Major General Kirby Smith chose five artillery batterie to be stationed at the forts. They were known as the Siege Train Battalion and consisted of the 26th, 27th and 31st regiments, and the 8th Battalion of Heavy Artillery and the 2nd Field Battery. The 5th and 7th cavalry regiments served nearby. In total approximately 800 soldiers were on duty, and the forts were considered ready for any attack.
It was reported that living conditions at the fort that winter were harsh. Excessive rainfall caused the town of Alexandria to flood. And the cold was so intense that the ground froze during the first ten days of January 1865. To survive such elements, the soldiers built wooden cabins in and around the circular earthwork enclosures of the forts.
To assist the forts' defense, a Confederate ironclad ship, the Missouri, arrived on April 4. The Missouri was anchored across the river from Fort Randolph. This ironclad was covered in two thick layers or railroad iron and had three large guns on board to help defend the river and forts against Union attacks.