The municipal campaign of 1860 attracted little attention. Interest in New Orleans was focussed upon the national campaign, which was understood to involve the question of peace or war. Three candidates appeared for the mayoralty — John T. Monroe, Alexander Grailhe, and Lucius W. Place. "The issues are of small importance," was the comment of the Picayune, a few days before the election took place. In fact, the only serious criticism which was offered to Mr. Monroe's candidacy was, that he was the nominee of the Native American party, and thus in a sense represented the administration. Mr. Grailhe, who was running on an independent ticket, criticized the Stith administration severely, particularly with regard to the cleaning of the city; and intimated that the election of Monroe would perpetuate the methods of which he complained. Grailhe was in Europe at the time his name was selected to head the independent ticket. On his return, he announced that, if elected, he would accept no salary, but divide his official income among the city charities. The contest among the candidates for the mayoralty was overshadowed interest by that between J. Milton Relf, and C. C. Fleschier, for the post of street commissioner. Fleschier was the incumbent under Stith, and the blame for bad condition into which the public thoroughfares had fallen, as a result of his inability to compel the contractors properly to perform their work of cleaning them, was, perhaps unjustly, laid upon him. The papers of the time are filled with complaints about the foul condition of the stagnant gutters, the luxuriance of the weeds that grew along the margins of the streets, and the general neglect of the city scavengering.
Mayor Stith took measures to insure a safe and orderly election, and on June 5, 1860, Monroe was chosen mayor by a vote of 37,027. Grailhe received a much smaller vote, and Place, who was running on a citizen's ticket, hardly figured in the contest. Monroe, who thus became seventeenth mayor of the city, was a blood-relative of President Monroe. He was a native of Dinwiddie County, Virginia, but was taken by his parents to the State of Missouri, when very young. With Missouri the family was prominently identified for many years. Daniel Monroe, father of the mayor, at one time represented the State at the National Congress. Young John Monroe came to New Orleans before attaining his twenty-first year. He learned the business of stevedore. Working on the levee, he was brought into contact with the men who then controlled what were called "the masses"; he drifted into politics under their auspices, and speedily became a leader of the labor element. Over the working classes his control was never broken. They first elected him Assistant Alderman, and he signalized himself so greatly as their representative and champion in the lower branch of the municipal legislature, that he was subsequently chosen assistant recorder. In the lower board of the council he served as president. His experiences there fitted him admirably to discharge the duties which now devolved upon his shoulders.1
Mayor John Monroe
The election made little change in the City Council, but sufficient to justify the hope that there would be improvement in the management of the streets. Relf, although a candidate with Place, on the citizens' ticket, had been elected street commissioner, over Fleschier. He immediately addressed himself to that task, and seems to have enjoyed the support of the new mayor. The new alignment of the City Council also opened the way to betterments in the police force. There had been many complaints as to the material from which the force was made up. These, and other pressing problems, were touched upon in the mayor's inaugural message, which was sent in to the Council on June 26. In this document Mayor Monroe outlined the policy which he experienced the administration to follow. He said that some of the provisions of the City Charter were probably obnoxious, and ought to be changed, but as long as they remained in force, it was his intention to see that the laws were carried out "without fear or favor." He called attention to the supreme importance of the police department for the protection of life and property, and for the good reputation of the city at home and abroad; and, having as head of that department, power of appointment and removal, he declared that he accepted the responsibility, and would not shrink from the performance of all the duties involved. He admitted that in the selection of several hundred men, mistakes might be made, but reminded the Council that he had the authority to remove, and would exercise that power whenever necessary. He urged the uniforming of the police, and stated that as its recognized head, he would himself adopt the new uniform. He called attention to the growth of the city and the importance p230of its commerce, and warned the citizens not to rely upon past efforts, but to prepare the way for greater prosperity. "Much," he said, "will depend upon the enforcement of the laws; much upon light taxation, and more than all upon the absence of epidemics." He promised to enforce all ordinances for keeping the streets clear, and to co‑operate with the Council in all measures for settling up the rear portion of the city, the draining of the swamps, and the extension of streets in those districts. He laid stress upon the advantages to be derived from the building of street railways, and the ills ensuing from an insufficient supply of water. He closed with the assurance that he would support any measure which the Council might adopt which might redound to the prosperity and good name of the city.
