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On May 23, 1863, nearly 30,000 Union soldiers were camped in a semi-circle around one of the most unlikely places in the country. Just 35 miles north of where we are right now there was a fort built on a high bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the Mississippi River. From the earthen walls of that fort bristled a multitude of cannon, most of them aimed at the river itself. Nearly 7000 men called that fort home. Their mission and purpose was to keep the river open for the Confederacy. The river was the main artery into the heart of the South and it must remain free at all costs.

For 48 days the siege went on. Day after day, artillery would rain down on the defenders. Time and again waves of blue uniformed men would throw themselves against the defenders of Port Hudson, but they never penetrated the walls.

After many days, the defenders became weak because of lack of food. They were forced to eat anything that they could find including dogs, horses, mules, cats and even rats.

Their last stand was made at a point of the defenses called Fort Desperate.

Finally, the siege came to an end as Vicksburg fell. The defense of Port Hudson was no longer important.

I know that not all of you like Civil War history and perhaps you tire of hearing about it but I went to that area this week with my grandson’s class from school. I was reminded of the price that many have paid as they made their last stand for what they believed.

The soldiers, from both sides of this siege, knew what their objective was and they were prepared to pay the price.

There are stories of men who made their last stand throughout history and nearly every one of them have given us the names of heroes that live on beyond their lifetime. Men like Davy Crocket at the siege of the Alamo and General McAuliffe at the siege of Bastogne in World War II. When the German’s surrounding the 101st Airborne in that little French town demanded that the American’s either surrender or die, McAuliffe’s answer was short but pointed. All he said was, “Nuts”. That “eloquent speech” forever wrote his name in history.

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