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Chapter 3: White reaction.

For seventeen months New Orleans groaned under the yoke of Governors who could not rule, of Assemblies which were unable to pass bills, and of Tribunals which reversed each other's decrees.

Kellogg, though backed by Grant, was repudiated by Congress. McEnery though supported by the main body of White citizens in New Orleans, was not recognised by the authorities at Washington. The courts were open to Kellogg, if he cared to try his right. Though taunted by the citizens to take a case, he shrank from courting a decision, which he feared must go in favour of his enemies, and would weaken his hold on the Federal power. In spite, therefore, of having the support of Packard, the countenance of Pinch, the salary of a Governor, and an official residence in the State House, William P. Kellogg found his situation grow more desperate every passing day. [22]

New Orleans is Louisiana, very much as Paris is France. When New Orleans suffers, Louisiana suffers; when New Orleans recovers, Louisiana recovers. Now, under Kellogg and his reign of anarchy, New Orleans was bankrupt in public credit as well as in private means.

A mixed executive of Negroes and strangers ruled the city and jobbed the public lands-a Rump Chamber, in which the Negroes had a large majority, pocketing their fees, and voting bills which have no legal force. A band of Negroes, officered by aliens, ruled the streets and quays. Black clubs were multiplied, with secret signs and passwords. While a dollar lay in the Treasury, these aliens helped themselves and their adherents. Offices were sold, State bonds were hocussed, and a solvent city was made responsible for an impoverished State. Foreign creditors were defrauded, and the citizens suffered in repute. All branches of the shipping trade declined. Merchants and brokers left their magazines empty on the quays, and the market value of shops in fashionable quarters fell below their former annual rent. Imports almost ceased. Taxes increased so rapidly that owners [23] of good houses handed their tenements over to the State. All salaries, except the eighteen dollars paid each week to Kellogg's Negro senators, were in arrear. Teachers and professors went unpaid. Colleges and schools were closed. The river companies, unable to get their dues, stinted the supplies of water. Rich and poor were equally distressed. Some nights the streets were dark, the gasmen having stopped the mains. The streets of New Orleans are never safe at night, but in the darkness of that reign of anarchy, every evil thing came forth. Policemen levied black-mail on every shop. These servants of the public carried arms, and men with arms will never starve. Food rose in price. Fish grew scarce and mutton dear. The prisons and asylums were neglected, and their inmates, like those of Naples and Seville, were left to rot in filth and rags. Levees were broken through; and fertile fields lay under water. Weeds and mosses sprang up rich and rank. The cotton fields seemed wasting into jungle, the ramparts crumbling into the river, and streets and gardens rotting in a physical and moral blight.

Proud and beautiful New Orleans! Ruined in [24] her trade, her credit, and her hope, the city rose in her despair and put the question to herself:--Shall the White family perish on the Gulf of Mexico?

Her answer was emphatic. A reaction instantly set in — a reaction in the sense of setting the question of race above that of party — the Republic above the Republicans.

In clubs, in drawing-rooms, in magazines and stores, a White sentiment began to show. This movement was directed less against the coloured people than against the strangers and scalawags, who managed the coloured people for party purposes. A league was understood; a White League, in opposition to the Black League; but the members held no meetings, named no committees, elected no chiefs. It was a sentiment rather than a society; but the European genius is organic; and the European sentiment was ready to take an active shape.

These leaguers, say they, are not a party but a people, and the object of their union is to save the White race. Yet, as nearly every white man in New Orleans has been a soldier, the leaguers are [25] an army, ready, on two hours notice, to fall in on twelve hours notice, to take the field.

This league gave confidence to those White citizens who wished to end the reign of anarchy, by driving Kellogg as a stranger from New Orleans, by sending Antoine, the Negro porter, back to his stand in the Custom House, and by installing General McEnery and General Penn in office, as the Governor and Lieutenant-governor of their choice.

