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call and fought bravely. Some of the old veterans are still living, and it is a rare treat to sit at their feet while they tell of the battles fought around Marksville.
There were a few skirmishes in the vicinity of Marksville, and in the Parish of Avoyelles; prominent among these are the engagements at Mansura and Yellow Bayou. There were some noted battles fought at Fort De Russey on Red River, five miles from Marksville.
This fort was constructed at the inception of the war by the Confederates, under the auspices of Colonel De Russey. He meant to control the Red with a chain of forts along its banks. At the bend in the river, at Gordon's Landing, he built this fort. The fort stood about five hundred yards from the river over which it had a most commanding view.
Early in the war the Federals attempted to blockade the river. To accomplish this purpose Admiral Porter sent the Queen of the West up the river to reconnoitre. Having safely passed the batteries at Vicksburg, the Queen steamed up the Red to bombard the fort. Upon nearing the fort she was discerned and fired upon. Under a heavy fire of the fort's battery she got aground on a sandbar and was boarded by the Confederates. The crew were obliged to desert the Queen to prevent being captured. The Queen was refitted and added to the Confederate ram fleet. Later she was captutred by the Federals and destroyed. A full history of this old ram would be a very interesting feature of the war. She accomplished more than any other vessel in the inland service.
In May following, Banks planned a vigorous campaign against Alexandria. He was to lead the troops on land while Rear Admiral Porter shelled the town with his ironclads. In pursuance of this plan Lieutenant Hart was sent up the river with a small fleet to ascertain whether Fort De Russey was abandoned. Upon reaching Black River, he learned that neither boats nor soldiers had been seen in the neighborhood for some time.
That night some of the officers landed and learned from two Frenchmen that the Confederates were planning to abandon the fort the next day and were going to take the guns up the river to Alexandria and there prepare for Banks. On the following morning, as the fleet came in sight of the fort's advance picket, rushed out from the woods declaring that he was a strong Union man. He proved to be a cowardly deserter. He readily divulged the plans of the fort and piloted the fleet up the river to the fort.
In the meantime Captain Kelso, of the Confederate army, had been sent down with two armed steamboats to take the guns of the fort up to Alexandria. He had also constructed a heavy raft across the river and secured it to trees on either shore. Behind the levee he had thirty or forty cavalry armed with carbines. When the Federal fleet steamed into view they commenced the action with a discharge of five guns. The Confederates returned it promptly, and it was kept up vigorously until the smoke obscured their view. When the smoke cleared away, the firing was repeated. A 32-pounder ball from the Confederate steamer Cotton carried away the wheel, killing the pilot of the main Federal ram.
The cavalry were busy picking off the officers; they were a great help. After an hour's engagement the Federal fleet turned around and steamed down the river. Captain Kelso immediately evacuated the fort and took the guns up to Alexdria. These guns had been taken from a Federal ram some time previous. The Federal losses were far more than the Confederate. It was a great battle, probably the greatest fought on the Red.
On reaching the mouth of the river the retreating fleet met the fleet of Admiral Porter coming up the river on its way to Alexandria. They found the fort evacuated and had no trouble in passing through the obstruction. They destroyed the fort's casements and burned all Confederate property. The fleet then proceeded up to Alexandria, which was also found evacuated. At Black River the fleet was repulsed and all Federal gunboats were ordered down the river.
A part of Banks' army returned to Simsport. Two days later the remainder left Alexandria and were on the road to Simsport. They followed the road along the river and their rear was protected by Lieutenant Ellet's rams. Upon reaching Fort De Russey they left the river and marched through Marksville.
In the fall of 1863 the Confederates again occupied the fort and were employed for five months strengthening it. A formid
able barricade was built across the river, firmly held by piles driven into the mud. The garrison was 5,000 strong, in command of General Walker. The battery was iron-plated and casemated. The Confederates depended upon this fort to stop all advances made by any army or navy in that part of the country.
A huge fleet of ironclads assembled at the mouth of the Red, joined by 10,000 troopers from Sherman's command, and proceeded up the river to capture the fort and join Banks at Alexandria. On arriving at the mouth of the Atchafalaya, part of the fleet ascended that stream while the remainder steamed up the river to amuse the forts by feints until the troopers could arrive and attack the fort from the rear.
The detachment of the fleet which went up to Simsport encountered a body of Confederate soldiers. The crew drove them back, and upon the arrival of the Federal soldiers the Confederates retreated to Fort De Russey. General Walker left the fort in charge of 300 men and retreated toward Alexandria with the others. Soon after, the boats joined the main part of the fleet at the fort. The obstruction had already been removed. After a brisk musketry fire, the Federal soldiers took the fort. About fifty Confederates were killed and the rest were taken prisoners.
