Tradition has included two possible sites for Civil War forts in Shieldsborough, now known as Bay St. Louis. One site is believed to have been at the corner of St. Charles and the beach; the other, on Leopold Street about two or three hundred yards behind the present marina. Collateral evidence might favor Leopold Street, as there have been reports of finding Civil War artifacts such as buttons nearby. On the other hand, legend seems to have favored St. Charles at the beach.
In order to try to identify the location of Fort Lovell, a study has been made of the Foxworth diary, on file in the Lobrano House.
First one may wish to know why the fortification was named Fort Lovell. Even though he was not stationed here, Major General Mansfield Lovell was the commander of the army that included the 7th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry. From early on in the war, General Lovell was assigned to New Orleans to replace General David E. Twiggs, even before New Orleans was attacked. Twiggs, in his seventies and in poor health, had served in the U. S. Army for fifty years. This replacement occurred in October 1861, scarcely six months before Admiral David Farragut steamed up the Mississippi River and New Orleans surrendered.
Lt. J. M. (Jobias Mithias) Foxworth, a native of Marion County, was a member of the 7th Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. H. Mayson and composed mostly of men from areas north of Hancock County. The lieutenant had been chosen by election to be an officer. His diary covers several periods, the one of most concern to us being that which he wrote when the 7th was stationed at Fort Lovell in Shieldsborough. The dates on his pages cover from mid-February to early May of 1862.
At the time of writing, the 7th had not been involved in any combat, although it is evident that they were ready, almost eager, to be transferred to an area where fighting was imminent. Mentioned were Columbus and Memphis.
But in Hancock County, the danger was from a sea invasion by Union forces from the Mississippi Sound. Official Civil War documents in the Lobrano House reflect Gen. Lovell’s appeal in January 1862 to return another regiment to his command. He wrote to Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin on January 8, imploring him to return the 3rd Regiment, which had been transferred to Columbus. The reasons for the request were clearly stated: “The Third Mississippi Regiment is composed largely of the fishermen, oystermen, and sailors of Louis Bay, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, &c, and are well acquainted with all the inlets, bayous, and soundings of that intricate and difficult coast, and can be of more service there than any other body of men.”
It was for the stated reason that in March 1862, the 7th was replaced. The men were taken by boats from a pier at Shieldsborough to New Orleans and then to combat areas. It is in the recounting by Foxworth of the removal that we may be able to make a good guess as to where Fort Lovell had been located.
In the diary, Lt. Foxworth tells many things besides his location. He was an educated man, a reader of Ancient Greek poetry and Shakespeare, and he mused over their writings in his diary in a considerable number of paragraphs. He tells also of the dealings and argument of his men, of their drinking, and of their lack of discipline. Very little of his writing is of the geography of the area.
Still, there are clues. Some of these can be measured against what we already know about the city as it was constituted in 1862. We know, for example, of the whereabouts of the residences of some of the leading citizens. These have been traced through deed searches and other official documents. In addition, we have the Times-Picayune article of 1922 in which James A. Cuevas remembers back to the 1840’s and identifies from memory where all the important houses and businesses were located. Not always accurate, of course, his recollections represent an important gauge for the location of landmarks.
To a high degree of accuracy, we know the locations of such as Weinberg’s tailor shop, the grocery, the post office, the two piers owned by John Martin, Manuel’s place, Cedar Point, the hotel belonging to the Levis family (the Clifton), and the packet boat called the Oregon.
One may ask why the areas above are listed. The reason is they are all mentioned in the Foxworth diary. They are not described in a way sufficient to pinpoint the comings and goings of Foxworth and his troops, but all are clearly close by. A few mentions favor the location behind the marina on Leopold St. One is that pickets—sentries—were stationed at Cedar Point. It seems reasonable to believe that they would have been placed near enough to the fort to make a difference in case of an unusual activity, such as an invasion. All through the diary, a reader may be caused to wonder about locations, but there is nothing that offers any certitude.
It is not until the end of the Shieldsborough segment, when Foxworth narrates the vacating of the 7th, that we might conclude that the location was indeed Leopold St. Foxworth and his group sailed on the Arrow; the others, on the Grey Cloud. The latter sailed first, but Foxworth reports that the Arrow could not catch the Grey Cloud until near the wharf “on the lake.” In those days, “the lake” referred to Lake Borgne and was considered to include the coastal area all the way to the Bay of St. Louis.
This means that the boats had left from a place above the wharf at Washington St. We know that wharf was the one that Cuevas called “the Louisiana wharf in front of the Spotorno place.” Cuevas also details the location of the second wharf, “the Hancock Wharf,” as being in front of John Martin’s house, clearly on the bay side—that is, northeast from the Louisiana wharf and toward Cedar Point.
While the Foxworth diary may not tell as much as we would like about our area during Civil War days, it is certainly a readable document that is highly personal and informative. Indeed, we would have been fortunate to have had a member of the returning 3rd Regiment, someone native to this area, to leave his observations for posterity.
By Russell Guerin