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Official Report Relative to the conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana -- Page 1



Not every instance posted from this source. From page 24 of this book Genl. Banks, US Army was quoted as saying "The horse is no more your property than the rest. Louisiana is mine. I intend to take everything." It appears in the following that Banks did his best to make good his intentions.

GP




Official Report Relative to The Conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana during the Invasion of 1863 and 1864.

Compiled from testimony under the direction of
Governor Henry W. Allen

Page 3 --

EXECUTIVE OFFICE, SHREVEPORT, La., March 20, 1865.
In June I appointed commissioners to gather and collect testimony concerning the conduct of the enemy during their brief and inglorious occupancy of a part of West Louisiana. I addressed to each of them the following letter:

EXECUTIVE OFFICE, Shreveport, La.. June 20, 1864.
Sra—I desire to obtain for publication and historical record a careful, accurate, authentic statement of the atrocities and barbarities committed by the Federal officers, troops and camp followers during their late invasion of Western Louisiana.

Confiding in your known industry, your love of truth, and your judgment in discriminating between what is important and what is not, I appoint you an agent and commissioner for the propose aboth set forth. I wish you to spare no pains in getting statements in writing from eye-witnesses and sufferers, signed and sworn to. Hearsay reports should be carefully sifted before being received and incorporated in your statement. It will be borne in mind by you that the testimony thus taken will be ex parte. The accused not having the privilege of introducing evidence to explain, mitigate or rebut what will be published against them; hence it is important that the publication when made should contain intrinsic evidence of its own credibility.

It may be well therefore to introduce such details as will corroborate the general statements of your report. If you hear of any special acts of kindness that may have been done to "our citizens by Federal officers or soldiers, please report them, with the names, rank. &c., of those who acted thus creditably. I hope, for the honor of human nature, that such instances may be reported by you.
When your report is completed, forward it to this office with the affidavits en which it is founded, together with an account of your necessary and reasonable expenses while actually employed under this order, which will be repaid to yon in addition to an equitable compensation for your services.
Commissioners will be appointed for other invaded parishes; with whom you «may do well to communicate.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,
HENRY W. ALLEN,
Governor of Louisiana.

Page 5--

The district within which our investigations have been made, extends from the southern boundaries of Rapides and Avoyelles to Berwick Bay, and includes the Parishes of St. Landry, Lafayette, St. Martia and St. Mary.

Page 7, 8 --

---and who sympathizes with the demoniacal joy exhibited by Gen. A. J. Smith, at Alexandria, where, surrounded by the flames of a peaceful village, in the midst of falling timbers, crumbling walls, and flying women and children,he waved his sword in an exultation inspired by so congenial a scene, exclaiming “This, boys, is something like war !"

--- Meeting with no opposition, the progress of his column was marked by scenes of spoliation and devastation unparalleled in civilized warfare.

---While some were attacking with sword and bayonet the domestic animals, and shooting into the poultry yards, others penetrated to the negro quarters, and endeavored, with inquisitorial ingenuity', to extract from the slaves the secret of the buried treasures of their masters, or to excite them to revolt.

From the many statements of eye-witnesses to these scenes of plunder and pillage, we select the description of a venerable and accomplished lady, living by the way-side. " I was" she says " watching from my window, the apparent orderly march of the first Yankees that appeared in view and passed up the road, when, suddenly, as if by magic, the whole plantation was covered with men, like bees from an overthrown hive; and, as far as my vision extended, an inextricable medley of men and animals met my eye. In one place, excited troopers were firing into the flock of sheep; in another, officers and men were in pursuit of the boys' ponies; and in another, a crowd were in excited chase of the work animals. The kitchen was soon filled with some, carrying off the cooking utensils and the provisions of the day; the yard with others, pursuing poultry, and firing their revolvers into the trees. They penetrated under the house, into the out-buildings, and went into the garden, stripping it in a moment of all its vegetables, and trenching the ground with their bayonets, in search of buried treasures. This continued during the day, as the army was passing, amid a bewildering sound of oaths and imprecations, mingled with the clatter of the poultry and the noise of the animals. At one time during the day, passing through the house, my attention was attracted to a noise in the parlor. I opened the door, and was just in time to see two soldiers springing out of the window, in possession of some books and daguerreotypes they had taken from the table. Securing the windows, I turned to other parts of the house. In the children's room, I found a trunk broken open, and its contents strewn upon the floor, and I discovered that some articles had been taken. When the army had passed, we were left almost "destitute."


