Port Hudson State Historic Site
When New Orleans fell to Federal troops in late April 1862, Confederate control of the Mississippi was in jeopardy. The Confederate army had already fortified the river bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi, but it needed another series of river batteries below the mouth of the Red River. The Red River was the primary route for the shipment of supplies from Texas to the heartland of the Confederacy.
The bluffs near the small town of Port Hudson represented a perfect site for the river batteries. These bluffs were the first high ground upstream from Baton Rouge and overlooked a severe bend in the river. This bend presented an additional obstacle for Union warships.
The siege of Port Hudson began on May 23, 1863. Roughly 30,000 Union troops, under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, were pitted against 6,800 Confederates, under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner. The ensuing battles constituted some of the bloodiest and most severe fighting in the entire Civil War.
As the siege continued, the Confederates nearly exhausted their ammunition and were reduced to eating mules, horses and rats. When word reached Gardner that Vicksburg had surrendered, he realized that his situation was hopeless and nothing could be gained by continuing the defense of Port Hudson. Surrender terms were negotiated, and on July 9, 1863, after 48 days and thousands of casualties, the Union army entered Port Hudson. The siege became the longest in American military history.
Prior to one of the most intense attacks by the Union soldiers, on May 27, a bold experiment was decided upon. Two African-American regiments were chosen to participate in the fight. The First and Third Louisiana Native Guards proved their worth by pressing an attack against a well-fortified Confederate position. After the siege, the garrison at Port Hudson became a recruiting center for African-American troops.
In 1974, the Port Hudson battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It joined a select group of properties which have been recognized for their importance in American History. Port Hudson State Historic Site hosts several living history events, including the Battle of Port Hudson re-enactment held annually during the last full weekend of March. Visitors can watch authentically costumed interpreters demonstrate Civil War weapons and equipment.
Audubon State Historic Site (South of St. Francisville on LA 965) - The nearly 200-year-old Oakley House is where John James Audubon drew inspiration and sketched many of the birds found in his famous Birds of America. The visitor may tour the house-turned-museum, formal gardens, an outside kitchen building and barns, walk the trails and enjoy a picnic lunch at the large pavilion nearby.
Centenary State Historic Site (East College and Pine Street in Jackson) - This is the former site of Centenary College. Visitors may tour the old West Wing dormitory or a professor's cottage, and learn about the history of education in Louisiana. A Confederate cemetery is located on the grounds.
Locust Grove State Historic Site (41/2 miles northeast of St. Francisville on LA 10) - Visit the gravesites of Sarah Knox Taylor, wife of Jefferson Davis, and General Eleazor Ripley, distinguished soldier in the War of 1812.
Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site (South of Baton Rouge on Main Street/La. Hwy. 1 in downtown Plaquemine) - Completed in 1909 and used until 1962, the lock provided access from the Mississippi River to Bayou Plaquemine. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the site features the Gary James Hebert Memorial Lockhouse and is open for tours daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site (In St. Francisville on La. Hwy. 10) - Built during the 1830s, Rosedown had one of the largest private gardens in the U.S. in the 19th century. In addition to the gardens and many original structures, visitors can see many furnishings and items that the Turnbulls themselves brought into the main house.
Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area (14 miles northwest of St. Francisville on LA 66) - Day-hiking, wildlife viewing, birding, and hunting (in season) are featured across 5,231 acres of rugged hills, bluffs and ravines.
Historic Town of St. Francisville (North of Baton Rouge on US 61) - The Historic District includes 140 structures encompassing churches, antebellum homes, townhomes, cemeteries, and dozens of antique and gift shops.
Historic Town of Jackson (North of St. Francisville on LA 10) - The Historic District covers two-thirds of the town and features more than 120 structures including banks, shops, homes, churches and warehouses.
Historic Town of Clinton (North of Baton Rouge via LA 67) - The town is known for its historic architecture, including the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse, Lawyers Row, and charming Victorian and antebellum homes.
LA Scenic Bayou Byway - The Byway in this area takes you through some of the historic Florida parishes known for the British influence in their architecture and cultural traditions. Follow US 61 and historic LA 10 (once known as the Choctaw Trail) to quaint historic towns, charming bed and breakfasts, country drives, profuse native wildflowers in season, excellent birding, cycling and interesting antique shops.