food, drink, and souvenirs. The site offers tours with a nuanced interpretation of the time period.