Link To This Page — Contact Us —
The Battle of Fort DeRussy
March 14, 1864 in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana
Red River Campaign
The Union launched a multi-purpose expedition into Gen. E. Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi Department, headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana, in early 1864. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Rear Adm. David D. Porter jointly commanded the combined force. Porter's fleet and Brig. Gen. A.J. Smith's XVI and XVII Army Corps detachments of the Army of the Tennessee set out on March 12, up the Red River, the most direct route to Shreveport. Banks with the XIII and XIX Army Corps advanced by way of Berwick Bay and Bayou Teche. After removing various obstructions that the Rebels had placed in the river, the major impediment to the Union expedition was the formidable Fort DeRussy, an earthen fortification with a partly iron-plated battery designed to resist the fire of Union ironclads that might come up river.
Brig. Gen. A.J. Smith's command had embarked on transports at Vicksburg and then disembarked at Simsport, on the 12th, about 30 miles from Fort DeRussy. Smith sent out some troops on the morning of the 13th to determine if any enemy was in their path. This force dispersed and chased an enemy brigade, after which, Smith set his men in motion up the Fort DeRussy road. They did not proceed far before night. Early the next morning, the 14th, they continued the march, discovering that a Confederate division threatened their advance. Always mindful of this threat, Smith had to place part of his command in a position to intercept these Rebel forces if they attacked.
Upon arriving at the fort, the enemy garrison of 350 men opened fire. Smith decided to use Mower's division, XVI Army Corps, to take the fort and set about positioning it for the attack. Around 6:30 P.M., Smith ordered a charge on the fort and about 20 minutes later, Mower's men scaled the parapet, causing the enemy to surrender.
Fort DeRussy, which some had said was impregnable, had fallen and the Red River to Alexandria was open.
John Ritland was a Union soldier and relates his experiance:
Now ensued the battle of Fort DeRussy, March 14, 1864. Cannons were brought into play, and we were fired upon as we marched along the road. Further on we were flanked aside on the banks of a creek where we dropped down flat on the ground. While lying thus, Colonel Scott shouted: "When the bugle is blown, you must all get up! Rise as one man!" We lay quiet for about an hour, and when the summons came, we jumped to our feet and charged up the steep bluffs. I was nearly on the top once, but became so short of breath, that I hadn't the power to hold on, and slid back a considerable distance. I grabbed hold of an exposed root and pulled myself up again. In the meantime, the bullets flew thick and fast. Tom Lein said it was so steep where he happened to be that the men had to climb on each other's backs to be able to make headway. Our men swarmed in from all sides. I was of the first coming from the south side of the fort to reach the top, and we jumped in on the poor wretches as they stood or sat around, with the sweat just pouring off them from fear. There was said to be * 3,000 men in the fort, and all were taken prisoners. There were not many killed on our side, and only four in our regiment. Only one man was wounded in our company.