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Cannon ballThe Mississippi River rumbles towards the Gulf of Mexico, not far from The Cabin Restaurant and Bernadette’s Restaurant in Burnside, Louisiana. During the winter months when the river is low, sandy beaches emerge along the river, which provide quiet retreats for those who live near its banks.

On occasion, other things are uncovered when the water recedes near Burnside: relics from the Civil War. Everything from grapeshot to musket balls to cannon balls (like the one pictured above) can be found on the banks of the Mississippi. There are two reasons for this (one theory):

1. The First Battle of Donaldsonville took place on August 9, 1862, in as part of the Operations against Baton Rouge. There had been a number of incidents of artillery firing on Union steamers passing up and down the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville, which is directly across the river from Burnside. This influenced the U.S. Navy to undertake a retaliatory attack. Rear Adm. David G. Farragut sent the town notice of his intentions and suggested that the citizens send the women and children away. He then anchored in front of the town and fired upon it with guns and mortars. Farragut also sent a detachment ashore that set fire to the hotels, wharf buildings, and the dwelling houses and other buildings.

Milemarker 178 Mississippi River

Milemarker 178 Mississippi River

2. The theory: My neighbor’s father, who has lived in the area for over sixty years and has scoured its shores for artifacts, has posited that one of the Union ships sunk at mile marker 180 on the Mississippi River, just north of Darrow, Louisiana (about 5 miles upstream from Burnside – see photo at left). Over time, the powerful current of the river has washed whatever munitions were left in the ship’s hold downriver and placed them on its banks. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the river is at historically low levels to search for it.

There are still hundreds, even thousands of artifacts from the Civil War buried in the Mississippi mud, waiting to be discovered by some unsuspecting person. Even though the Civil War was 150 years ago, it’s aura still permeates our lives down here in the South.