Southern States of America
Chapter IV - Louisiana during
the War between the States and the Reconstruction, 1861- 1877
The War in Louisiana.
That the people of
Louisiana were not overwhelmingly in favor of secession was shown by the
events of the winter of 1860-61. At the presidential election in November,
1860, the vote was: Breckinridge, 22,681; Bell, 20,204; Douglas, 7,625.
Upon learning the result of the election, Governor Moore called the
legislature in special session, and that body ordered a constitutional
convention to meet in January, 1861, at Baton Rouge. The vote for
delegates to the convention showed that the people were divided about as
follows: for immediate, separate secession, 20,448; for united action of
the South, 17,296. The convention which met January 23, passed, three days
later, an ordinance of secession by a vote of 113 to 17. The military
posts and arsenals in the state were seized and occupied, and for nearly
two months the "Republic of Louisiana" had control of all its own affairs.
On March 21 the convention ratified the Confederate Constitution and
Louisiana became one of the Confederate States. To the service of the
Confederacy the state contributed some leaders of signal ability, among
them Benjamin, Slidell, Roman and Kenner of the civilians, and Beauregard,
Polk, Bragg and Taylor of the army. And until cut off from the rest of the
Confederacy by the opening of the Mississippi, Louisiana sent more than
its quota of troops to guard the upper frontier of the South.
During the first year the
war fever ran high. All were united, it seemed, against a common foe. The
parishes made appropriations for the support and pay of their soldiers;
the city of New Orleans spent all its available funds to aid in the
mustering of troops, and all over the state private individuals made
generous contributions to aid the movement. There was for a year but
little thought of danger from invasion. True, the coast was blockaded and
the commerce of New Orleans was destroyed, but the eyes of most
Louisianians were turned to the Virginia frontier. The troops raised in
the state were rapidly sent out, and by November, 1861, 24,000 had gone,
while nearly 30,000 more were being assembled and organized.
The proper defense of
Louisiana was neglected by both the Confederate and the state governments.
Vicksburg was relied upon to hold the upper gateway of the Mississippi,
while Forts Jackson and St. Philip, on opposite sides of the Mississippi
River, seventy-five miles below New Orleans, with some batteries at
Chalmette, guarded the lower part of the state. General Lovell, with 3,000
militia, was in command at New Orleans, and a fleet of seventeen light
vessels lay on the river.
The Federals planned from
the first to open the Mississippi River, capture New Orleans, and thus cut
the Confederacy in two. New Orleans was the most important city in the
South; it controlled the lower Mississippi and it was the crossing point
for supplies from the "West; it also contained stores, factories,
shipyards and arsenals belonging to the Confederate government. The
capture of the city was planned during the winter of 1861, and in April,
1862, Admiral Farragut entered the mouth of the Mississippi with
forty-three vessels carrying 302 guns. On April 19 he appeared below Forts
Jackson and St. Philip, and began a bombardment which lasted four days.
Across the river between the forts were placed obstructions bound together
with chains, to prevent the passage of hostile vessels. Farragut sent a
gunboat to break the chain and then ran his fleet past the forts,
destroyed the weak Confederate fleet and steamed up to New Orleans.
Hearing that the Federal fleet had passed the
forts, General Lovell destroyed the government supplies which consisted of
cotton, tobacco, sugar, boats, etc., and prepared to evacuate New Orleans,
which could not be defended against a bombardment. On April 26 Farragut's
fleet appeared before the city. The river was high and his guns commanded
every part. To a demand for the surrender of the city, Monroe, the mayor,
answered that he had no military authority and hence could not comply.
Farragut threatened to bombard the city, but refrained when he learned
that the forts below had surrendered to Commodore D. D. Porter. The
transports came up with an army of 15,000 men under Gen. B. F. Butler, and
on May 1 the city was turned over to him. The loss of New Orleans was a
severe blow to the Confederacy. The place now served as a starting point
for other Federal expeditions, and it was only a matter of a short time
until the whole river would be opened.
Butler's rule of the conquered city is still
bitterly remembered. He made use of every conceivable means of humiliating
the white people left in his power. He displaced at once the local
officials and ruled by martial law. The property of Confederates was
confiscated and sold, often to the profit of Butler's friends; heavy
assessments were levied upon Confederate sympathizers; hundreds of spies
were employed to watch the more important citizens and to locate property
that had been hidden; men and women were arrested and sent to Ship Island
under negro guards one man, William B. Munford, was hanged because he
had taken down a United States flag raised in New Orleans before the
surrender. Butler disarmed the inhabitants and forced 60,000 to take the
oath of allegiance to the United States. He practically destroyed slavery
in the city by encouraging the slaves to leave their masters, by enlisting
them into the army and by issuing supplies to them. He and his brother
were interested in the contraband trade in cotton, cattle and supplies
which was carried on between New Orleans and the districts held by the
Confederates, and both made fortunes while in Louisiana. Butler became
involved in a controversy with the foreign consuls in New Orleans, from
one of whom he had taken a large amount of coin. After investigation,
President Lincoln ordered Butler to restore it.
But General Butler was, and still is, hated
most for his famous Order No. 28, which read as follows:
"As the officers and soldiers of the United
States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling
themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous
non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter
when any female shall by word, gesture or movement, insult or show
contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be
regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her
The order aroused
indignation not only in the South but in the North and abroad. But it is
only typical of Butler's general attitude toward the people under his
rule. Much to the relief of all he was superseded in December, 1862, by
Gen. N. P. Banks.