The message was not a remarkable literary performance, but it gave great satisfaction, as indicating that the mayor meant to deal effectively with the most crying evils of the moment. A few lines only can be given here as to the manner in which these promises were fulfilled. Monroe's interest in the extension of the street railroads, led to a considerable activity in that direction. The car tracks which were being laid in Canal Street on the side thoroughfares were, at his urging, removed to the "neutral ground," where they have ever since been located. The "neutral ground" was, at the same time, embellished with rows of trees: which, however, were removed some years later. Considerable changes were made in the routing of the five existing street-car lines. In April, 1861, the Picayune described the routes of several new horse-car lines, — the Magazine Street line, the Camp and Prytania streets line, the Canal and Metairie Ridge line, the Rampart and Poland Street line, the Rampart, Esplanade and Barracks Street line — on all of which cars were in operation about the first day of June. The mayor also advocated the replacement of horse-power by steam engines, called "dummies," on the Carrollton Railroad. This change brought the suburb of Carrollton within a relatively short distance of the center of the city, raised the price of real estate along the route, and would, but for the beginning of the Civil war shortly after it was made, have caused the building-up of the city in the direction of Carrollton which, as a matter of fact, took place nearly twenty-five years later. This activity with regard to local transportation facilities persisted through the beginning of the new year. On January 31, 1862, for example, the City Council authorized the sale of the right of way of three new railroads, on which horse-cars were to be run. One of these was on Dumaine, from Rampart to Bayou St. John, thence to St. John Street, and back through Rampart to Dumaine. Another began at St. Charles Street, and ran through Lafayette, Claiborne, Elysian Fields, Moreau, Ferdinand and Victory, and then back by way of Elysian Fields, Claiborne, Perdido and St. Charles to the starting-point. The third was a double track road, leading from the river through Julia Street to the New Basin. The construction of these roads was, however, postponed by the events which followed rapidly upon the date of the advertisement, and which interrupted all public enterprises in the city for many years.
That the mayor's announced policy with regard to the police was productive of improvement in the organization may be inferred from the increased number of arrests which are reported to have been made at this time. The ability and energy of the department were severely taxed, for in 1861 the city was afflicted by an epidemic of incendiarism. p231At one period fires were of nightly occurrence. William Howard Russell, who visited New Orleans in 1861, comments frequently upon the number and extent of these conflagrations. "Every night since I have been in New Orleans, there have been one or two fires; tonight [May 26] there were three — one a tremendous conflagration. When I inquired to what they were attributable, a gentleman who sat near me, bent over, and looking me straight in the face, said, in a low voice, 'The slaves.' " Russell, however, with more than average British perspicacity, discounted this remark; for he adds: "the flues, perhaps, and the system of stoves, may also bear some of the blame." The police made every effort to deal with the offenders, but appear not to have been able to check the incendiarists until the outbreak of the war supplied, through the military organizations, ampler means to deal with such miscreants; when the frequency of such fires diminished. The police were also kept busy in other ways. Russell reports a statement made to him by the criminal sheriff — "a great, big, burly, six-foot man, with revolvers stuck in his belt, and strength and arms quite sufficient to enable him to execute his office in its highest degree" — which shows that the lawless element in the community was still large and active. "Speaking of the numerous crimes committed in New Orleans, he declared it a perfect hell on earth, and that nothing could ever put an end to the murders, manslaughters, and deadly assaults till it was made penal to carry arms. [. . .] Bar-rooms, cocktails, mint juleps, gambling-houses, political discussions and imperfect civilization do the rest."2
Something was done to improve the drainage of the city, although the time had not yet come when this important enterprise could be systematically and efficiently undertaken. In July, 1860, the Board of Commissioners of the Third Drainage District erected a drainage machine near Linden Avenue, at a cost of $40,000, half of which was defrayed from their own funds, and the remainder appropriated by the city. Pumps were established at the Levee water-works, each with a lifting capacity of •400,000 gallons per hour, which were used to flush the gutters. The Toledano Canal was extended to connect with the New Canal, and the Melpomene Canal was dug and connected with the Toledano Canal, thus affording a channel through which the waters of the Claiborne Canal also found their way into the lake. These improvements consumed the greater part of a fund of $18,000 which had been placed in the hands of the Drainage Commissioners for the purpose.
On the whole, the city showed progress during the first months of the administration, and in his message addressed to the Council on October 10, 1860, Mayor Monroe was able to congratulate the community upon its health and prosperity. He gave in this document a statistical account of its growth in business, wealth, improvements, and population. The increase and extension of the wharves necessitated by the development of commerce was mentioned. The debts for 1860 had all so far been met, and no legal obligation was due till 1863, when outstanding obligations amounting to $228,000 would mature. The police force had been increased to 338 men, but there was no need to recruit its ranks still further. The public schools were in good condition. The mayor also added a paragraph recommending that steps be taken looking to the enactment of legislation to secure greater security or stability in the buildings erected p232in the city: a curious comment upon the character of work done at that time.
The activities of a progressive administration were, however, destined now to be checked by the outbreak of war between the states.
