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Opelousas Massacre of Sept. 1868 Reconstruction150

Discussion in 'Post Civil War History, The Reconstruction Period' started by Pat Young, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    The Opelousas Massacre of September 1868 was a multi-day event in which scores of African Americans and white Republicans were attacked, beaten, kidnapped, and killed. Alternatively called the "St. Landry Massacre," the Democratic Press referred to it as the "Opelousas Riots."

    The Franklin Planter's Banner, a Democratic newspaper tied to the Knights of the White Camellia, estimated that 100 blacks were killed during the massacre. Republican estimates placed the black death toll at 200 to 400. The number of white Democrats killed range from one to four.
     

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  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    [Opelousas; Rebel; Republican]
    New York Tribune
    Monday, Oct 12, 1868
    New York, NY
    Vol: XXVIII
    Issue: 8583
    Page: 4

    opel1.JPG
     
  4. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    The initial precipitant of the killings was an article written by Emerson Bentley, a young man writing for the St. Landry Progress, a Republican paper owned by Black shareholders. Bentley was an Ohio transplant who taught school for local Blacks. He was the frequent target of threats by the local terrorist groups.
     
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  5. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Opelousas, Louisiana?
     
  6. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    From a Master's Thesis on the massacre:

    In early September, Bentley found a note posted on the schoolhouse door that read "E.B. Beware! K.K.K." with a "dripping dagger, skull and bones, and coffin painted on." (p. 44)
     
  7. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Interesting that a New York newspaper still called them "Rebels" 3 years after the war was over.
     
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  8. Joshism

    Joshism Sergeant Major

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    Interesting how one side portrayed these events as "riots" and the other as "massacres" (see also Colfax). The casualties make it pretty clear which it really was.

    Well there you go: he was a carpetbagger so he deserved it. /sarcasm
     
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  9. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    Opelousas, home of the sweet potato festival, the Yamatorium civic center, and the Jim Bowie cabin museum.
     
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  10. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Yes
     
  11. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Stepped up white violence was followed by blacks bringing weapons to their own meetings. Deaths were already occurring, and the fact that many people on both sides were apparently going about armed led to fears of open warfare. On September 19, 1868 a "peace treaty" was signed between the two sides.

    On the same day as the peace treaty was signed, Bentley published an article on a meeting of African Americans that took place the week before during which mounted and conspicuously armed Democrats in the Seymour Guards were described as trying to intimidate black voters. Democrats were particularly angry that Bentley wrote that Republicans "do not plot in the dark; we do not assassinate inoffensive citizens or threaten to do so; we do not seek the lives of political opponents..." (p. 48)
     
  12. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Democrats viewed Bentley's article as containing "incendiary" language, which was prohibited by the peace treaty. On the morning of Sept. 28, three armed Seymour Guards, including a constable, went to Bentley's freedman's school and caned him with thirty blows and required him to sign a retraction of his article. The children at the school fled and spread word that Bentley had been assaulted and might have been killed. Local blacks rushed to his assistance. Bentley went into hiding near his office initially. Blacks then hid him in various safe houses and over the course of three weeks the pursued man was able to escape to New Orleans. (pp. 48-50)
     
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  13. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    When word spread that Bentley had apparently been killed, the Seymour Knights and the Knights of the White Camellia mobilized their men to suppress any attempt by African Americans or their white allies to organize protests. Democrats discussed the likelihood of a Black uprising in reaction to the rumored killing. When white riders went to a plantation south of the city, they encountered armed workers on the plantation whom they ordered to surrender. The blacks refused and opened fire rather than be taken prisoner. After one black man was killed, the workers surrendered, and eight were taken prisoner. Apart from this one encounter, the Democrats did not meet any other organized armed black opposition during the massacre. (p. 50-52)
     
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  14. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    Where is the text of the report of Lt. Lee of the Freedmen's Bureau?

    South-Western, Shreveport, La., October 14, 1868-

    Opelousas1.jpg
    Opelousas2.jpg
     
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  15. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    During the day, members of various white groups had gathered in the city, many coming from the surrounding countryside. Patrols were sent out to disarm the black population. The patrols found that far from the black population being on the verge of an insurrection, many blacks had fled for their lives. (p. 52)
     
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  16. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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  17. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    A couple of dozen prisoners were collected into the jail. On the night of September 29 a group of whites took the priosners from the jail and executed most of them. (p. 54)
     
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  18. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    The actual report. Not a news article about the report.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
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  19. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Bentley's newspaper was destroyed and his school was ransacked. Three days after the killings began, the body of C.E. Durand, who edited the French-language articles in Bentley's paper paper, was put on display in the city. (p. 55)
     
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  20. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    You didn't post the actual report? Sorry, I thought you had. When I get a chance, I will look for it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
  21. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    I will try to find the Freedmen's Bureau reports on the killings, as well as a more detailed investigation that took place later. But first, here is a Democratic newspaper's account of what happened. (Corrected as per @ScottMac)

    Lake Charles echo
    Saturday, Oct 10, 1868
    Lake Charles, LA
    Vol: 1
    Page: 4

    op1.JPG
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
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