The Civil War and White Slave Propaganda by Brandan Bonds

Learning is wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca, and Rosa. Slaves from New Orleans  Charles Paxson, photographer c1864 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen ; 10 x 6 cm. Photograph shows Wilson Chinn, Charles Taylor, Rebecca Huger, and Rosina Downs, sitting, reading books Library of Congress

Learning is wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca, and Rosa. Slaves from New Orleans, Charles Paxson, photographer, c1864,  1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen ; 10 x 6 cm.Photograph shows Wilson Chinn, Charles Taylor, Rebecca Huger, and Rosina Downs, sitting, reading books
Library of Congress

Wilson Chinn, a branded slave from Louisiana--Also exhibiting instruments of torture used to punish slaves c1863 carte de visite Library of Congress

Wilson Chinn, a branded slave from Louisiana–Also exhibiting instruments of torture used to punish slaves, c1863, carte de visite
Library of Congress

On January 30, 1864, American political magazine Harper’s Weekly printed images of photographs, titled “Emancipated Slaves from New Orleans” depicting adults and children who had been brought North from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Hanks and set free by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. The groups made a series of public appearances and were photographed as part of a campaign to raise funds for public schools for freed slaves, the first of which was established by Major General Banks in October 1863. The majority of the photos were produced by New York photographers Charles Paxson, and Myron Kimball, who took the initial group portrait later reproduced as a woodcut in Harper’s Weekly.

While the nation was fighting in the Civil War over the question of slavery, abolitionists were moving toward a new fight of educating emancipated blacks. The biracial children in the photograph are written off as “white slaves” as a way to invoke compassion in white Northerners, who although thought slavery was immoral, weren’t particularly supportive of the idea of educating blacks. Kathleen Collins, author of Portraits of Slave Children, writes that the pictures of “Caucasian-featured children” would, sympathetically, push “Northern benefactors to contribute to the future of a race to which these children found themselves arbitrarily.” Although according to the “one-drop rule” those children would have been considered black, the reports in the article showed Collin’s conclusion with the children described as being “as white, as intelligent, as docile, as most of our own children.” Collins then proceeds to write that slavery destined the children to the “fate of swine.”

The photos and accounts written in Harper’s Weekly were all a part of a battle of the progressive few to improve the status of blacks in America. The photos confirm an American society more accepting of people of light skin tone. Of the eight slaves sent North from New Orleans, four children – Charley, Augusta, Rebecca, and Rosa looked white. The article accompanying the group portrait in Harper’s Weekly affirmed, they were “perfectly white;” “very fair;” and “of unmixed white race.” Their light skin tone contrasted sharply with those of the three adults, Wilson, Mary, and Robert; and that of the fifth child, Isaac –”a black boy of eight years; but none the less intelligent than his whiter companions.” In the eyes of Northerners that abolitionists sought to gain empathy and money from, blacks simply weren’t good enough. If they had been, there would have been no need to portray biracial children as “white slaves.” The images show the parallels of then and now, and makes one question how much has really changed. This paper will analyze the photo, Learning Is Wealth in comparison to, Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans from the series. Specifically, this paper will explore the life of Wilson Chinn and how his participation in the photograph influenced the publicity tour and the Civil War as a whole.

In January 1863, thousands of slaves that lived in the Confederate states discovered that they had been “freed” thanks to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Though this was correct, the task of providing free and equal status to the newly emancipated slaves would prove to be difficult. With no money, education, or experience fending for themselves outside of bondage – not to mention the additional challenges of living in a war-torn and racially-prejudiced country – the formerly enslaved faced seemingly impossible odds to find some means of survival. Northerners and abolitionists quickly deployed relief organizations such as the Friends Association of Philadelphia for the Aid and Elevation of Freedmen and the Freedmen’s Relief Association of New York. These groups worked tirelessly to obtain supplies, establish schools, and provide other forms of support, but resources were limited. Additionally, it was not easy to provoke the sympathy of countrymen who were preoccupied by war, and more often than not, ambivalent to the issue of African-American slavery.