The slavery question, which had been a subject of debate between the two great political parties for many years, reached a crisis in 1860, when a split in the ranks of the democracy made certain the election of Lincoln to the presidency of the United States. The presidential campaign was accompanied by great excitement in New Orleans. The convention in Charleston, found an echo in New Orleans on May 30, when a great meeting was called to ratify the nomination of Bell and Everett. The call for this meeting bore the signatures of such representative citizens as Randall Hunt, Christian Roselius, Moses Greenwood, J. R. Conway, W. H. C. King, W. O. Denegre, E. T. Parker, and F. A. Lumsden. At this meeting was first seen the Young Bell Ringers, one of the picturesque organizations which became a feature of the campaign in the city. The Young Bell Ringers wore a costume of which the principal features were red collars and cuffs, and carried bells, which they rang incessantly while on the march. On the opposite side appeared the Young Men's Breckenridge and Lane Club. The members of the latter organization were recruited from a class probably a little inferior socially and financially to the Young Bell Ringers, but they represented the popular cause, and affiliated organizations promptly sprang up in every part of the city. These clubs, variously known as Young Guards, the Breckenridge Guards, the Chalmette Guards, the Southern Guards, etc., played not merely a prominent role in the campaign, but, after the election of Lincoln, became the nuclei of military organizations which set to work to drill and otherwise prepare for the war which was seen to be inevitable.3
The first president of the Breckenridge and Lane Club was Ernest Lagarde; the second was Frederick N. Ogden. On its initial appearance the organization could boast of but twelve members; at its second, it was 2,000 strong. In September it was re‑enforced by the Breckenridge Dragoons, a marching club which paraded on horseback, wearing black coats, white belts, and caps adorned with gold bands. Mass meetings were held under the auspices of the rival parties, the Breckenridge and Lane supporters rallying at the Armory Hall, the Bell and Everett men meeting alternately in Lafayette Square, Washington Square, and Annunciation Square. On October 29, Wm. L. Yancey arrived in the city to deliver an address. A vast crowd assembled in Camp Street to listen to his fiery periods. The wildest enthusiasm attended his visit. A week later came the news of the election of Lincoln. Throughout the South the tidings were accepted as foreshadowing the dissolution of the Union, if not war. In New Orleans they produced the disconcerting effect of a sudden dash of cold water. All factions were equally startled and disappointed. Quickly all the various democratic factions amalgamated into one, and that one rapidly transferred itself into the party of Secession — into the party of the Confederacy.4
Although the majority of the population of New Orleans unquestionably favored the withdrawal of the State from the Union, there was a respectable minority opposed to this course. The leaders of this faction p233 Randall Hunt5 and Christian Roselius, both men of very exceptional ability. The secessionists did not lack spokesmen. The most eloquent and possibly the most influential was Rev. B. M. Palmer, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. In a memorable sermon delivered on Thanksgiving Day he set forth the Southern theory of slavery with convincing power. The argument in support of it, he said, "sweeps over the entire circle of our relations, touches the four cardinal points of duty to ourselves, to our slaves, to the world, to almighty God. It establishes the nature and solemnity of our present trust, to preserve and transmit our existing system of domestic servitude, with the right, unchallenged by man, to go and root itself wherever providence and nature may carry it. This trust we will discharge in the face of the worst possible peril. Though war be the aggregation of all evils, yet should the madness of the hour appeal to the arbitration of the world, we will not shrink even from the baptism of fire. If modern crusaders stand in serried ranks upon some plain of Esdraelon, there shall we be in defense of our trust. Not till the last man has fallen behind the last rampart, shall it drop from our hands, and then only in surrender to the God who gave it."6 Such words, uttered in such a place, by so eminent a man, could not fail to produce a great effect in steeling the heart of the community to meet the crisis which was now approaching.
The winter of 1860‑1861 was a period of incessant excitement in New Orleans. Organizations favorable and unfavorable to secession were formed. We hear of the "Southern Rights Association" and of the "Young Men's Southern Rights Association." Meetings were held almost every night in one part of the city or other, and orators of distinction urged, or discouraged, the separatist movement. On December 10 the Legislature convened in Baton Rouge, in extra session, to determine "at once" — in Governor Wickliffe's energetic language — what course the State should follow. A bill suggested by the governor, calling a convention to make the fateful decision, was passed. The members of this body were elected on January 7, 1861, resulting in the selection of a delegation from New Orleans almost solidly in favor of secession.7 The vote in the State gave the "Southern Rights" candidate as a majority of a little less than 3,000 over their "Co‑operation" opponents.
