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Chapter 21

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of New Orleans

by
John Kendall

published by The Lewis Publishing Company,
Chicago and New York, 1922

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 23
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p342 Chapter XXII
Wiltz

The period of Flanders' administration witnessed a series of thrilling occurrences in New Orleans. Properly speaking, these events belong to the history of the State; but they must be described here, not only because they took place in the city, and kept it in a constant state of excitement and disorder, but because they deeply influenced the history of the municipality. In 1871 the republican national organization began to show signs of division along factional lines. This tendency resulted, in Louisiana, in the formation of several bitterly antagonistic groups. The most enlightened element in the party was included in the so‑called "liberal" republican faction, of which Warmoth made himself leader. Its interests naturally coincided with those of the down-trodden democrats, and the logic of events ultimately made a combination of these two parties advisable.1 The extreme, or radical wing of the republican party — the "Custom House" party — got its name from the fact that it was led by the United States marshal, Packard, who had his office in that building. With Packard was aligned the speaker of the lower house of the State Legislature, G. W. Carter.

A furious contest arose between these two factions over the control of the party machinery. The struggle at first centered upon the State Central Committee, and then upon the House of Representatives. The former phase culminated in August, 1871, when the Carterites secured control of the committee, assembled it in the Custom House under the protection of Federal soldiery, and refused admission to all delegates who could not exhibit a special ticket issued by Packard. By this device Warmoth, and the lieutenant governor, Pinchback, and their adherents were excluded from the meeting. They indignantly withdrew to Turners' Hall, and there effected an organization of their own, at which a series of resolutions was adopted bitterly denunciatory of the Custom House meeting.

The legislature met in regular session on January 1, 1872. Warmoth determined to drive Carter from the speakership of the House, if possible; Carter, on his side, was resolved upon the political destruction of a man whom he described as "the greatest practical liar."2 At first, the Carterites seemed to have everything their own way. A vote of confidence in Carter was passed in the House in the midst of the wildest excitement. Moreover, he was authorized to call in the Metropolitan Police, and to appoint sergeants-at‑arms in any number, and whenever in his judgment necessary, to protect the assembly from Warmoth and his adherents. Four of the Warmoth delegates were unseated, on the ground that they did not reside in the parishes which they claimed to represent, and Carterites contestants were admitted in their places. Finally, Warmoth himself and several of his lieutenants were arrested, haled before Marshal Packard, and put under $500 appearance bonds, on charges of interfering with the organization and conduct of the State Legislature.

p343 But Warmoth was not beaten by any means. He declared these proceedings a conspiracy to overthrow the government, and called a special meeting of the legislature to deal with the situation. Naturally, the members who responded were his own adherents. They lost no time in unseating Carter, and electing as his successor a "reliable" person, named Brewster. They also authorized Warmoth to place soldiers around the Mechanics' Institute, and thus prevent Carter and his supporters from getting access to that building, then used as the State Capitol. Carter withdrew to a room above the "Gem" saloon, on Royal Street, near Canal, and proceeded to organize what he termed "the legal House of Representatives." He did not muster a quorum, and sergeants-at‑arms were sent to gather in a sufficient number of members to constitute it. They seem to have arrested absentee legislators wherever they encountered such, without reference to their affiliations with the warring factions. Under these circumstances, it was obvious that a clash could not long be averted. In fact, on January 7, rioting took place in Royal Street, and a member of the Warmoth Legislature, Wheyland, was killed. An effort was made to fasten the crime upon Carter and certain of his associates, but Wheyland was really killed by the police, and the judge before whom the accused was arraigned promptly discharged them. After that, peace was only maintained by General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Emory and the soldiers of the United States army.3 Emory was instrumental, two weeks later, in preventing bloodshed, when Carter, at the head of several thousand persons, mainly negroes, marched on the Mechanics' Institute, with the avowed intention of seizing the building by force. The General had instructions from Washington to prevent a conflict between armed men in New Orleans, and his announced intention to obey them to the letter, caused the movement to collapse suddenly.

After that, desertions from the Carter camp, which had begun early p344in the month, proceeded at an accelerated rate, until Warmoth was in absolute control again. Brewster's election was confirmed, as well as all the other actions of the Warmoth faction during the interim; and the legislature remained in session, without further molestation, till February 29. But the scandal of the Warmoth-Carter affair ran through the entire nation. Congress was compelled to act. It sent a committee to New Orleans to investigate. This committee submitted two reports, which agreed in representing the disorders in Louisiana as due to factional quarrels among the republicans. The minority report characterized both factions equally as composed of "adventurers [. . .] from all sections, destitute alike of either political or personal integrity, and [. . .] fattening upon the plunder wrung from the property and toil of the people." As for the legislature, "the world has rarely known a [. . .] body so rank with ignorance and corruption."4 Strong language, this, but amply justified by the facts.