A gentleman of high character, and distinguished in the political annals of the State, was arrested at his residence near Vermilionville, and carried, on the line over which was passing this motley crowd,

Page 10 --

--- Though we cannot reproduce his graphic description of what he witnessed in his own words, we take the liberty of giving enough of it, from memory to convey an idea of this licentious march. "The road," said he, '"Was filled with an indiscriminate mass of armed men, on horseback and on foot, carts, wagons, cannon and caisson, rolling along in most tumultuous disorder, while to the right and to the left, joining the mass, and detaching from it, singly and in groups, were hundreds going empty-handed and returning laden Disregarding the lanes and pathways, they broke through fields and enclosures, spreading in every direction that promised plunder or attracted curiosity. Country carts, horses, mules and oxen, followed by Negro men, women, and even children, (who were pressed into service to carry the plunder,) laden with every conceivable object, were approaching and mingling in the mass from every side. The most whimsical scenes presented themselves, at every step; horses and even gentle oxen, were pulled, pushed, and beaten along towards this seething current, with pigs, sheep, geese, ducks, and chickens swinging from their backs, fluttering, squealing, and quacking, while the burdened animals, in bewildered amazement, were endeavoring to escape from their persecutors. These scenes, repeated at every step on my way to Careucro, was only varied on my return, by the diminished objects of plunder left for those that came after.

Page 15 ---

This account which we have from this gentleman, corroborated from other sources, well illustrates the Federal mode of proceeding with the merchant; with those of the learned professions, the proceedings were no less summary. We ha\e witnessed this, in the torn and charred remains of libraries which are scattered broadcast in the villages; and in the broken and mutilated safes which once enclosed their important legal documents and papers,—for the lawyer's strong-box shared the same fate with that of the merchant, Major Anderson, a Representative in the State Legislature from the Parish of St. Landry, had a valuable library which was consumed as fuel under the boilers of his engine,“set in operation " to grind meal, by the Forty First Massachusetts regiment.

As the Federal column advanced up the banks of the lower Atchafalaya and the Teche, its gunboats, which moved little in advance, "threw shells to the right and left, over houses and among the buildings of the plantations. The startled inmates, overwhelmed with terror, rushed wildly, taking with them nothing but the clothes on their persons, in search of places of shelter and protection. When the imminent danger was over, or after the column had passed, they returned to their homes to find themselves bereft of every article of luxury, of comfort and necessity

Page 17--
even the bucket had been taken from the well.

Page 19 ---

This portion of the building was occupied all the day by a ribald rout, who, while they were reveling on the contents of the plentiful pantry,store-room and wine-cellar, called in the female servants of the plantation, whom they compelled to share in their debaucheries, to assist in the pillage, and to minister to their pleasures.

--- Nothing, which could be carried away, was left behind— not even a supply of food for the evening meal.

Page 23 ---

---At Mr. Boudrean's in Lafayette, they robbed the gentleman, who was infirm and confined to his bed, of everything in the house and on the premises, taking even the covering on which the invalid was lying-

----At Mr. Antoine Goulas', in St. Mary, they not only stripped the family of all their wearing apparel, even the infant's clothing and all the bedding, but they presented their pistols to Mrs. Goulas' head,

Page 24--

---At Mr. Cesair Deblane's, on the Bayou Petite Anse, they found the proprietor and his wife, an aged couple whose grey hairs should have commanded respect, if their feeble condition had not inspired pity. They had money ; and in the pursuit of such spoil, the Federal soldiers neither regarded age, nor condition, nor infirmity, nor any of the obligations which bind man to man in civilized society. A large party surrounded the house ; and employing every means that ingenuity could devise to inspire terror, drew from the aged couple their hoarded wealth, but in the conflict, the venerable lady succumbed. By her anxious and sorrow-stricken servants she was carried to the bed, from which she never arose.

Page 25 --

Mr. Narcisse Thibodeau, at Broagh's bridge, near four-score years of age, was taken from his house by Federal soldiers accompanied by negroes, and beaten with sticks, until he confessed where his treasures were hidden.

Page 28 --

The Catholic church at Opelousas, after having its enclosures torn down and destroyed, was saved from further desecration by the Irish Catholics in the enemy’s ranks, who rose in mutiny against the sacrilege; while the Protestants of that army permitted, without murmur or protest, the desecrating hand of Massachusetts to make of the Protestant Episcopal Church a den of infamy. They stole the sacred vessels from the Catholic Church at New Iberia, and danced in the robes of the priest who served at its altar. They struck with the flats of their sabres, and kicked the venerable priest who ministered at the altar of the Church of St. Martinsville, while his fingers were yet moist from the sacred symbols of the body and blood of Christ ; and they violently took away the humble conveyance which carried him to the bedsides of his parishioners, to administer the consolations of religion. They ravished from the Methodist Church at Franklin the chairs, the pews, the chancel, the lamps and the chandelier, to furnish a theater in a billiard saloon, where ribald farces might be represented. But further, they shocked the sensibilities of the human race, which lead even the savage to approach with awe the graves of the dead. They broke down and burned for fuel the enclosure around the cemetery at Opelousas; they used- the materials of the tombs and monuments at New Iberia for chimneys and hearthstones ; they picketed their horses among the graves, and spread their forage upon the tombs in the cemetery at Franklin. In the vain search of treasure, they threw out the freshly buried or mouldering remains of the dead. They ransacked family vaults under the eye of the family, breaking and shattering the coffins they enclosed ; and so often were these revolting scenes enacted, that some citizens brought, as a last refuge, the bones of their ancestors under the sheltering roof of their dwellings.

