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An Absolute Massacre

The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866

James G. Hollandsworth Jr.

Publication Year: 2004

In the summer of 1866, racial tensions ran high in Louisiana as a constitutional convention considered disenfranchising former Confederates and enfranchising blacks. On July 30, a procession of black suffrage supporters pushed through an angry throng of hostile whites. Words were exchanged, shots rang out, and within minutes a riot erupted with unrestrained fury. When it was over, at least forty-eight men—an overwhelming majority of them black—lay dead and more than two hundred had been wounded. In An Absolute Massacre, James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., examines the events surrounding the confrontation and offers a compelling look at the racial tinderbox that was the post-Civil War South.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents, List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-4

THE CIVIL WAR did not end at Appomattox. A second phase of the conflict began as thousands of erstwhile Confederates returned home and initiated a new struggle, the attempt to maintain the political and social dominance they had enjoyed during...

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1. Give Us a Free State

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pp. 5-18

MURDER? Octave Breaux strained to catch the conversation. Less than six feet separated Breaux from two men talking on the other side of the fence that surrounded his small garden. It was four o'clock, Friday morning, July 27, 1866, and the first hint of...

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2. No Better Constitution

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pp. 19-27

DELEGATES to the constitutional convention began their work in New Orleans on April 6, 1864, and met for the next four months. They were not men who were bent on radically changing their world. Far from being revolutionaries, they were drawn mostly from the state's...

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3. There Is No Middle Ground

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pp. 28-42

THE FREE STATE of Louisiana had a rough time of it from the start. Not surprisingly, attacks came from both the conservatives and the Radicals. Founded by men who believed that changes initiated by four years of civil war should be implemented gradually and be limited in their...

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4. We Are in Revolutionary Times

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pp. 43-52

WILLIAM MITHOFF picked up his son from school on Friday afternoon, July 27,1866. The question his son asked when he got into the carriage disturbed Mithoff. Mithoff was born in Germany and had come to America as a young man...

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5. Not More Than Half a Million Will Survive

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pp. 53-60

REPORTS of the Friday night rally were in all of the papers Saturday morning. "The Radical Mob . . . Threatens and Thunders," read a headline in the New Orleans Times. The article portrayed the assembly as "a large crowd of those who aspire to become American citizens without...

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6. Please Instruct Me at Once by Telegram

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pp. 61-68

MAJOR GENERAL Philip H. Sheridan was the military commander in charge of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida. A no-nonsense professional soldier, Sheridan had not been a friend of Unionists in general and proponents of black suffrage in particular since...

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7. To-morrow Will Be the Bloodiest Day

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pp. 69-86

MOSES FOX, a sixty-seven-year-old white carpenter, left his room on Bienville Street on Sunday morning and went to the Treme market to get a newspaper. On his way home, Fox ran into Officer Gallaway, a policeman he had met while on jury duty. Naturally, their...

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8. You Better Stay Home

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pp. 87-96

JOHN MURRAL arrived for work before daylight on Monday morning at the main police station across from Lafayette Square. He was a porter, the man who laid fires, cleaned out the offices, and carried messages from the chief of police to wherever they were...

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9. Go Away, You Black Son of a Bitch

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pp. 97-106

MOST of the delegates who planned to attend the convention were in the main hall of the Mechanics' Institute by twelve noon. The hall was a large room 80 feet wide and 130 feet long and flanked on either side by tall windows that reached almost to the ceiling. Two large...

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10. For God's Sake, Don't Shoot Us!

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pp. 107-116

SPECTATORS and members of the convention inside the institute did not know what to expect. W. L. Randall went to the window and looked out on Dryades. He could see a wounded black man lying on the banquette across the way, but otherwise the street was clear. As he stood...

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11. Hurrah for Hell

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pp. 117-125

IN DRYADES the scene was wild. The shrill sound of police whistles filled the air, and there was much yelling. "Hurrah for hell!" a drunken rowdy waving a pistol yelled, "Hurrah for Louisiana!" Another man stood in the street, with clenched fists and tears in his eyes....

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12. Can I Go Home?

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pp. 126-137

SURGEON GEORGE W. NEW observed the police taking prisoners to the lockup from the steps of his office at No. 127 Carondolet just around the corner from City Hall. Dr. New thought that some of the police were drunk. Many of their charges were wounded, some seriously....

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13. The Rebels Have Control Here

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pp. 138-150

EMMIE HORTON spent a terrible night. Monday afternoon had passed without a word from her husband, the Reverend Jotham Horton. Toward evening, a breathless messenger had arrived at their house to warn her that she would not be safe at home that night. Former...

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pp. 151-155

FEW OF THE PEOPLE who played a major role in the New Orleans riot survived in office for very long after the dust settled. General Absalom Baird was the first to go. Although Sheridan believed that Baird's indecision had contributed to the outburst...


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pp. 157-163


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pp. 165-168

E-ISBN-13: 9780807151303
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807130292

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2004