In these dissentions in the dominant party, the conservative population of New Orleans saw an opportunity to regain control of the government. A movement which began in New Orleans, at a mass meeting held in December, 1871, and which at first contemplated nothing more than reform in the municipal organization, rapidly spread and assumed a more ambitious aspect. At that meeting a committee of 51 prominent citizens, with Isaac N. Marks as chairman, was appointed to investigate ways and means of bettering the city government. Its report, made in the following February, declared that "the troubles in the municipal government are in a large measure due to state interference, and the manipulation of city affairs by State authorities." Reform in the city, therefore, could be obtained only when it had been first brought about in the State. The report continued: "Disheartened by the unblushing deceit of the executive and legislative branches of your State Government, and convinced that no relief is possible while that government as now constituted remains in existence," the committee "determined [. . .] to recommend the rapid organization of the people of the city and all over the State, not into secret, oath-bound associations, but into one grand party of reform." The organization which resulted called itself the reform party. It appointed a provisional State executive committee, and on March 12 issued an address calling upon all friends of good government, white and colored, to join the movement. This condition of affairs in the State, ran this document, was "due to the frightful spoliation and robbery of which she was the victim, to a lack of sympathy and co‑operation between the two great races inhabiting our territory." The committee believed that in Louisiana the two political parties were divided upon "issues of prejudice and feeling" rather than of "abstract reason." "The consequence is that the contests between these parties in reference to our local concerns, have more of bitterness than is ordinarily the case."5

The same feeling that a crisis had arrived animated the addresses issued by the Democratic State Central Committee in April and in June. They called on the people to "put the brand of infamy upon the brows of those who have dishonored and plundered Louisiana, to expel them p345from their high places, and make them Giovanni way to honest and capable men." Both the democratic and the reform conventions met in June in New Orleans. Neither could ignore the necessity of fusion. Conference committees were named on both sides. These reported a compromise ticket headed by George Williams, of Caddo Parish. The reform convention accepted this ticket practically without a dissenting voice, but it was rejected by the democrats. Not only did the latter disapprove the conference report, but they nominated an opposition ticket of their own, with John McEnery's name at the head. Fortunately there were on both tickets many identical names. The way was thus open to further negotiations. Finally, the reformers were induced to withdraw their nominees and support the McEnery ticket.

On the other hand, each of the republican factions held conventions and nominated State tickets. These factions were now three in number, the lieutenant-governor, Pinchback, having quarreled with Warmoth, ostensibly because the latter proposed to co‑operate with the democrats with a view to procure the election in Louisiana of the Greeley-Brown presidential electors. The Custom House faction put out a State ticket headed by William Pitt Kellogg. The Pinchback faction nominated its leader for governor. Pinchback apparently never had any serious intention of contesting the governorship; his plan was to unite on favorable terms with the Packard faction. It proved difficult, however, to smooth away all the differences between the two groups. This was not effected till late in the summer. Then the State officers were apportioned among the two parties, Kellogg retaining the nomination for governor, and Pinchback taking that for state auditor.

In the meantime Warmoth's "Liberals" had also held a convention in New Orleans. They met on August 5 and remained in session six days. On the first day a committee was named to confer with the democratic and reform parties, with a view to unite upon a fusion ticket. Combination was ultimately effected by the acceptance by the liberals of a ticket with John McEnery as nominee for the governorship, D. B. Penn for the lieutenant-governorship, H. N. Ogden for state auditor, and other equally well-known citizens as candidates for the remaining offices. Thus, as election day approached, there were in the field two state tickets — the democratic, supported by the reform party and by Warmoth's faction of the republicans; and the republican, endorsed by the Packard-Pinchback organization.

The fusion movement in state politics was paralleled by a similar movement in the City of New Orleans. W. R. Fish, president of the "Republican" Publishing Company, was nominated by the radical republicans. The liberals withheld their support, prepared to throw it to the democratic nominee, if a satisfactory understanding could be effected. But democracy was divided. There were the regular democratic organization, and, in addition, the citizens' party and the parish fusionists. These elements were all favorable to the candidacy of L. A. Wiltz for mayor, but otherwise their tickets presented wide divergences. The principal obstacle to fusion was the administratorship of improvements. The liberals contended that in any allocation of offices, this post ought to go to them. The democrats were not ready to concede this point. The parish fusionists supported N. E. Bailey for the post. The citizens' party named Maj. E. A. Burke. Burke finally received the endorsement of the liberals. But Burke's candidacy gave widespread dissatisfaction. p346The Picayune proposed that the compromise be effected, all candidates to retire in favor of Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.P. G. T. Beauregard.6 This suggestion was received with considerable favor. On October 25 the democratic clubs met in convention, and appointed a committee of seven to discuss the basis of fusion with all factions opposed to the radical republicans. It was frankly stated that, while the adoption of the regular democratic ticket would be the most acceptable arrangement, this was not vital, and reasonable concessions would be made. The committee's work resulted in the formulation of a new ticket, announced on October 29. The letter publishing the names of the fusion nominees was signed by Archie Mitchell, on behalf of the Democratic Parish Committee, and by B. R. Forman and D. Warren Brickell, on behalf of the executive committee of the reform party. This ticket was headed by Wiltz, and Beauregard was put on it for the post of administrator of improvements. The other administrators were John Calhoun, Louis Schneider, Robert Brewster, H. F. Sturcken, and B. M. Turnbull. Candidates were also named for the subordinate offices, but among them there were subsequently many changes, to fit the ideas of various other groups of voters, as they were successively induced to endorse the ticket.