The action of the convention was a foregone conclusion. Without waiting for the formal enactment of an ordinance of secession, The State Government took action to possess itself of the military posts in Louisiana. On January 9, Brig. Gen. E. L. Tracy, commanding the newly created First Brigade, called his captains together in New Orleans, and informed them that the United States Arsenal in Baton Rouge, Fort Pike, at the Rigolets, and Forts Jackson and St. Philip, on the lower reaches of the Mississippi, were to be seized. In accordance with his orders, Captains Dreux, Walton and Meilleur assembled their men, fully equipped, at their armories that night. The following day at noon, Colonel Walton, of the Washington Artillery, marched his command on board the river steamer "Natchez," and started for Baton Rouge. With him also went detachments from the Crescent Rifles, Chasseurs à Pied, Orleans Cadets, etc., — altogether 250 men. On January 10, Maj. Paul E. p234Theard, of the d'Artillerie, left on the steamer "Yantic" with 166 men to seize the river forts. A third expedition, under Lieutenant Merriam, set out for Fort Pike, and still another, seized Fort McComb, on Bayou Chef Menteur. All these places surrendered without resistance. The men required for these purposes, and later for the garrisons at these points, drew from the city so many of its young soldiers, that a movement to organize new companies as a "home guard," was initiated amidst great enthusiasm. Several commands were formed among the foreign residents. This movement had considerable popularity. Within the year three brigades were formed, one of which was made up exclusively of French regiments. The others were composed of Spaniards, Italians, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, Belgians, and Englishmen. Three brigadier generals were selected from among the French population to command these organizations.8
The State was thus committed to secession before the convention met. When it assembled at Baton Rouge on January 23 it had merely to give legal form to a situation which, as a matter of fact, already existed. Three days later the Ordinance of Secession was adopted by a vote of 113 to 17. Of those voting in the negative all but ten subsequently signed the act. Among those who steadfastly refused to do was the celebrated lawyer, Christian Roselius. Many of the co‑operationist delegates united with the secessionists when the bill was put on final passage. Their attitude was well stated by Ex‑Governor A. B. Roman, who, in an impassioned speech against the ordinance, declared that he would, nevertheless, "cheerfully support the bill when adopted, and share the fortunes and follow the lead of his native State." "The State has seceded," exulted the New Orleans Bee, when the news reached the city; "Louisiana has recovered her sovereignty. The allegiance of her citizens is now due to her alone."
Louisiana was thus erected into a separate, independent republic. Immediately after the adoption of the ordinance, the convention transferred the seat of government to New Orleans. Proclamation of the convention's action, resulted in the resignation of the Louisiana members from both branches of the United States Congress. The members of the House who withdrew were Miles Taylor, a native of New York, who represented a part of the City of New Orleans and the great sugar parishes of the lower coast; J. G. Laudman, a South Carolinian, who represented the Red River parishes; T. G. Davidson, a Tennessean, and John Perkins, a Mississippian, who represented the cotton-growing northern parishes of the State. One representative remained. He was Edouard Bouligny, who represented the district which included the Vieux Carré of New Orleans, and certain of the parishes below the city. He was a member of a prominent Creole family, and had been elected to Congress on the Know-Nothing ticket. He had been a consistent opponent of the democracy and of secession. He had married in Washington, and now identified himself with Federal Government and the Union cause. He was not, however, typical of the Creoles. They were, almost to a man, enthusiastic advocates of the new order of things.
Ordinance of Secession of Louisiana
On the whole, New Orleans maintained good order at this tremendous moment. The numerous citizens who expressed Union sentiments were not molested unless they made overt and objectionable display of their p236heterodoxy. On the night when the Ordinance of Secession with adopted, the city was illuminated. A few of the Union sympathizers displayed the United States flag over their doors and from the galleries of their homes, or set up transparencies lettered with anti-secession sentiments. Angry crowds collected and made noisy demonstrations of disapproval in these instances, but no damage was done either to the persons or the property of the offenders. The mood of strained loyalty which produced such demonstrations found a legitimate vent on February 13, when the State flag was hoisted over the City Hall. On that day the militia, under command of Gen. J. L. Lewis, assembled in Lafayette Square; the convention suspended its sessions in order that the members might attend; and a salute of 20 guns was fired as the flag rose on the staff. The president of the convention, Alexandre Mouton, made his appearance, walking with the lieutenant-governor, Hyams. The flag was hoisted by Colonels Laubuzun and de Choiseul. As its silken folds unrolled themselves in the bright morning sunshine, the young soldiers in the square below presented arms, the seething multitude cheered, and the bells in the steeple of Doctor Palmer's church rang joyously.9
The convention, which was now the congress of the free and independent republic of Louisiana, met in New Orleans, on January 29, in the Lyceum Room on the third floor of the City Hall. The election of delegates to the convention of Southern States about to be held in Montgomery, Ala., was one of the immediate questions taken up. This precipitated a discussion about the course to be followed by the State. Should Louisiana cast her lot in with the other Southern States which had already seceded? Should she wait, and see what action would be taken by her immediate neighbors, which, including some of the largest of the Southern Commonwealths, had not yet committed themselves either way? A majority of the convention was in favor of joining the Confederacy forthwith, but a minority urged delay. They pointed out that Louisiana would be the State on which the heaviest burdens would press, in case war eventually developed. The leaders paid little heed to these counsels of moderation, except insofar as they were induced to allow the delegates to go uninstructed to Montgomery. The delegates were chosen. They were seven in number — two at large, and one each from the five congressional districts. The two delegates at large were Alexander de Clouet and John Perkins, both ex-members of the United States Congress. De Clouet was a wealthy lawyer and planter. Among the other delegates two were from New Orleans — Charles M. Conrad, distinguished as having been Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Fillmore, and Duncan Kenner, one of the best-known men connected with the history of the turf, whose memorable contest with John Slidell over the United States senatorship had resulted in the election of Pierre Soulé to that body.
