Fort Jackson, a nearly two-century old stronghold on the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana, was the site of a ferocious Civil War battle with the Union Navy. The fortress, occupied by Confederate troops, failed to stop the Union advance. That led to the surrender of New Orleans and Union control of the lower Mississippi River.
Work began on the brick star-shaped fort in 1822. Fort Jackson is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River 70 miles below New Orleans, Louisiana. Huge cypress timbers buried in the soft ground support the fort’s 8-foot-thick brick walls , according to Plaquemines Parish historian James Madere. Fort Jackson opened in 1830 when Andrew Jackson was President of the United States.
louisiana’s Fort Jackson under siege
Fort Jackson endured 12 days of fierce bombardment during the American Civil War. Confederate troops occupied Fort Jackson and the older Fort St. Philip located on the opposite side of the Mississippi River. A Union fleet, commanded by Admiral David Farragut, sailed up the river and attacked the Louisiana forts in April of 1862. Madere says the Confederate troops took a unique approach to defending the forts. “They strung a chain along barges from Fort St. Philip to Fort Jackson, just to be able to slow down Farragut’s fleet,” Madere explained. But the Union attack set the barges on fire and the chains sank to the river bottom. And after pounding the forts with thousands of cannon balls, the fleet was able to sail past the forts and capture the city of New Orleans.
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hot shot cannon balls
Fort Jackson contained a furnace for heating “hot shot” cannon balls. “They would roll the cannon balls through the very hot coals,” Madere says. “They came out the other end cherry red and fired at wooden ships on the river.”
nearby St. Philip built by the spanish
Fort St. Philip is located directly across the Mississippi River from Fort Jackson. The forts are located on a bend in the river, which required a slow and difficult maneuver for naval ships trying to sail upstream and avoid cannon fire. In the War of 1812’s Battle of New Orleans, Fort St. Philip successfully halted the advance of the British Navy on the Mississippi River.
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Fort jackson bombarded by louisiana hurricanes
20th Century hurricanes continued to pound Fort Jackson. Storm surges from Hurricanes Betsy (1965), Camille (1969), and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 put the fort under 20 to 30 feet of water.
The hurricanes caused major damage to the brick walls and foundation. The interior of Fort Jackson is closed to visitors. But a park area around the fort is open. And the Fort Jackson Museum is located a short distance away.
Getting to fort jackson and museum
Fort Jackson is located at 38039 LA-23, Buras, Louisiana. The museum and welcome center is located a half-mile before the fort on the river side of LA-23. The museum is normally open 8am-4pm weekdays, but call ahead to check status. 504-934-3783.