Election-day was coming on, when a new set of local legislators must be chosen. The citizens wished to have as free and fair elections as were possible with the register drawn up by the scalawags and Black leaguers; but in order to have a free and fair election, it was necessary for the strangers to retire. Republican Senators in Washington agreed with Conservative Senators in New Orleans that Kellogg was not the lawful Governor of Louisiana. But how were the White citizens to use such pressure as would cause him to withdraw?

Besides the Federal troops, Kellogg had considerable forces at his back; the city police, a Negro regiment, under General Badger; and the [26] State militia, mainly a Negro army, under General Longstreet. Badger was a carpet-bagger, sure to stand by Kellogg while his fortunes were upheld by President Grant. Longstreet, the famous soldier, was uncertain. In a question of disputed powers, where neither party had the sanction of Congress, Longstreet might see his duty in standing aside, while the voters who had chosen McEnery and Penn settled with the voters who had chosen Kellogg and Antoine. Might . . . but who could tell?

At eleven o'clock on Monday morning. September 14, 1874, a mass meeting of citizens was held in Canal Street. Standing by the great statue of Henry Clay, Marr, as chairman of the meeting, put this question to the citizens-Whether they would endure the reign of anarchy any longer? They replied by shouts that they preferred the tyranny under which they had groaned before the Reconstruction Act. A soldier, though a despot, was a man of discipline. He kept the streets in order, and the lobbies of the State House pure. A ruler like Hancock was a blessing compared to a ruler like Kellogg. Under a Federal soldier there would be no pretence of freedom, civil order, and [27] republican institutions. The tyranny would be undisguised, and Louisiana governed like the Duchy of Warsaw. Yet the citizens preferred a man of iron to a carpet-bagger; anything being better than adventurers having no other hold on the country than the support of an alien soldiery and a Negro mob.

A resolution was carried that five citizens should proceed to the State House, in St. Louis Street, and in the name of a free and sovereign people, request William P. Kellogg, as a stranger in their city, to retire.

Kellogg shut himself in his apartments, with his Negro guard, but sent out Billings and an officer of his staff to parley with his visitors. “You ask the Governor to retire!” said Billings, “He refuses to hear a message from a body of armed men, accompanied by a menace.”

The crowd in Canal Street were not armed, as Kellogg and Billings knew. An hour later, Packard telegraphed to Attorney-general Williams:

“The people assembled at the meeting were generally unarmed.”

This talk about armed men was meant for Washington and New York, not for New Orleans. [28]

“ Go home, gentlemen,” said Marr. “ Provide yourselves with rations and blankets, and assemble at two o'clock, when arms and leaders will be ready.”

Packard, feeling uneasy about the mass meeting, had telegraphed to Jackson, in Mississippi, for troops, and early in the day a company had arrived in New Orleans. These troops were at the Custom House. He now sent messages to Holly Springs, and was informed by wire that four additional companies were coming to his aid. He chuckled in his sleeve. “There is little doubt of a conflict to-night,” he joyfully telegraphed to Washington. “I have a company of United States troops guarding the Custom House. Four companies are en route from Holly Springs. The local authorities have several hundred men under arms at the State House and arsenals.”

When Marr went away, Kellogg sent for General Badger and arranged with him the details of an attack on the White citizens. The police, under Badger's orders, were a regiment, drilled and armed like our Irish constabulary, and furnished with a park of guns. This force is raised and paid by the [29] city, and in a reign of order is commanded by the mayor; but the intruders have usurped the mayor's authority, driven White men out of the service, and filled up the ranks with tall and burly Negroes. In the hands of Badger this police is nothing but a black praetorian guard.

As Longstreet's presence at the State House covered Kellogg, Badger occupied Canal Street, a strong position, sweeping the main thoroughfares, connecting the quays with the lake, and dividing the French quarter, in which St. Louis Street lies, from the English quarter, in which the White citizens mostly live. He had three guns in position, one Gatling and two Napoleons, and two hundred of his Black Regiment stood under arms round the statue of Henry Clay.