The election took place on November 4, the day before the presidential elections were held in the other states of the Union. On the whole "unusually good order prevailed."7 This was true, in spite of the fact that fraud was attempted at many places in the city. Any number of fictitious tickets bearing the names "Fusion," "Independent," etc., were circulated at the polls, each carrying the name of some radical candidate. "In this way almost all of the fusion candidates were, by some combination or other," unfavorably affected.8 Interest, however, was concentrated on the state ticket. McEnery undoubtedly received a majority of the votes cast in state and city, but a way was open by which the popular will could nevertheless be nullified. Under the law, the returns should be canvassed by a Returning Board, composed of the governor, the lieutenant-governor, the secretary of state, and two others to be chosen by these three. At this moment the board was composed of Warmoth, Pinchback, Herron, John Lynch, and T. C. Anderson. Pinchback, as president of the State Senate, was ex‑officio lieutenant-governor. Herron was acting secretary of state, vice George Bovee, removed by Warmoth a short time before. It was the duty of this board to complete the tabulation of the returns and announce the result within 10 days. Warmoth proceeded high-handedly to make sure that the board would decide in favor of McEnery. By excluding Pinchback and Anderson on the ground that, being themselves candidates in the election, they were ineligible to sit, and by summarily removing Herron, he got rid of all objectionable persons. Their places were supplied by the appointment of Jack Wharton, F. W. Hatch and Durant Da Ponte. Lynch refused to act with the board as thus constituted. He and Herron now proceeded to organize another board by adding to themselves Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James Longstreet and Jacob Hawkins. Thus there were two bodies, each with a semblance of authority claiming the right to decide which candidate had received in the election a majority of the suffrages.

p347 The election was fought out in the United States courts in a series of injunctions, too numerous to be described here in detail. Finally, Kellogg was successful in obtaining from Judge Durell an ex parte order restraining Warmoth's appointees from serving, authorizing the Lynch board to canvass the ballots, and prohibiting McEnery from taking office on the basis of any statement of election from the Wharton-Hatch-Da Ponte board. Warmoth thereupon resurrected a bill passed at the previous session of the legislature, vesting the senate with authority to name the members of the returning board. The governor had not signed it at that time because then it would have curtailed his power, but now it suited his purpose exactly, and he signed and promulgated it, and called a meeting of the senate for the following December, to take action thereunder. In the meantime, declaring that this law operated to abolish all Returning Boards, he availed himself of another law authorizing him as governor to fill vacancies while the State Legislature was not sitting, and appointed a temporary board, which is known in history by the name of one of its members, De Feriet. The De Feriet board promptly did what it was appointed to do — it declared the Greeley-Brown presidential electors successful by nearly 6,000 majority, and the McEnery ticket elected in its entirety, by a slightly larger majority.9

Warmoth's proceedings gave offense to Judge Durell, who held that they constituted a "violation" of the restraining order which he had recently issued. He therefore issued an order which a committee of the United States Congress subsequently denounced as "without a parallel in judicial proceedings." This order was addressed to the United States marshal, and directed him to seize the Mechanics' Institute, and keep possession of it until further instructions, on the ground that this was necessary to protect the peace and prevent unlawful assemblages. Its object was to exclude McEnery and his associates from the State Capitol, and throw the control of the State Government into Kellogg's hands. The order was issued at night, out of court, in the absence of the clerk or other attesting officer, and did not bear the official seal. Legally, it was without value. Nevertheless, Packard, accompanied by a detachment of Federal troops, put it into execution at 2:00 A.M., December 6. These proceedings were endorsed by the attorney general of the United States, in a telegram addressed to Packard. Durell issued another order to the Lynch Returning Board which, in effect, legalized the claims of the Kellogg faction, and set up a State Legislature in opposition to that supported by Warmoth.10 The McEnery party, though excluded from power, kept its organization together, and during the two next troubled years continually asserted its rights, as the de jure government of Louisiana.

The counting of the vote for the municipal officers in New Orleans was complicated by the situation in the State. The ballot boxes were removed to the Mechanics' Institute as soon as the polls closed, with the announced object of counting the vote at once. The count, however, was delayed by an order from General Longstreet, directing that no action be taken that night, ostensibly because the tellers were not provided with proper stationery on which to enter the record. It was surmised, however, that Longstreet was really apprehensive of the effect p348that the news of a conservative triumph in New Orleans might produce in other states in the presidential elections of the following day.11 The newspapers complained that when the count actually began discrimination was shown as to the persons permitted to be present at the ceremony, in spite of the fact that the law allowed any person who so desired to witness it. Some of the candidates were admitted, others were excluded. Two lines of Metropolitan police were stationed in front of the room where the count was in progress. Persons who wished to pass were required to exhibit their citizenship and other papers, and even then were in many cases arbitrarily refused.12 In the end the result was announced — Wiltz and his entire ticket, 23,896 votes, as against Fish and the Republican ticket, 12,984.13 Wiltz immediately took the oath of office before a notary public and armed himself with a certificate of election from the registrar of voters, Blanchard.14

Flanders did not surrender the mayoralty without a struggle. When on November 26th Wiltz and four of the newly elected administrators presented themselves at the City Hall, he demanded that they exhibit commissions signed by the governor before he yielded. Such commissions they did not have. Flanders declined to recognize Blanchard's certificate. He insisted that he could not vacate the office until assured that he delivered it into proper hands. Otherwise, he said, he would incur liabilities of a very serious character. This was absurd, as Wiltz pointed out, since Flanders had never given any bond, and therefore could not profitably be sued, no matter what event transpired. It was, however, agreed that he should have until November 29th, at 11 A.M., to consult his attorneys and arrive at a decision.

