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Apr 7, 2011

Civil War Provost Marshal's jail and Hospital of the Union Army Beneath Old State Capitol.

Recently, I was asked by the Director of the Old State Capitol Building to go to the ground floor of the Old State Capitol Building beneath the main floor as you walk in. I wanted to go to see the place where the Union forces which was occupying Baton Rouge had a place for the Surgeon to perform surgery and the Union Provost Marshal had a jail.

My guide told me as we passed a room, "This is where they had their hospital". Then we proceeded to the jail area.

During one of their renovations of the Old State House they accident broke through a brick wall, what they found was amazing. They found a jail cell with Civil War era artifacts, which they left intact. I could see the ragged edge of the old brick wall that was broken into. A steel door resembling a old steel jail door (solid not bars) was put in place in the wall that was broken into with two sliding doors, one for adults and one for children to look into. There is a projection of a ghost prisoner that appears and disappears.

Federal Provost jail cell beyond door with two viewers. Notice the ragged brick wall that was broken into, it must have been erected long ago to close off that jail cell after the occupation. I know the door looks wooden but it seemed iron when I was there. Either my photography is going bad or my camera, my latest photos has been out of focus.

 Actual Civil War Provost Jail with ghost-like projection.

As a compiler of Baton Rouge History and one that loves history so much I felt so privileged to be there. nothing could compare to the excitement I felt in being there.

The plaque reads: This mysterious jail cell was discovered when a brick wall was accidentally demolished during recent renovations. The cell is believed to have been used by the office of Provost Marshal, which was the law enforcement arm of the occupying Union Army during the Civil War. In 1862 the Provost Marshal used the State House as headquarters and used some parts of the building to hold prisoners for civil offenses and anti-Union activities.

The cell remains exactly as it was found. The objects have been identified as authentic to the Civil War Era, but little is know beyond that...
 Last part of the plaque is in reference to the ghost-like projection.

I apologize for my camera flash in this photo, but maybe this plaque will add to this post.

The duties of the Confederate field provost marshals mirrored quite closely those of their Federal counterparts. The provost marshal's responsibilities (both Confederate and Federal) were the following:
- Suppression of marauding an depredations, and of brawls and disturbances, preservation of good order, and  suppression of disturbances beyond the limits of the camps.
- Prevention of straggling on the march.
- Suppression of gambling houses, drinking houses, or barrooms, and brothels.
- Regulation of hotels, taverns, markets, and places of amusement.
- Searches, seizures, and arrests.
- Execution of sentences of general courts-martial involving imprisonment or capital punishment.
- Enforcement of orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors.
- Deserters.
- Countersigning safeguards.
- Passes to citizens within the lines and for purposes of trade.
- Complaint of citizens as to the conduct of soldiers.
- Confiscation of contraband.
- Prisoners of war.
- Intelligence.
- Passports for travel.
- Arrest of "Draft-dodgers" and men who were "AWOL".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating information, Ronnie. Thanks for sharing it.
L.H. and Tricia Pourciau