Friday, October 28, 2016

Marland's Bridge - Sunset, LA (The Battle of Bayou Bourbeau)

Photo courtesy of
Chretien Point Rd.
Sunset, LA 70584

            Following our visit to Chretien Point Plantation, my friend proceeded to tell me of another reportedly haunted location only a stone’s throw away. The site was known as Marland’s Bridge and had long been a local hangout for teenagers and ghost enthusiasts, as haunted stories had heavily enveloped the bridge for years. As with many haunted bridges, railroad tracks and bayous, the familiar story of a “woman in white” was predominant here. I never could quite understand the popularity of this woman in white legend. Every now and then, someone may mix it up with an occasional woman in black or even pink. If I were to start up an urban legend, I would like to be a little more original. Why can’t we have a woman in skin tight spandex with eight inch stilettos?  Fortunately, Marland’s Bridge incorporates much more than the stale and drab tales of women in white.  
            If you happen to visit Marland’s Bridge, don’t let the looks fool you. Not sure why, but after I heard the history of the site, I was expecting a large wooden bridge spanning across a large bayou. Such was not the case, as the bridge is simply a modern rebuilt concrete structure that crosses over a small overgrown bayou. Not sure what was lurking in those waters, but during my visit, it smelled like an ogre took a crap on a burning tire! Despite the size, modern looks and horrible smell emanating from the darkness, going back in time tells an incredible story of courage and valor.

            Marland’s Bridge is most known as being the site of the Civil War battle known as the Battle of Bayou Bourbeau, also called the Battle of Grand Coteau. As Brigadier General Stephen G. Burbridge pushed his Union forces towards Shreveport, they were encountered by Brigadier General Thomas Green and the Confederacy. The battle took place on Tuesday, November 3, 1863. A large Union camp of over one thousand seven hundred troops was camped on the western side of the bridge with Union artillery on the north side. The battle itself started in the early morning hours around 4:00 am with the worst fighting peaking around 1:00 pm. Union troops were taken completely by surprise by Confederate troops that approached from the north, west and southwest. In the midst of panic, many Union troops tried to run while many others tried to form a defensive line to try and repel the attack. Total chaos erupted as the Texas Confederates descended upon the Yankees. It was a total disaster for the Union commanders.
The hero of the hour, William Marland.
Perhaps the only hero of the Union’s fiasco, and the man whom the bridge got its name, was twenty-three year old William Marland, a gunnery lieutenant in the 2nd Massachusetts artillery. Marland was trying to maneuver his large muzzle-loading Parrott canon off the field when several Texans come up and ordered him to the rear. Marland, seeing an opportunity for escape, charged the bridge with his eight horse team that was pulling the canon. His lone charge across the bridge astonished the Texans on the bridge and caused them to jump for their lives off the bridge into the bayou, which allowed Marland to escape. As a result, Marland was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery and he also had the honor of the bridge being named after him. Despite Marland’s display of bravery, the battle was an easy victory for the Confederates. When all was said and done, there were eight hundred and twelve casualties, one hundred and twenty-four wounded and fifty-six missing after the battle ended.
             Residents who live nearby to the bridge have reported seeing the apparitions of soldiers wandering through the fields. The sightings are often accompanied by the sounds of cannon fire, gunshots and cries of battle. Returning to the popular “woman in white” legend, individuals have seen what they claim to be the figure of a young woman in a long white dress. The origins for this specific haunting can possibly come from two other events that took place during more modern times. In 1922, a young girl is said to have been struck by a car and killed here. As tragic as the event was, many feel that the origins of the woman in white is probably the spirit of a young woman who was murdered in the 1970’s. It is uncertain as to if she was actually killed here but her body was, in fact, dumped in the murky waters of Bayou Bourbeau. Perhaps it is this young lady’s spirit that continues to wander aimlessly, in the hopes of searching for her killer.
            The main reason my friend had initially taken me to Marland’s Bridge was due to a strange encounter he had several weeks prior. It was about two in the morning and my friend was parked on the side of the rode and was basically just looking around, trying to listen or see something that was out of the ordinary. Suddenly, to his amazement, he observed a large orange ball of light emerge from the bayou and moved across the bridge. The luminary oddity was about the size of a basketball and seemed to radiate a lighter tint of orange. As it crossed the bridge, before it could reach the other side of the bayou, it suddenly vanished into thin air! Of course, on the two occasions that I visited the bridge, the only thing that I encountered were mosquitos the size of Volvos that bit me to the point where I thought I needed a blood transfusion!

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