ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Arsenal Museum, Louisiana
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Arsenal Museum, Louisiana
Old Arsenal Powder Magazine
The historic powder magazine, now a museum, was
part of a massive 19th century arsenal complex in
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Baton Rouge Arsenal
The Old Arsenal Museum
interprets the history of the
19th century Baton Rouge
Arsenal & Ordnance Depot.
Old Arsenal Museum
The interior of the magazine
has been restored to interpret
the history of the old Baton
Rouge Arsenal.
Old Arsenal Museum - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Historic Old Powder Magazine
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: August 12, 2012
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Forts & Arsenals in the South
Old Powder Magazine
Pathway through a formal
garden connects the powder
magazine to the adjacent
Louisiana State Capitol.
Powder Magazine Wall
The Old Arsenal Powder
Magazine is surrounded by a
thick brick wall. It provided
protection to the structure.
Pentagon Barracks
The old barracks complex,
opposite the capitol grounds
from the magazine, was also
part of the Baton Rouge
Arsenal.
The Old Arsenal Powder Magazine in Baton
Rouge is a surviving part of what was once
Louisiana's largest military complex. Located
on grounds that adjoin the Louisiana State
Capitol Complex, the historic structure has
been restored as a museum interpreting the
history of the important 19th century Baton
Rouge Arsenal.

Much as the government locates military
bases across the country today, during the
early days of the nation's history the U.S.
Army maintained a string of arsenals that
stretched from border to border. These
facilities served as depots for supplies and
weapons, held massive stockpiles of powder
and ammunition, provided housing for troops
and operated small factories for making
everything from musket balls to cannon
carriages.

The Old Arsenal Museum preserves a
powder magazine that was part of the major
Baton Rouge Arsenal. The structure survived
battle during the War Between the States (or
Civil War) and is one of the finest standing
examples of a 19th century powder magazine
in the United States.

The Baton Rouge Arsenal and Ordnance
Depot was established by Act of Congress in
1816. The U.S. Army then occupied an old
fort at the site of today's Pentagon Barracks
that had been built by the British in 1779 and
captured by the Spanish the same year. The
work had been captured from Spain by the
armed forces of the
Republic of West Florida
in 1810 and then occupied by U.S. forces just
three months later.

In the wake of the War of 1812, the United
States initiated a major military construction
program to improve the nation's defenses.
The Baton Rouge Arsenal was part of this
program.

Lieutenant James Gadsden of the U.S.
Topographical Engineers (predecessor of
today's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) was
regarded as one of the finest military
engineers of his day. A friend of Major
General Andrew Jackson, who commanded
U.S. forces in the South, he was assigned
the task of designing the first buildings of the
arsenal complex.

The Pentagon Barracks, located opposite
today's state capitol building from the Old
Arsenal Museum, were designed by James
Gadsden and construction began in 1819.
They were part of a fortified complex that
provided quarters for officers and troops and
a large storage building for supplies.

Gadsden also designed a large ordnance
warehouse and other structures that were
constructed at roughly the same time.

Lieutenant Colonel (and future President)
Zachary Taylor assumed command of the
Baton Rouge Arsenal and Ordnance Depot in
1821, making his quarters in the old Spanish
commandant's house. A monument on the
capital grounds marks the site. Under his
direction, work continued on the arsenal for
many years and it eventually became the
largest military post in the Old Southwest.

The powder magazine was built in 1838 for
the storage of thousands of pounds of
gunpowder. Its interior featured brick vaults
and the building was surrounded by a thick
and high brick wall.
Gunpowder from the facility played a critical
role in America's victory in the Mexican War of
1846-1848. The Baton Rouge Arsenal was
the primary source of supplies for the U.S.
armies fighting in that conflict.

Louisiana State Militia forces seized the
powder magazine and rest of the arsenal on
January 10, 1861, even though the Pelican
State had not yet seceded from the Union.
Louisiana did soon leave the Union and join
the Confederacy and the stockpile of powder
captured on the 10th helped provide its
troops with much needed ammunition during
the first year of the War Between the States
(or Civil War).

The arsenal was reoccupied by Union forces
on May 9, 1862, when Admiral David G.
Farragut sent ashore sailors from the U.S.
Navy. No resistance was encountered from
the Confederate garrison, which withdrew
from the facility. Baton Rouge formally
surrendered to the admiral twenty days later.

The powder magazine and other arsenal
buildings came under fire during the
Battle of
Baton Rouge on August 5, 1862. A Southern
army sent to retake the city was held off by
Federal forces and the Baton Rouge Arsenal
remained in Union hands.

The powder magazine served its original
purpose for the rest of the war and much of
Reconstruction. It was one of the arsenal
buildings turned over to Louisiana State
University in 1886. Ironically, General William
Tecumseh Sherman was instrumental in
helping Louisiana obtain the arsenal to
house the university.

The powder magazine has been beautifully
restored and now houses the Old Arsenal
Museum which interprets the history of the
Baton Rouge Arsenal and the Battle of Baton
Rouge. Open Tuesday - Saturday from 9 - 4,
the museum is located adjacent to the State
Capitol at 900 State Capitol Drive in Baton
Rouge, Louisiana.

Please click here to learn more.