1811 Slave Revolt

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The slave Charles Deslondes is thought to have been brought from St. Domingue (present-day Haiti) to the Deslondes Plantation in present-day LaPlace. Some slaves assumed their owners surnames.

It is noteworthy that the 1811 uprising in Orleans Territory was in a sense a direct continuation, on the American mainland, of the uprising in St. Domingue. This is because refugee slave owners and imported slaves from St. Domingue took an active part on opposite sides in the 1811 revolt. Charles Deslondes and many of his lieutenants had been brought here from St. Domingue during and after the slave revolt on the island. Runaway advertisements show that many slaves from St. Domingue who were brought to Louisiana with their masters lived in the city and on the German Coast prior to the revolt. On the other side, many of the principal Louisiana slave owners from New Orleans and the German Coast had economic, political and family connections in St. Domingue.
— Albert Thrasher, On to New Orleans, Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt, Second Edition, June 1996.

On To New Orleans
1811 Slave Revolt begins at Andry Plantation in LaPlace with slaves marching along Mississippi River Road toward New Orleans. (Courtesy of folk artist Lorraine Gendron of Hahnville. An exhibit of the 1811 slave revolt created by Lorraine Gendron is on display at Destrehan Plantation.)

Charles was temporarily employed by nearby plantation owner Manuel Andry as a wagon driver, which enabled him to move about. He began recruiting slaves from Andry’s and other plantations along the German Coast to plan a revolt with the objective of reaching New Orleans to take over the city and free the slaves. Slaves were often loaned out or rented, which allowed for greater freedom to communicate. Also enlisted were Maroons, who had escaped from slavery and were living off the land in isolation in surrounding swamps and woodlands. Secret meetings were held, officers were appointed, and techniques Charles learned during the Haitian revolt were applied to train the insurgents. Armed with agricultural tools and confiscated weapons, Charles and his assembly took control of the Andry Plantation after midnight on January 8, 1811, wounding the owner and several family members and killing his son, Gilbert. Manuel Andry and Charles Perret, top militia officers for St. John and St. Charles parishes, notified Governor Claiborne of the attack as soon as possible. They then attempted to organize a cavalry and were reportedly able to raise about eighty troops. The insurgents headed downriver on foot, on horseback, and in wagons, plundering plantations and growing in number. It is reported that female slaves also participated.

The dreaded news spread quickly. The memory of the 1793 Santo Domingan insurrection still caused great fear and anxiety. Some St. Charles Parish plantation owners gathered their families and fled. Others stayed behind to protect their property. Owners were told to guard their slaves. It was reported that ahead of the marchers, carriages lined the River Road heading for New Orleans and beyond. Governor Claiborne, who constantly had to be on guard against a possible coup by either the French or Spanish, notified the federal government. General Wade Hampton of Fort St. Charles placed troops on order and the territory militia on guard. Major corridors in and out of the city were secured. Upriver from LaPlace, a small troop of U.S. Army soldiers commanded by Major Milton was ordered to assist.

Tribunal at Destrehan Plantation
The Tribunal at Destrehan Plantation. The members composing the tribunal are Messrs. Jean-Nöel Destrehan, Alexandre LaBranche, Cabaret (Pierre-Marie Cabaret de Trépy), Adélard Fortier, and Edmond Fortier, all of whom had taken the oath prescribed in section four of the same act. (Courtesy of folk artist Lorraine Gendron of Hahnville) Paintings of the 1811 Slave Revolt by artist Lorraine Gendron

The marchers passed through present-day Montz to the Francois Trépagnier Plantation in present-day Norco, where Francois was killed. More slaves joined in as they continued moving downriver along River Road, and the crowd reached as many as five hundred after reaching Ormond Plantation in Destrehan. Quickly moving east into the Cannes Brulees (present-day Kenner) area, the exhausted and hungry army had covered nearly twenty-five miles through terrible, cold weather and decided to encamp near the Jacques Fortier Plantation. They planned to eat, rest the night, and attack New Orleans the next day. Around 4:00 a.m. on January 10, Hampton’s infantry reached the area and encircled the group. Realizing the danger, the insurgents began to fire, retreating into the swamps and heading back upriver. Hoping to rally, they encamped near the levee at present-day Good Hope. Ammunition nearly depleted, they were overcome by heavy artillery from the assembled forces of Major Milton, Manuel Andry, and Charles Perret when attacked about mid-morning on January 11. Many insurgents died on the spot. The slaves refused to surrender and again retreated, many heading north into the swamps. Charles Deslondes was reportedly captured sometime on January 11 or 12.

Pierre B. St. Martin, b. 1761, d.1830; married to Marianne Perret; appointed first judge of St. Charles Parish from 1807 to 1811; judge during the 1811 slave revolt; syndic for St. Charles Parish; speaker at the first state legislative assembly; interred in Edgard, Louisiana.

Francois Trépagnier Grave Marker - Image
This grave marker of Francois Trépagnier, killed in the 1811 slave rebellion, is located in the St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery. It is also the gravesite of Elizabeth Dubord, who died in 1777, and is the earliest remaining burial plot in the cemetery. (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Mayhall Richoux)

St. Charles Parish Judge Pierre Bauchet St. Martin summoned a court comprised of five local property owners to hear testimony and to render a decision. The depositions revealed that some slaves had warned their owners of the uprising. The tribunal started at Destrehan Plantation on January 13, 1811, at 4:00 p.m. and continued through January 15, 1811. For their acts of insurrection, twenty-one of the accused were found guilty. Death warrants were issued, each to be shot in front of the plantation to which he belonged. The corpses were decapitated and their heads were placed on fence poles along the River Road to serve as a warning to others. A survey taken afterward indicated approximately sixty-six were killed in the revolt with others missing or captured and held for trial. Investigations were carried out for many years following the revolt.

The historical accounts are based on the reports of U.S. and militia officers, St. Charles Parish Original Acts, plantation owners, oral histories, and statements of slaves. From depositions requested by the Louisiana Legislative Council and the House of Representatives, it was revealed that some slaves warned their owners of the impending revolt. By virtue of a resolution passed by the legislative council and the House of Representatives of the territory to the effect that “the parish judges of St. Charles and St. John Parishes initiate an inquisition to determine the number and names of the slaves who distinguished themselves in the face of the recent insurrectionaries, the resolution being signed by Jean Vasseau, secretary, and dates February 7 …” (Abstracts of Civil Records of St. Charles Parish, Entry No. 18, 2-20-11, Glenn Conrad) This was the last slave revolt in Louisiana.

Abstracts of Civil Records of St. Charles Parish and St. John the Baptist Parishes, 1804–1812, by Glenn R. Conrad, Book 41, entry #2, January 1811, verify that the tribunal met: “In order to satisfy the common wish of the citizens of the Country, and to contribute as much as we can to the public welfare, I the Judge, have constituted a tribunal composed of five property owners and myself, conforming to the first section of the act stating which punishments shall be imposed for CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS committed by slaves. The said Tribunal must proceed at once to examine, interrogate, and pass sentence upon the rebels detained on Mr. Destréhan’s plantation.”

Investigations were carried out for many years following the revolt.

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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1811 Slave Revolt Paintings

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Further Reading

River Road Rebellion
Louisiana Life
Winter 2000-2001

Rebellion Played Role in Demise of Slavery
River Parishes Picayune
February 20, 2003

The German Coast, Abstracts of the Civil Records of St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes 1804-1812
By Glenn R. Conrad
Center for Louisiana Studies
University of Southwestern Louisiana – Lafayette

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