The convention named George Williamson ambassador from Louisiana to Texas. It also authorized the seizure of the United States Mint and the Customhouse in New Orleans, and appointed a committee to take charge of the former, and see that it continued in operation, for the benefit of Louisiana. One of its last official acts was to pass an ordinance creating a State army. This was done chiefly at the instance of "Dick" Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor, who was a native of New Orleans, and a p237resident of the city. General Braxton Bragg was to command this force, which was to be composed of 500 men, enlisted for a period of four months. He was to have the title of brigadier-general. A. H. Gladden was appointed colonel of the infantry regiment, and J. K. Duncan, colonel of the artillery. The former was a veteran of the Mexican war; the latter was a graduate of West Point, who had resigned from the army in , with the expectation of serving with high rank in the filibustering expedition organized by General Quitman, which was frustrated by a presidential proclamation in that year. Bragg's force was quietly organized, but before it was completed, Louisiana had ceased to be an independent political entity, and had incorporated herself into the Confederacy. It therefore became a part of the military organization of the Confederate States.
Events now followed fast one upon another. Beauregard, dismissed from the superintendency of West Point, to which he had just been appointed, arrived to tender his services to the Government, and was promptly ordered away to Charleston. News of the preparations there against Fort Sumter operated to stimulate recruiting in New Orleans. At the first muster of the local military organizations, which took place on Washington's birthday, at the Fair Grounds, Major General Lewis was able to turn out 4,000 men, divided into two brigades, commanded, respectively, by Brigadier-Generals Palfrey and Tracy. The occasion was made memorable by the presentation of a flag to the Washington Artillery by the ladies of New Orleans, and Judah P. Benjamin delivered a thrilling address, to which Lieut. J. T. Wheat, who had been secretary to the secession convention, made a fitting reply. More than 20,000 people flocked to the Fair Grounds to witness the ceremony.
In the midst of these exciting scenes, New Orleans preserved its accustomed blithe spirit. Adelina Patti sang to large audiences in her favorite parts at the French Opera House; Maggie Mitchell played the famous part of "Fanchon," at the St. Charles Theater; Blind Tom, the negro pianist, amazed and delighted hundreds of spectators at Armory Hall; Dan Rice gave exhibitions at Carrollton; the Christy Minstrels entertained a laughing public at the Academy of Music; while at the Metairie Jockey Club the races were going on as usual. In the columns of the newspapers the serious aspect of affairs might find room, but nowhere else was the approaching storm allowed to dampen the good humor of the moment. The Carnival of 1861 was celebrated with all its usual brilliancy. There were splendid balls; the masquerading on Mardi Gras was as general as ever; the procession of the "Mystic Krewe of Comus" lacked nothing of its customary magnificence.
On the day that Lincoln was inaugurated — March 4, 1861 — the convention again met in the Lyceum Hall. Its first act was to arrange for a public reception to General Twiggs, who was returning from Texas to his home in New Orleans, after having been ignominiously dismissed from the United States army, of which he had been long one of the most illustrious ornaments.a He was a veteran of the War of 1812, and had served conspicuously in the field longer than any other officer then connected with the military establishment of the nation. Now old and enfeebled, he had surrendered to the people in San Antonio when they rose and menaced his tiny garrison with attack. For this his resignation had been demanded at Washington. He therefore returned to New Orleans invested with something like the halo of martyrdom. An immense throng gathered on the levee at Canal Street to welcome him; E. W. p238Moise pronounced an address of welcome, and the old soldier was escorted to a carriage and accompanied by the local military organization, was borne in triumph to his home on Prytania Street, near Erato. Twiggs subsequently entered the Confederate service, with the rank of brigadier general, and was put in command of the land defenses at New Orleans, serving in that capacity till replaced by Lovell.
The convention also transacted other business, but soon became involved in disputes over the amount of authority to be relegated to the Confederate Government, and the amount which should be reserved to the State. Ultimately the general constitution already accepted at Montgomery was approved, and then this body, which had performed so many epoch-making acts, adjourned sine die on March 26.
The fall of Fort Sumter on April 14 supplied the next sensation. A banner displayed at the "Delta" office, on which were painted the words, "Sumter hadº fallen," flashed the news to an immense crowd assembled in front of that office. A fiery orator declaimed the particulars from a window on the second-floor. The intelligence produced varying effects upon the populace. Some were made sorrowful at the thought of the completed rupture with the old government; others were frankly appalled at the prospect of a fratricidal war; but the majority, especially the younger element, was boisterously pleased with the prospect of adventure, and vociferous in their enthusiastic admiration for General Beauregard. Followed a few days later President Davis' proclamation calling the South to arms. Louisiana's quota of troops was fixed at 5,000 men. Twice that number promptly offered themselves, — more than could be armed; and the majority of this total was recruited in New Orleans. Gladden had taken advantage of the prevailing excitement to recruit his regiment to its full strength; Colonel Coppens had organized a regiment of Zouaves; and both of these commands, together with the Crescent Rifles, the Louisiana Rifles, and other commands, were now hurried off, on a requisition from General Bragg, to re-enforce his army in Pensacola, where he was planning an attack on Fort Pickens. On April 29 a review was held at which 8,000 were in line.