In December 1864, most of Louisiana was occupied by the Union army. According to Catherine Clinton, author of Orphans of the Storm: Steering a New Course, ninety-five schools serving over 9,500 students –  including almost half of the African-American children in Louisiana –  were running under its sponsorship. Keeping these schools operational would require ongoing financial support. Therefore, the National Freedman’s Association, in collaboration with the American Missionary Association and interested officers of the Union Army, launched a new propaganda campaign. The authors of this campaign were pursuing an unforeseen and quite effective strategy for arousing sympathy for blacks – they portrayed them as white.

Wilson Chinn, one of three adults in the traveling party, appears in only one photo aside from the large group portrait by Myron Kimball. He is shown in Learning is Wealth with Charley, Rebecca, and Rosina (Rosa). In the photograph, Rosa appears unable to hide her frustration which suggests that Wilson is given the role of the teacher in the photograph.  The Harper’s Weekly news article publishes Wilson’s biography as follows:

Wilson Chinn is about 60 years old; he was “raised” by Isaac Howard of Woodford County, Kentucky. When 21 years old he was taken down the river and sold to Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter about 45 miles above New Orleans. This man was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters “V. B. M.” Of the 210 slaves on this plantation 105 left at one time and came into the Union camp. Thirty of them had been branded like cattle with a hot iron, four of them on the forehead, and the others on the breast or arm.

Knowing that Wilson Chinn is about sixty years old and was raised by an Isaac Howard in Woodford, Kentucky, it can be concluded that Chinn was born around 1804. The census data from 1820 provided by Ancestry.com reveals records proving that there was an Isaac Howard living in Woodford, Kentucky. Since Wilson was not sold until the age of twenty-one, he would have probably been sixteen in 1820, possibly making him one of two male slaves, fourteen through twenty-five owned by Howard, as reflected on the 1820 census report. The use of props in the photograph also deserves consideration. In Portraits of a People, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw studies the way props were used to imply that the subjects shared the viewers’ values. Other photos taken by Charles Paxson in the series include props prominently displayed in the arrangement. This photo depicts each of the subjects holding a book that recalls the purpose behind the whole project, raising money for schools in Louisiana.

In contrast, the photo Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans presents a stark difference in subject matter for Wilson Chinn. In this photograph, Chinn is standing sideways with what appears to be a punishment collar on his neck, often used to prevent slaves from lying down. In his hands, appear shackles and a wooden paddle with holes. The holes in the paddle increase pain when hit against the skin. This image, taken by Charles Paxson illustrates how the power of these photos stemmed from allusions to physical abuse and torture. The initials “V.B.M” branded on Wilson Chinn’s forehead offer unquestionable evidence of the torture inflicted upon him by his cruel owner, Volsey B. Marmillion. In contrast to the “colored slaves,” who are racially distinct by the color of their skin – and in the case of Wilson Chinn by his physical scars – the “white slaves” are free of any such racial implications. They are – with the exception of Augusta Broujey, who was slightly darker than the other three children – “to all appearance of unmixed white race.” When compared to other articles in the same issue of Harper’s Weekly, the inference in the portrait of white slaves to the white masters’ sexual exploitation of their female slaves is evident. In Visualizing the Color Line, Carlos Goodman notes that the editor of Harper’s Weekly contends that the most significant sin of slavery is that it allows slaveholding “gentlemen” to seduce the most friendless and defenseless of women” (Goodman). Furthermore, Mary, as she is described in Harper’s Weekly, has more than 50 rawhide-scars on her arm and back. A 2009 article from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education explains,

“Two hundred years ago slave owners had no concerns about leaving physical signs of the torture on slaves. For the torturers, there was no problem about having to hide what they had done. In fact, scars and other marks of torture were effective visible signs that were used to put slaves on notice so they would know how they might be punished for disobedience.”