Butler was no general and accomplished little toward occupying other parts
of the state. Admiral Farragut went up the river, captured Baton Rouge,
the capital, bombarded and burned Bayou Sara, and ran past the batteries
of Vicksburg. The Confederates were anxious to regain Baton Rouge in order
to be able to get supplies down the Bed River and across the Mississippi.
On Aug. 5, 1862, Gen. John C. Breckinridge, with 3,000 men from Vicksburg,
attacked the Federal garrison at Baton Rouge under General "Williams. It
was expected that the ironclad Arkansas would come down from Vicksburg to
aid in the attack, but her engines gave out, and a few miles above Baton
Rouge she was fired and abandoned by her crew. Breckinridge drove the
Federals to the river under cover of their gunboats, but owing to the loss
of the Arkansas was obliged to retire. The Confederates now, in order to
secure the supplies that came down the Red River, fortified Port Hudson
above Baton Rouge.
After the fall of the state capital, Governor Moore established his
government at Opelousas and began to raise a small army. Gen. Richard
Taylor, son of Gen. Zachary Taylor, was sent from the Virginia army to
command the Confederate troops in Louisiana. He raised a small but very
good army, and during the rest of the time held the Federals in check
along the Teche and the Atchafalaya.
Hostilities in 1863 were confined to that part
of the state below Alexandria along the Red River and along the Teche.
Banks made little headway against the inferior forces of the Confederates.
In March, 1863, the Trans-Mississippi Department, embracing all of the
Confederacy west of the Mississippi, was organized, and Gen. E. Kirby
Smith was placed in command with headquarters at Shreveport, which had
been made the capital of Louisiana. Taylor acted under his command. Banks
first massed 25,000 men at Baton Rouge as if for an attack on Port Hudson,
but in April this force was transferred to the Teche country and the
Federals started for the interior of the state. Taylor, with his small
force, could only fight and fall back. There were engagements at Bisland,
Opelousas, New Iberia and Bayou Vermilion, and on May 1 the Federals
finally reached Alexandria by land and river. Taylor was then ordered to
send 4,000 men to Vicksburg, so with the remainder he fell back and ceased
operations. In June, Banks left Alexandria and carried his forces to
besiege Port Hudson, which, after withstanding the bombardments by the
fleet and repelling two assaults by the army, was surrendered on July 9.
Vicksburg had fallen on July 4, and the Mississippi was now open and the
Confederacy cut in two.
While Banks was before Port Hudson General
Taylor made use of the opportunity to drive the Federals out of southern
Louisiana. During the month of June he regained the territory almost to
New Orleans, and was planning an attack on the city when he heard of the
fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. During the remainder of 1863 Taylor
carried on the usual defensive campaign along the Teche. The year ended
with all of the state under Confederate control with the exception of New
Orleans, the banks of the Mississippi and the country between Berwick Bay
and New Orleans.
1864 the Federals began a fourth campaign into the interior of the state.
Commodore Porter with seventeen vessels, and Gen. A. J. Smith with 10,000
men went up Red River; General Franklin with 18,000 men marched up the
Teche; General Steele with an army of 7,000 moved down from Arkansas upon
Shreveport. Taylor, who had been slowly falling back with 8,800 men under
Generals Mouton, Thomas, Green and Prince Polignac, stopped at Mansfield
for battle. Taylor's troops, though greatly outnumbered, were eager to
fight, and Bank's army was defeated in detail. Taylor pursued the Federals
four miles to Pleasant Hill, where the next day a drawn battle was fought
and Banks made a disorderly retreat down the Red River. Taylor wanted to
pursue Banks and destroy his army, but Kirby Smith, who feared Steele's
column which was coming down from Arkansas, diverted some of Taylor's
troops to go against Steele. Banks continued to retreat down the Red
River, laying waste the country as he went. Taylor's small forces harassed
him and cut off many of his men. On May 20 he reached the Mississippi and
the pursuit ceased. At no time had the pursuing force been one-third as
large as the Federal army. Taylor, who had not agreed with Smith as to the
conduct of the campaign, asked to be transferred east of the Mississippi;
the Federals withdrew to New Orleans and the war in Louisiana was ended.
Reconstruction During the War.
The political history of Confederate Louisiana
during the war was almost insignificant. Governor Moore, after the fall of
Baton Rouge, moved the capital first to Opelousas and then to Shreveport,
and from Shreveport he administered the government until the end of 1863.
In January, 1864, he was succeeded by Henry W. Allen who proved to be a
most successful war governor. He enlisted men, gathered and distributed
supplies, began manufactures, and above all put heart into the people.
Both governors worked in harmony with the Confederate administration,
civil and military.
The political history of that part of the state held by the Federals is
important because it illustrates the beginnings of "Reconstruction." While
under Butler's administration martial law ruled, yet there were signs of
the coming reconstruction. The port of New Orleans was opened to commerce;
slaves were practically emancipated by being enlisted into regiments or by
being allowed to leave their masters and choose employers; in September
Butler ordered all citizens to take the oath of allegiance, and proceeded
to confiscate the property of Confederates and their sympathizers. In
June, 1862, Provost Courts were established, and, in August, Gen. George
F. Shepley was made military governor. He revived three of the Civil
District Courts in the city and confined the work of the Provost Court to
criminal cases. In December Shepley ordered that an election for members
of Congress be held. B. F. Flanders was chosen to represent the first
district, and Michael Hahn the second. Only those who had taken the oath
were allowed to vote. Flanders and Hahn were allowed seats in Congress,
but their terms expired on March 4, 1863.
