Mansfield State Historic Site
With the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson in July 1863, the Mississippi River was entirely controlled by the Union. President Lincoln and his staff decided that the capture of Texas and the Trans-Mississippi headquarters at Shreveport, Louisiana, would be the next objective. The Union surmised that a successful Red River campaign would accomplish several important goals, from the confiscation of cotton to preventing French-Mexican forces from providing supplies and support to the Confederate troops.
Like many important battles, the Mansfield-Pleasant Hill engagement was actually a series of encounters taking place over several days. After a two-hour cavalry fight with Union forces near Wilson's Farm on April 7, 1864, Confederate commander General Richard Taylor (son of President Zachary Taylor) elected to defend a site about four miles south of Mansfield, now the location of the state historic site. General N.P. Banks did not expect the Confederates to fight until he reached Shreveport, so the Union army became stretched out along the narrow road leading to Mansfield. This allowed Taylor to deal with his opponents on more equal terms since the Confederate troops were heavily outnumbered.
At noon on April 8, the head of the disorganized Union army (6,400 troops) was confronted by the Confederate army (10,500 troops) in battle formation. The Union troops quickly formed a line of battle along a rail fence and a ridge known as Honeycutt Hill. On orders from Taylor, General Alfred Mouton's Division charged the rail fence. Mouton was killed leading the attack, but French born General C. J. Polignac, along with other Confederate forces, continued the attack and overwhelmed the Union line.
Two miles to the south, another 6,500 Union troops formed a defensive position at Chapman's Bayou and held this location until dark. During the night the defeated Union forces fell back to Pleasant Hill. On April 9, the fierce Battle of Pleasant Hill was fought, with both sides taking heavy losses and withdrawing from the field after dark. By turning back Union forces at this time, the Confederates were able to prevent complete Union control of Louisiana and stop progression of the war into Texas. In fact, the Confederate victory at Mansfield may have prolonged the war by several months.
In 1973, this State Historic Site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation for significant historical sites. Through living history events, exhibits, battle reenactments and interpretive programs, Mansfield State Historic Site allows visitors to travel back to the unrest of the Civil War years. Watch for musket demonstrations, candlelight tours of the battlefield and other exciting events scheduled throughout the year.
The Friends of the Mansfield Battlefield organization supports the preservation efforts of the Office of State Parks. For more information visit www.mansfieldbattlefield.org.
North Toledo Bend State Park (9 miles southwest of Zwolle off LA 3229) - Located on Toledo Bend Reservoir, the park offers fishing, boat launch, improved campsites, 10 vacation cabins, group camp facilities, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, picnicking, pavilion, playgrounds, trails and a conference center.
Rebel State Historic Site (3 miles northwest of Marthaville on State Hwy. 1221, and 25 miles west of Natchitoches and I-49) - Features the gravesite of an unknown Confederate soldier and is home of the Louisiana Country Music Museum. An amphitheater offers concerts featuring gospel, country and folk music.
Los Adaes State Historic Site (1 mile northeast of Robeline on LA Hwy. 485) - The 14-acre site, located on the "El Camino Real" near Natchitoches, features the remains of a Spanish fort built in the 1700s to protect Texas from the French. It is a major archaeological site and offers interpretive programs.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site (155 rue Jefferson, Natchitoches) - Located on the banks of historic Cane River, the fort is a full-scale replica of a French colonial fort built in the 1730s. Featured are log walls sharpened to protect the barracks, a warehouse, chapel, mess hall, powder magazine, Indian dwellings and interpretive programs.
Fort Jesup State Historic Site (6 miles east of Many off LA 6, formerly the "San Antonio Trace") - The site of a fort established in 1822 by Zachary Taylor to secure the western border of the U.S. frontier. It features the original field kitchen, a replica of officers' quarters which serves as a museum and visitors center, and interpretive programs.
Historic Town of Mansfield (Off Hwy. 171) - This was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the Civil War. The town is noted for its quiet southern charm, tree-lined streets, and dignified antebellum mansions.
Historic Town of Keachie (Take LA 5 northwest of Mansfield) - The small antebellum community is the site of a Confederate cemetery, the Greek Revival-style Keachie Plantation Store built circa 1840, and Keachie Presbyterian Church built circa 1856.
R.W. Norton Art Gallery (4747 Creswell Avenue, Shreveport) The R.W. Norton Art Gallery is a non-profit museum built in 1966 which features original works of American and European art.In addition, the Norton is set amidst forty beautifully landscaped acres, including azalea gardens complete with more than 15,000 plants including several hundred native azaleas.
Historic Town of Natchitoches (off I-49 on Cane River Lake) - The oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, it has a 33-block Historic Landmark District featuring Creole architecture, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, shops and historic homes.
Sabine Wildlife Refuge (5 miles south of Zwolle) - The 14,780-acre area of loblolly and short leaf pine is open to visitors to enjoy hunting, birding, and camping.