By twos and threes the unarmed citizens passed Canal Street towards the State House, and at two o'clock seventeen hundred of these unarmed citizens occupied the sidewalks of Poydrass Street and the adjacent avenues

“ Fall in!”

The citizens seemed to know their duties. Companies and battalions were formed. Rifles, hastily [30] landed from a steamer, were distributed, and General Ogden, an old campaigner, took the chief command.

The enemies whom General Ogden might have to face were three: first, General Badger and the metropolitan police; second, General Longstreet and the State militia; third, General Emory and the Federal troops. His theory was that neither Longstreet nor Emory would feel himself justified in meddling with the purely local question as to whether Kellogg or McEnery had a true majority of votes. Longstreet was a Southern man, and Emory would hardly go against the vote of Congress. Should he be left to deal with Badger and his Negro regiment, Ogden supposed that fifteen or twenty minutes would suffice to settle the affair.

At half-past 2 Badger began to move his forces towards St. Louis Street. Trailing the three big guns, his heads of column hove in sight, with Badger riding gallantly in front, and some of his leading company yelling and discharging their pieces as they came along.

“ Fire!” cried Ogden. The citizens fired, and Badger dropt from his horse-supposed to be killed. [31]

“Charge!” cried Ogden. The citizens charged, and the Negroes, surprised by bayonets, broke and fled.

Captain Angel led his company against the Gatling gun. Dropping their arms in scorn, the citizens ran at the gun, cuffed and kicked the Negro gunners, chasing them in and out of yards and stores, until the tag-rag reached the Custom House, and found a refuge under the Federal flag. Hardly one of the Negroes stood to fight. One Negro general crept into an undertaker's shed. “ Get out,” shouted the little French coffin-maker, “zey will follow you and murder me!” The Negro stripped himself of lace and feathers. “God's sake, massa, let me hide!” A citizen entered; no brigadier-general to be seen: nothing but a Negro in a sack mopping the mire from a hearse. The citizen looked round, gave the Negro a kick, and went out laughing.

Neither General Longstreet nor General Emory interfered. At five o'clock the four companies arrived from Holly Springs, but were not placed by Emory at Packard's disposal. Longstreet held the State House, which was not attacked. By six o'clock the firing was over, and the victorious citizens grounded arms in presence of the Federal troops. [32]

Of Badger's force, thirty were killed and thirty wounded; of Ogden's force, twelve were killed and thirteen wounded. Guns, arms, and stores were captured, and a hundred prisoners remained in Ogden's hands. At dusk the City Hall, with the whole town, except the State House and Custom House, were in possession of the citizens. At midnight, Kellogg stole away from his apartments in the State House, and sought a refuge in the Customs under the United States flag. Next morning Longstreet surrendered the State House, which was at once occupied by General Penn. Then peace returned. Shops were opened and cars began to ply. The White movement was complete.

But such a change in New Orleans was fatal to the policy of President Grant. Election-day was nigh; and if Governor McEnery sat in the State House of New Orleans, the Republican ticket would be lost in Louisiana. Kellogg assured the President that, with prompt support, the vote might yet be saved to the Republicans.

Grant ordered Emory to crush the victorious citizens and restore the beaten scalawags to power. [33]

The vote took place under a state of feeling bordering on the phrenzy of civil war. Again each party claimed the victory. The one thing certain. was, that Kellogg had not carried the State for Grant. Kellogg had promised his patron five votes out of the six possessed by Louisiana. Of the six votes only two were won for Grant.

In the State Legislature, the elections for which were held at the same time as the elections for Congress, the Conservatives claim to have gained a small but sure majority of votes. So far as the White reaction turned on votes, this White reaction was secure.

One chance, and only one, remained for Kellogg and his patrons: such an intervention of the Federal troops as might prevent the Conservative members from taking their seats. It was a daring, nay, a desperate policy; but the beaten scalawags are desperate men.

To carry out such a project required a sterner officer than General Emory, and General Sheridan has been sent to New Orleans.

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William P. Kellogg (20)
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Caesar C. Antoine (2)
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