Walked in the Port Hudson State Park today, the weather was beautiful; some trees had started to turn, and there were hills. Who knew Louisiana had actual bonafide hills that are long enough you actually had to work at? My calves will be feeling it tomorrow.
I had companions today, and we were touring, so our time today was very slow. The distance was just over four miles (around six and a half kilometres) which have to be close to the furthest we have ever walked in Louisiana.
The park we walked through was very interesting. Firstly, for the geographer in me, Port Hudson is no longer on the Mississippi. This is because the course of the Mississippi has changed since the civil war battle. Secondly, the landscape made the defence of Port Hudson relatively easy. And thirdly, the naval attack failed miserably, and I don’t understand why the union even tried.
Port Hudson used to be on the Mississippi—I’ve had a fascination with this river since I learnt how to spell it saying Mrs M, Mrs I, Mrs SSI etc—and it was located on the high bank of a bend in the river. This meant that anyone attaching the port from the river would have to slow their ships and be firing up to a high bluff. All the time, the people on top of the cliff would be able to fire down on them. I fail to see how the Union Naval forces could even think that this approach would be successful. I guess back then, they did not have aerial imagery to show gun placements.
I also love the geomorphology of the region. The high bluffs of the river were formed from windblown glacial sands. Over time, the sands have eroded into a series of gullies and high ground. I haven’t seen any landscape like this in Louisiana, so that was cool for a start. Then the Confederates loaded gullies with fallen timber, brush and branches, making it almost impossible for the Union soldiers to attack from land. Combined with their defence of the Mississippi, this was an incredible defensive position. This led to the longest siege in US history, and the Confederates had to resort to eating rats before they finally surrendered.
The Confederates lost less than 100 men compared to over 1000 of the Union’s. I think the defence of this site was impressive, and then I remember why the Confederates and the Union were fighting, and I am glad the Union won.
Anyway, walking through these areas and seeing where battles occurred, visualising men struggling up steep gullies filled with branches moving underneath them whilst being fired upon from the top, was a very different experience for me. In Australia, we don’t have this type of history and battles between Indigenous Australians and the colonists are not well documented—if at all. I wonder where our next walk through history will take us.