In December, 1862, a provisional court of
unlimited jurisdiction appointed by President Lincoln was organized in New
Orleans. Charles A. Peabody was the judge, and he and the other officials
were Northern men. Peabody also took charge of the provost courts. The
Federal circuit and district courts were opened. In April, 1863, the
Supreme Court of the state was reorganized with Peabody as chief justice.
Then followed the establishment of a criminal court, a probate court,
recorders' courts, and a few parish courts near New Orleans. Thus by the
end of 1863 the judicial system was reorganized in New Orleans, though by
the military appointment of outsiders, who were subject to military
reconstruction was not so successful. During the Butler régime the
elements of a radical Republican party gathered in New Orleans and "Union
Associations" were formed. The men composing the "reconstruction" party in
New Orleans during the war were, in general, of contemptible character.
They were adventurers from the North, turncoats, and a very few genuine
unionists. The first form of organization was the Free State General
Committee which, in January, 1863, announced as its principles that the
state constitution was destroyed by the war, and that a general convention
should be held to make a new one. T. J. Durant was the leader of the most
June, 1863, a more conservative movement began. The radicals, led by
Durant, favored negro suffrage, and were upheld by General Shepley. Banks
wanted the mulattoes only to be given the right to vote at first, and
favored the more conservative party which maintained that the state
government was simply suspended and that it should be revived, not
reorganized, by a new constitution. Little was done in 1863 for two
reasons: first, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not affect the
slaves of New Orleans and the adjoining parishes, and hence the radicals
could not use them in their scheme of voting; second, Banks was unable to
extend his lines and enlarge the territory held by the Federals. However,
Shepley registered the voters in New Orleans, and in November, 1863, the
conservative faction elected two members of Congress who were not admitted
to seats. The negroes of the city held mass-meetings and demanded
Economic reconstruction, like judicial
reorganization, made more progress in 1863 than political reconstruction.
Banks, like Butler, enlisted negroes into the army, but his main purpose
was to make them work on the plantations. He established a Free Labor
Bureau and gave it control over the black laborers. Written contracts were
required and wages were paid in all cases; the laborers were held strictly
to work; schools for negro children, and a Free Labor Bank were
established. Banks's plan for the negroes resulted in no financial success
for the planters, but it did keep the negroes from loafing about the city
and prevented disease and destitution.
In 1864 reconstruction began in earnest.
Lincoln's proclamation of Dec. 8, 1863, favored the plans of the more
conservative faction in New Orleans and displeased the radicals. In
January, 1864, the Free State Committee held a nomination meeting, which
split up into two factions. The majority went with the so-called moderates
and nominated Michael Hahn for governor and J. Madison Wells for
lieutenant-governor. The radicals, the "Free State" party, nominated B. F.
Flanders, and the independent conservatives nominated J. Q. Fellows, who
stood for "the rights of all, the Constitution and the Union." The vote
resulted: for Hahn, 3,625; for Fellows, 1,139; for Flanders, 1,007. Hahn
was by birth a Bavarian, and had been in Congress from Louisiana for one
month in 1862. He was inaugurated March 4, 1864, and on March 15, Lincoln
conferred upon him the powers formerly exercised by the military governor.
On March 28 an election was held in southeast Louisiana for delegates to a
constitutional convention, which met in April and drafted a new
constitution for the state. The members of the convention were not in
favor of negro suffrage, and were unwilling to grant even the limited
suffrage suggested by Lincoln in a letter to Hahn to negroes who owned
property, or who had been soldiers. However, the legislature was
authorized to extend the suffrage if it saw fit. Banks later explained
that the limited suffrage failed because of the opposition of those who
wanted all or nothing. Slavery was abolished and public education provided
for. In September, 1864, the constitution was ratified by a vote of 4,664
to 789. This was less than the 10 per centum vote desired by Lincoln, and
shows how little popular support the reconstruction had. Durant and the
extreme radicals carried on constant opposition to the Hahn
administration. Lincoln's proclamation of July 8, 1864, a sort of reply to
the Wade-Davis bill, indicated his purpose to stand by the reconstruction
establishments in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana, but Congress refused
to admit the Louisiana representatives elected in September, 1864. The
legislature met in October and elected Hahn and E. King Cutler to the
United States Senate. The bitterest partisan spirit was manifested by the
governor and the legislature, and the law officers of the state were
directed to prosecute the leading Confederates under charges of perjury
and treason. Seven presidential electors were chosen by the legislature,
but their ballots, cast for Lincoln, were rejected by Congress in 1865.
Hahn, elected senator, resigned the governorship on March 4, 1865, and was
succeeded by J. Madison Wells, the lieutenant-governor.
Reconstruction Under President Johnson,
surrender of the Confederate armies east of the Mississippi did not
necessarily embarrass at once the forces of the Trans-Mississippi
Department, which could easily retire before the Federals. Some leaders
planned to continue resistance, hoping to get the aid of France; others
proposed to take the Confederate forces into Mexico and join Maximilian.
