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Story Archives: Weekend travels: Fort Beauregard, Windsor, Grand Village
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|Weekend travels: Fort Beauregard, Windsor, Grand Village|
For the past years, my weekends have been spent traveling the highways and forgotten paths of this region looking for beautiful country and historic terrain. Occasionally I've been asked about interesting places to visit.
Today I list three. One is easy to find and the other two might require out-of-staters to look at a map or google the Internet for directions. Depending on where you live, these destinations can be reached in five minutes or take a couple of hours (or more).
FORT BEAUREGARD: In 1804, Ouachita River explorers William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter spent the night in beautiful hill country that would one day become known as Harrisonburg, La. First known as Pine Point, a little town named after John Harrison soon developed.
Harrisonburg's crown jewel rises above the back of the town -- a long, high ridge known to the locals as Fort Hill, but known to historians as Fort Beauregard, built by the Confederates in 1862 to halt Union gunboats from advancing up the Ouachita. The fort was named after Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the Louisianian who commanded at Charleston where the first guns of the Civil War were fired.
In 1863, during the Vicksburg Campaign, the federal army targeted the destruction of Fort Beauregard to open up the Ouachita to Monroe. A sizable federal army crossed the Mississippi River at Natchez, marched through Concordia and made its way to the fort after several skirmishes from pesky but ineffective Rebel forces.
This relatively bloodless expedition was a Union success. Two Union brigades walked 100-plus miles in five days crossing the Mississippi, Cross Bayou and Black River on pontoons.
During The Great Depression, more than four times the men who served the Confederacy at Fort Beauregard amassed on top of the hill under the employ of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government agency formed to put men to work during those hard economic times. More than 150 lived there in temporary living quarters.
In 1930, the Village of Harrisonburg bought the fort property, 30 acres in all. For years, Catahoula Parish elementary school children had a spring day at the fort, where they picnicked and slid down the hillsides on cardboard.
The fort was dedicated to war veterans from Catahoula, and the town has done a good job during the past decades keeping the grounds mowed and clean. An amphitheater was built, picnic tables are available and it's a place occasionally used for weddings and birthday parties. Kids love the place.
It's one of the most beautiful, peaceful sites in Catahoula with a commanding view of the Ouachita that could be truly stunning if a few trees were strategically removed.
WINDSOR: Although the Windsor mansion north of Alcorn in Claiborne County, Miss., burned to the ground more than a century ago, it still draws visitors to the land once owned by the first judge -- Peter Bryan Bruin -- to take the bench in Natchez country.
In 1827, the land became the property of Smith Coffee Daniell II, who built a magnificent mansion near the Indian mounds that he named Windsor. The mansion was completed in 1861 just weeks before Daniell died.
During the Civil War in 1863, Gen. U.S. Grant's Union Army crossed the Mississippi from Tensas Parish to Claiborne County and while at the Windsor grounds a Union soldier sketched the mansion.
In 1890 a fire destroyed the building. Only the columns, wrought iron stairs and railing survived. The stairs now beautifully adorn Oakland Memorial Chapel at nearby Alcorn State University.
In 1956, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor posed atop a replica of the Windsor stairs there at the old site for a publicity shot during the filming of the movie "Raintree County," which was released by MGM in 1957.
Maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Properties Director Jim Barnett says almost every time he visits the site that he meets Americans from across the U.S.
As we noted in a column in 2008, part of Windsor still breathes there near the judge's old home place and rises above the broken hills and deep hollows of Claiborne County.
GRAND VILLAGE: There are few stories more bewitching than that of the Natchez Indians and their bloody conflict with the French during the early 18th Century. You can get a real feel for the Natchez by visiting a location that was so very special to the tribe.
The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians (400 Jefferson Davis Boulevard, Natchez) has a museum accredited by the American Association of Museums, book and craft shop, auditorium for group programs, restrooms, picnic pavilion, and two picnic areas, according Jim Barnett, who adds:
The 128-acre site includes three ceremonial mounds with outdoor interpretive signs; reconstructed Natchez Indian house, granary, and shade house; a nature trail along St. Catherine Creek; and a Scout camping area.
The museum has interpretive exhibits, a touch table for children to handle artifacts, and pottery and other items used by the Natchez Indians as well as French colonial trade items. Educational programs are available with advance notice for school and adult groups.
Families, businesses, churches, and other organizations may reserve the picnic pavilion and picnic tables for reunions, birthday parties, picnics, etc.
Admission and facilities are open free of charge, although the museum accepts donations. Except for major holidays, the museum is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1:30-5:00 p.m. The grounds are open from 8 a.m. until dusk every day. For more information, call 601-446-6502.
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