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Date Posted: 20:43:50 03/10/07 Sat
Author: Doug Cooper
Subject: Public Relations blurb for BGR

Gang - if anyone has a local paper or unit website or such that you would like to include the details on BGR, or put another way, why you are traveling a long distance to attend this most unusual event...or even more important, your spouse or significant other is shaking his or her head over the whole deal, use the below PR blurb I developed for Steve Mayeux of Friends of Fort DeRussy, updated with some of the logistics details (!)

Banks' Grand Retreat (http://www.banksgrandretreat.com/main.html)

Description: Banks Grand Retreat is a Civil War campaign reenactment scheduled for Mar 14-18, 2007 in the Kisatchie Ranger District southeast of Natchitoches, LA. The purpose is two fold:

1. To provide participants with as accurate a recreation of a real Civil War campaign as possible, in this case the Red River Campaign of 1864, the last Confederate victory of the war west of the Mississippi. It is a recreation of that portion of the Red River Campaign of April 1864 after the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, when Banks' Army was retreating back toward Alexandria. The event will feature the 15th Texas Infantry in pursuit of the 81st Illinois and an artillery battery. A sizable contingent of civilians will be caught between the armies, just as occurred during the original campaign.

2. To raise money and awareness to support the Friends of Fort DeRussy, a Civil War Fort near Marksville that was the first objective of the Union Army in its goal of capturing Shreveport and isolating Texas from the rest of the Confederacy. The Friends of Fort DeRussy, headed by Steve Mayeux, have as their goal to reconstruct the Fort to its wartime appearance as an educational site dedicated to the memory of those Americans, North and South, free and slave who labored and fought there.

Background: Head organizers Fred Baker of Conway, Arkansas, Tom Yearby of Shreveport, Louisiana and Terre Lawson of Alabama are dedicated living historians who decided 2 years ago that it was time to offer up something different to the more authentically minded members of the estimated 40,000 strong worldwide Civil War Reenactment "Hobby." Most events are conducted over a weekend and normally involve static camps. Events range in size from small educational groups at National Parks to many thousands of participants at places such as Shiloh, TN and Gettysburg PA. Banks' Grand Retreat is different in that it is an arduous moving event over 4 days far away from any modern conveniences. Authenticity in dress, conduct, logistics and keeping true to the original campaign are the goals.

People: 190 participants from all over the United States and the United Kingdom, depicting Union and Confederate sodiers and Civilians (including entire families). The members of the group known as the "Lazy Jacks", based in the United Kingdom, are no strangers to Louisiana. In 2004 they participated in a marching event at Mansfield LA that raised a large amount of money to help save and preserve a portion of that battlefield. It is estimated that each member will be spending over $1000 each to attend the event. Other participants are gathering from Washington State to Florida, Maine to Southern California. All are dedicated to bringing the real lives of the participants in America's national tragedy to life, and helping to preserve a portion of it for future generations.

Logistics: It will involve a considerable logistics effort that must be sustained without outside support. We will have:
1. Horse drawn wagons (3) and a horse drawn artillery piece.

2. A quarter ton of bacon, 100 lbs of rice, 50 lbs of coffee, 2700 hard crackers (hardtack), 100's of gallons of water.

3. Each military participant will have all the uniforms and equipment worn and carried by the original soldiers. Civilians will step right out of the social strata present in northwest Louisiana of 1864.

Schedule: Participants are gathering at the Kisatchie Ranger District on Wednesday March 14 (see maps here - http://www.banksgrandretreat.com/directions.html). The next morning the military will step off on a 26 mile route through the Ranger District to arrive back near the start point late morning Sunday March 18. The civilian contingent under Terre Lawson will preposition to points on the route and will be moving as well, as did refugees fleeing the rough treatment from both armies in April 1864. Steve Mayeux, head of the Friends of Fort DeRussy will be present both days. As in the original campaign, the Union army will be attempting to reach safety and the Confederate Army will attempt to stop and defeat them.

Fort DeRussy Preservation Fund Raising: The terrible events and aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have rightly required reallocation of scarce funds originally earmarked for Fort DeRussy reconstruction last year. The organizers and participants of this event want to raise what funds they can as seed money to assist the Friends with their goals. We have already helped purchase the only known wartime photograph of a Union officer killed at Fort DeRussy at the beginning of the campaign. Anyone wishing to assist in this important work to preserve Louisiana history can help here: http://www.fortderussy.org/

Doug Cooper

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