Governor Allen, convinced that there was no hope, insisted that the
Trans-Mississippi Department be surrendered. A convention of the
Confederate governors of Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri was held
at Marshall, Texas, and advised Kirby Smith to surrender the Department,
which was done on May 26.
On June 2 Governor Allen issued a farewell
address to the people of Louisiana. He advised them to accept defeat with
good grace, take the oath of allegiance, go to work and win back
prosperity. To escape imprisonment he then went into exile and died a year
later in the City of Mexico. The whole state now came under the control of
the Federals and the Wells state government, and the reconstruction period
had really begun.
Conditions in Louisiana at the beginning of reconstruction were better
than in some other Southern states. With the exception of the Mississippi
and Red River valleys and the country south of Alexandria there had been
no wholesale devastation by the Federals, while whole regions of the state
had not been touched by them. Banks's experiments with free negro labor
had resulted in some valuable experience for Louisiana planters. The
courts and the state government, reorganized in and around New Orleans
during the war, were rapidly extended over the state. The loss of property
had been immense, and in North Louisiana there was much destitution and
resulting suffering. The negroes outside of New Orleans, freed by the
surrender, left the plantations to wander about. The canals, levees,
steamboats, railways and roads had gone to ruin. Plantations were going
back to forest. To such, conditions the Confederate soldier returned.
When President Johnson
inaugurated his work of restoration he merely continued the government he
found in Louisiana. So Governor Wells extended the system turned over to
him by Governor Hahn. The President's amnesty proclamation of May 29,
while proscribing the leaders, allowed the majority of the Confederates to
participate in the government. Throughout the summer of 1865 Wells
continued his work of reorganizing the state government. People began to
settle down to their old habits of life and work. Slowly society righted
itself and the future seemed hopeful. The relatively small number of
radical agitators was almost lost sight of after the return of the
military authorities, the Freedmen's Bureau, and the President himself
treated the government of Louisiana as simply provisional, and frequently
interfered with the civil officials. No Confederate was allowed to hold
office who had not been pardoned by the President. The negroes soon came
under the absolute control of the Freedmen's Bureau. An election of state
officials and members of the legislature was held in November, 1865. Wells
was a candidate for governor and was supported by a few of the former
radicals and by most of the ex-Confederates who thought it best to elect a
governor who had no Confederate record. There was a movement in favor of
reelecting Governor Allen, then in Mexico, who wanted to return to
Louisiana, but who refused to be considered a candidate for any office. If
he had consented to be a candidate he would have been elected, but some of
the former Confederate leaders, knowing Allen's wishes, issued an address
pointing out the unwisdom of such a course, and Governor Wells, who feared
Allen as an opposing candidate, sent a lying message to him that it would
not be safe for him to return to Louisiana that Johnson was unwilling.
In the election Allen received 5,497 votes, and Wells 22,312. Albert
Voorhies, a Democrat, was chosen lieutenant-governor, and the legislature
had a large Democratic or Conservative majority. The election for members
of Congress was also held at this time, and all of those elected were
Democrats or Conservatives. The extreme radicals refused to take part in
the election, but united with the negroes and elected Henry C. Warmoth as
delegate to Congress from the "Territory of Louisiana," as they called it.
The legislature was composed of able men; it
was perhaps the ablest "Johnson" legislature that met in 1865. It ratified
the Thirteenth amendment and elected Randall Hunt and Henry Boyce to the
United States Senate in place of Hahn and Cutter, who had been refused
admission. A great majority of the whites regarded the constitution of
1864 as a fraudulent document, and the legislature recommended that it be
submitted to the people to be voted upon. The legislature ordered an
election of city officials in New Orleans which was still ruled by
military appointees. Wells, who was about to go over to the radicals,
vetoed the act, using rather violent language in regard to ante-bellum
political conditions. The act was passed over his veto, the election was
held and John T. Monroe, who had been removed in 1862 by General Butler,
was elected mayor. The military authorities refused to allow him to serve
until he was pardoned by the President.
Two parties in the state now favored a new
constitution: the extreme radicals, who, after the Confederate majority
secured control of the state government, wanted a fundamental law
disfranchising the Confederates and granting suffrage to the blacks; and
the Democrats or Conservatives, who disliked the so-called constitution of
1864, and wanted it submitted for approval or disapproval of the people. A
committee was sent to interview President Johnson, who opposed the holding
of a new convention and the matter was dropped by the conservatives. The
radicals continued to demand the exclusion of Confederates from
went on Governor Wells became more and more radical and lost the support
of those who had elected him. Lieutenant-Governor Voorhies was now looked
upon as the real head of the state administration and the representative
of the whites, and in political matters he so acted, he and "Wells
Louisiana radicals, encouraged by the attitude of Congress and instigated
by radical leaders in Washington, now planned a political revolution for
the purpose of getting control of the state government. The convention of
1864, fearing that the constitution framed by it might not be adopted, did
not dissolve sine die, but adjourned to meet at the call of its president.