Flanders professed the most correct sentiments. "For my part," he wrote in a message to the City Council, rehearsing the incidents just related, "I am willing to part with our troubles and responsibilities. It is not to be supposed under a government of law that any resort will be had to violence and illegal interference. We should cheerfully give way at once if legal advice should concur that we should, and as cheerfully submit to the counsel, if otherwise; and we cannot suppose that any disposition exists on the other hand, except to accomplish lawful results by lawful and peaceful means."15 The council thereupon empowered him to employ legal advisors, and Christian Roselius, one of the most distinguished members of the local bar, was called in. But by November 29 Roselius seems still to have had the matter under consideration.


[image ALT: A woodcut of the head and shoulders of a thin man in early middle age, wearing 19c dress. It is Louis Wiltz, a mayor of New Orleans.]

Mayor L. A. Wiltz

Early on that day large crowds assembled around the City Hall. At noon a detachment of ten policemen, under a sergeant, arrived at the building and took positions outside of the door of the mayor's office. Gen. A. S. Badger, then chief of police, arrived soon after and "pointedly" instructed the men that they were to take no part in the pending controversy and limit themselves to preserving order; their duty was to prevent the crowd from rushing into the mayor's office. The demeanor of the throng without does not seem to have warranted these apprehensions. According to the newspapers, it behaved "with less p349excitement than was to have been expected." Wiltz and his associates, apprehending that they would be opposed if they again attempted to take possession of the offices to which they had been elected, applied to the District Court for an injunction restraining Flanders and the other members of the retiring administration from interfering. Judge Elmore granted a rule nisi returnable December 6th. Anticipating the service of this rule, Wiltz and his friends did not present themselves at the hall till 2 P.M. They then arrived accompanied by several attorneys and eight or ten unofficial escorts. They went at once to the mayor's parlor, where Flanders met them with a request for further delay, alleging that he had not yet heard from his counsel. While he and Wiltz were discussing this matter, the sheriff arrived to serve the rule. Flanders was indignant. Considerable excitement followed. Flanders insisted that he could do nothing whatever until Roselius had had an opportunity to pass upon this new development of the case. Wiltz felt obliged to concede a short delay.

Roselius' reply was sent in by a messenger within half an hour, and was to the effect that the injunction merely prohibited the mayor and his administrators from interference, but did not enjoin any act upon them. Flanders therefore announced that he could make no opposition if Wiltz seized the government, but would continue to regard himself as rightful mayor of the city. Wiltz thereupon took the official seat at the mayor's desk and installed the new administrators. After further conversation, which the newspapers assure us was "quite friendly," Flanders and his fellow officials withdrew.16

The new mayor was a native of New Orleans and was in his twenty-ninth year. Among his ancestors were some of the first German settlers in Louisiana. His mother was a daughter of a Spanish soldier p350who came to the colony with O'Reilly. Wiltz attended the public schools in his native city till about fifteen years of age, and then obtained employment in a mercantile establishment. At the beginning of the Civil war he enlisted in the New Orleans Artillery. He was speedily elected captain of Company E, Chalmette Regiment, and with this command was stationed at Fort Jackson, where he and his men were captured by the Federals in 1862. Subsequently exchanged, he returned to the Confederate army, and was on active duty till the close of hostilities. He then returned to New Orleans and began a successful mercantile career. He entered politics as a member of the Orleans Democratic Parish Committee and was later elected a member of the State Central Committee. In 1868 he was elected to the State Legislature. In that body, notorious for its corruption and intrigue, he maintained an untarnished reputation and earned the unswerving confidence of his constituents. His service on the Board of Aldermen in New Orleans and his removal therefrom by governor Warmoth have already been mentioned. Wiltz was a man of energy, ability and dauntless courage.17