Torture and physical abuse during the Civil War exemplifies the extent to which slave masters and others went to restrain African-Americans. The physical and mental toll the effects of torture and abuse had on the slaves is devastating. Including this type of abuse in propaganda is a way to evoke empathy, and perhaps most importantly, money from a Northern audience.

The attire of each of the subjects in the photograph evoke an emotional response. The apparel of the individuals is not normal clothing that would be worn by emancipated slaves in the South. Wilson’s attire does not appear to be much different than the children’s. Mary Niall Mitchell highlights in Rosebloom and Pure White, Or So It Seemed, the significance of the fact that the majority of the photos in the series were portraits of young, white, and well-dressed girls. She asserts that such photographs took advantage of the demeaning tendencies of the Northern Victorian public, calling upon the viewer to protect the purity, innocence, and “whiteness” of youthfulness and femininity. Furthermore, Mitchell suggests that though it is difficult to know who viewed or purchased the images, their production at a time when white working-class people were openly opposing the Civil War – especially during the New York Draft Riots of 1863 – suggests that they were meant for a “broad northern audience” rather than just limited to middle class viewers. The location of Wilson Chinn in the first photograph further illustrates the photographer’s idea of Wilson supposedly teaching the children. In the photo, the children are seated leaning towards Wilson. This position suggests that the children are learning to read from Wilson, further provoking the audience to consider donating money to the cause.

The use of Propaganda to influence and twist opinions during the war, was partially the work of voluntary propagandist groups and partly the inevitable product of war psychology. Official propaganda like governmental use of the press, platform, theater, and the like for the distribution of stereotyped ideas and interpretations, was not regularly practiced by the leaders either of the Union or the Confederacy, except in the attack upon opinion abroad. Both the Union and the Confederacy had regular propaganda service for the influencing of foreign emotion.

The propaganda created out of the Civil War era generally relied upon patriotic fervor to advance the goals of the Union and the Confederacy. It is definitely true that many Southern states seceded and practiced slavery, while the North generally supported President Lincoln (enough to not, as a whole, threaten secession) and did not own slaves.  It was not set in stone, however, that because one lived in the North that they would automatically support the Union, support the abolition of slavery, oppose secession, or support these so much so that they would fight on behalf of them (or vice-versa for the South).  This was the primary  purpose propaganda served during the Civil War – the solidification of North vs. South identity, pro-abolition vs. anti-abolition.  The effectiveness of each respective side’s propaganda can still be felt easily today, close to one-hundred fifty years since its occurrence.

Abolitionists who photographed the white children of New Orleans, arm in arm with black slave children, and who emphasized at every turn, the intelligence and good behavior of these children, were fighting fire with fire, using the fairly new art and science of photography to counter visually, the beliefs of the country’s most famous leaders and racists who insisted that the two races should not and could not be mixed. This further supports the notion that, from a Northern perspective, blacks simply weren’t good enough to provoke people to donate money to the campaign. If they had been, there would have been no need to portray biracial children as “white slaves.” The images help one see the parallels of then and now, and provokes one to consider how far the nation has come since the Civil War has ended, and the challenges that lie ahead.

 

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Collins, Kathleen. “Portraits of Slave Children.” History of Photography 9.3 (1985): 187-210. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Clinton, Catharine. “Orphans of the Storm: Steering a New Course.” Civil War Stories. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998. 41-80.

Goodman, Carol. “Visualizing the Color Line.” Mirror of Race. Suffolk University, n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.

Harper’s Weekly. Vol. 8 No. 370 (January 30, 1864): 66, 69, 71.

Kimball, Myron. Wilson Chinn, a Branded Slave from Louisiana–Also Exhibiting Instruments of Torture Used to Punish Slaves. Digital image. Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.

Paxson, Charles. Learning Is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca, and Rosa. Slaves from New Orleans / Chas. Paxson, Photographer, New York. Digital image. Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.

