Fort DeRussy named to National Register of Historic Places

 

   More than 150 years after it ceased to operate as a military fort defending Red River, Fort DeRussy has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
   The U.S. National Park Service approved the Fort DeRussy State Historic Site for inclusion on the register, effective Sept. 23. The process began in 2010 through a collaborative effort between the Friends of Fort DeRussy and the Louisiana Office of State Parks. 
    There are only about 2,500 sites throughout the nation that have been deemed historically important enough to be placed on the National Register.
    “This is a big day for everyone who has been involved with Fort DeRussy,” Steve Mayeux said. “We have been working on making everyone aware of the importance of the fort since 1994.”
   Because of financial problems at both the state and federal levels, Mayeux said it is not likely the site will be developed as a historical museum/tourist attraction in the foreseeable future. Friends of Fort DeRussy, a private group that oversees the property, will continue its efforts to maintain the grounds, including cutting the grass.
 
No ceremony
   “There will be no official ceremony for the site being named to the National Register,” Mayeux said.
   Fort DeRussy was an earthen fort built to defend the Red River from Union naval intrusions during the Civil War. It is located about three miles north of Marksville.
  The fort was named after its designer, Col. Lewis G. DeRussy of Natchitoches, who holds the distinction of being the oldest West Point graduate to serve in the Confederate Army. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. 
   Construction of the fort began in November 1862.
  Fort DeRussy was the site of three major Civil War engagements and numerous minor skirmishes from 1862-1864. The most important was in March 1864, at the start of the Red River Campaign, when the fort was attacked by a Union Army that approached it from Marksville.
   After a four-hour bombardment and assault, the fort -- called the “Gibraltar of the South” -- was captured.
   The Union used the site as a recruiting station to enlist African-American troops in the U.S. Army.
 
Purchased in 1996
   The main redoubt was purchased by La Commission des Avoyelles in March 1996. The 70-acre property became a Louisiana State Historic Site in 1999. 
   A substantial portion of the earthworks are still in existence and can be made accessible to visitors by  contacting the Office of State Parks at 225-342-8111 or the Friends of Fort DeRussy at 318-876-3702.
   “Fort DeRussy State Historic Site being recognized is another achievement for our department and I look forward to continuing to work toward other state historic sites being named to the National Register of Historic Places,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said. Nungesser’s office oversees the Louisiana State Parks and Historic Sites program.
   For more information about Fort DeRussy, visit the Friends of Fort DeRussy website at FortDeRussy.org.

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