When I made a trip to the City of New York in the summer of 1916, I did not go there to see the skyscrapers of that great city; I went there to see the author of “Sonny.” After a brief correspondence I arranged for an interview with Ruth McEnery Stuart. The great teachers of the world are never without their disciples, and, as the late Elbert Hubbard tells us, the world always makes a beaten path to the abode of a good author. I was, therefore, but one of the many who repaired from time to time to the residence on West Fifty-eighth Street. But on arriving there, I was shocked to learn that the master writer of fiction was ill as a result of overtaxed mentality.
God often goes to somewhat obscure places for His great men. He also goes to such places for His great women. The quaint little village of the prairie-Marksville of 1856—was the scene of the nativity of Ruth McEnery, later Mrs. Stuart. This little girl was destined to become a novelist whose genius the South is proud of.
The McEnery family resided in an humble home-a true nestling place for the offspring of genius—which stood on the present site of the residence of the late Mayor Couvillion. Writing for the Times-Democrat in 1897, Mrs. Eva Sewell Gaines thus describes the McEnery residence:
“* * * The dwelling, with its dim gray stucco walls and quaint saddle roof seems a bit of old-time history. The ceilings are low, with rafters painted; the walls are of brick and stucco, the latter peeling off, leaving unsightly scars. The mantels are high, narrow and of carved wood. Altogether, the place wears an eerie aspect.”
Ruth was the daughter of James and Mary Routh (Stirling) McEnery. Her father was an unassuming merchant, but a man of distinction personally, as was his family for generations, both in Ireland and in Louisiana, where they have been men of professions and where they were called to high positions in public life. Two McEnerys have been elected Governor of Louisiana. Moreover, Mrs. Stuart was the kinswoman of five Governors.
Her mother came from a long line of sturdy Scotch ancestry, the Rouths and Stirlings. It was the Stirlings whose crest bore the oft-quoted motto: “Be sure you're right, then gang forward.” With such a noble ancestry Ruth McEnery, the woman, was possessed of all the inherent qualities of a high-bred Southern woman.
Ruth, when but a child, was sent to New Orleans, where she was educated until 1865. In 1879 she married Alfred O. Stuart, a cotton planter in Southwestern Arkansas, where she lived until her husband's death, occurring four years after their marriage. Later she moved to New York with her only son, Stirling McEnery Stuart.
Mrs. Stuart was born with a pen, and she soon realized it. In New York her literary career was begun in earnest. The Stuart Apartment soon became a literary center.
Among her many stories and novels, “Sonny,” Salina Sue," “Babette” and “Mary Ellen” stand first and foremost. In her writings she has not forgotten her native State and its Crescent City, where she received those childish impressions which ever cling to one. Her recollections of the inland country folk of Arkansas are depicted in "The Woman's Exchange' and other stories.
Mrs. Stuart is also a poet, and a philosopher as well. Of course, she did not found a school of thought or anything like that. Neither is her philosophy the polished, high-sounding logic of an Emerson. It is the diamond-in-the-rough sort, as found in her clever little poems, “Daddy Do-Funny's Wisdom Jingles.” I think the best thing she ever wrote in the way of poetry was the little poem about the canary. There is as much philosophy in it as poetry:
“De little yaller cage-bird preems 'is wings,
And would not the following, taken from her masterly tragedy “Mary Ellen,” do honor to a Novalis ?
“They are great mystics, after all, the children. And are they not, perhaps, wise mystics who sit and wonder and worship, satified not to understand?” . It is in the “Cocoon” she so wisely muses, after the manner of a Jacques ;
“I am one of the dramatis personæ in the great tragedy of 'Life and Death.' We're all in it, whether we realize it or not. I know I'm cast for something, and sometimes I'm afraid to stir lest I jostle my cap and ring by bells.”
Her style of writing is beautiful and brilliant. All through her works there is a striking beauty, both in style and sentiment. It is this which peculiarly distinguishes her as a master writer. And yet her style is not remarkable; but it is such that raises in the reader an emotion of the gentle, placid kind, overspreading the imagination with an agreeable and pleasing serenity.
No one who loves the masters but must see, therefore, the touch of the master hand in her writings. Hence, there is no need of monuments nor essays to perpetuate her name and fame, for her works are in themselves an immortality.
MOUNDS EXCAVATED BY DR. MOORE. The mounds of the interesting chain along Red River, and in the vicinity of Marksville, were excavated in 1912 by Dr. Clarence B. Moore, the noted archæologist of Philadelphia. He published the result of the discoveries under the title of “Some