In undertaking the duties of chief magistrate of New Orleans, Wiltz found himself confronted by conditions more embarrassing than any of his predecessors had ever faced. He himself appreciated the impossibility of the situation. In his inaugural message he said: "It is plain that the great majority anticipate from our hands far more than can be accomplished by any means."18 The financial condition of the municipality could hardly have been worse. Wiltz himself has left us a graphic picture of its perplexities. "Capital has fled from" the city, "and the process of withdrawal has not ceased. Building has almost ceased, while thousands of overtaxed houses are left without tenants. [. . .] Extravagant port charges have driven off ships and damaged our commerce. Northern and foreign capitalists, looking with keen-eyed scrutiny into the management of our public affairs, have recorded their verdict against the public abuses in Louisiana, and that verdict can be read in every stock list where the bonds of New Orleans and of the State are quoted, showing that our credit has been damaged to a ruinous extent. We cannot borrow more money from those who think that we already owe more than we can pay promptly or with certainty. [. . .] Where the public debt is more than one-quarter of all the available property and many times more than all of the available property owned by the corporation, strangers must draw and inference disparaging to the sagacity of our citizens and of our rulers and legislators."19 As a matter of fact, since 1867 the value of real estate had depreciated twenty per cent; business was burdened with a double schedule of State and city licenses on trades, professions and occupations, which produced annually about $500,000; and the city was liable for two debts, city and State, the former estimated at $42,000,000, the latter at $21,000,000.20 The city tax rate, nominally low, was actually exorbitant, due to the fictitious valuation put on taxable property. It actually stood in the neighborhood of five per cent; in addition to which there was a state tax of two p351per cent.21 In return for these exactions the city received virtually nothing.


[image ALT: A woodcut, probably after a photograph, of a large portion of a city, with many blocks of large regular rectangular buildings four to six stories tall; in the background, a body of water. It is a 19c view of New Orleans.]

Bird's-Eye View of New Orleans in 1873

These deplorable results Wiltz attributed to the practice of making appropriations and issuing certificates therefor before money had been received to make payment. These certificates had become a kind of city script,º bearing no interest, payable at no certain date and having no fixed value. Divided into small sums and issued for services or material to persons who were unable to wait till the city might be in a position to pay in cash, this paper was sold on the streets at enormous discounts. The situation reacted on the municipality in the form of enormously high prices on all purchases. Hitherto the only remedy attempted by municipal financiers had been to refund the debt. Bonds issued for this purpose during Flanders' administration had netted the city less than 70 per cent of their face value, although bearing heavy interest and made redeemable in coin or its equivalent. In lieu of such expenditures, Wiltz proposed that appropriations be made only against cash actually in hand.

This plan, admirable in theory, broke down in practice. In February, 1873, for example, in the hope of putting the city on a cash basis, he obtained from the City Council authority to borrow enough money to pay all the expenses of the preceding month, pledging the city's 10 per cent bonds at 80 per cent of their face value as collateral for the loan, and, as a further inducement to capital, guaranteeing that the money should be applied to the extinguishment of the city debt and to no other purpose whatsoever.22 This only gave momentary relief; it was impossible to carry on the business of the city without anticipating its revenues. Therefore, a month later we find the council appointing a commission p352composed of the mayor and certain of the administrators to ascertain what public improvements could be suspended without immediate public damage. At the same time an arrangement was effected with the gas company to reduce its service one-third. All repairs to the streets, except the maintenance of the gutter crossings, were abandoned. The city's cash receipts were sufficient barely to pay interest on the bonded debt, to retire that portion thereof which was required by law and to meet a few indispensable expenses. Moreover, as the limit of the bonded and certified debt as prescribed by the existing law was now nearly reached, it was impossible to issue further bonds, and Wiltz was opposed to that course anyhow. Various expedients were resorted to stimulate the payment of taxes. In April, 1873, an ordinance was passed allowing a cash discount to citizens who paid their taxes promptly in cash; and in December another ordinance empowered the administrator of finances to receive in payment of city taxes the evidences of the city's unpaid indebtedness, as, for example, drainage warrants in payment of drainage taxes.23 This matter was made still more complicated by the persistence of the tax-resisting associations, which, as we have seen, came into existence in Flanders' time and which still continued to refuse to pay certain impositions made by city and by state.24

Wiltz's task was made difficult also by the fact that the city continued to be the object of important litigation, notably the great Gaines case. In this celebrated suit a decision rendered against the city in June, 1874, compelled Wiltz to borrow $148,000 — an immense sum in those days. There was, moreover, the tax for the support of the Metropolitan police. Wiltz strongly advocated the repeal of this iniquitous tax, which amounted to 44½ cents on every $100 of the assessed value of the real and personal property of the city. It is not remarkable, then, that although Wiltz entertained the strongest feelings against certain forms of taxation introduced by his radical predecessors, and particularly against the license system, he found himself unable to dispense with the revenue which they produced. Each year during his administration saw the enactment of license ordinances which did not differ essentially from those of antecedent administrations, although, as Wiltz himself pointed out in one of his messages to the council, they worked real injury to business. Finally, in November, 1874, the state of the municipality was so bad that it became necessary to sell considerable portions of its property, notably a large tract of land in St. Bernard Parish, certain valuable batture rights and the famous Iron Building at the foot of Canal Street, which had figured so prominently in the charities of the Civil war period.


[image ALT: A woodcut of a dock, crowded with horse-drawn carts loaded with lumber and crates; in the background, seven steamboats with tall funnels, and in the far background many more; an American flag flies from a 50‑feet pole in the center of the engraving. It is a 19c view of the steamboat landing in New Orleans.]