The adoption of the constitution rendered another meeting unnecessary and
terminated the existence of the convention. Now, however, the extreme
radicals called upon the former president, Judge Durell, to reconvene the
convention. He refused, and on June 26 about twenty-five of the former
members chose as chairman Judge E. K. Howell of the Supreme Court, who had
been a member of the convention of 1864, but who had resigned before the
convention adjourned. He accepted the position and issued a call for the
convention of 1864 to reassemble on July 30, 1866, and asked Governor
Wells to hold an election to fill vacancies. The latter did so, but named
September 3 as the day for the election.
The radicals, now led by ex-Governor Hahn, met
July 27 and agreed not to wait for the elections, but to hold the
convention on July 30 as first planned. Violent speeches were made for the
purpose of rousing the negroes, who, in great numbers, flocked to the
meeting. Dr. A. P. Dostie declared that the convention would be held or
the streets of New Orleans would run with blood. Between July 27 and 30
the negroes of the city were organized and armed, and excited to the
fighting point by radical speakers. The lieutenant-governor telegraphed to
Johnson, asking whether the military officials would interfere if the
courts should order the arrest of the members of the so-called convention,
Judge Abell having stated in a charge to the grand jury that the
convention was illegal. Johnson replied that the military would sustain
the courts. General Baird, who commanded the troops in the absence of
General Sheridan, was asked to station troops near the convention to
prevent a conflict. Baird wired to Secretary Stanton for instructions, but
received none. Stanton, it transpired later, knowing that trouble was
threatened, deliberately withheld the matter from the President and left
Baird without instructions. The courts declared the convention illegal,
but Judge Abell was arrested by the United States commissioner because of
his charge to the grand jury. Governor Wells did nothing in the crisis,
though his sympathies were with the radicals. General Baird, at the
request of Lieutenant-Governor Voorhies, agreed to station troops near the
meeting place of the convention, but was misled by the radicals as to the
time of meeting and the troops arrived too late.
Twenty-nine members met in Mechanics'
Institute at twelve o'clock, July 30. Governor Wells, hearing that a riot
was imminent, deserted his post and left the city. A procession of negroes
marched to the convention hall with flags and music. In front of a
building a negro fired a pistol into a crowd of whites; the latter fell
upon the procession and the riot began. The blacks fled into the
convention hall and fired from windows and doors at the whites. The police
came up at this time and joined in the attack on the blacks, who were
still firing from the building. The whites broke into the hall and shot
and beat and arrested the negroes and conventionists. Forty-four negroes
and four whites were killed and one hundred and sixty-six wounded. The
cause of the riot lay in the inflamed feelings of the whites, who believed
that the radicals at home and in the North were planning to destroy their
political liberty, to disfranchise them, and place them under the rule of
outbreak furnished valuable campaign material to the radicals. A
congressional committee was sent to investigate. The majority report of
this committee blamed the "rebels" and the President; the minority report
held responsible the radicals, the incendiary proceedings of the
conventionists and the trifling conduct of Governor Wells.
Governor Wells now allied himself openly with
the extreme radicals, and issued proclamations and published addresses
intended to further the plans of those who favored white disfranchisement
and negro Suffrage. He declared that the United States troops would have
to be kept in the state in order to maintain order.
In December, 1866, the legislature met and
remained in session until the passage of the Reconstruction Acts in March,
1867. Governor Wells, in his message, urged the legislature to ratify the
proposed Fourteenth amendment and to provide for negro suffrage. The
proposed amendment was rejected by a unanimous vote. The legislature
discussed again the revision of the constitution of 1864, but nothing was
done before the passage of the Reconstruction Acts. Joint resolutions were
adopted, instructing the attorney-general to test in the courts the
constitutionality of the Reconstruction Acts, but Governor Wells vetoed
the resolutions and assumed authority to proclaim them in force in
Louisiana. An attempt was then made to impeach Wells on charges of
embezzlement in 1840 and unwarranted exercise of authority in 1867. But
General Sheridan at once assumed military control of the situation, and
the Congressional plan of reconstruction was inaugurated.
Congressional Reconstruction, 1867-1868.
Under the Reconstruction Acts Louisiana became
a part of the Fifth Military District commanded by Sheridan.
Lieutenant-governor Voorhies made an attempt to secure the cooperation of
other Southern states for the purpose of testing the Reconstruction Acts
in the courts, but the attempt failed. The conservative leaders, such as
General Beauregard and the members of the legislature, now advised the
people to submit and make the best of the situation.
General Sheridan was a tyrannical ruler. For a
while Governor Wells was retained in office, though subject in all
respects to the military, but on June 3, 1867, Sheridan removed him as an
"obstruction to reconstruction." Thomas J. Durant, the radical leader,
refused the office and it was given to B. F. Flanders. Many other removals
of civil officials were made; among those displaced were Attorney-General
Herron, Mayor Monroe, Judge Abell, nearly all the city officials in New
Orleans and some parish officials. Sheridan insisted that all officials
should actively support reconstruction. Registrars were set to work to
enroll those given the suffrage under the Reconstruction Acts, and before
September, 84,436 blacks and 45,218 whites had been registered.
These figures foretold the nature of the
government that was to be, and in consequence the whites lost heart. At
the voting in September on whether or not a convention should be held,
there were 75,083 votes for holding a convention and against it 4,006,
most of the whites having stayed away from the polls.
