To get to Fort Jessup, follow LA 6 (aka Camino de Real, Nathitoches Road, San
Antonio Road, Old Spanish Road) from Natchitohes westward past Robeline. Fort
Jessup is a few miles east of Many in Sabine Parish. The fort is a Louisiana State
Historic Park. Check its
website to see operating hours, as budget cuts have
restricted access to the public.  
Fort Jesup - Earliest US Fort
in the Red River Valley
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
How to get there
The fort's original kitchen is surrounded by the foundation pillars for the barracks and officer quarters. Like its surrounding architecture, Fort
Jesup was built in the Creole style of raised foundations.
Named after Brigadier General Thomas Sidney Jesup, a decorated veteran of the War of 1812, the US army erected Fort Jesup in 1822
along the Spanish Road, which linked
Natchitoches to San Antonio and other Mexican cities.

After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the western portions of Louisiana territory along the Red River were in a major disarray. Since 1763,  
Louisiana had been controlled by Spain. After Napoleon won the territory back in 1798, he promptly sold it the U.S. in 1803. No one, of
course, asked the inhabitants what they wanted. Instead, a "neutral strip" of land between the Red and Sabine rivers was established by
default, where gentleman's agreements were supposed to keep peace, but offered little in the way of an organized government. The
people living there did not know to whom they owed allegiance... and some men took advantage of that. Some, like James Bowie, sold false
land claims, while others may have tried to establish a New World kingdom, which Aaron Burr alledgedly tried to do. The presence of the
US army after the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 (which established the international borders between New Spain and the United States) was
supposed to alleviate the doubts.

Like nearby
Fort Towson in Indian Territory, Fort Jesup provided protection for native tribes and American settlers. Mostly, however, the
troops engaged in road building, not combat. They built a road to Fort Smith, Arkansas and one towards Baton Rouge. During the Texas
Revolution, American volunteers were mustered at Fort Jesup before entering Texas. The army regulars at Fort Jesup were also sent into
Texas in 1845 to counter the Mexican army upon Texas statehood. Led by Zachary Taylor, one can argue that Fort Jesup started the
Mexican American War (1846-1848).

The fort closed immediately after the Mexican American War. Its location was not of any great importance thereafter, not even during the
CIvil War, as it remained unused. The federal government disbanded it completely in 1869.

Built in the Cane River Creole style of raised foundations, the fort gradually succumbed into ruins save for its kitchen, which was restored
when the residents of nearby Many raised money to do so. By the 1950s, the Louisiana State Park department acquired the fort, which was
also designated a National Historic Landmark. It is now open to visitors after prior arrangement with the parks department.
Re-enactors at Fort Jesup hold cooking demonstrations in the barrack's original kitchen. Several other kitchens appeared on the grounds, but
only one remains.
The officer's quarters have been reconstructed using original designs. The frontier post was built in the Creole style.
A dragoon displayed in the fort's museum helmet resembles its Mexican and French counterparts. "Dragoon" was the name given to mounted
infantry - meaning, to be a dragoon, you'd better bring your horse. Otherwise, you're just a "regular" foot soldier.