JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — Who knew that a large mound of earth, or basically a grassy hill, could be such an iconic Civil War historical site?
I’m talking about the powder magazine at Camp Parapet, a confederate fortification built in 1861.
The Fort stretched from the Mississippi River almost all the way to lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish, but today it’s simply a small site located close to the river off of south Causeway Boulevard.
Camp Parapet was only used by the Confederate Army for a short time.
In 1862, New Orleans was captured by the Union Army, which means Camp Parapet was then used for the United States military.
Fugitive slaves began to arrive at the camp seeking refuge, and that’s when Union General, John W. Phelps, had an idea.
“He had the idea of, let’s arm all of the runaway slaves that are coming into our encampment and use them,” says Nic Clark, owner of Civil War Tours of New Orleans.
Phelps was denied the request of arming the freed slaves and contraband and instead was instructed that they should grab spades, shovels, and axes and get to work.
“They were told to clear all of the trees along the camp from the river all the way up to the lake. So, it was about five miles that the runaway slaves that came in here to Camp Parapet that they were told just cut down all of the trees and be used for manual labor,” says Clark.
However, just a few months later, the slaves were uniformed and trained to fight.
This was organized by General Bejamin Butler.
These men were the Union’s 1st Louisiana Native Guard Regiment.
“They began training and drilling to become the first ever all black soldiers in U.S. military history,” says Clark.
The United States continued to add to their numerical superiority and the locally recruited black soldiers went on to fight in places like Port Hudson and Mobile.
“Their contribution to the war effort helped bring the war to an end and then ushered in a whole new era in this country’s history and that gets brought back right here to the Causeway here in Jeff Parish just right up the river from New Orleans,” says Clark.
Camp Parapet is closed for most of the year, but the gates open on “Open House Day,” which is November 2nd, 2019.
Nic Clark, however, offers year round tours throughout New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
Clark is the owner of Civil War Tours of New Orleans and provides guided and informational excursions.
Click here for details.