Page 30 --

When Gen. Burbridge was repulsed in au action at the Bayou Bourbeux, in the parish of St. Landry, and thrown back to New Iberia, he, by the common impulse of ignoble souls, retaliated his shameful disaster on the defenceless citizens of that place. He compelled the entire male population, old and young, at the point of the bayonet, to work fifteen days on his line of ditches, and he arrested and held under guard young and delicate ladies, who had preferred not to walk under his disgraced brigade flag.

Page 42 ---

To destroy the limited store of medicines hoarded by families, and purchased at incredible expense by druggists, cost but little labor; and their destruction was pursued with as much ardor and vigor, as if they had been magazines of defence. They appropriated and destroyed them, wherever found—in the household, or in the shop. They were made a particular object of search, and when found were thrown into the dirt, if not appropriated. The 114th New York regiment, under Lieut. Col. Purlee, forced open the drug store of Mr. Duchamp, at St. Martinsville, and carried away or destroyed all the medicines, the lancets, and other instruments iiseful to the surgeon or the physician.It was necessary for the druggists to conceal their stores to save them. In opposition to the usages of the civilized world, have medicines been made contraband of war, and destroyed as are instruments of warfare. For the first time in history, do we find a civilized people making war upon hospitals, old men, and helpless women and children, and glorying in it. But the other day, the report of the Federal general, who made a successful raid into an interior town, boasted, not of the guns and Cartridges, the cannon and bombs, he had captured, but of the large quantity of quinine, and other medicines, he had destroyed or brought away.

Page 44--

Their physicians, of necessity, sent to the Federal surgeons for it; and they were supplied with a virus which was used upon infants, children, feeble women and strong men with the same results: its results spread with the rapidity of fire. Had this been in some isolated cases, or had the same effect followed among the soldiers who were vaccinated, we might charitably conclude that the result in the country was from an accidental cause. But while no complaint came from the soldiers, at least no general complaint, the country was filled with cases of this kind, the
cause not coming from one source, but from many, and all from the same fountain head—the Federal camp. Dr. Sabatier, a physician of extensive practice at St. Martinsville, says : " In December, 1863, when the small-pox broke out among the Federal troops, then occupying New Iberia, it was impossible in our vicinity to procure the smallest portion of vaccine matter. Exposed as we were to the contagion of the disease, by the constant raids made by the Federalists in our town,I used my best exertions to procure some vaccine from the Federal physicians in New Iberia, and through one of my confreres succeeded in getting a few points loaded with vaccine, which I immediately innoculated to my own children. The disastrous effects of the poison were as quick as fire. A few days after the operation, and of my poor little baby's arms was horribly swollen and inflamed, and on the second day appeared a pustule which had nothing of the appearance of vaccine. Three days after, the pustule opened, letting out a little quantity of greenish matter, and to that succeeded a terrible ulcer, which kept growing larger and larger, until it came to the size of a dollar. New pustules formed around the ulcer, and followed the same course. I cannot describe the sufferings of the poor little thing. The disease lasted more than six months; the child lost all its finger and toe nails. The lymphatic glands of the neck and groin formed abscesses which had to be opened, and it was only after a regular course of mercurial treatment that I succeeded in curing the poor child. The description of this case is nothing to he compared with hundreds of others whom I have been called upon to treat


Page 52--
(Speaking of slaves) ----- Of the tide of human beings we have described, two thousand perished in six weeks. Their shallow graves lie along the waters of the Ramos. Scooped out with careless indifference, and covered with indecent haste, they were only marked by swarms of fattened flies, living on the putrid matter oozing through the loose earth above them. They have found their freedom; such freedom as God vouchsafes to all the children of men.

Page 53 --
Many, following the army, were present, and crossed with it; and thus had an opportunity to witness the actual condition of the slaves, the moment they passed from the Federal hands.

