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Confederate Units at Fort DeRussy

There were three Confederate units stationed at Fort DeRussy when the fort was captured on March 14, 1864. Two of these were artillery units, and were from Louisiana. These two units had a history of service at the fort. The third unit was a thrown-together garrison “regiment”, made up from companies from the regiments of Walker’s Texas Division. Local legend has it that there were also some local militia men serving at the fort, and while this is undocumented, it is logical to assume that that would have been the case. The list of men captured at the fort also shows a sprinkling of men from other units present.

Company A, Crescent Artillery (Hutton’s Artillery)

Hutton’s Artillery was originally made up of men from the New Orleans area, but by 1864, recruitments throughout the war in different areas where they were stationed diluted the New Orleans contingent. The unit was captured in 1862 at the capture of New Orleans, but the men were later exchanged, and served gallantly at Fort DeRussy during the capture of Queen of the West in February 1863, the capture of USS Indianola below Vicksburg later that month, and at the Gunboat Fight at Fort DeRussy in May 1863. Just prior to the capture of the fort, there had been several conscripts taken into the unit, which caused some dissatisfaction among the veterans. The morale among the men was also affected by the fact that the Post Commander was a Texan, and the Louisianians felt that he tended to favor the Texas troops, giving the least pleasant work details to the Louisiana men. A muster taken of the men only a few days before the fort’s capture describes the unit’s military appearance as “very good,” their discipline and instruction as “tolerably good,” and their clothing “indifferent.” However, they were listed as “very deficient” in accoutrements, and “more than half of the company without arms.”

An inventory of captured weapons taken after the fall of the fort shows a total of 173 rifles and smooth-bore muskets captured at the fort (56 rifles, 117 muskets). As there were 317 men captured at the time, it would seem that most of the artillerymen were without personal weapons.

Hutton’s Artillery had 25 men and 4 officers captured at the fort.

St. Martin Ranger’s (King’s Artillery)

King’s Artillery was originally formed as the St. Martin Rangers, an infantry unit, and switched to artillery sometime in early 1863. They were at Fort DeRussy and participated actively in the Gunboat Fight of May 4, 1863. They had also had combat experience aboard the original gunboat Cotton earlier in the war, in south Louisiana. Captain Edward King was a particularly crusty old curmudgeon; and Captain Fuller, the commander before him, had been even tougher, if that was possible. King’s Artillery was split during the attack on the fort, with some of the men in the fort on the hill manning the two 24-pounders, which they had finished mounting as the fort was surrounded. Another group of men from the unit were in the Water Battery, and when that position became untenable, those men made their way up the covered way into the fort on the hill, instead of absconding with the rest of the men in the Water Battery.

Just prior to the arrival of the Yankees at the fort, a portion of King’s men and guns were sent off to Alexandria. The guns were large siege guns, a 24-pounder and a 32-pounder, weighing several thousand pounds apiece. The guns were so big that they had to be pulled by yokes of six oxen, and were called the “Bull Battery” by the men. The Bull Battery served throughout the Red River Campaign, and evoked no small amount of laughter from all who saw them, both North and South.

King’s Artillery had 44 men and 1 officer captured at the fort.

Garrison Regiment, Walker’s Texans

Fort DeRussy’s Garrison Regiment was a rather peculiar institution. When Walker’s Division occupied the area around Fort DeRussy in December 1863 and the rebuilding of the fort started, the 14th Texas Infantry was designated as the garrison regiment. At about the same time, the regiment’s CO, Colonel Edward Clark (a former Texas governor) went back to Texas on leave. When he returned, he found that his second in command, Lt. Col. William Byrd, was Post Commander, by virtue of his having been commander of the garrison regiment. For some unexplained reason, Clark’s regiment was returned to his command when he returned from leave, but Byrd was left as Commanding Officer of Fort DeRussy. This put Clark in the awkward, and for him totally unacceptable position, of being answerable to Byrd. Gen. Walker ‘solved’ this problem by sending the 14th Texas back to the Division, and taking one company from each of his regiments and putting them together in a sort of bastard garrison regiment. When the fort was captured, there were men present from the 8th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd, and 28th Texas (some of these units were infantry, others were dismounted cavalry).

            Walker’s Texas Division had seen combat in 1863 along the Mississippi River, in an attempt to divert attention from Vicksburg. In the winter of ’62-63, they had suffered extreme losses to disease while overwintering in Arkansas. The winter of ’63-64 had passed in the Fort DeRussy area with comparatively few losses. As spring neared, however, morale dropped as a result of the trade that was going on with the Yankees. As one man said in a letter home, “The men say they do not believe in fighting and trading with their enemies at the same time, and that they derive no benefit from it, and think the trade is carried on for the benefit of the high officials.” In addition to this, the men in the dismounted cavalry units heard that new cavalry units were being formed in Texas, while they were to remain dismounted (apparently the ultimate insult to a 19th century Texan). This resulted in a small mutiny that was quickly put down, and dissolved completely when the Union army appeared.

           Walker’s Division had 219 men and 16 officers captured at the fort.

Local Militia

Nothing definite is known about the local militia stationed at the fort. Most of them seemed to have slipped away in the confusion and went home.