The Steamboat Landing in 1873

In spite of these deplorable conditions, some real and definite progress was made during Wiltz's administration. There were some important extensions of the city street railroads. In March, 1873, the Orleans Street Railroad obtained permission to extend its line on Grande Route St. John from Savage Street to Gentilly Road, and on Broad Street from Ursulines to Dauphine. A month later the Magazine Street Railroad Company secured the right to extend its lines on Magazine Street to Joseph Street, and on Broadway to Felicia. In August, the Canal Street, City Park & Lake Railroad was authorized to build an extension to the p353Lake shore and Milneburg. Most of this work was begun at this time, but the completion was delayed by many interruptions and was not effected till some years later. There were also some extensions of the wharves between Hospital and Esplanade Streets; the canal in Canal Street was filled up between Claiborne and St. Patrick streets, as the section between Claiborne and the river had already been filled; a shell road was built on Henry Clay Avenue from St. Charles to Breslau, and a few other similar enterprises were carried out.25 Incidentally, it may be of interest to note that in June, 1873, the iron railing which had till then enclosed Lafayette Square, was removed. In October an ordinance was passed by the council adding the word "north" to the streets which bore on the lower side of Canal Street the same name that they had above that thoroughfare. The most important achievement of the administration, however, was the annexation of Carrollton, which was effected under authority of Act No. 71 of the Legislature of 1874. On November 26th Wiltz and other city officials visited Carrollton and there, in the presence of Mayor A. G. Brice, in the old courthouse which still stands on Carrollton Avenue, near St. Charles, gave a receipt for the municipal records, etc., and assumed control of the government of the town. The annexation of Carrollton immediately brought up the problem of communication with New Orleans. It is true that there already existed a street railroad. This road was built in 1835 and was the oldest line in the city, if not in the United States. It ran from the corner of Canal and Baronne streets to a station at the head of what is now called St. Charles Avenue. But the fare was high and there had been felt for years the need of some other means of transportation to and from the city. It was proposed p354to pave St. Charles up to the newly acquired territory, but the lack of means which handicapped every public enterprise at this period prevented anything being done for several years, although during that time the matter contained a vital problem in what continued to be popularly called Carrollton.26

In the meantime a series of events was taking place in New Orleans which culminated in 1874 in the most dramatic incident in all its long and troubled history. It will be remembered that, as a result of the election of 1872, Louisiana found herself governed by two Legislatures, each of which claimed to be the only lawful organization. Both of these bodies met in New Orleans in December of that year. The McEnery Legislature assembled first in the City Hall, but finding that building too small to accommodate both the state and the city governments, soon transferred itself to Odd Fellows' Hall, on the opposite side of Lafayette Square. Warmoth recognized this as the legally elected Legislature. He sent in a message to that effect, and at the same time issued a proclamation calling on all citizens to withhold "countenance and support" from the "revolutionary and fraudulent" Lynch board assembly. The latter meanwhile were in session at the Mechanics' Institute, planning to impeach Warmoth of "high crimes and misdemeanors in office," and commanding him to appear for trial.

The governor naturally was reluctant to trust his person among his avowed enemies, but sent his attorneys, who adopted a policy of delay and were successful in protracting the trial into the following year, when it was dropped. But Pinchback was not interested in the result of these proceedings; what he wanted was an excuse for seizing the government. His complaisant Legislature declared that the mere presentation of articles of impeachment operated to vacate the gubernatorial office, and Pinchback, as lieutenant governor, took possession thereof. He hastened to send to Washington a statement justifying his action. In reply the attorney general of the United States, G. H. Williams, telegraphed assurances of recognition and aid, which were tantamount to the promise of the co‑operation of the Federal soldiers under any and all circumstances. So, at least, Pinchback and his partisans chose to regard the Williams message.27

The principal business of the Pinchback Legislature was to declare Kellogg elected governor, and C. C. Antoine, a colored barber, lieutenant governor. The inauguration of these officials was scheduled for the middle of January. In the intervals an attempt was made to get control of the state militia, the commander of which happened to be Gen. Hugh L. Campbell, a Warmoth supporter. Pinchback now removed Campbell and appointed Gen. James Longstreet in his place. The men, however, refused to obey Longstreet. They were then commanded to lay down their arms, and a detachment of police was dispatched to see that they did so. A bloody encounter was averted by the narrowest of margins. Both sides were preparing for hostilities when General Emory, commander of the Federal troops in New Orleans, intervened with the suggestion that the arms be surrendered to one of his officers. It was the fixed policy of the conservative people of the city to avoid even the p355appearance of opposition to the Federal authorities, and this proposal, distasteful as it undoubtedly was, was accepted. An officer took possession of the arsenal and the citizen soldiers left it, and on December 14th it was handed over to Pinchback's emissaries.28

The democrats made several futile efforts to alter the policy of the Washington authorities. To this end a series of mass meetings was held in New Orleans between December, 1872, and November, 1873. These meetings brought together immense concourses of people, including the best and wealthiest element in the population, but nothing that they could do in the way of petition and resolution had the slightest effect upon the morose and silent man in the White House. At the first of these meetings a memorial was drawn up asking only that recognition of either of the rival legislatures be deferred until an investigation should clearly determine which was entitled to official support. McEnery supplemented this appeal with a telegraphic message, and a delegation of prominent citizens went to the national capital and laid the case before President Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, but without results. Grant's decision "was made," and "the sooner it was acquiesced in the sooner good order and peace" would be restored.29 An effort to get the United States Supreme Court to investigate was likewise fruitless, although the plan received a quasi-endorsement from the President. Nothing remained but to issue a statement of the facts to the American people, trusting that the narrative would influence public opinion and thus react upon a hostile government. This was done, and the address was well received by the press in many parts of the United States. In fact, the war on Kellogg and Pinchback was largely one of publicity. The final success which delivered Louisiana from its tormentors was probably due more to this policy than to the violent measures advocated by the younger and hotter-headed members of the democratic-conservative party.