Mitchell, Mary Niall. “‘Rosebloom and Pure White,’ Or So It Seemed.” American Quarterly 54.3 (September 2002): 369-410.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Emancipated Slaves” by Myron H. Kimball. Accession number 2005.100.92.

Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois. Portraits of a People: Picturing African Americans in the Nineteenth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006. 154-161.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. “In the Slavery Years Torture Was a Standard Instrument of Racial Control.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 64. Summer (2009): 42-43. JSTOR. Web. 03 May 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40407478&gt;.

 

For further reading see:

On the children’s public tour, see Mary Niall Mitchell, Raising Freedom’s Child: Black Children and Visions of the Future after Slavery (New York, 2008), chap. 3. On the New York Draft Riots, see Iver Bernstein, The New York Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (New York, 1990). On slave torture and living conditions, see Nicholas Boston, The Slave Experience: Living Conditions (PBS, 2004).

 

For the related article see:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/the-young-white-faces-of-slavery/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

 

Louisiana Woman – Caroline Merrick Summary

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“There is a word sweeter than mother, home, or heaven, and that word is liberty.”  These are the words of a Southern Lady and Louisiana Woman, Caroline E. Merrick.

The nineteenth century changed the lives of a nation, a century which experienced industrialization, slavery, the Civil War and women’s suffrage.  It is through the eyes of Caroline Merrick that we may bring to life this period of history. Caroline Elizabeth Thomas Merrick was born Caroline Elizabeth Thomas November 24, 1825.

During the 1830’s, industrialization had been changing the role of women.  However, the experiences of women in the South differed from their northern counterparts.  According to Samantha LaDart in her article, “Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana,” the Southern woman was expected to be a model of virtue and a guardian of youth.  The ideal, LaDart writes, was not connected to any gain of female power in the home, nor was it dependent on industrialization.  Another author, Drew G. Faust in her book, Mothers of Invention, explains further what it meant to be a Southern woman.  She writes that the Antebellum South had defined and therefore understood themselves in relation to categories:  race, gender, and class. These differences became hidden in society to provide distinction of wealth, power and education in order to lay claim to honor and gentility.

Conversely, many women in the North were not so fortunate during the 1830s.  Many young women left their small farm towns for rural settings to work in cotton mills to earn wages to help support their family and build a dowry.  The irony is the North was opposed to slavery but the cotton grown and harvested by slaves in the South was shipped to the North to feed cotton to the mills where the Northern woman would earn her living.  Marriage was the hope for many Northern women so as to escape the labor of the cotton mills through the support of the higher wages her husband could earn.

As discussed earlier in the blog, chores such as doing laundry would be one such way to earn a living.  The arduousness of it is hard to imagine today.  But for Southern women, such as Caroline, many had slaves to do their daily menial chores; however, the burden of overseeing the slaves often fell on the mistress of the plantation.

When Caroline was married at age fifteen to Edwin Thomas Merrick, Esq., they moved to Bouligny, Jefferson City. At what is present day Washington Avenue and Prytania Street in the Garden District of New Orleans, Caroline and Edwin had four children, Laura, Clara, David and Edwin, Jr.  In order to enjoy all the finer amenities of a nineteenth century home, the couple came to set up house in a large, spacious square with an old-fashioned, double cottage at 1404 Napoleon Avenue.

Slavery has been the stigma of mankind from the beginning.  As far back as the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt man has been enslaved.  The New America was no different.  Slavery is a terrible scourge on history.  Nevertheless, it was embedded in the fabric of society.

As opposition to slavery began to surface, rumors of war started.  Caroline in her memoirs does not justify or condemn the Civil War, but her recollections of her life would not be complete. Caroline stated that, “personal records are the side-lights of history and in their measure the truest pictures of the time.”

