1811 LOUISIANA SLAVERY REBELLION

 

JANUARY 2004 MARKS THE 193RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1811 NEGRO REBELLION TO OVERTHROW SLAVERY IN LOUISIANA

 

Extracted by Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley from the public exhibit display documents of the African American History Alliance of Louisiana as presented in their Louisiana African American History Museum at St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Treme Community 1410 Governor Nickols Street New Orleans October 11-13, 2002.

 

This extract was submitted by Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley from his National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and private donors funded research project entitled:

 

Proving The Mississippi River a Major Underground Railroad Uhuru (Freedom) Route From Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

This extract is included in Ser Boxley’s research report under the subheading:

 

Enslaved Persons Rebellions—Revolts—Uprising—Resistance---Defiance Along the “Great” Mississippi “River Road.”

 

Permission to use this extract in written publications, video, CD, CDR or any other publication form must be obtained from Friends of the Forks of the Roads Society Natchez, Mississippi and African American History Alliance of Louisiana, New Orleans.

 

Words enclosed by this symbols {  } have been inserted by Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley substituting the oppressive and racist terms “slave, slaves and free people of color”

 

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In 1811, the population of the New Orleans and its suburbs was about 25,000; nearly 11,000 were [enslaved persons], some 8,000 whites and about 6,000 [non-enslaved captifs] people of color. The [non-enslaved captifs] of color were mainly children of [enslavers] owners by African women, whom they raped. In the outlying parishes, [enslaved persons] made up an even greater proportion of the population. The fact that the [enslaving] owners were outnumbered by the [enslaved] increased the owners constant fear that the [enslaved persons] would revolt and overthrow their rule. The [enslaving] owners cultivated the [non-enslaved captifs] of color as a buffer against the [enslaved people] by giving them small privileges. In addition, a volunteer militia and regular troops patrolled the towns and [enslavement] quarters on plantations to keep the [enslaved people] in check.

 

[Enslaved people] were not allowed to freely practice their African languages and religions. Nor were they allowed to pursue other African customs! During the colonial time, the Roman Catholic Church was the state religion in French possessions. All other churches were suppressed. The [enslaved people] were compelled to be baptized. Since the Africans cherished their custom and ways of life, this led to conflict and rebellions. At the time of the 1811 uprising, French, Spanish and Anglo-American colonialist had already conquered most of the native inhabitants (these included the Choctaw, Houmas, Natchez, Tunica and others). Many were enslaved along with the Africans. Through the Louisiana Purchase (1803), France transferred its control of Louisiana to the U. S. A. From 1803 to 1812, the old colonial area known as Louisiana Province was divided in half. The northern area beginning at the present Arkansas border and extending to Canada was called the Louisiana Territory.

 

The southern part beginning at the Arkansas border and extending south to the Gulf of Mexico became Orleans Territory. New Orleans, the largest city in Orleans Territory, became the territorial capital and was technically ruled from Washington, D. C. In 1811, the economy of Orleans Territory was based on the cruel system of chattel slavery. Africans and Native Americans were considered property. At the top of society were a few rich [enslaving] owners and at the bottom were masses of [enslaved people]. Individual families and joint corporations owned [enslaved persons], among them were Bienville, Crozat, Pontalba, Kenner, Henderson, Destrehan, La Branche, Darensburg, Butler, Andry, Deslonde, Picou, McCarty, Dubbisson, and so forth. But one of the biggest [enslaving] owners was the Roman Catholic Church. The Jesuits, Capuchins and Ursulines had plantations run by [enslaved] labor and all three engaged in the [enslavement] trade. [Enslaved people] planted, cultivated and harvested the sugar cane. They hauled it to the mill (sugar house) and they processed it into crystals for the market. They delivered the sugar and molasses to the ships to take it to the markets.

 

The same was true for other corps. In the city of New Orleans, [enslaved persons] worked on the docks and the warehouses and commercial establishments. They were skilled craft workers as well—coopers, carpenters, bricklayers, hostlers, etc. The false and ugly theory of white supremacy placed the [enslaved person] in a totally subordinate and oppressed position which was enshrined in the law. [Enslaved people] had no political rights. They could not own property, nor could they have a voice in the affairs of the government. The punishment for attacking a white person, even in self-defense, or planning a rebellion was death.

 

The spirit of self-sacrifice for the cause of freedom and democracy has always been present in the history of the African American fight to end slavery. Nothing typifies this quality more than the mighty revolt of [enslaved persons] that took place in 1811 in St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and Orleans parishes of Louisiana. Though the brave uprising led by Nat Turner as well as the plots of Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser are better known, the 1811 Revolt was the largest [enslaved people’s] uprising the history of the USA, involving over 500 people.

