Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fort Jesup, Louisiana

Our family went to Fort Jesup this past Saturday.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  This fort is now part of the Louisiana State Park system as a State Historic Site.  There are a couple of others that I know about in the area:  Los Adaes, a Spanish fort built in 1700s (and at one time the capitol of Texas), and Fort St. Jean Baptiste, a French fort built in 1716.  I have visited each of them at least once and found them very interesting.  I can't help but love history.

Borrowing from one of the brochures (published by the State of Louisiana, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Office of State Parks) I picked up last weekend I'll quote some of the data therein:

"When the Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803 failed to clearly define the western boundary of Louisiana, which was also the western border of the country at that time, the United Stated claimed eastern Texas and Spain claimed western Louisiana.  The ensuing dispute gave rise to the 'Neutral Ground,' an area where the laws of neither nation were enforced.  Soldiers and settlers were kept out and rouges of various stripes ruled the region.  After the territorial boundary was finally fixed at the Sabine River by the Florida Purchase Treaty of 1819, the United States built Fort Jesup in 1822."

According to the information I have on hand and what we were told this past Saturday when the family went for "Settler's Day, there is only one original building still on site--the kitchen/mess hall. (I think about 80 buildings made up the fort in its prime.) There was a young lady (in period costume) actually cooking inside that kitchen on an open fire  while explaining the chores of feeding the soldiers at that time.  She was very informative in explaining how it all was done.  The cook would feed the men in groups of 25 at a time, which sounded like the cook would have been working several hours just for breakfast and then several more for the noon meal and, well, supper?  (Please see pictures 4 and 5 below that show a little girl holding a lizard she was thrilled with catching in the woodpile next to the kitchen steps.)  I wasn't able to stay through the whole discourse because:   a.  the smoke was getting to me,  and b. the grandkids were running amok.  Or actually, Little Britches was pretty much running amok and I needed to catch him and ride herd on him.

 The reconstructed Officers Quarters (pictures above) was built sometime after 1961, I think.  According to the same brochure quoted above, "This building was reconstructed with the assistance of historians from the Army Quartermaster General's Office and the National Trust for Historic Preservation."  (It reminds me very much of a similar building in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, that I saw about 35 years ago.)

I love history, and since I was raised as a Army brat, it has more interest for me.  The fort was abandoned in 1846, but for a time it was the western-most US military post in the country.

Some of what we saw while at the Fort:

 The back steps of the kitchen are backdrop for the display of wildlife captured by Miss Noodle.
She found keeping the hoop rolling was not as easy as she first thought, but did catch on pretty well.
 Little Britches inspecting some old plows.  We talked about hitching mules to pull the plows, but I don't think he caught the concept!
 Some period tools.
 This guy in costume demonstrated how they started fires with flint.  It was really cool to see it done!
 The young lady in black shirt is my daughter.  The guy demonstrating this old black powder rifle and she used to work at the same grocery store once long ago . . .  He's wearing a period Army uniform.
 Blue Eyes was quite excited to try out the stocks.  We did try to explain how they really weren't all that fun for folks who actually were punished in those contraptions.
These guys demonstrated black powder guns in action!  I know the young man in the Army uniform said he actually hunts with his own gun of that old vintage--though not an antique.

The grandkids want to return to Fort Jesup.  I think we bigger kids do, too!  Not to mention visiting the other two historical sites mentioned above!

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