Seven miles from the town Brashear, on the bank« of the Bayou Ramos, they found, have have described, the graves of the dead; the condition of the living, as they found them, we will attempt to describe. Skirting the bayou, in a thicket of undergrowth and briars, were encamped, without shelter, a wretched, death-stricken crowd of human beings, who but a few short weeks before, had been driven from their homes full of the rigor of health, and overflowing with the exuberance of animal life, and now were dying in squalid filth, or living in abject misery. The adjacent thicket, filled with the decomposing bodies of those, who, dragging themselves thither, and falling from exhaustion, had, unable to return, died there; spread over the camps a nauseous stench, which threatened death to the survivors. Crouched to the earth, with their heads sunk between their knees, or lying with upturned faces, gazing vacantly in the air, the poor surviving negroes were moved by no sympathies for the sufferers around them. Sunk in despondency and despair, or oppressed by deadly stupor, they not only neglected the last duties to the dead, but they regarded with stupid indifference those who were fallin into the jaws of death. Many were

Page 54---- It was afterwards remarked, that even hard men, who found their slaves on neighboring plantations, softened by so many exhibitions of destitution, suffering and death, met them with the feelings of a father, and welcomed the return of the prodigal son.

--- Every eye turned instinctively to the sugar house, standing nearby, as if to penetrate its mysteries.

Dr. George Hill, a distinguished physician and surgeon of Opelousas, whose nerves had been fortified by an active professional practice for forty years, has, under the solemnity of an oath, furnished us with a statement of what he witnessed. We copy the essential portions of his communication: "In the summer of 1863, Berwick's Bay and a portion of the Lafourche country were taken possession of by the Confederate army. I, with many others, who had lost their property by the raid which the Federal army had made, between the 20th of April and the 20th of May, of this year, visited the Bay for the purpose of recovering our property. I was among the first who crossed the Bay; and having been informed, on the night of my arrival, by a gentleman of the name of March, that I had lost several negroes at the sugar house of Dr. Saunders, and that others were there in a dying condition, in the morning, as soon as a horse could be obtained, I proceeded to the sugar house of Dr. S., and entered it by a door in the west end. The scene which then and there presented itself, can never be effaced from my memory. On the right hand side of the Purgery floor, from where I stood, lay three female corpses in a state of nudity, and also in a far advanced stage of decomposition. Many others were lying all over the floor; many speechless and in a dying condition. All appeared to have died of the same disease—bloody flux. The floor was slippery with blood, mucus and feces. The dying, and all those unable to help themselves, were lying with their scanty garments rolled around their heads and breasts--- the lower part of the body

Page 54 --- naked—and every time« an involuntary discharge of blood and feces, combined with air, would pass, making a slight noise, clouds of flies, such as I never saw before, would immediately rise and settle down again on all the exposed parts of the dying. * * In passing through the house, a cold chill shook my frame, from which I did not recover for several. months, and, indeed, it came near causing my life.

Page 55 ---

As I passed from the house I met with a negro man of my own, who informed me that he had lost his wife and two children. 1 asked him if his friends, the Yankees, had not furnished him with medicine. He said "no, and if they had, I would not have given it to my family, as all who took their medicine died in twelve hours from the time of its being given" (Poisoned medicine being given to children!!!)

This deposition having been read to Dr. Saunders, the proprietor of the sugar house in question, and now a representative of St. Mary in the State Senate, ho declared, that while it was faithful in the general description, it did not exhibit all the horrors of the scone; as before the arrival of Dr. Hill, he had caused many decomposed bodies that filled the coolers to be removed and. interred. A hundred others would, if necessary, add their testimony to that of these gentlemen.

(See also The Civil War reminiscences of Major Silas T. Grisamore, C.S.A. By Arthur W. Bergeron page 123 found on Page 1 of Confederate officers Orders, letters this website)


There were other places on the island where the poor wretches were bivouacked, all presenting the same scenes of squalid misery. On the representation of the gentlemen who witnessed them, the Confederate officer in charge of the posit, moved by a manly sympathy, immediately put in requisition his military transports, then pressingly needed for the military service, and had all the poor creatures removed, under proper medical superintendence, to a more salubrious place on the Teche, where they could receive proper attention, with pure water and wholesome food. Had not this been promptly done, it is the opinion of the medical men present, that every soul, amounting to many hundreds, would have perished.

One of your Commissioners found two children under ten years of age separated from their parents. He subsequently learned, that while the father had been taken for the army, the mother had been thrown upon a plantation below the city of New Orleans. He found a mother with two children, who had been separated from one, a little girl aged eleven ; and he subsequently learned that she was living with a free mulatto family opposite that city. He ascertained, beyond doubt, that all the aged, all the infants, and many of the smaller children taken from his plantation had perished.

JOEN G. PRATT,
JOHN E. KING,
Special Cammissioners.





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