 

The Louisiana revolt was led by a man named Charles, a laborer on the Deslonde plantation. The revolt began some 50 or so miles up river from New Orleans. On the evening of January 8, the insurrection spread to the Andry plantation some 35 miles from New Orleans. At about 8 P. M. [enslaved persons] led by Charles and his lieutenants overwhelmed their oppressors. Armed with cane knives, hoes, clubs and few guns, the insurgents marched down the River Road toward New Orleans. They declared themselves free and rallied behind the chants (“On to New Orleans!’) and (“Freedom or Death”). Their numbers swelled as they moved from plantation to plantation on the East Bank of the Mississippi river, traversing about 25 miles (the distance between the present day towns of Reserve and Kenner).

 

The leaders were intent on creating an [enslaved persons] army, capturing the city of New Orleans, and seizing state power throughout the area. Following the example of the Haitian revolution, they sought to liberate the tens of thousands of [enslaved people] held in bondage in the territory of Louisiana. The [enslaved] rebels armed themselves as best they could with a few guns, cane knives, hoes and other farm implements. As their numbers swelled into the hundreds, they divided into companies, each with an officer. Some of the leaders were mounted on horseback. Arrayed in columns, with flags flying and drummers beating out a rhythm, they headed down the River Road. Their destination New Orleans, the territorial capital. Their guiding principle, (“Freedom or Death”]. The plantation of Louis-Augustin Meuillon was one of the larger estates in St. Charles Parish. An inventory made just months before the uprising lists 70 adult [enslaved persons] on the property.

 

Many [enslaved persons] on the Meuillon plantation joined the revolt and all but one supported it. An account published just after the revolt, lists two [enslaved persons] killed, nine in jail and two missing. Two of the jailed [enslaved persons], Apollon and Henri, were tortured to death. Only the [enslaved person] Bazile, 36 years old and a native of Louisiana, lifted a hand to try and put out the fire. After the revolt he was freed for the betrayal of his fellow [enslaved persons]. The solid Green line represents the route of the [enslaved] insurgents, led by Charles Deslonde. [Display map not included with this extract] The rebels moved down the River Road from the Andry plantation all the way to the Jacque Fortier plantation where they camped on the evening of January 9, 1811.

 

At about nine o’clock that evening, they were attacked by a force led by Major Derrington, made up of advanced elements of the U. S. militia, regular troops and merchant marine from New Orleans, represented by the solid Red line. [Display map not included with this extract] The attackers were repulsed and the rebels retreated to the sugarhouse. During the middle of the night, the rebels retreated upriver to the plantation of Bernard Bernoudy and encamped. The broken Red line represents the forces led by General Wade Hampton. [Display map not included with this extract] They left New Orleans in the afternoon of January 9 and arrived at the plantation of Jacque Fortier at the time of the attack by Major Derrington’s forces. The next day at about 9 A. M., Hampton led his forces and those of Derrington upriver to the Beroudy plantation. Meanwhile, on the evening of the 8, Manual Andry escaped from his plantation, crossed the river to the west bank and organized the militia). Despite the rebels’ best efforts, they were not able to succeed. They ran out of ammunition and could not match the well armed forces arrayed against them. Many leaders and participants were killed by U. S. troops (both militia and regular units. By January 19, the revolt was crushed. Some of the leaders were captured and executed. Their heads were cut off and placed on poles along the River Road and at the gates of the city of New Orleans. The [enslaving} owners hoped that this grim spectacle would terrorize the other [enslaved people] into submission.***

 

