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Chapter 2:

  • Union of marching clubs-governor Moore's proclamation
  • -- election Returns -- Poverty in war material -- question of method of secession -- ‘the time for action has come’-oratory, drill and holiday Festivities.

A marked change was observed among the more conservative men when Mr. Lincoln's election be-. came certain. The divisions of politics were forgotten in the common peril. In their clubs the elders spoke gravely of the change and of the events which had produced it. In theirs, the young men found a raison d'etre for shouting with more insistence for the ‘Southern Confederacy.’

The club rooms of the canvass just closed became practically the nurseries of volunteers. The muster-roll of each club, originally subscribed in the jealousies of parties, was readily signed once again for a more martial brotherhood. Club headquarters, large enough for transient occupation for street parades, sometimes proved too cramped for the drill of members inspired by the beat of drum and the voice of command. In the new club were those who had marched in the Breckinridge ranks, and those who had ‘kept step to the Union and the Constitution’ in the Bell and Everett processions. The Young Bell Ringers—disgusted at the defeat of their respectable Candidate—soon came to join heart and hand with their old-time rivals. With the Bell Ringers, rivalry in a peace camp was counted to be a small matter indeed compared with unity in a campaign which might prove to be close kin with the ‘signs of war.’

The patriotic citizens were, as a rule, known to be in [11] favor of concurrent action with other Southern States on the general question of secession. It was understood that Governor Moore himself advocated this course. Such an understanding strengthened the hands of conservative citizens who believed, with him, that union of action among the seceding States would go far to secure, through co-operation, the full success of the movement. Gov. T. O. Moore, as one of the most important factors of 1860-61, merits a good word. He proved a safe and careful pilot of the State through the troubled waters of secession. During his term, he was never quite out of sight of his people; nor was he ever too far off to hearken to their appeals.

Louisiana's response, through her executive, to the vote of her citizens, November 6th-7th, was uncompromising. Governor Moore's proclamation convening the general assembly was the first authentic protest of the State to Mr. Lincoln's election; the first voice of the civil war spoken within her borders; the first beat of her war drum; the first blare of her trumpet, sounding its defiance with no uncertain note. As a material paper—material both from position of the writer and the gravity of the situation—the proclamation gains a place here.

Executive Office, Baton Rouge.
Whereas, the Constitution of the State of Louisiana authorizes the Executive to convene the General Assembly thereof on extraordinary occasions; and Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln to the office of President of the United States, by a sectional and aggressive antislavery party, whose hostility to the people and the institutions of the South has been evinced by repeated and long continued violations of Constitutional obligations and fraternal amity—now consummated by the last insult and outrage perpetrated at and through the ballot-box, does in my opinion, as also that of a large number of citizens of all parties and pursuits throughout the State, furnish an occasion such as was contemplated by the Constitution; and

Whereas, some of our sister States, aggressive like [12] ours, are preparing measures for the future security and for the safety of their institutions and their people, and both patriotism and self preservation require us to deliberate upon our own course of action;

Now, therefore, I, Thomas Overton Moore, governor of the State of Louisiana, do hereby convene the Legislature of the State in extra and special session, and do appoint Monday, the 10th day of December next, at 12 o'clock m., the day and hour for the meeting of both houses of the Legislature at the Capitol in Baton Rouge.

In testimony whereof, I have herewith set my hand and caused the great seal of the State to be affixed at the city of Baton Rouge, the seat of government of the State, on the 19th day of November, A. D. 1860, and of the independence of the United States of America the eighty-fifth.

By the Governor, T. O. Moore. J. Hamilton hardy, Secretary of State.

The legislature met at Baton Rouge December 10th. Congress had preceded its assembling—having already met December 3, 1860. It was another time in which precedents were missing. Never before, since its admission as a State, had Louisiana found its legislature in discord as to principle and fact with the Congress of the United States.

The governor's message was on the lines of his proclamation calling that body in special session. Upon the subject of a convention to decide upon secession he had already said: ‘If I am not mistaken in public opinion a convention will decide that Louisiana will not submit to the presidency of Mr. Lincoln.’ In his message, Governor Moore made haste to recommend provision for the election of members of the convention ‘as soon as may be passed with due regard to time,’ to whom shall be communicated the responsibility of ‘determining that position and shaping that policy, so far as affects the relations of Louisiana to the Federal government.’

Before the legislature met there had come, filtering [13] through, the totals of the Louisiana election. A mere mention suffices here. Breckinridge and Lane had received 22,681 votes; Bell and Everett 20,204; Douglas and Johnson 7,625; Lincoln and Hamlin were voteless. Like Gallio, the supporters of the different candidates now ‘cared for none of these things.’ The Lincoln election had wiped out, as by an all-spreading sponge, any solicitude for the votes in the various States of the South.

