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Civil War


         On January 26, 1861 the state convention voted for secession from the Union.1 The Shreveport Greys, under the leadership of C. H. Beard, began the enrollment of new soldiers after the news of the firing of Fort Sumter reached the city on April 14.2 The Caddo Rifles, under W. R. Shivers, held a parade with the Greys, firing a cannon, which apparently was difficult, as one man was injured.  Governor Thomas Moore called for all volunteers and companies with 100 recruits to travel to New Orleans to serve for a year.  Captain Applegate of the steamer Grand Duke along with steamer Louis D’Or’s Captain Johnson offered free passage for those volunteers heading to New Orleans. Shreveport’s Board of Trustees met on April 17, giving the two steamboat captains free use of the wharf for the season. The Greys left on April 16 and the Rifles on April 17 on these steamers. 3 Women had begun to make uniforms for the soldiers, but the uniforms of the Shreveport Greys were not finished until the company boarded the Louis D’Or.4

The Greys were sent to Pensacola under General Bragg. The Rifles, who went to Virginia, were given the post of honor as Company A, First Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers. The company’s first location was Norfolk, Virginia.5

William Flournoy served as the captain of the Greenwood Guards; the third company from Shreveport, the Guards left on April 26. They were followed by the Shreveport Rangers, who left on the Grand Duke on April 28, under J. S. Gilmore. They joined the Third Louisiana Regiment in New Orleans under General Paul O. Hébert and headed to Arkansas to join General McCullough.6

Captain Henry Hunsicker led the Shreveport Rebels to Camp Moore in Tangipahoa in late July; they became part of the 11th Louisiana Regiment and went to Virginia. In August the Caddo Fencibles, headed by Captain E. Mason, left on a steamer.7 The Irishmen who were hired to work on the railroad that ran between Shreveport and Marshall, Texas formed the Landrum Guards under Captain T. A. Sharp in September of 1861 after their contractor suffered from bankruptcy. 8 The river was too low in September, so Sharp’s Guards, Captain James Jeter’s Caddo Lake Boys, and Captain R. L. Hodges’s Keatchie Warriors all marched to Monroe.9

By the end of 1861 the following companies had also formed and left: Captain W. P. Winans’s Caddo Sportsmen, Captain William Robinson’s Caddo Guards, Captain G. G. Williams’s Caddo Pioneers, Reverend Captain George Tucker’s Caddo Confederates, and Captains Nutt and Denson’s Red River Rangers and Caddo Light Horse.10

The Shreveport Sentinels formed under Colonel H. J. G. Battle for Shreveport’s protection, as did the Home Guards under Dr. T. P. Hotchkiss.  About 2,000 soldiers were sent to the Confederate army from Shreveport and its surrounding areas.  Nineteen companies, many being of 130 men, left Shreveport, Greenwood, Mooringsport, and Keatchie in the year after the first call to arms was made.11

There was a constant flow of soldiers through Shreveport in 1861 as enlisted men from East Texas left from here. Reuben White received subscriptions within the parish for bonds to support the Confederacy. Planters were encouraged to take all the bonds they could afford, and Governor Moore also asked planters to donate their blankets for the sick and wounded.12 Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches donated their bells, sending them down the Mississippi River to New Orleans to be melted down and manufactured into cannons.13 Scrap iron was collected and sent to the New Orleans foundries. 14 Laboratories, ammunition shops, and foundries were established in Shreveport, which had formerly had only light manufacturing.15 Small industries were built to make the materials normally imported from other states.16 Shreveport operated two shops to make and repair firearms.  In 1861 a tannery and a shoe manufacturing company were opened.17 Ladies Military Aid Societies sprang up in Shreveport, Bellevue, Lake Providence, Monroe, and Natchitoches to provide clothing for Caddo Parish soldiers. 18 They held concerts and raffles for money to support the cause and asked for people to donate cotton and wool yard for the knitting of socks, uniforms, and flags. Planter J. H. McReady reportedly donated nine bales of his cotton for their use.19

Abraham Lincoln sent Federal naval ships to blockade every southern port, and as they arrived, New Orleans began to suffer from shortages.  North Louisiana was only slightly affected by shortages in 1861 and 1862.  At first prices increased on some goods and others were in short supply, but Shreveport was a trade center for Texan and Mexican products.  Coffee, sugar, flour, whiskey, and other items were available at reasonable prices through this trade system.  Cotton production decreased to allow for more food crops to be grown. 20 Wagon trains ran along the Texas Trail, selling cotton in Mexico and returning with much-needed supplies for the Confederates. Texans made tools, raised hogs and cattle, and grew wheat. These were shipped into Shreveport and from there, headed down the Red River to the Mississippi River for the Confederates.21 In 1865 Shreveport still fared better than most of Louisiana.22

Shreveport became the capital of Louisiana, as Federal troops approached Opelousas in January of 1863. 23 Governor Thomas Overton Moore established his offices in a frame structure at 724-726 Texas Street. Shreveport’s population skyrocketed from about 4,000 to 12,000 in that year, as people evacuated southern Louisiana, leaving their plantations to avoid General Banks’s troops. 24

Henry Watkins Allen, a native of Virginia and owner of the successful Allendale Plantation in West Baton Rouge Parish, enlisted with the Delta Rifles and shortly afterward became lieutenant colonel of the Fourth Louisiana Infantry. While leading a charge at the Battle of Baton Rouge, his leg was shattered above his ankle, and his other leg suffered a gunshot wound. After his recovery he was sent to General Smith in Shreveport. 25 On January 26, 1864 Allen became governor of Louisiana and was sworn into his new position in the state capitol of Shreveport. 26 During his stay in Shreveport, he lived in a small three-bedroom house at 332 Allen Avenue, which, along with the Allendale section of town, received its name from him.27