It was a time of great anxiety and Caroline said no woman wavered in her allegiance to the Southern cause.  Her son David, at age seventeen enlisted in the war, and though he ultimately survived, suffered grievous injuries including the loss of the sight of one eye, his hearing and the paralysis of his face due to a damaged nerve. As may be the case with most memoirs, we can see only through the prism given to us by the author as in Caroline’s case.  I do believe her character and strength is as strong as presented but, for instance, during the war it became very complex especially as the women left behind were transformed as a result of the multitude of complexities caused by the Civil War.

In Faust’s book, Mothers of Invention, she writes about how the Civil War changed the traits of the Southern Woman slowly at first and completely by the end of the War, some of which were mentioned in earlier blogs.

When the war was over, the Merrick family moved back to their home in New Orleans and Caroline devoted herself to her family and domestic affairs.  As mentioned previously, she would lose her daughter Laura to Yellow Fever.  Yellow Fever assaulted New Orleans for sixty-seven summers.  Before the cure was discovered thousands of people would succumb to this dreaded disease.

Caroline was encouraged by her husband after Laura’s death to pursue her passion for Women’s Rights.  She was further encouraged by Mrs. Elizabeth Saxon, a suffragist, to speak out and help other women to help Caroline work through her grief.  When the World’s Industrial Cotton Exposition came to New Orleans, she would met with other noted women dedicated to Women’s Suffrage.  She spent her sunset days fighting for Women’s Rights.

I am tempted to imagine leaving her now, as she goes back to her own time, disappearing beneath the southern oaks that have become a symbol of the nineteenth-century South.  As Merrick’s life reminds us, though, contrary to romantic visions of this era, hers was a time not of serenity but of tumultuousness–still, she lived it well.

This has been a preview of the journey through the nineteenth century as witnessed through the eyes of one Louisiana Woman – Caroline Merrick who I believed lived up to the love of a word sweeter than ‘mother, home, or heaven,’ and that word is liberty.

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Sources:  Merrick, Caroline E. Old Times in Dixie Land A Southern Matron’s Memories. New York: The Grafton Press, 1901

Faust, Drew G. Mothers of Invention. Chapel Hill & London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

LaDart, Samantha. “Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana.” http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1990-1ladart.htm.

Photo Source:  Maarquette, Bonnie.  “The Greenwood Plantation’s Oak Alley on a Misty Morning.”  L’Amore E Forte Come La Morte.  http://sonocarina.wordpress.com/category/life/.

Louisiana Woman – New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic

 

In reading about Caroline’s daughter, Laura, having died of Yellow Fever she would have been one of thousands to have succumbed to this dreaded disease in New Orleans although it affected many other states as well.

The outbreaks occurred off and on starting in 1796.  In the summer of 1853, 29,120 people contracted the disease and 8,647 died from it.  Newspapers and citizens began to call it the “Black Day.”  In the 100-year period between 1800 and 1900, yellow fever assaulted New Orleans for sixty-seven summers.

Before the source of the disease was discovered, people tried many things for a “cure.”  Physicians relied upon bloodletting, blistering, purging, leeching, vomiting, and mercury.  Note the advertising for leeches.

It was also common in the antebellum era to shoot cannons and burn barrels of tar during epidemics hoping the disrupting the dangerous “miasma” in the air, which was believed to be a cause of the disease.

The Yellow Fever attacks in Louisiana occurred less after the Civil War.  At mosquito.JPGthe time, physicians believed that the disease was bacterial and was transmitted through human waste.  However, in 1881 a Cuban physician, Dr. Charles Finlay, had developed a theory that the disease was transmitted through the common mosquito but his findings were dismissed.  Dr. Walter Reed proved Finlay’s theory in 1900.  The epidemics ended in New Orleans in October 1905.

Source:  Kelley, Laura D. “Yellow Fever.” In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson.  Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010-. Article published January 16, 2011.  http://www.knowla.org/entry/766/.

Photo Source:  Swedish Leeches – Newspaper Advertisement, January 9, 1852, From the Daily Delta. Photo Source:  Mosquito, http://historyofcollierville.wikispaces.com/Yellow+Fever.