The report that United States warships had instituted a blockade at the mouth of the river was the first hint of the disadvantages of war which the city received, but even this serious news did not produce any panic. This fact, joined to the news of General Grant's operations around Cairo, made the citizens realize the need to fortify the city against a possible attack. The valorous spirit of inexperience, however, made them take this subject lightly. It was recalled that Jedediah Leeds, one of the oldest foundrymen in the city, had, in 1812, driven off a British ship with a single 6‑pounder gun and a few hot shot, and there seemed no good reason to suppose that a similar exploit might not have been attended now with a similarly satisfactory result. Col. P. O. Hebert,º a West Pointer, was, however, sent to make an inspection of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and reported that much work would be needed to put them in a condition where they might offer a serious resistance to an enemy's attack.b The guns in these forts were all comparatively small — 42‑pounders and 24‑pounders, as they were termed in that day. Seven Columbiads found in the arsenal at Baton Rouge, when it was captured from the United States garrison, were now sent down to the forts, after having first been mounted in the gunshops recently opened in the Customhouse. The City Council later (Aug. 9) appropriated $100,000 p239to be expended by Twiggs on the defenses of the city. In February, 1862, the Council floated bonds to the value of $1,000,000, the proceeds of which were handed to Lovell, and used by him for similar purposes.
In April, the steamer "Havana," a little steamer which formerly had made a semi-monthly trip to Cuba, was purchased by the Confederate Government, and in a shipyard in Algiers was converted into the cruiser "Sumter." Marines for service on board of her were recruited in New Orleans by Captain VanBenthuysen.10 This was the privateer which, under Admiral Semmes, wrought so much havoc among Federal shipping. A month later the Phoenix Iron Works, in Gretna, opposite the City of Lafayette, cast the first gun made in New Orleans for the Confederate Government. This was an •8‑inch Dahlgren gun, intended to fire shell, and had a length of •eight and one-half feet.11 About the same time the steamer, "Star of the West," was put in commission as the navy's receiving ship in the port of New Orleans. She was stationed at the navy yard in Algiers, under the temporary command of Midshipman Comstock.12 This active interest in the Confederate navy culminated in a meeting of the New Orleans steamboatmen, held at the Captains' Association Room, on August 29, at which resolutions were adopted expressing "fealty" to the Confederacy, and promising to the government the support of the Southern boatmen.
During the remainder of the year the history of the city is mainly a catalogue of military organizations, formed, mustered, and dispatched to the seat of war. After May 1 one of these left the city almost every day. Among them one of the first to go was the celebrated Battalion of the Washington Artillery, which, having won renown on the battlefields in Mexico, twelve or fourteen years before, was now to earn a still more enviable reputation in far greater and bloodier contests. The citizens raised $7,000 with which to outfit the command, of which some $500 was contributed by the women of the city. On March 26, the day when the command entrained, remarkable scenes were witnessed. The soldiers first marched to the First Presbyterian Church, where Doctor Palmer addressed them in words which eloquently embodied the crusading spirit of the community at this moment of exaltation. "Soldiers," he exclaimed, "history reads to us of wars which have been baptized as holy; but she enters upon her records none which is holier than this in which you have embarked. It is a war of defense against wicked and cruel aggression — a war of civilization against a ruthless barbarism which would dishonor the dark ages — a war of religion against a blind and bloody fanaticism. It is a war for your homes and your firesides — for your wives and children — for the land which the Lord has given us as a heritage. It is a war for the maintenance of the broadest principles for which a free people can contend — the right of self-government. Eighty-five years ago our fathers fought in defense of the chartered right of Englishmen, that taxation and representation are correlative. We, their sons, contend today for the great American principle that all just government derives its powers from the will of the governed. It is the corner-stone of the great temple which on this continent has been reared to freedom; and its denial leads, as the events of the past two months clearly show, to despotism p240the most absolute and intolerable — a despotism more grinding than that of the Turk or Russian, because it is the despotism of the mob, unregulated by principle or precedent, drifting at the will of an unscrupulous and irresponsible majority. [. . .] Soldiers, farewell! And may the Lord of Hosts be around about you as a wall of fire, and shield your head in the day of battle!"13
From the church the command marched to the train. They were followed by a great multitude, which, when the soldiers halted, filled their pockets with spending money, and showered them with flowers. Similar demonstrations attended the departure of the other commands. Within two months Louisiana sent to the army 10,000 men, without exhausting her man-power; so that when Grant's advance into Mississippi involved a fresh draft, several fine commands, including Fenner's battery, were still available in New Orleans to go to Columbus, to strengthen the Confederate line there. At least one colored regiment was organized in the city at this time. It was 1,000 strong. It tendered its services to the Confederate Government, but as a matter of general policy, which did not countenance the organization of colored commands, they were declined. Otherwise, it is quite probable that many other units equally powerful might have been recruited in New Orleans alone. This solitary negro regiment retained its organization for a long time. It had white officers, and participated under their command in many reviews. There was also a battalion of colored men, under a negro man named Jordan, who had beat the drum which called Jackson's forces into line at the beginning of the battle of New Orleans, in 1815. So earnest were these troops in their loyalty to the Confederacy that when a large detachment of prisoners was sent to the city after the battle of Manassas, they begged the privilege of escorting the Federal soldiers through the streets to their place of confinement. Though this request was denied, the battalion turned out and followed the prisoners through the streets in a sort of mock triumphal procession.14
