TwHP Lessons

The Siege of Port Hudson:
"Forty Days and Nights in the Wilderness of Death"

[Cover photo] Confederate fort after the seige
Confederate fort after the siege. (Massachusetts MOLLUS Collection, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA)


e eat all the meat and bread in the all the beef--all the mules--all the Dogs--and all the Rats around us.

So wrote a soldier who had been inside the Confederate defenses at Port Hudson, Louisiana, during one of the longest sieges in American military history. For 48 days in 1863, he and his fellow troops defended a fort that stood on top of a bluff above the Mississippi River; for all of those 48 days, Federal soldiers pummeled the Southerners with cannon shot and rifle fire.

Finally, just five days after the Confederates were defeated at Vicksburg, Port Hudson surrendered to the Union. With these two victories, the North could finally claim undisputed control of the Mississippi River. Though the Civil War would rage on for almost two more years, the siege at Port Hudson, and the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg--which all occurred the same week--together struck a blow from which the South never recovered.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. The Mississippi Valley
 2. Port Hudson & its defenses

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Setting for the Siege
 2. The Mule Diet at Port Hudson
 3. The Account of Pvt. Henry T. Johns
 4. The Letters of John William DeForest

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Confederate cannon inside Port Hudson
 2. Confederate "rat holes" within the fort
 3. Confederate earthworks
 4. Federal siege camp in a ravine
 5. Federal artillery battery
 6. African­American troops at Port Hudson

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. The Life of a Soldier
 2. The Hero
 3. Debating Siege Warfare
 4. Your Community Under Attack

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This lesson is based on the Port Hudson Battlefield, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.




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