Learn About the Civil War in North Louisiana
Learn all about the Civil War’s effect on the region at these State Historic Sites, museums and more.
Mansfield State Historic Site
After the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson in July 1863, the Mississippi River was entirely controlled by the Union. So, President Lincoln ordered the capture of Texas and the Trans-Mississippi headquarters in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Union organized a successful Red River campaign in order to confiscate cotton and prevent French-Mexican forces from providing supplies and support to the Confederate troops.
Approaching Shreveport from the south during the climactic period of the Red River campaign in spring 1864, Union Gen. Nathaniel Banks and his army of 6,400 met 10,500 Confederates led by the charismatic Gen. Richard Taylor. Rather than continuing a withdrawal, Taylor decided to attack, and he smashed the lead Union column at Mansfield on April 8, and then attacked the Union army again the next day a few miles away at Pleasant Hill. Although the latter battle was a draw, Banks had seen enough, and decided to retreat back to the Alexandria area to regroup. He would never have the chance to invade the area again. Today, the Mansfield battlefield is preserved as the Mansfield State Historic Site, operated under the Office of State Parks. It features an excellent museum and interpretive trails and markers. In 1973, this State Historic Site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, visitors can experience the Civil War through living history events, exhibits, battle reenactments and interpretive programs at the historic site. The site offers musket demonstrations, candlelight tours of the battlefield and more events throughout the year.
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum
Shreveport has its own unique Civil War story. After Union General Nathaniel Banks captured Port Hudson in May 1863, Louisiana’s state capital officially moved to Shreveport, where it remained until the end of the war. The 43,000 Confederate soldiers in Shreveport were the last major Confederate force to surrender in early June 1865.
The Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport is a product of 1930s Louisiana, replete with larger than life murals and delicate, superbly crafted dioramas showing various aspects of the state’s industrial and agricultural life at the time, the Exhibition Museum also features an impressive collection of Civil War memorabilia sure to intrigue the interested visitor. During the war, Marshall, Texas was a major supply depot for the Trans-Mississippi Department – offering gunpowder, cartridges, muskets and clothing. The Louisiana State Exhibit Museum has a collection of handwritten documents from U.S. Treasury agents sent between Marshall and Shreveport in 1865, primarily regarding the Union seizure and transportation of Confederate stores of cotton in Marshall.
Grand Ecore Visitor Center
Grand Ecore served as an important staging point and supply depot for the Union army and navy during the Red River campaign. Sitting high on a bluff overlooking the Red River, it held a strategic position, and was even utilized by Confederate forces, both before and after the spring 1864 invasion. Today, the Grand Ecore Visitor Center offers excellent exhibits on the site’s history and importance, as well as spectacular views of the river.
J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Shreveport Visitor Center
Located in downtown Shreveport, the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Shreveport Visitor Center features exhibits on the history and navigation of the Red River, including its importance during the Civil War. Of great interest is the display on a Civil War era steamboat that sank in the Red, only to be uncovered on dry ground when the river shifted course. It yielded a treasure trove of artifacts from the time period.