Towards the close of April a camp was established at Metairie Ridge. It was first known as Camp Metairie, but subsequently this name was changed to Camp Walker. It accommodated about 4,000 men. Later, it proved unhealthful, and was ultimately abandoned. Another camp was opened in what is now called Audubon Park. This was named Camp Lewis, in honor of the gallant old soldier, John L. Lewis. In May it was estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 troops were collected in and around the city.15 Four months later, when a great review was held, not less than 25,000 men took part. Successive drafts, however, rapidly depleted these totals. In February, 1862, the city was virtually stripped of troops to re-enforce Beauregard's army in Western Tennessee. What then remained in New Orleans was organized into a state militia, which included a European brigade recruited among the French, English, and other foreign residents of the city, and commanded by Maj. C. T. Buddecke.
The condition of New Orleans at the outbreak of the war was never so prosperous. The crops of that year were gathered and marketed after the passage of the Ordinance of Secession; they were the largest and p241most valuable in the history of the State. The sugar crop amounted to 458,000 hogsheads, and there were twice that number of barrels of molasses; the sale of which brought into the State $25,000,000 to be divided among 1,300 planters. The cotton crop aggregated 600,000 bales, valued at $30,000,000. These, with rice, represented the exportable products of the State; most of them were handled through New Orleans. The fraction of its business represented by the imports, exports, and domestic receipts were valued at a total of $324,000,000.16 The price of real estate rose to unprecedented figures as a result of the great prosperity of the city. In 1861 there were eleven banks, with an aggregate capital of $20,251,000; only four of them survived the next ten years. In 1865 the joint capital of these banks did not exceed $8,578,000, represented by assets conservatively estimated to have a cash value of not more than $4,000,000. For the moment, however, the sale of the vast stores of cotton and sugar accumulated in the city enabled the banks to carry on their business, and up to the middle of the year 1861, apparently "flush" times prevailed.
But as the year advanced conditions changed. As early as July 29 it was necessary to call meetings to take action for the relief of Confederate soldiers and their families. At a meeting held on that date in the Merchants' Exchange, at which Doctor Palmer and Judge Ogden made brilliant addresses, a standing committee of twenty-four prominent citizens was appointed which labored ceaselessly thereafter at this laudable task. The gradual cessation of business caused a corresponding extension of the distress. Receipts and orders from the country declined. There was for a time some speculation connected with the blockade runners which, under letters of marque from the Confederate Government, braved the Federal warships on guard at the Passes, and carried cotton out to foreign ports, or brought home from them the articles of which the Confederacy was already beginning to feel the need. Gradually, however, as the blockade became stricter, that business, too, vanished. The towboats once busy in the harbor, collected under their tarpaulins in the shelter of Slaughterhouse Point, or at Morgan's Texas Steamship wharf. Some of these were converted into war vessels by the simple process of plating them with railroad iron, bulkheading their prows, and erecting fenders of cotton bales around their boiler rooms. Then, armed with whatever artillery could be found for the purpose, they had stolen away — some up the river and some down. The merchants in the city found occupation in speculating on the daily diminishing supply of food and goods. A few, more honorable and more patriotic, refused to share in this manipulation of the necessaries of life, and dealt with consumers directly. In September the banks suspended specie payments under an order from the Confederate authorities. The local markets were greatly disturbed by the scarcity of small change which naturally followed.17 The City Council authorized the issuance of checks with a view to relieve the need. These checks, made in various small denominations, passed into general circulation, at first at their par value, and then at progressive rates of discount. Business houses, too, began to emit notes and certificates to meet the famine of small change; these evidences of indebtedness were called "shinplasters," and became the principal medium with which p242minor commercial transactions were carried on. George W. Cable, the celebrated novelist, who was an eye-witness of the distress of the city at that time, has given us a vivid account of the expedients which were adopted to supply the city's need of small coin. Boss butchers and the keepers of drinking-houses were among the most prolific publishers of this kind of money; and in lieu of the five-cent pieces, the tickets of the street car companies were much in vogue.18 As the value of the circulating medium declined, the cost of food and clothing rose. Finally the market men and women, who were largely Germans, Gascons, and French, refused to accept the "shinplasters" and the city authorities had to intervene, and compel them to receive it.
