Historic Cannon Fragments on Display for the First Time at Orange Fest

November 19, 2010

When the Orange Festival returns to Fort Jackson in December, visitors will have the opportunity to see recently uncovered historic artifacts possibly dating back to the Civil War. In 2009, a number of cannon fragments were discovered buried in the grounds of the Water Battery area of Fort Jackson by James Madere and members of the Fort Pike Foundation, Inc.

The origin of the cannon fragments is not currently known, but there are three possibilities. The cannons could have been destroyed when Union Admiral David Farragut bombarded Fort Jackson during hisgunboat siege in April 1862. The cannons could have been blown up when Confederates troops of the 22nd Regiment of Louisiana Volunteer Infantry mutinied on April 25, 1862 before Captain Johnson K. Duncun surrendered Fort Jackson to the Union troops on April 28, 1862. The cannon fragments could be remnants left over when the fort’s cannons were sold for scrap. Some of Fort Jackson’s cannons were blown up in order to remove them to the scrap yards for sale.

To complicate the origin even more, military resources were often brought to Fort Jackson because it was the first line of defense. In an effort to strengthen the fort as the Union prepared to attack New Orleans in 1862, Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore relocated cannons from Fort Pike, Fort McComb, Battery Bienvenue, and Baton Rouge to Fort Jackson, mounting them to the Plaquemines Parish stronghold. An excavation is the best procedure to determine the origin of the fragments. “If the cannon fragments are removed, we can look for markings that maybe able to help identify what type of cannons they are,” said local fort expert James Madere. “More than likely, these cannons were mounted on the fort and used against Farragut’s Union troops. And we may be dealing with several different types of cannons.”

“In the future we will be partnering with a local university and the Fort Pike Foundation to excavate and retrieve these newly uncovered artifacts and establish their specific historical significance,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. “Fort Jackson has such a unique history, it’s great we’re able to bring more of it to the public’s attention.” The origin of Fort Jackson itself actually ties to the Battle of New Orleans. After the battle, Major General Andrew Jackson recommended the United States Government build a fort to defend the lower Mississippi River. Construction began on Fort Jackson in 1822. The star-shaped pentagon fort was completed in 1832 at the cost of $554,500. A new structure was built for the Spanish American War inside the fort’s walls.

Fort Jackson was used in the Civil War. Near the end of the Civil War it served as a training facility for Buffalo Soldiers, African American troops recruited to work in the Western States. During World War I the Fort was used as a training base. It was privately purchased in the 1920s and donated to the parish in 1960. Through the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fort Jackson became a national historic monument in 1961. Shortly thereafter the parish began restoration under the direction of then President of the Plaquemines Commission Council Leander H. Perez. Fort Jackson has been closed since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaquemines Parish on August 29, 2005. On December 3, 2010 Fort Jackson will reopen to the public for the first time in more than five years for Plaquemines Parish’s oldest festival.

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