From September 23 to 28, 1990, thirty-nine million Americans viewed eleven hours and thirty minutes of Ken Burn's, "The Civil War", by PBS.

It was and still is, America's number one documentary film with a score of 100 by Rotten Tomatoes.


Letters from Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the Union and Sam Watkins of the Confederacy told about life in the trenches.

Vernon Parish also has a story to tell, written by Gilbert Bass.

Gilbert was born in St. Landry Parish in about 1837. In 1860 he lived on Birds Creek on present-day Ft. Polk with his wife Elizabeth Groves Bass, daughter of James Groves, and their daughter, Nancy. He joined the Confederacy on March 23, 1862 and was assigned toCo. C, 27th LA Inf. Regt. as a teamster.

Gilbert's unit had the responsibility to defend Vicksburg on the Mississippi River against the Union. President Lincoln's Anaconda Plan called for Union control of the Mississippi River which would take four Confederate states out of the war. Vicksburg was key to the plan.

From May 18-25 the Union attacked the city with heavy Union losses. On May 25, General Grant decided to surround the city cutting off needed food and supplies.

There are fifteen Gilbert Bass letters from March 15, 1862 to June 3, 1863. Eleven were written by Gilbert to Elizabeth, three were written by Gilbert to James, and one was written by Elizabeth to Gilbert.

The letters start with an optimism that the war will end within a year. The two Confederate victories at the Battles of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861 and Bull Run on July 21, 1861 convince the south that Union forces would surrender within a year. Confederate enlistments were for one year.

By letter number five written on June 8, 1862, Gilbert complains of measles.

In letter number eleven written on February 1863, he was losing his vision. In letter number twelve written on March 10, 1863, soldiers were dying of pneumonia and smallpox in large numbers.

In his letters, Gilbert wrote that the food was not fit for a dog. He was more concerned about his daughters, Nancy's and Susannah's, health than his coming death.

On March 23, he reported many soldiers were shoeless with clothing made of rags. Men were being executed for desertion. He reported crying spells.

Death was everywhere with disease killing more men than bullets.

Gilbert realized he would never see his family again, except on the other side.  

Of the 805 killed, 523 died of disease, 56 died of wounds, and 225 were killed in combat.
As with Sullivan Ballou, Gilbert was never able to see his wife and daughters again.
On the night of June 25, 1863, the 27th LA Inf. Regt. was stationed on the northeast redan, Third LA Redan, overlooking the Clinton/Jackson Road.

During the night Union soldiers tunneled under the earthen wall and ignited 2,200 pounds of dynamite. The explosion created a crater twelve feet deep and forty feet wide.  The destruction was so great the dead could not be identified. They were mass-buried.

Most historians believe Gilbert was among the dead.

The Confederacy surrendered 29,495 men nine days later on July 4, the same day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and prisoners were allowed to go home.