One of the greatest slave revolts in history took place right here in the River Parishes. And it began on Jan. 8, 1811 which was Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of carnival here in Louisiana.
Why on that date? Maybe it was because the clever slaves figured their “masters” would be so whooped up in drinking and partying that they would be easy to conquer. That was the humorous speculation of David Rasmussen, author of the book “American Uprising: The Untold story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt.”
Rasmussen spoke about the revolt at a program Saturday sponsored by St. Charles Museum and Historical Association and East Bank Regional Library at the library in Destrehan.
This year we are observing the 200th anniversary of that revolt. It should be a cause for celebration because it helped to bring an end to slavery, one of the most unsavory elements of this country’s past.
So the day after the plantation owners were soaking up liquor and big cigars while celebrating the change of seasons, some 200 slaves in our area took to the roadways in LaPlace and started marching to New Orleans through Destrehan. They were inspired by the civil war in Haiti in the 1790s which resulted in slaves taking over the government there. They were seeking similar success here.
The revolt, however, did not last long. After the slave owners sobered up and realized the problem, they brought out their own forces to end it. The slaves formed a firing line to defend against them which failed.
After a few days, the plantation owners were in full command. And to serve as a lesson, they had many of the revolters beheaded and their heads put on posts.
It was a shameful way for the conflict to end.
Though the slaves were defeated, it did underscore the message that no man should be owned by any other. And it established a touch of history in the St. Charles Parish area as to how this beneficial change in our civilization began to come about.
Rasmussen’s book is available at book stores. The museum association also has helped preserve memories of the revolt by including information on it in a history of St. Charles Parish it recently published which is also available for purchase.