With the meeting of the legislature the adjutantgen-eral of the State submitted his report. He looked at the matter gloomily, holding that ‘the sum absolutely needed to organize and arm the militia of the State will reach $1,000,000.’ Accompanying this discouraging report of the adjutant-general came others from the generals of division of the city of New Orleans. Suppose we transport ourselves, for an instant, back to December, 1860, and judge for ourselves what were the materials possessed by the First brigade of Louisiana as a preparation for war, then so imminent. The list is valuable, as compared with the reports of a military army later on; the latter became in time so much weightier in metal.

Muskets belonging to260101361
Rifles belonging to138138
Sabers belonging to7575
6-pr. brass guns belonging to246
Knapsacks belonging to7575
Powder, lbs., belonging to300300
Round shot belonging to149149
Grape and canister belonging to

From the adjutant-general's office came another report, exhibiting the actual condition of Louisiana in regard to arms and ammunition: Cavalry pistols 6,000, sabers 3,000, muskets for cavalry 3,000, artillery 500, muskets and rifles 15,000, guns 48, ammunition to [14] amount of $35,000. Combined, these reports make an official confession of a State's weakness.

The convention, which was to decide whether Louisiana would go out of the Union or remain in it, was to meet in Baton Rouge on January 23, 1861. Secession was a burning question before it became the absorbing topic. Among those who addressed the senate, of which he was a distinguished member, was Hon. Randell Hunt. His text was the convention soon to meet, on which he spoke in able warning against precipitate action. After Mr. Hunt's address the senate, with the house of representatives, adjourned on December 12th sine die. The two houses had done the work for which the crisis needed them. Before the adjournment they had passed the convention bill, without amendment, appropriating for the purpose $500,000.

With the passage of the bill began the struggle for delegates. The city vote was clearly in favor of immediate secession. United action with other Southern States, however, had a large following among the more prominent citizens. A paper headed ‘The Platform of the Friends of United Southern Action,’ was numerously signed by representative citizens who loved Louisiana but dreaded discordant action. The executive committee of the ‘Friends’ comprised, among others, the names of such men as E. Salomon, T. W. Collens, B. F. Jonas, A. Sambola, Thos. E. Adams, John Laidlaw, Riviere Gardere and Adolphe Mazureau. Among the ‘Friends’ most respected in the city was Mr. Samuel Sumner, who for his courage in expressing his convictions was afterward sent to prison by General Butler. Opposed to these were the young men, whose voice clamored for the secession of Louisiana so soon as it could be legally effected. These youths held the reins with a firm, almost insolent grip in their confident hands. They left the trained and wary charioteers of the cause trailing far in the wake. [15]

While this struggle was going on, some of the artillerists of the city woke up on St. Barbe's day. They resolved to do special honor to his festival. The Orleans battalion of artillery attended high mass at the Cathedral; marched afterward through the streets and sat down, as a finish, to the anniversary dinner. Major Theard, commanding the battalion, said amid hurrahs and clinking of glasses: ‘Gentlemen, the time for talking has passed; the time for action has come. Let one word be sufficient. The Orleans artillery is ready.’ This was the spirit of the militia of 1860—a spirit which, since November 6th, had become changed into resolve touched with gaiete de coeur. With this gayety they had read that in fifteen Southern States the entire Lincoln ticket had received only 27,175 votes. Laughingly, they had noted that a Republican vote had been found in some numbers in five border States; while, with faces growing stern, they had made sure that not one abolition vote had soiled the ballot-boxes of Louisiana.

Thus cheerily and with strengthened resolve did the preparations of the State militia go on. It was no passing enthusiasm for the drill. It was less an idle caprice for a kepi and brass buttons. It was a steadfast purpose, showing itself in a systematic organization of independent companies and battalions. To the progress of this work the news of December 21st, which bore with it the secession of South Carolina, proved neither an impetus nor a check. No words were quite so commonly heard on the streets as ‘drilling,’ ‘organizing,’ ‘election of officers,’ the ‘convention,’ ‘secession!’

Apropos, on the score of separate action, some of the parishes were at odds. Among others, the parishes of Claiborne, St. Helena and Jackson declared in favor of united Southern action. On the other hand, Plaquemine pronounced in favor of separate secession. It looked as though, on the score of State action, Louisiana had, by its preliminary announcement, decided against going out alone. [16]

Meanwhile the drill and organization of commands went on with Southern ardor. In the First district—beside the Orleans Cadets and the Louisiana Guards, our old campaign friends of the Breckinridge and Lane club, under a war name—a new corps had been formed under the name of the First regiment of light infantry. Ten days before the first company had completed its organization, under Capt. J. A. Jacquess, the second company was forming. In a short time the entire battalion was on the street with full ranks. With suddenness which amazed all beholders New Orleans had turned into a garrison town.

