The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism during the Civil War and Reconstruction

The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism during the Civil War and Reconstruction

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 080714746X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the pejorative term "scalawag" referred to white southerners loyal to the Republican Party. With the onset of the federal occupation of New Orleans in 1862, scalawags challenged the restoration of the antebellum political and social orders. Derided as opportunists, uneducated "poor white trash," Union sympathizers, and race traitors, scalawags remain largely misunderstood even today. In The Louisiana Scalawags, Frank J. Wetta offers the first in-depth analysis of these men and their struggle over the future of Louisiana. A significant assessment of the interplay of politics, race, and terrorism during Reconstruction, this study answers an array of questions about the origin and demise of the scalawags, and debunks much of the negative mythology surrounding them.

Contrary to popular thought, the southern white Republicans counted among their ranks men of genuine accomplishment and talent. They worked in fields as varied as law, business, medicine, journalism, and planting, and many held government positions as city officials, judges, parish officeholders, and state legislators in the antebellum years. Wetta demonstrates that a strong sense of nationalism often motivated the men, no matter their origins.

Louisiana's scalawags grew most active and influential during the early stages of Reconstruction, when they led in founding the state's Republican Party. The vast majority of white Louisianans, however, rejected the scalawags' appeal to form an alliance with the freedmen in a biracial political party. Eventually, the influence of the scalawags succumbed to persistent terrorism, corruption, and competition from the white carpetbaggers and their black Republican allies. By then, the state's Republican Party consisted of white political leaders without any significant white constituency. According to Wetta, these weaknesses, as well as ineffective federal intervention in response to a Democratic Party insurgency, caused the Republican Party to collapse and Reconstruction to fail in Louisiana.

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letter to John D. Wilkins in December 1844, Durant declared that “one of the great causes for the decline and retrogradation of agriculture south of the Potomac” was that it was “carried on almost exclusively by slave labor.” He held, too, that free labor was “a necessary step in the progress of the race.” He wrote to Robert Dale Owen in 1847 that unless one or both of the two contending forces in the slavery controversy be utterly mad, a compromise had to be reached. When the Wilmot Proviso

January 1801 during the slave uprising led by the Haitian liberator Toussaint L’Ouverture. His mother, then only three years old, and his grandmother managed to escape to New Orleans. Françoise grew up in New Orleans and there married John Ludeling, a French immigrant. When Ludeling died, she remarried. Her new husband, Bernard Hemken, then moved the family to Monroe in the planter parish of Ouachita in north Louisiana. At the age of twelve, John Theodore Ludeling enrolled on July 18, 1839 in St.

January 1801 during the slave uprising led by the Haitian liberator Toussaint L’Ouverture. His mother, then only three years old, and his grandmother managed to escape to New Orleans. Françoise grew up in New Orleans and there married John Ludeling, a French immigrant. When Ludeling died, she remarried. Her new husband, Bernard Hemken, then moved the family to Monroe in the planter parish of Ouachita in north Louisiana. At the age of twelve, John Theodore Ludeling enrolled on July 18, 1839 in St.

outside the Deep South; (5) secession was impractical, unconstitutional, and dangerous; (6) secession would endanger the very institutions (e.g., slavery) that it ought to preserve; (7) secession would forfeit southern claims to the national public domain; and (8) only the people (not the convention) had the right to undertake such a revolutionary action.49 His opposition to secession aroused such anger that Taliaferro had to cease publication of the Harrisonburg Independent.50 He was

take.” Since the committee report was not published until after the radical victories in the congressional elections of 1866, the effect of this testimony on public opinion was limited. Nevertheless, the statements of the witnesses, along with testimony taken by the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction (January and May 1866) and statements taken by the congressional committee on the Memphis race riot of 1866 (May 22 to 121 The Louisiana Scalawags June 6, 1866),6 presented a picture

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