There was no railroad through Shreveport, as the Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Texas Railroad came to a standstill with the outbreak of the war. Although trains ran regularly between Monroe and Delta, the remainder of the track was incomplete until nearly twenty years after the end of the war.28 The direction of the tracks had been diverted to Swanson’s Landing, a Texas port on Caddo Lake, and General John Bankhead Magruder, a Confederate commander of the District of Texas, had the railroad tracks between Jonesville and Swanson’s Landing removed.29 Much of the railroad track at that time was used to plate the ironclad Missouri, the last Confederate ironclad to surrender in area waters. The Missouri was armored at the Confederate naval yard.30

            The Confederate shipyard stood at the fork of Spring and North Market Streets on Cross Bayou. The Confederate ram Web, which had captured the Union ship Indianola, was repaired at the Confederate yard.31 In the spring of 1865, the ship went from Cross Bayou to the Red River and on to the Mississippi River through the Federal blockade as it headed for England, carrying a cargo of turpentine and cotton, which was worth a dollar per pound.32 When confronted by Union ships about twenty-five miles south of New Orleans, the commander of the ship, Lieutenant Charles W. Read, ordered the cotton to be doused with the turpentine and ignited; the crew then jumped overboard while the ship burned and eventually exploded.33 The shipyard also built five submarines to protect the Red River. These were similar to the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, which had been by engineers of the Singer Submarine Corporation and was the first submarine to sink a ship during wartime. One of the submarines was dismantled and sent to Houston, Texas, but the other four remained in Shreveport. These submarines were never used, but wartime naval orders show that they were not unknown to the Union navy.34

In early 1863 Shreveport became the military headquarters for the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department under General Edmund Kirby Smith.35 Smith, a native of St. Augustine, Florida, had been involved in the Indian trouble in Texas, played a part in the Mexican War, and moved his way up the ladder in the Confederacy. Apart from heading the Trans-Mississippi Department, Smith established a regular system of blockade running.36

 He and his wife inhabited 912 Commerce Street. His department headquarters was in the upstairs of 525 Spring Street, and his soldiers were in an open field about two miles south of Shreveport at a station known as Camp Boggs.37 At the site of Tone’s Bayou in Robson, Brigadier William R. Boggs, who came to the area with Smith, had his troops build two forts. A dam was also built in the bayou, so that if need be he could blow it up and trap the Union ships in low water.  He later did so, and the water from the Red River drained into Bayou Pierre.38

The Union High Command determined that the cities worth taking were Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; and Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport’s geography allowed cotton to grow in abundance and then send it on to the northern textile mills. The mills were starved for cotton by 1862, and the Federals knew that the cotton bales imported from Texas, which had been stored in Shreveport, would bring high prices in the North.39 The Federals also knew that the war effort in the South would suffer and the end of the war would quickly follow if Shreveport, the Headquarters for the Trans-Mississippi Department and the then-capital of Louisiana, could be taken.40

When Vicksburg collapsed in July of 1863, the eastern Confederacy was separated from the Trans-Mississippi West. Men, cattle, grain, and other supplies could no longer be shipped to Mississippi from Texas and Mexico in order to help the soldiers.41 General Nathaniel Banks headed up the Red River toward Alexandria and Shreveport.42 Major General Frederick Steele was backing Banks, but was traveling from Arkansas and found it difficult to coordinate their troop movements. Admiral David D. Porter had orders to follow Banks, but gave independent commands.  Therefore, the 45,000 Federal troops moving toward Shreveport lacked a single commander. General Edmund Kirby Smith sent all the troops under General Richard Taylor to hassle the Federals as they approached. Reinforcements also came from Texas.43

Smith had 21,000 men under his command, but only 16,000 were in and around the Shreveport area. With the Federals traveling up the Red River and heading south out of Little Rock, Arkansas, Smith pressed hundreds of slaves into service. These people, coming from the nearby plantations, built the forts and batteries surrounding Shreveport.44

The first of the three local forts was Fort Humbug, located near where the Veterans Administration Hospital now stands. Fort Jenkins, which stood where the Schumpert Sanitarium stands, was named for the first Caddo Parish judge, Washington Jenkins.45 Fort Albert Sidney Johnson was located near the intersection of Webster and Clay streets.46

The first battery was on Royal Street in Stoner Hill.  The second and third batteries were located on what is now Greenwood Cemetery; the third battery’s site is now the Confederate plot of the cemetery. A fourth stood on the hill that is now the site of the Highland Sanitarium. At Nutt and Egan Streets, an unnumbered battery stood on the lawn of the old Herold Home. The site is now the home of Central Christian Church. There was another unnumbered battery at Jordan Street and Fairfield Avenue. The site of the old Charity Hospital saw a seventh battery. Four more were between Charity Hospital and Arsenal Hill, with the twelfth being at Arsenal Hill.47

Early in 1864 Banks marched his troops on the stagecoach line between Shreveport and Grand Ecore, believing it was the shortest route. The route, however, was not the shortest and as it wound its way away from the Red River, it left Banks’s troops too far away from Porter’s fleet to be protected. Banks planned to meet with Porter’s fleet about thirty miles from Shreveport at Loggy Bayou. Taylor was waiting at Mansfield.48 In April of 1864, Taylor and his Confederate troops pushed the Federals back, thus sparing Shreveport.49 Taylor’s men were weary from two battles and marching, but Banks’s men overestimated these forces and retreated. Smith was later to say, “Our repulse was so complete and our command was so disorganized that had Banks followed up his success vigorously he would have met but feeble opposition to his advance on Shreveport.”50 If Banks had resumed fighting the following day, Taylor’s troops would have been forced to retreat, and the Union Army could have pressed on to Shreveport.51




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