The despotic methods of Sheridan caused so
much ill-feeling in Louisiana that President Johnson relieved him, and
offered the command of the Fifth District to Gen. George H. Thomas, who
declined it. Gen. W. S. Hancock was then placed in command. During the
interim between Sheridan's and Hancock's administration, Gen. Joseph A.
Mower was in charge of Louisiana. He was wholly under the control of the
radical leaders at Washington and in Louisiana, and he endeavored to
hasten the process of the reconstruction before Hancock should arrive.
Mower was even more radical than Sheridan; among the many removals made by
him was that of Lieutenant-governor Voorhies. Under Sheridan and Mower no
one was permitted to serve on a jury who was not a registered voter, and
thus the juries fell into the hands of blacks and low-class whites.
"When Hancock arrived he reversed the radical
policy and endeavored to rule justly. He revoked Sheridan's orders in
regard to juries, replaced some officials who had been removed by Sheridan
and Mower, and allowed the civil authorities to perform their functions.
Governor Flanders disapproved this leniency and resigned. To succeed him
Hancock appointed Joshua Baker, a former Democrat who had opposed
November 23, six days before Hancock reached Louisiana, the reconstruction
convention met in New Orleans. The negro members outnumbered the white two
to one. The convention was in session until March 7, 1868. The
constitution framed by it disfranchised practically all who had taken
active part in the war on the Confederate side. These could regain the
right of suffrage only by signing a paper stating that the "rebellion was
morally and politically wrong," or by actively supporting the
Reconstruction Acts. Large salaries were provided for $8,000 for the
governor, eight dollars a day for members of the legislature, etc.
Equality of the races was ordered in public places, public conveyances and
in the schools. The convention ordered an election for the purpose of
ratifying the constitution and for the election of state and local
officials. The constitution was adopted by a vote of 51,737 to 39,076,
over 30,000 negroes refraining from voting. The legislature was radical;
H. C. Warmoth, radical, was elected governor, and Oscar J. Dunn, a negro,
lieutenant-governor. Warmoth, who was from Illinois, had been a Federal
soldier, but had been dismissed for expressing too strong Democratic
left Louisiana before the legislature met. He had, during the winter,
removed some of Sheridan's appointees who had proved to be corrupt.
General Grant ordered them reinstated and Hancock thereupon asked to be
relieved. Gen. E. C. Buchanan succeeded him and completed the
reconstruction of Louisiana. The legislature met in June, ratified the
Fourteenth amendment and elected two carpet-baggers, William P. Kellogg
and John S. Harris, to the United States Senate. General Buchanan then
placed Warmoth and Dunn in charge of the government, and on July 13
declared Louisiana "reconstructed."
The Administration of Governor Warmoth,
more than eight years 1868-1877the government of Louisiana was
controlled by adventurers from the North and a few native corruptionists
kept in power by the votes of degraded and ignorant blacks, and by the
armed forces of the Federal government. Dishonesty in public office was
the rule, not the exception. Governor Warmoth's accession to office was
followed by a short period of tranquillity, but the seeds of discord had
been sown and soon the trouble came. During the presidential campaign of
1868 there were serious conflicts between the blacks organized in the
Union League and the whites, who belonged to secret orders such as the
Caucasian Clubs, Knights of the White Camelia, etc. Dangerous riots
occurred in New Orleans and in St. Landry Parish. In order to give the
carpet-bag state government military protection, the legislature, in 1868,
provided for a body of armed men known as the Metropolitan Police, which
was transformed by the governor into a small standing army, subject to his
absolute control. The governor also had large powers of appointing and
removing greater than was ever enjoyed by the governor of any other
forbidding separate public schools for the races caused the whites to
become hostile to the school system, and they refused to allow their
children to attend. The schools fell entirely into the hands of the
negroes. Soon the embezzlement of the school funds by the officials
seriously interfered with the operation of the negro schools. The Pea-body
Education Fund paid to the white private schools the share of its money
due to Louisiana. The Louisiana State University at Alexandria, which,
after the destruction of its buildings in 1869, was located temporarily at
Baton Rouge, refused to open its doors to negroes, and in consequence,
after 1872, its appropriations were withheld and it slowly went to ruin.
Though the Louisiana State University (then
called the State Seminary) was not mentioned in the constitution of 1868
as an institution that must open its doors to negroes, the old University
of Louisiana, a New Orleans institution, was directed to admit both races
to its law, medical and academic departments. This seriously crippled the
institution, though there is no evidence that any negroes ever attended.
The state debt rapidly grew to enormous
proportions. In January, 1869, it amounted to $6,777,300; a year later it
was $28,000,000, and in November, 1870, it reached $40,000,000. Local
debts were heavy also, that of New Orleans reaching $17,000,000 in 1870.
Warmoth denounced the legislature for bribery and corruption. He said that
he himself was offered $50,000 to sign a bill. The mere running expenses
of the legislature in 1871 were as follows: Senate, $191,763.85; House,
$767,192.65 an average of $113 a day for each member. The House had
eighty clerks at high salaries, yet only 120 bills were passed.
Warmoth, though corrupt as any, frequently
showed signs of a better spirit. In 1869 he secured the passage of a
general amnesty act. He endeavored to make a compromise by which the races
might have separate schools in spite of the constitution, and though he
grew rich while in office, he loudly denounced the worst of the thieving
by others. His attitude in this matter caused him to be severely censured
by the baser elements of his own party, and he drew toward the Democrats.