Photo Source:  Yellow Fever –  http://www.louisianahistory.org/education/quiz4.html, Courtesy of Harper’s Weekly.

Photo Source:  The female Aegi aegepti mosquito,” The Secret of the Yellow Death, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, New York, 2009, p. 28

Continue reading

The Battle of Liberty Place

After reading more of Joe Gray Taylor’s Louisiana Reconstructed, I learned that there was quite an audience watching the battle: “thousands of spectators watched from windows, rooftops, and boats on the Mississippi” (Taylor 294). I suppose it must have been a spectacular sight to see such a large fight break out in downtown New Orleans. I also learned that Longstreet and Badger’s forces faced a much larger regiment of troops with the White League commanding around 8,400 men while Longstreet and Badger had about 3,600 men. As Taylor notes, the casualties on both sides were relatively light considering the number of men involved and the rather close quarters fighting in downtown New Orleans. The Republican side lost eleven men with sixty others wounded, while the White League lost twenty-one men with nineteen wounded.

Joe Gray Taylor. Louisiana Reconstructed 1863-1877. Louisiana State University Press, 1974.

Louisiana Woman – A Daughter’s Death

Source:  Illustrated Guide and Sketch Book to New Orleans (New York, 1884).

Caroline had four children, her oldest daughter was Laura and her next was Clara and she had two sons, David and Edwin. Her children all grew and married and were very close to her.

Laura was married in their home on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans. She married Louis J. Bright and would have three children. Caroline and her family would spend summers alternately in Myrtle Grove and the North, or the Virginia Springs.

She writes of her insight as a mother very beautifully. She says, “It takes love and wisdom and proper environment to bring both to their best; but sometimes evil hereditary and vicious social institutions prove stronger than all of these combined forces of the home. The nation can never know the power and beauty of the mother until it evolves a true protective tenderness for the child, and encompasses it with safest conditions for its development.”

She goes on to say when her daughters won friends it was gratifying to her. She was proud when her daughter visited her on her reception day: “I should be happy to claim a half-hour of my mother’s society if she were not related to me.” Caroline was very content with her two happily married daughters settled near to her.

Tragedy would come. On September 1, 1878, while in the North for the summer, she received a telegram saying, “Laura died at 12 o’clock.” Caroline had pled with her to leave New Orleans with her for the summer. As Laura and her husband were very devoted to each other, they did not like to be apart. Unfortunately, she fell victim to the yellow fever epidemic which ravished New Orleans.

The last thing Laura wrote her mother was, “Fear not for me, dearest mother,”was on her last postal card. “My trust is in God.” Her husband Louis was frantic. He had the added pain of knowing it might have been different had she not stayed that summer. He said “I shall never grow accustomed to the hard fact that her bright and heavenly presence must be forever wanting in her own home, and shall never again grace mine. She died saying, ‘Jesus is with me!’ ” There was no one too old or too poor, or too uninteresting to receive Laura’s attention.  She was ever active in charities and a useful director of St. Ann’s Asylum (picture above) located at 1823 Prytania Street, New Orleans.  It still stands today.

There could be no greater loss of a mother than to lose a child.   It was after Laura’s death her husband encouraged her to do something for women, to help turn her grief into action.   Early in the year 1897 a State Constitutional Convention assembled in New Orleans.  The Board of Control of St. Ann’s Asylum, an institution for the relief of destitute women and children, was given $1000 by a German inmate on her deathbed.  Mrs. Elizabeth L. Saxon was going to speak as well.   Mrs. Saxon encouraged Caroline to appear and speak of the women’s grievances.  Mrs. Saxon told her, “Instead of grieving yourself to death for your daughter who is gone, rise up out of the ashes and do something for the other women who are left!’

It is through this event she began to spend her future days fighting for Women’s Suffrage.  Ultimately, her crusade continued the rest of her life.  She was president of the New Orleans, and state of Louisiana chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  In 1892, she organized the first women’s suffrage association in Louisiana and helped form a State Woman Suffrage Association with her as president.