Some rebels were summarily executed when they were held for trial and most of these were executed in short order. In St. Charles Parish, the tribunal was composed of Jean Noel Destrehan, Alexandre Labranche, Cabaret, Adelard Fortier and Edmond Fortier, along with Pierre Bauchet St. Martin, acting as judge. Beginning at 4 P. M. on January 13, through January 15, they issued death warrants for a 21 [enslaved persons] for the crime of insurrection. These men were sentenced be shot by a militia detachment, each one in front of the residence to which he belonged. The tribunal decided that the heads of those executed would be cut off and put up on the end of a pike, at the place of execution, (“with the goal of making a terrible example”] for all who might in the future seek to win their freedom by force of arms. The sentences were carried out without delay. Condemned and executed in St. Charles Parish] CUPIDON of the Labranche Bros., DAGOBERT of Delhomme, Harry of Kenner & Henderson, JEAN of Arnauld, HIPPOLITE of Etienne Trepagnier, KOOCK of James Brown, EUGENE of Labranche Bros., CHARLES of Labranche Bros., QUAMANA of James Brown, ROBAINE of James Brown, ETIENNE of Trask, LOUIS of Etienne Trepagnier, JOSEPH of Etienne Trepagnier, GUIAM of Kenner & Henderson, ACARA of Delhommer, NEDE of Trask, AMAR of Wid. Charbonnet, SIMON of Butler & McCutchen, GROS LINDOR of Destrehan, PETIT LINDOR of Destrehan (St. Charles Parish Original Acts. Act 321, Book 1810-1811, p. 141-162) There was also a [enslaving] owners tribunal held in St. John the Baptist Parish, but few records exist. It is known that at least eight [enslaved persons] were executed on the orders of this panel headed by Judge Hoaud. Those martyred were: CHARLES, [enslaved] by Kenner and Henderson, LINDOR, [enslaved] by Kenner and Henderson, NONTOUN, [enslaved] by Kenner and Henderson, SMILLET, [enslaved] by Kenner and Henderson, LOUIS, [enslaved] by Daniel Madre Estate, PIERRE GRISSE, [enslaved] by Degruy, HANS, [enslaved] by George Weinprender, JACQUES, [enslaved] by Pierre Becknel. The Judge together with the Parish Jury impaneled to try the Prisoner Daniel Garret the [enslaved] of Messrs Butler and McCutcheon found him guilty of the charges as laid in the indictment and sentence him to Death—He shall be hung at the usual place in the City of New Orleans within three days from the date hereof and his head shall be severed from his Body and exposed at one of the lower gates of this city---New Orleans January 17 1811, (signed) Daniel Clark, Charles Jumonville Jacques Villere, J. Etienne Bore P. Dennis Laronde, Approved by L. Moreau Lislet, City Judge. (Louisiana Collection, New Orleans Public Library) In New Orleans, the captured [enslaved persons] were held in the jail on the lower level of the Cabildo and the tribunals were held on the second floor. Six [enslaving] owners sat in judgment of the reels. The court was in session from January 15 through the 18th and again on February 2, and issued death warrants for at least eight rebels. The [enslaving] owners on the tribunals included Louis LaBlanc, J. E. Bore, Daniel Clar, Peter Colssen, Stephen Henderson, Chas. Jumonville, Thomas Poree, P. Dennis LaRonde, James Villere, Jacques Villere, J. B. Labatut, and others. The judge was L. Moreau Lislet.

 

*** But they did not succeed. Again and again, in Louisiana, the [enslaved people] rose-up. They did not give up their fight. The sacrifices of these brave men and women were not in vain. They redeemed the honor of their people and extended the tradition of revolutionary struggle, which set the stage for the eventual end of chattel slavery. Their descendants proudly fought in the Union Army in the Civil War (1861-1865), which put an end to this horrendous system.

 

Leaders and rank and file maroons participated in the 1811 Revolt. Some of the [enslaved persons] executed after the 1811 rising were known to have been runaways before January 1811. Among them was SIMON from the plantation of Butler and McCutcheon (now known as Ormond). In the months before the revolt, the local and regional newspapers were filled with ads (in both French and English) offering rewards for the return of a runaway [enslaved]. This ad is for SIMON of the Butler and McCutcheon plantation. SIMON was eventually captured and executed in St. Charles Parish for his participation in the revolt.  

 

20 DOLLARS REWARD RANAWAY from the sugar plantation of Richard Butler & Samuel McCutchon, on the second instant, a likely negro lad named SIMON, lately from Baltimore, about 20 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches height, has a scar on his left cheek, and one on his forehead, handsome features-:--had on when he went away, a tow linen shirt and trousers; black hat and sundry—other—apparel. It is supposed he will endeavor to get off in the shipping for the eastern states.—Ten dollars reward will be paid—if—taken within the county of Orleans; and twenty if out of the county, with all reasonable expenses if brought home, or delivered to Messr. Kenner and Henderson of New Orleans. Masters of vessels and others-are forbid harboring or taking off said run-away at their peril. July 4.

 

[Tuesday July 24, 1810 New Orleans Daily Advertiser]

 

Note: African American History Alliance of Louisiana published a book about the 1811 “Slave” Revolt researched and written by Albert Trasher in 1995. The book is called: On to New Orleans! Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt. Copies may be still available by contacting Malcolm Suber or Leon Waters of the African American History Alliance of Louisiana in New Orleans.

 

 

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