Alexandria / Pineville and Area
Union soldiers under Gen. Nathaniel Banks passed through the area twice during the Red River Campaign March-May 1864 – once on their way to Shreveport and again when they retreated after failing to take the city. Harassed by Confederate pursuers under Gen. Richard Taylor on the way back, the Union army made it to Alexandria as did a flotilla of gunboats on the river. Unfortunately for the gunboats, the Red River had fallen and the rapids at Alexandria were too shallow to pass.
Disaster loomed for the valuable Union fleet. The solution was to build a dam, back up the river, and “flush” the gunboats past the rapids. The unique escape saved the already doomed campaign from complete catastrophe. Banks burned much of the town and surrounding area on his way back to the Baton Rouge area. Alexandria’s Louisiana History Museum, 503 Washington St, displays artifacts related to the event.
Forts Randolph & Buhlow State Historic Site
135 Riverfront St, Pineville LA 71360
A visitor center and interpreted trails focus on the Red River Campaign. Trails connect the two forts, constructed by Confederates following the Battle of Mansfield. A military buildup in the area was intended to repel any future Union attacks. The historic site also contains the remains of Bailey's Dam, which "saved" the Union ironclad fleet during the retreat from Mansfield. Site open Wednesday-Sunday 9 am-5 pm. $4.
Old LSU Site Walking Trail
2500 Shreveport Highway, Pineville LA
(across from the VA hospital)
318-473-7160 (Kisatchie National Forest)
This two-acre site marks the location of the State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, forerunner to Louisiana State University, established in 1860. The institution’s first superintendent was William T. Sherman, who later became the famous Union Civil War general. His tenure didn’t last long. His students caught secession fever after the state left the Union and cast their lot with the Confederacy. Sherman went North, warning his students about the coming war and declaring, “You are bound to fail.”
Despite this, he ordered that Union soldiers passing through the area to spare the institution. And they did. While most of the area was burned during the Red River Campaign, the seminary was untouched.
The school closed after the beginning of the war, was reopened, then moved to Baton Rouge in 1869. Several interpretive markers at the site, owned by the U.S. Forest Service, help explain the story. Foundations of many of the old buildings are still visible.
Other Civil War places in the area
Kent Plantation, Alexandria, 3601 Bayou Rapides Road, Alexandria LA 71303 – Home was one of the few left standing during the Union retreat from Mansfield during the Red River Campaign. Open for tours.
Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins, 11054 Highway 84, Frogmore LA 71334 – Antebellum and modern cotton plantations side-by-side with 20 historic structures. Antebellum life is described, including slaves and women.
See also the Red River Campaign.
Links to the websites of places: Louisiana Links