Steps were ultimately taken to distribute food among those who were by now no longer able to pay for it. In July the new iron water works building at the foot of Canal Street was opened by order of the City Council as a depot of supplies. This was the so‑called "free-market." It began its work in the nick of time; for at the beginning of the following month, the financial condition of the city compelled it to suspend payment of the allowance of $10 per month which it was making to the families of volunteer soldiers. This was a severe blow to a large class of worthy poor. To them the "free market" was of incalculable benefit. The planters along the river above the city furnished supplies generously. Bread in loaves, meal, rice, beans, molasses, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables were regularly available. The distribution of these supplies was under the supervision of Thomas Murray. Twice a week poor families might apply to the "free market" and have their necessities at least in part relieved. On the first day on which the "free market" was in operation — August 16 — 723 such families applied; this number rose rapidly to 2,000; and on the day that this useful institution was finally closed, April 29, 1862, its relief was accepted by 1,940 families. No one was ever turned away. "Some scenes in the free market are quite ludicrous," comments Julia LeGrand, in her diary, written at this time; "Some of the women, if told that they cannot gratify some particular taste, refuse all that is offered; for instance, one became angry a few days ago, because presented with black tea instead of green, and another, finding no coffee, turned up her nose at all the other comfortable items which the market contains. Some women, they say, curse their benefactors heartily when disappointed. Coffee they had at first, but blockade times have changed this once familiar berry into something resembling gold beads. Cleopatra, with her pearls, was scarcely more 'wastefully given' than a coffee drinker in these days."19 But the cases of ingratitude were infrequent, and the real good done by the "free market" can never be estimated. There was some distress which its ministrations could not reach. Those who were too proud to accept public charity were reached by private enterprise, or by associations formed for this purpose, of which there were many. The Confederate Guards, an aristocratic command formed from among the older and richer members of the community, and included in the so‑called "home guard," not only raised and equipped several companies of soldiers for the active service from which age debarred themselves, but now exerted themselves to take care of the families of the men who enlisted. One company of this command taxed its members $250 each for this p243purpose. The women of the city were indefatigable in their exertions; not only did they relieve cases of distress brought to their attention locally, but they worked ceaselessly to supply food and delicacies for the wounded Confederate soldiers at the front. They were fiercely loyal, these ladies; and they sent old hoop-skirts to the men who for one reason or another, remained at home instead of joining the army and going away to fight.
An editorial published in the Picayune on September 27, 1861, commended Mayor Monroe for his activity in arresting alien enemies. There are frequent mentions in the newspapers of the time of the arrest and trial of spies. It was believed that Butler dispatched these wretched persons into the city from the camp at Ship Island, where a Federal army was slowly being collected under the protection of the Federal fleet, for a descent upon New Orleans. Cable also speaks of an elaborate system of espionage instituted in New Orleans by the "Thugs," a name which was applied indiscriminately to the Know-Nothing party and to the rowdies and gangsters with which the city had been infested for several years.
Finally, inº October, 1861, Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell relieved General Twiggs of his command of the department in which the City of New Orleans had been placed. On February 21, 1862, a committee of public safety, many of whose names are still familiar in the city, was appointed by the Council to act in concert with the general, in reference to the city and its approaches. And then, on March 16, General Lovell put the city under martial law. Information had been received that the long-rumored attack on the city by the Federal fleet was about to be made.
1 Jewell's "New Orleans," p130.
2 Russell, "My Diary North and South," 93, 94.
3 Picayune, October 14, 1860.
4 Dimitry, "Louisiana," in the "Confederate Military History," X, Chap. I.
5 Hunt, "Life of Randall Hunt," p. xlii; Bee, May 10, 1860.
6 Delta, December 2, 1860.
7 Ficklen, "Reconstruction in Louisiana," 15, 16.
8 Picayune, March 3, 1862.
9 Crescent, February 14, 1861.
10 Picayune, April 21, 1861.
11 Picayune, May 4, 1861.
12 Picayune, May 5, 1861.
13 Johnson, "Life of Benjamin Morgan Palmer," pp238‑239.
14 Times, 1880, passim.
15 Rightor, "Standard History of New Orleans," p153.
16 Waring and Cable, Social Statistics of Cities, 267.
17 Picayune, September 18, 1861.
18 Cable, "New Orleans Before the Capture," Century Magazine, July, 1886.
19 Journal of Julia LeGrand, pp37, 38.
a Gen. Twiggs was dismissed from the Federal army on March 1, 1861 for having surrendered his garrison to Texas: for the full circumstances, see Freeman, Robert E. Lee, Vol. I, pp424‑427 and passim. Freeman's book is also useful for Twiggs' career in the Mexican War: see the index.
b For more detail, see The Seizure of the Forts in Louisiana in 1861 (LH 2:401‑409).
Images with borders lead to more information.
J. S. Kendall's History
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 6 Mar 13