Early in January, 1873, the Pinchback government felt itself sufficiently powerful to attempt to overthrow by force its rival at Odd Fellows' Hall. An act creating a militia to be used to "suppress riotous and unlawful assemblysº [. . .] and to punish officers and others for neglect or refusal to discharge and perform duties imposed on them by law," was promulgated on January 5th. This was followed by another act calling out the militia for the purpose stated.30 The news of this legislation caused another mass meeting to convene in New Orleans, at which the determination to resist any attack on the McEnery Legislature was unequivocably expressed. Pinchback retorted on the following day with an address in which he said that, while prepared to allow "a faction of the citizens to indulge themselves as fully as the largest personal liberty may require," he was ready "to prevent by the prompt and vigorous execution of the laws the inception of all riotous and disturbed conditions," and concluded with the announcement that, on the proper day, the governor-elect (Kellogg) would be inaugurated.31

The two legislatures were again in session in New Orleans on January 6th. There was every reason to anticipate a clash between the rival governments. All places of business were closed. General Emory moved the Federal troops to strategic points in the expectation of having to use p356them "to preserve order." But Pinchback knew when he had reached the danger line. The temper of the people was such that any attempt on his part to interfere with the McEnery Legislature would have provoked desperate resistance. For the moment, therefore, he had to hold his hand.32 Again, on January 14th, when the rival governors were installed — Kellogg at the Mechanics' Institute and McEnery at Lafayette Square — the city prepared for war. Once more business was suspended; the United States troops and the Metropolitan police were under arms. The demeanor of the people was grave and menacing. Fortunately, neither side was guilty of any provocation; the very apprehension of trouble sufficed to prevent an outbreak, and the day passed off quietly.

It is impossible here to follow the thrilling story of the contest between the two state governments through all of its detail, particularly in the national Congress, where one phase was fought out. Let it suffice to say that a congressional committee visited New Orleans in January, and after long and careful investigation reported the facts substantially as above stated, closing their summary with the statement that it was impossible to say that Louisiana actually had any government at all. McEnery's was the government de jure, but Kellogg's that de facto, but the question which should receive recognition at the hands of the Federal Government was really political rather than legal and ought to be settled by act of Congress. Congress refused to act. A bill providing that an election be held in Louisiana under circumstances which would insure a free expression of the popular will and an honest count of the ballots was introduced, but failed of passage; and the session closed, leaving the state in what the committee aptly styled "a melancholy condition."

Meanwhile various efforts at conciliation had been initiated in Louisiana, but in vain. In February McEnery issued a proclamation forbidding the payment of taxes to collectors commissioned by Kellogg. A few days later, in another proclamation, he called on all the able-bodied men in Orleans Parish to enroll themselves in a militia by March 1st. That he was supported by the majority of the people of the city was evidenced by the attendance, speeches and resolutions at a great mass meeting held on that date. A part, at least, of the populace was convinced that further parley with their oppressors was futile. On the night of March 5th bands of armed citizens attacked the Metropolitan police station in Jefferson City, a suburb of New Orleans, and the following night another detachment was repulsed in a desperate attempt to storm the Third Precinct Station in the Cabildo, opposite Jackson Square. In both enterprises the McEnery militia was involved. There can be no doubt that while these movements were "without authority and spontaneous,"33 McEnery stood ready to profit by them if successful, and their failure was bitterly deplored at the time. There was no bloodshed at Jefferson City; a police sergeant and seven patrolmen were captured, but were detained only a short time. Late on the night of March 5‑6, a strong body of Metropolitans, under command of Gen. A. S. Badger, with one piece of artillery, retook the station after a sharp skirmish, in which the citizens lost one man killed and one wounded.

p357 The affair at the Third Precinct Station was more serious. That an attack was imminent was known some time in advance, and the police were fully prepared for it. At 9 P.M. detachments of the McEnery militia, under Col. Eugene Waggaman, and accompanied by Gen. F. N. Ogden, commander-in‑chief of the McEnery forces, occupied Jackson Square, and opened a smart fire on the station. The men were poorly armed, only a few having rifles or shotguns, and very inadequately supplied with ammunition. Subsequently the position in the square was abandoned as too exposed, and the attackers formed in the shelter of the walls of the St. Louis Cathedral. Reinforcements arrived in the course of a half hour and were posted at the corner of Chartres and Toulouse streets. At 10 o'clock a large body of Metropolitan police, sent by Longstreet, marched into Chartres Street and opened fire with a twelve pound piece of artillery and drove the citizens back towards St. Peter. The fighting was still in progress when General Smith of the United States Army appeared and directed Colonel Waggaman to desist and the men to disperse. It was understood that a refusal to obey this command would be followed by an attack from the Federal soldiers, three companies of whom had been stationed at various points in the city for this purpose. Waggaman issued the necessary commands, the firing stopped and the citizens slowly dispersed. The Metropolitans cheered under the impression that the victory was theirs. The United States troops occupied the City Hall that night. The casualties in this affair were slight. The Metropolitans lost two wounded; the citizens lost one man wounded in the first phase of the contest, and one man killed and three or four wounded in the fighting at St. Peter Street.34 Among those wounded was General Ogden, who received a bullet in the shoulder.

