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Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River Hardcover – August 15, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572335769
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572335769
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,954,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book will be of great use to historians of the western theatre of the Civil War, to the reader of nineteenth-century history, and to students of the undergraduate and graduate levels." -- Gary D. Joiner

Book Description

“This book will be of great use to historians of the western theatre of the Civil War, to the reader of nineteenth-century history, and to students of the undergraduate and graduate levels. -Gary D. Joiner, author of Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West

Earthen Walls, Iron Men tells the story of Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, a major Confederate fortification that defended the lower Red River in 1863-64 during the last stages of the Civil War. Long regarded as little more than a footnote by historians, the fort in fact played a critical role in the defense of the Red River region. The Red River Campaign was one of the Confederacy's last great triumphs of the war, and only the end of the conflict saved the reputations of Union leaders who had recently been so successful at Vicksburg. Fort DeRussy was the linchpin of the Confederates' tactical and strategic victory.

Steven M. Mayeux does more than just tell the story of the fort from the military perspective; it goes deeper to closely examine the lives of the people that served in-and lived around-Fort DeRussy. Through a thorough examination of local documents, Mayeux has uncovered the fascinating stories that reveal for the first time what wartime life was like for those living in central Louisiana.

In this book, the reader will meet soldiers and slaves, plantation owners and Jayhawkers, elderly women and newborn babies, all of whom played important roles in making the history of Fort DeRussy. Mayeux presents an unvarnished portrait of the life at the fort, devoid of any romanticized notions, but more accurately capturing the utter humanity of those who built it, defended it, attacked it, and lived around it.

Earthen Walls, Iron Men intertwines the stories of naval battles and military actions with those human elements such as greed, theft, murder, and courage to create a vibrant, relevant history that will appeal to all who seek to know what real life was like during the Civil War.

Steve Mayeux is a graduate of LSU and a former Marine officer. His work as an agricultural consultant in the central Louisiana area for the past thirty years has given him a great appreciation for the history and geography of the lower Red River.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Thank you for writing this book, Mr. Mayeaux.
P. Veeder
Such first person accounts bring great life to the reconstruction of this moment in history.
Carol Mills
This is must read for Louisiana Civil War History.
L. Tate

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By W. Rome on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much too often, so called historians/authors take the lazy way out of writing, particularly as it applies to the War for Southern Independence. They frequently cite the writings of other so called historians/authors for validation of their facts. The problem with this is that many of the other writings they cite are based on incorrect information or out right lies. The result is that incorrect history becomes accepted fact. Mayeux refreshingly starts from scratch in his book on Fort DeRussy. He does fresh leg work, getting to the real facts of what occurred there and the surrounding events as accounted for by both sides in the conflict. As a result, he uncovers many inaccuracies in other histories pertaining to the events surrounding the fort, and he clearly documents why these previous writings are incorrect. If one is interested in learning the no nonsense facts about Fort DeRussy and this period in our history, this book is highly recommended. It is lively and entertaining reading.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark Longstroth on March 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A unique book about a little known place that was extremely important in 1863 and 1864. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Red River Campaign, the Civil War in Louisiana or the Trans Mississippi Theater. Fort DeRussy seldom merits mention is most accounts of the Civil War. This book was not a rehash of old material. The author is able to draw on a wealth of local information as well as primary and secondary sources. Steve Mayeux gives us the story of the fort which was supposed to defend the Red River Valley from Union gunboats from its beginning to the end of the War. It captured the Queen of the West, provided troops to man the boats that captured the Indianola and defeated another gunboat attack before falling to a Union army that captured the fort without naval assistance. Fort DeRussy then served as an important Union station during the disastrous Red River campaign. I liked the author's easy folksy style, including his personal feeling and experiences in the text and footnotes. I also appreciated the footnotes on the page for easy access. It is in the footnotes that we discover more and more about how his ancestors owned the land, his great grandmother was born there just before the union army arrived and how he and others worked to restore the fort and have it protected as a Louisiana State Park.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By George E. Wright Jr. on August 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There's a lot to like in Mayeux's book. His involvement with a preservation and restoration effort for DeRussy puts him in a unique position to get feedback from sources most historians might miss. The good things start with the cover - a blow-up drawing with artistic merit that appears to have been executed by someone who was actually present during the May, 1863 clash between the fort, two Confederate cotton-clads and a Union navy gunboat squadron. Prior to this useful depiction I'd never picked up on why the Fort's guns had been positioned relative to the first Red River raft. To attempt to run past the fort (a favorite Union tactic on the rivers), an attacking vessel was required to move upstream against the current, make a sharp turn to starboard, face a "raft" obstruction, after breaking through the raft, advance down a straight waterway toward the fort under fire for the whole process. All things being equal - DeRussy should have held them. Read the book to see why it didn't. From Board postings on the internet, it is clear that Mayeux has a wide knowledge of events along Red River during "the late unpleasantness". He shows admirable restraint by confining himself to his primary topic. The appendices are useful in terms of identifying individuals on both sides of the conflict serving in the DeRussy area. Amazingly, he includes a list of contracted slaves working on the fort and river obstructions that died. As such it is a unique tribute to a small portion of the vast number of Negro workmen who labored to execute the designs of the Confederate Army Engineer Department. I suspect that there will eventually be an update to this book. When it appears, I think it might be useful to add 2 or 3 pages on the kinds of ordnance used at the fort in its various incarnations and the tactical implications. Good job. Well worth the price.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Gladysz on March 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author, with local and family roots, covers Fort DeRussy from construction to destruction and current efforts to preserve and maintain the site. There is in-depth background on the fort, the area around it, and its role in the Red River campaign of Banks and Porter against the Confederacy. Excellent commentary on the role of cotton and its confiscation for the North's war effort, on the local black and white population's involvement with the Fort, on naval aspects of the Western theater - all increase knowledge of the scope of the Civil War.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carol Mills on March 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a native of Avoyelles Parish, Steve Mayeux really has one leg up when it comes to the study of the Civil War in Central Louisiana. As such, he was able to provide details that another historian might well miss. Leaving no stones unturned he researched such obscure sources as articles appearing in the "Marksville Pelican", a local newspaper that was published contemporaneously with the events as they were occuring, as well as the observations of the Mother Superior of the Daughters of the Cross, whose letters, written in French back to her family, but translated and published by Avoyelles teacher Sister Dorothea McCants, shed great light on what it was like to have actually lived during the Civil War years in Avoyelles. Such first person accounts bring great life to the reconstruction of this moment in history. For those of you whose eyes glaze over at the thought of another book filled with complicated analyses of battle strategies and "dry as a bone" statistical studies, be advised that this book is NOT in that genre. Mayeux has truly captured the "soul" of this conflict. It is significant, no doubt, that the author, whose family has lived in the parish for generations, has a deep connection, both emotional and familial, to the events and people portrayed in this book. Mayeux spent years doing an incredible amount of research on both the Union and Confederate sides, as well as countless hours and dollars spearheading the effort to preserve the Fort DeRussy Historical Site. But what sets this book apart from so many others is that it was written from the heart by a man whose ancestors lived and died in the context of this very story.
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