By 1871 the Republican party split into two factions, one headed by
Warmoth and supported at times by Democrats; the other known as the Custom
House faction was composed of the leading carpet-baggers, headed by S. B.
Packard, United States Marshal, and George W. Carter, speaker of the
House. This faction wanted to impeach Warmoth and thus get control of the
spoils. In 1871 Lieutenant-governor Dunn died, and Warmoth managed to get
another negro, P. B. S. Pinchback, a creature of his, elected to the
vacancy. For some weeks early in 1872, a state of war existed between the
two factions. Warmoth's friends were once shut out of the legislature and
he himself arrested under the Enforcement laws and haled before Packard.
Next he used his great influence to have Carter deposed as speaker of the
House. Carter and Packard then organized another body which they called
the "true legislature," and raised forces to seize the State House.
Conflicts occurred in the streets, and a mob raised by Packard and Carter
was kept out of the State House only by the aid of Federal troops.
The Kellogg Usurpation, 1872-1877.
When the presidential campaign of 1872 opened,
Warmoth and his faction declared for the Liberal Republicans and united
with the Democrats. The Custom House faction declared for Grant, and
nominated for governor William Pitt Kellogg, and for lieutenant-governor
C. C. Antoine, a negro. The Democratic nominees, John McEnery for
governor, and Davidson Penn for lieutenant-governor, were supported by
Warmoth and received a majority of the votes.
But the problem of counting the votes was most
complicated. To count the ballots and declare the results was the duty of
the Returning Board. Three members of the board being candidates were no
longer eligible, and Warmoth appointed others to take their places. Then
the three who had thus lost their places formed a new body known as the
Lynch board, and Kellogg got an order from Judge Durell restraining the
other board from counting the votes. Warmoth, not to be beaten, now signed
and promulgated a bill passed by the last legislature which gave to the
Senate the appointment of the returning board, called the Senate to meet
and elect a board, and meanwhile appointed, as he had the authority to do,
a temporary board known as the De Feriet board. By this board McEnery was
President Grant, in accord with his usual policy in Southern affairs,
sided with the radical party, refused to recognize the count of the De
Feriet board, ordered the troops to support the other faction, recognized
as acting governor the negro Pinch-back, whose term of office as
lieutenant-governor had expired a month before, and accepting the
impeachment of Warmoth by the Kellogg faction, ordered the dispersal of
the McEnery administration. Committees of citizens were organized to go to
Washington to lay the case before President Grant, but the latter sent
word that the visit would "be unavailing." In January, 1873, Kellogg
succeeded Pinch-back and the Kellogg legislature began its session.
But the McEnery government did not entirely
cease to exist. There were country districts where the people recognized
it alone, and here and there bodies of militia were organized to support
it. A congressional investigating committee declared that McEnery was the
de jure governor, and recommended that an election be held under Federal
control in order to give Louisiana a government which the people would
support. This proposal was rejected by the radicals in Congress. Kellogg
could enforce his laws only by using the Metropolitan police and the
Federal troops. Riots occurred frequently; six office-holders were shot in
Red River parish; in Grant parish there was a pitched battle between the
whites and the blacks; in St. Martin's Col. Alcibiade de Blanc, who had
been the head of the White Camelia, raised a force of whites and drove out
the Metropolitan police sent by Kellogg to force the people to pay taxes;
in New Orleans a body of whites attacked the police stations, but were
repulsed by the police and the soldiers. In March, 1873, all the
Democratic members of the legislature were thrown into prison. It was
clear that Kellogg would not be able to rule the country districts, and
would have difficulty in holding New Orleans.
For a while the Democrats of Louisiana had
done as in other Southern states, that is, had tried to form a party
composed of both races. This had failed in every state. But the year 1874
marks the beginning of the widespread "white man's movement" which finally
cast out the reconstructionists. In Louisiana this movement was swiftly
organized into "The White League," with the best men of the state as
leaders. The White League declared for free government by white men. In
August, 1874, a state convention of the order was held in Baton Rouge. It
was evident from the proceedings that revolution was at hand.
During the next month arms were gathered, the
militia organized and drilled, and plans made for the overthrow of the
Kellogg government. On September 14 a mass-meeting in New Orleans demanded
the resignation of Kellogg, who fled to the United States Custom House to
the protection of the Federal troops. The White Leagues assembled, were
organized as state troops under Gen. Frederick N. Ogden, and ordered to
attack the Kellogg Metropolitans under Generals Longstreet and Badger. The
latter made but slight resistance and the city fell into the hands of the
whites. McEnery being absent, Lieutenant-governor Perm was formally
inaugurated on September 15, and peace seemed at hand. But President
Grant, faithful to his policy, refused to recognize the white government,
sent troops and war-vessels to New Orleans and ordered General Emory to
replace Kellogg. This was done without resistance the whites always
making it a point not to resist Federal troops and the city again fell
under Kellogg's control.
Though the radicals controlled the election
machinery, the elections in November, 1874, went in favor of the white
party. They elected fifty-seven representatives to fifty-four for the
radicals, four of the six members of Congress, and several state officers.
But the returning board under J. Madison Wells counted in a radical
majority for the House and the radical state officers. To support this
count President Grant ordered Sheridan to New Orleans, with instructions
to take command if he saw fit.