As a matter of fact, this outbreak accomplished nothing except to supply the Kellogg-Pinchback government with an excuse for which it had long been looking, and the next day the oft-deferred invasion of Odd Fellows' Hall was effected. A little before noon a force of 100 Metropolitans armed with rifles presented themselves at the building and occupied the Senate chamber, the House of Representatives, the governor's office and the various bureaux of the McEnery government which had been established there. Anticipating this move, the majority of the officials had absented themselves, but Speaker Moncure and Messrs. Foster, Havson, Voorhies and Leonard, members of the Legislature, were found in the lobby, and put under arrest. The orders under which the police were acting bore the signature of General Longstreet. No resistance was offered, as it was felt that the Federal troops would sustain the police in all events, just as they had on the previous night. The arrested members were removed to the First Precinct Station and locked up, like common criminals, but later in the day an order from Kellogg procured their release.35

McEnery immediately addressed a letter of protest to General Emory, in which he demanded to be informed if the invasion of Odd Fellows' Hall had been made with his approval. In reply, Emory forwarded a copy of an order which he had received from General Sherman, directing him, in the name of the President of the United States, to "prevent any violent interference with the state government of Louisiana." The p358arrests, he added, had been made without his knowledge. Emory evidently understood McEnery's politely phrased letter to cover a threat to expel by force the Kellogg police in Odd Fellows' Hall, for he added that if the arrests had been properly authorized he would "most assuredly" use "the whole force of the United States" at his disposal to prevent 'violent interference.' "36 McEnery wished nothing so much as to avoid a conflict with the Federal authority. If he had any idea of employing his militia against Kellogg at this time, he abandoned it on receipt of this communication. But though at the moment nothing could be done, the efficient preparation of the McEnery forces under Ogden was not relaxed.


The Author's Notes:

1 Phelps, "Louisiana," p369.

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2 Annual Encyclopaedia, 1872, p473.

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3 Emory's report, House Ex. Doc. No. 209 (42nd Cong., 2nd Session.)

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4 Times, February 18, 1872.

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5 Address of the Provisional State Central Committee of the Reform Party, Times, March 13, 1872. Thomas H. Kennedy signed the document as president.

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6 Picayune, October 24, 1872.

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7 Picayune, November 5, 1872.

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8 Ibid.

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9 Phelps, "History of Louisiana," 375; Annual Encyclopaedia, 1872.

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10 House Ex. Doc., 42d Cong., 3d session, No. 91, 14; Annual Encyclopaedia, 1872, p481 ff.; Lonn, 195‑196.

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11 Picayune, November 5, 1872.

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12 Times, November 7, 1872.

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13 Campbell, "Manual of the City of New Orleans," p29.

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14 House Miscel. Doc. No. 211, 42nd Cong., 2nd Sess., Vol. IV, 462.

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15 Official Proceedings of the City Council, November 29.

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16 Picayune, November 30, 1872.

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17 Fortier, "Louisiana," II, 653, 654.

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18 Official Proceedings of the City Council, November 30, 1872.

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19 Inaugural Message to the City Council.

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20 Fortier, "History of Louisiana," IV, 165.

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21 "During ten years preceding 1876 New Orleans paid in the form of direct taxes more than the estimated value of all the property within her limits in the year named, and still had a debt of equal amount unpaid." — Andrews, The Last Quarter-Century in the United States, 155.

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22 Ordinance No. 1981, Administration Series.

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23 Ordinance No. 2640, Administration Series.

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24 Campbell, "Manual of the City of New Orleans," 29.

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25 See Ordinances Nos. 1942, 2015, 2074, 2664,º 2548, 2518, 2519, Administration Series.

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26 Rightor, "History of New Orleans," 311.

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27 Pinchback to Williams, December 9, 1872; Kellogg to Williams, December 11, 1872; Williams to Pinchback, December 12, 1872.

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28 National Republican, December 15, 1872.

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29 Williams to McEnery, December 13, 1872.

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30 Annual Encyclopaedia, 1873, p440.

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31 Ibid., 445.

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32 The fact that the McEnery legislature held only a brief session that day helped to preserve the peace. It found itself without a quorum, and adjourned soon after assembling. — Lonn, "Reconstruction in Louisiana," 222.

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33 Picayune, March 5, 1873.

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34 Picayune, March 6, 1873.

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35 Picayune, March 7, 1873.

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36 The correspondence between McEnery and Emory is given in full in the Picayune for March 7, 1873.


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