In the summer of July 1863, in a small pocket of northwest Louisiana, the Civil War was raging. Union forces were headed up the Red River towards Shreveport, and were attempting to score a decisive victory that would allow them to wrest control from the Confederates.
By winning Shreveport, Louisiana’s largest city on the Red River, the Union would be able to control the river, confiscate cotton — one of the state’s largest industries — and prevent French-Mexican forces from shipping supplies to the Rebels.
The Union general in charge of the operation made a huge tactical mistake. He didn’t expect Confederate soldiers to fight until they reached Shreveport. His men weren’t battle-ready, and when they arrived at what is today Mansfield State Historic Site, they paid dearly. A series of skirmishes there and at nearby Pleasant Hill resulted in many casualties, mostly on the Union side, pushing Northern forces back south. The Rebels’ win arguably kept Louisiana from falling into Union hands.
You can learn more about these battles and the Red River Campaign in general at Mansfield State Historic Site. There, you’ll find monuments to the fallen as well as a museum; and can walk the same battlefield where the two nations once fought. You'll even find a marble fireplace that once sat in the east wing of the White House in the museum.
The site sits near Mansfield, Natchitoches and Keachie, whose historical antebellum homes tell visitors of what rural Louisiana looked like before the Civil War. Shreveport, north Louisiana’s largest city, is a city full of great restaurants and Southern charm. And for a taste of the outdoors, check out Sabine National Wildlife Refuge and North Toledo Bend State Park.
Entrance fee: $4 per person, free for seniors age 62 and older and children age 3 and under.