plans for fortifications at Port Hudson were drawn up with the assistance
of Captain James Nocquet, chief engineer for General Breckinridge. Along
with loaning his engineering staff, Breckinridge also authorized Port
Hudson officers to gather needed supplies and tools using the Clinton and
Port Hudson railroad, and whatever labor the area could provide for
construction. In August, 1862, a line of seven earthwork lunettes
(half-moon shaped spaces) were built and arranged along a 400 yard line
fronting the river.
Port Hudson was the site of the longest siege in
American history, lasting 48 days, when 7,500 Confederates resisted some
40,000 Union soldiers for almost two months during 1863.
In May, 1863, in cooperation with Major General Ulysses
S. Grant’s offensive against Vicksburg, Union Major General Nathaniel P.
Banks' army moved against the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson.
Three Union divisions came down the Red River to assail Port Hudson from
the north, while two others advanced from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to
strike from the east and south. By May 22, 1863, 30,000 Union soldiers had
isolated 7,500 Confederates behind 4 ½ miles of earthen fortifications. On
May 26th Banks issued orders for a simultaneous attack all along the
Confederate perimeter the following morning.
The first Union assault fell
on the Confederate left wing, which guarded the northern approaches to
Port Hudson. Timely reinforcements from the center allowed the
Confederates to repulse several assaults. The fighting ended on the left
wing before the remaining two Union divisions advanced against the
Confederate center. Here, the Confederates repulsed the Federal advance
across Slaughter's Field, killing approximately 2,000 Union soldiers.
Union casualties included 600 African-Americans of the First and Third
Louisiana Native Guards. Free blacks from New Orleans composed a majority
of the First Louisiana Native Guards, including the line officers. Former
slaves commanded by white officers composed the Third Louisiana Native
Guards. Led by Captain Andre Cailloux, a black officer, the two regiments
made their advance on the extreme right of the Union line. Captain
Cailloux was shot down as he shouted orders in both French and English.
attempt to take Port Hudson failed on June 13, when the Confederates
inflicted 1,805 casualties on the Union troops while losing fewer than
The Confederates held out until they learned of the surrender of
Vicksburg. Without its upriver counterpart, Port Hudson, the last
Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River, lacked strategic
significance and the garrison surrendered on July 9, 1863.The siege lasted
for 48 days, one of the longest sieges in American military history. In
the end the Union suffered an estimated 5,000 casualties and the
Confederate - 7,208.
Today, the Port Hudson State Commemorative Area
encompasses 889 acres of the northern portion of the battlefield, and has
three observation towers, six miles of trails, a museum, a picnic area and
restrooms. Four thousand Civil War veterans are buried at the Port Hudson
National Cemetery, which stands just outside the old Confederate lines.
With these two victories, the North could finally claim
undisputed control of the Mississippi River. Though the Civil War would
rage on for almost two more years, the siege at Port Hudson, and the
battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg--which all occurred the same
week--together struck a blow from which the South never recovered.
The Port Hudson State State Historic Site is located at 236 Highway 61, in
of America, October, 2016.