In the Second district appeared the Orleans Guards,1 organized by the old members of the company bearing that name, once famous among that militia of which New Orleans has always been deservedly proud. With this new call upon the name, with the hope of active service in the near future, the lists were rapidly filled. Three companies were ready together. The battalion was composed, as always, of the élite of the old Creole population, thus officered:

First company, Capt. O. Labatut.

Second company, Capt. Chas. Roman.

Third company, Capt. Gustav Cruzat.

Fourth company, still organizing.

In the Fourth district two companies had been formed —still without officers—Numa Augustin; battalion major.

A future, lost in clouds, cannot abate the composure of men entirely firm. Christmas came, and with it that good humor which belongs to the season. Every one, whether at home or on the street, seemed to put a jovial face on the ugly mask of doubt.

With the beginning of 1861 those citizens in favor of united Southern action seemed suddenly to have all the noise to themselves. A mass meeting, called by them [17] for January 2d, was addressed by a great orator of national fame, United States Senator Pierre Soule. Irad Ferry Fire Co., No. 12, hastened to hold among its members a special meeting at their hall in the same cause. Beside these, nightly meetings—the surest makers of clamor—met for co-operation at the corner of Camp street and Natchez alley. Day work was there, too, less for enthusiasm than labor. In all this flood of oratory, the opposition organized companies. The tramp, tramp of the marching men answered the speakers at every point that the State was marching with them. About this time an incident occurred which shows chivalry. The steamer Henry Lewis, on her trip to Mobile, delivering New Orleans papers to the United States troops in Fort Morgan, saluted on leaving the fort. So might a chevalier of Fontenoy have, with his sword, saluted his adversary about to die.

No casual visitor from a Northern State could have supposed for an instant that the pros and cons of a vital question were agitating the city. On one side, full meetings; on the other, the calling of roster-rolls. The city, between its orators thundering hasty action and its youngsters wearing the kepi, had reached that kind of decision which makes a man's nerves of steel. Already, before the selection of delegates for the convention, the majority had settled upon secession with ‘immediate’ attached to it.

Between whiles New Orleans is not without varied entertainment of the best to be had. Young Adelina Patti, with a throat full of unmatchable notes, is singing at the French Opera on Orleans street. Prof. Von La Hache is bringing out at Odd Fellows hall, with full choir of male and female voices, Mozart's Twelfth Mass. Carrollton, near by, is laughing over Dan Rice, greatest of Yankee clowns. Prof. Vegas, still pleasantly remembered among middle-aged people, then juniors, is issuing in deference to the anxieties of the times invitation [18] cards for a ‘Children's Plain Dress Party.’ These children's mothers are dressing as splendidly as ever; their fathers affect races, drive crack horses, and drink champagne. The city is far from dull, and strange to add, within its courts a remarkably small percentage of criminal arrests. Merchants and tradesmen, too old to stumble out with the springy youths, have philosophically made up their minds to attend to their business and make the best of it. Real estate owners are not frightened, nor are they disposed to sacrifice their ‘choice lots.’ Owners of slaves, not yet a hazardous kind of property, are without fears. With the negroes selling at advanced prices, and with Col. J. B. Walton, city auctioneer, crying improved and vacant real estate at a sale of $165,937—with the exception of last season a better sum for property than for many years past—business men generally show no misgivings. Everywhere the joyous spirit of the Joyous City is making itself felt. Most alert through all these careless days is the war spirit —indifferent to coming tragedy. The two brigades under Generals Tracy and Palfrey are daily increasing their number. School for officers is actively attended; battalion drill has its fixed days. The Louisiana Legion —with a past behind it—has returned to its old system of Sunday marches in order to make sure a full attendance. Among the new companies was one whose numbers were drawn from the greenroom. This company of twenty-four privates called itself the ‘Varieties Volunteers.’ Actors of repute were the officers—John E. Owens, comedian of renown, being the captain, and George Jordan, ‘handsomest of walking men,’ first-lieutenant. Nor shall Labor hold back for the convention. The Screwmen's benevolent association—sturdy workers along the levee, still populous with boats bringing cotton, rice and sugar—enjoys its annual parade.

Business and confidence touch elbows. The 8th of January, representing that battle which has so strongly [19] inspired the spirit of the soldier of Louisiana, is to be celebrated with a muster of the city's militia. Every historic city, like Saragossa, Carthagena, Moscow, whose sons have from their native soil beaten back the invader, has a military day—a day wholly and gloriously its own. New Orleans is happy in her day. The world honors it It is hers by a double right: that of the invader's defeat and of her defender's valor. The day and the memories connected with it have given her sons a peculiar quality of courage, combining with the inspiration of their French lineage that courage, steady like Plymouth Rock, of their American ancestors. That day—that one day of Chalmette—fixed for all time the special dash of the Louisiana troops, which was to be so signally displayed in those heroic armies which sustained unstained until the end the honor of the Confederate States. [20]

1 The Orleans Guards may boast that, among its privates in 1861, one was G. T. Beauregard.

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