The legislature met on Jan. 4, 1875. Kellogg's
guards excluded the Democrats who had been counted out by the returning
board, but the remainder, some of the radicals being absent, elected L. A.
Wiltz speaker, and admitted to seats the contesting Democrats. Kellogg
then sent Colonel De Trobriand with Federal troops to eject nine
Democratic members. When this was done the other Democrats, led by Speaker
Wiltz, left the hall. The radicals then elected Michael Hahn speaker.
Sheridan telegraphed to Grant that if the latter would declare the members
of the White League to be banditti, he, Sheridan, would do all else that
was necessary, that is, hang them when caught.
So great was the indignation everywhere
aroused by the high-handed acts of Kellogg, Sheridan and Grant, that
Congress sent a committee to Louisiana to adjust affairs. This committee
framed an agreement, which the Conservatives ratified, known as the
"Wheeler Adjustment." By this compromise all of the Democratic members of
the legislature were seated, and the Democratic majority thus created in
the lower house agreed not to impeach Kellogg for any acts committed prior
to the adjustment. This was all that the white man's party could expect
while Grant remained president.
After the Wheeler Adjustment there was
comparative quiet in Louisiana until the fall of 1876, when the
presidential campaign began. In the lower house of the legislature an
attempt was made to abolish the corrupt returning board, but Kellogg and
the Republican senate defeated the measure. Other attempted reforms
failed, but with a Democratic House no dangerous laws could now be passed,
and there was even some constructive legislation. An investigating
committee found that the governor and auditor were guilty of
misappropriating public funds and recommended the impeachment of both.
Governor Kellogg was impeached by the House for offenses after the Wheeler
Adjustment, but the Senate, by giving less than an hour for the
preparation of the case, defeated the impeachment.
In the campaign of 1876 state issues, rather
than national affairs, interested the people of Louisiana. Every effort
was made by the whites to secure control. Gen. F. T. Nicholls was the
Democratic candidate for governor, and S. B. Packard, of unsavory fame,
was the candidate of the negro Republican party. The whites, encouraged by
previous partial successes and by Democratic victories in other states,
were confident, and used their influence to secure peaceful elections. The
result was the quietest election held since 1866. The Democrats secured a
large majority, but the returns had still to be counted by the returning
board, of which J. M. Wells was president.
On the day after the election it became
evident that if Hayes failed to secure every electoral vote from the three
Southern states where the count was disputed Louisiana, South Carolina
and Florida Tilden would be elected president. So the Republicans
claimed the votes of all these states. President Grant invited a committee
of prominent Republicans to visit each of the disputed states to watch the
count. The Democrats also sent "visiting statesmen. '' Wells offered the
vote of Louisiana to Tilden for a million dollars, but the offer was not
accepted. The other side made good offers, and the Republican state and
presidential tickets were declared elected. The Democrats sent contesting
returns to Washington, and the matter was not settled in favor of Hayes
until the last days of Grant's administration.
Meanwhile, in January, 1877, both Nicholls and
Packard were installed as governors in New Orleans, and the White League
militia again marched out and took possession of the city. General Grant
was for the first time slow to send military aid to the radicals. The
whites recognized only the Nicholls government. By a sort of trade between
the Democrats and Republicans at Washington, the vote in Louisiana was
allowed to be cast for Hayes, while in return the Democratic state
governments in South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida were to be recognized
as legal. Consequently when Hayes became president he gave no support to
Packard, who was governor of Louisiana by as much right as he, Hayes, was
president. On April 29 the troops were withdrawn and the Packard
government went to pieces. Kellogg, who had been chosen United States
senator by the defunct Packard legislature, was admitted, while Henry M.
Spofford, who was elected by the Nicholls legislature, which was
recognized by the President as the legal legislature, was not seated.
By the trading the whites secured nearly all
that they wanted, but the policy of the "Washington administration was
disgraceful. The leading carpet-baggers and scalawags were given Federal
offices, and most of them left the state.
So ended the reconstruction experiment in
Louisiana. Its results were for the most part bad. The whites were
afterward solidly Democratic while the opposing party was not respectable;
the whites had become intensely opposed to any real participation in
government by the negro; the constant struggle against the corrupt and
oppressive carpetbag-negro government and the necessary use, at times, of
violent methods resulted in lessening respect for law and government. The
races were made unfriendly; in character neither white nor black had
profited by the struggle in the mire of reconstruction; the public schools
in the state had ceased to exist; the State University had been four years
without appropriations. The extravagant corruption of the carpetbaggers
had left the state bankrupt; long years of economy and heavy taxation were
necessary before the finances were again in good order. During the
reconstruction there had been no economic progress; in 1877 the state, in
wealth and products, was far behind what it was in 1860. To heal the
wounds of war and reconstruction was the task of a generation.
Bibliography. Annual Cyclopedia, 1860-1877
(New York, 1861-1878); Ficklen, J. R.: Reconstruction in Louisiana, to
1868 (in Mss.); Fleming, W. L.: Documents Relating to Reconstruction
(1904); Fleming, W. L.: Documentary History of Reconstruction (2 vols.,
Cleveland, 1906-1907V. Fortier, Alcée: History of Louisiana, Vol. IV. (New
York, 1904); Phelps, Albert: Louisiana (Boston, 1905).
Walter L. Fleming,
Professor of History, Louisiana State University.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.