Sources: Caroline Merrick. Old Times in Dixieland, (New York: The Grafton Press, 1901) and Samantha LaDart, Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana.

The Battle of Liberty Place: Previous Interpretations

In regards to both my microhistory and my master’s thesis, I think I have found some encouraging signs in regards to my topic. I could certainly be wrong, but in all of my research on the Battle of Liberty Place, I have found only one book that is entirely based on the battle and it is The Battle of Liberty Place by Stuart Omer Landry published in 1955. I did find a doctoral dissertation by Jacob Wagner published in 2004 that talks about the monument that was dedicated to those who fought at the battle and how the battle has been remembered in public memory. Wagner’s dissertation does touch on some topics I would have liked to have brought up, but after skimming Wagner’s work it seems that he chose to focus on public memory in the twentieth century whereas I am more interested in the battle itself and its immediate repercussions. One of the reasons I initially became interested in the Battle of Liberty Place is how such an important conflict has been forgotten in today’s society. Stuart Omer Landry complains in his introduction that people have already forgotten the conflict by the mid 1950’s.

I have also found another excellent resource in Joe Gray Taylor’s book Louisiana Reconstructed. After reading a bit of Taylor’s book, I learned that the conflict began when the metropolitan police stopped a shipment of guns from landing in New Orleans. The guns were for the White League and the police were trying to prevent the league from arming. This act was the last straw for the White League, and on September 14, 1874 tensions came to a boiling point and the Battle of Liberty Place broke out.

Louisiana Woman – Women’s Rights

National Anti-Suffrage Association, 1911 (?). Harris & Ewing, photographers. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97500067/

In looking up more information on Caroline Merrick, I found an article by Samantha LaDart called “Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana” published in Loyola University (N.O) Student History Journal.   As it turns out, Merrick is somewhat famous not as obscure as I hoped.  But, just the same, I believe most people would not be that familiar with her unless they have studied much about women’s rights.

LaDart begins by spelling out how the southern woman was expected to be a model of virtue, a guardian of youth.  Also, she points out that the ideal woman in the South differed from her counterpart in the North.  As we have been reading in class, Northern women in the nineteenth-century experienced a shift of the female power in the home, to make the home a haven from the workplace.  LaDart explains the woman’s weakness in the South is her strength and her only right is to be protected.  With this right to protection she is obligated to obey.  So the southern woman was expected to be nervous, fickle, and delicate so the man will worship and adore her.  (Scarlet O’Hara?)

The article by LaDart,  explains the feminine ideal was an essential part of the psychology of the institution of slavery.   This struck me as I never associated the two, i.e., women’s rights and slavery.  Submission to the master from the household was expected by all family members so as not to threaten the whole and therefore slavery itself.

However, the Civil War challenged the “right to protection” and the “obligation” that went along with it.  During the war and Reconstruction women in Louisiana took on new roles for the first time.   LaDart brings out how these changes in roles began Caroline Merrick on the road to lead women’s rights in Louisiana.

Merrick did many things during the war such as nursing the sick and wounded for both sides.  She would often take dangerous voyages on the river for supplies.  Additionally, she nursed her family and slaves on the plantation during the war years.  Caroline Merrick enjoyed these new duties and she felt she had to use every faculty of her mind.

As an outcome of these new roles, women in Louisiana pushed for more responsibilities after the war; they could not go back to the pre-war days.  Merrick pushed for the rest of her life for women’s rights and they were slow in coming.  But progress she did make.  She fought for women’s representation and the right to vote.  She was the first woman to organize a woman’s suffrage association in Louisiana.  It was called the Portia Club.

I plan to go more into this very important part of her life in the final blog.  Hopefully, this whets the appetite.  Also, please note the picture above how men were opposed to women’s rights!

Source: http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1990-1/documents/CarolineMerrickandWomensRightsinLouisiana.pdf