Sat . 19 May 2019

1811 German Coast Uprising

1811 german coast uprising, 1811 german coast uprising charles deslondes
United States victory

  • Suppression of uprising
Belligerents Rebel slaves

United States

  • Local planters
  • Militias and Regulars
Commanders and leaders Charles Deslondes

Wade Hampton I
John Shaw

William C C Claiborne Strength 200 2 companies of volunteer militia, 30 regular troops and 40 seamen Casualties and losses 95 total killed from confrontations with militia and executions after trial 2 killed
North American slave revolts
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  • 1791 Mina Conspiracy
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  • 1791–1804 Haitian Revolution
    French Saint-Domingue, Victorious
  • 1800 Gabriel Prosser
    Virginia, Suppressed
  • 1803 Igbo Landing
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  • 1805 Chatham Manor
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  • 1811 German Coast Uprising
    Territory of Orleans, Suppressed
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  • 1816 Bussa's Rebellion
    British Barbados, Suppressed
  • 1822 Denmark Vesey
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  • 1831 Nat Turner's rebellion
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  • 1831–1832 Baptist War
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The 1811 German Coast Uprising was a revolt of black slaves in parts of the Territory of Orleans on January 8–10, 1811 The uprising occurred on the east bank of the Mississippi River in what is now St John the Baptist and St Charles Parishes, Louisiana While the slave insurgency was the largest in US history, the rebels killed only two white men Confrontations with militia and executions after trial killed 95 black people

Between 64 and 125 enslaved men marched from sugar plantations near present-day LaPlace on the German Coast toward the city of New Orleans They collected more men along the way Some accounts claimed a total of 200 to 500 slaves participated During their two-day, twenty-mile march, the men burned five plantation houses three completely, several sugarhouses, and crops They were armed mostly with hand tools

White men led by officials of the territory formed militia companies to hunt down and kill the insurgents Over the next two weeks, white planters and officials interrogated, tried and executed an additional 44 insurgents who had been captured Executions were generally by hanging or firing squad, with some dismembering of the remains Heads were displayed on pikes to intimidate other slaves

Since 1995, the African American History Alliance of Louisiana has led an annual commemoration in January of the uprising, in which they have been joined by some descendants of participants in the revolt


  • 1 Background
  • 2 The rebellion
  • 3 The suppression
  • 4 The trials
  • 5 Outcome
  • 6 Legacy
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Citations
  • 9 Sources
  • 10 External links


The German Coast was an area of sugar plantations, with a dense slave population According to some accounts, blacks outnumbered whites by nearly five to one More than half of those enslaved may have been born outside Louisiana, many in Africa

In the overall Territory of Orleans, from 1803 to 1811, the free black population nearly tripled, to 5,000, with 3,000 arriving as migrants from Haiti via Cuba in 1809–1810 In Saint-Domingue they had enjoyed certain rights as gens de couleur

After the US negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Territorial Governor William CC Claiborne struggled with the diverse population Not only were there numerous French and Spanish-speaking people, but there was a much greater proportion of native Africans among the slaves than in more northern US states In addition, the mixed-race Creole and French-speaking population grew markedly with refugees from Haiti following the successful slave revolution The American Claiborne was not used to a society with the number of free people of color that Louisiana had—but he worked to continue their role in the militia that had been established under Spanish rule He had to deal with the competition for power between long-term French Creole residents and new US settlers in the territory Lastly, Claiborne was suspicious that the Spanish might encourage an insurrection He struggled to establish and maintain his authority

The waterways and bayous around New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain made transportation and trade possible, but also provided easy escapes and nearly impenetrable hiding places for runaway slaves Some maroon colonies continued for years within several miles of New Orleans With the spread of ideas of freedom from the French and Haitian revolutions, European-Americans worried about slave uprisings in the Louisiana area

The rebellion

A group of Africans who had been forcefully enslaved met on January 6, 1811 It was a period when work had relaxed on the plantations after the fierce weeks of the sugar harvest and processing As planter James Brown testified weeks later, "The black Quamana , owned by Mr Brown, and the mulatto Harry, owned by Messrs Kenner & Henderson, were at the home of Manuel Andry on the night of Saturday–Sunday of the current month in order to deliberate with the mulatto Charles Deslondes, chief of the brigands" Slaves had spread word of the planned uprising among the slaves at plantations up and down the "German Coast", along the Mississippi River

The revolt began on January 8 at the Andry plantation After striking and badly wounding Manuel Andry, the slaves killed his son Gilbert "An attempt was made to assassinate me by the stroke of an axe," Andry wrote "My poor son has been ferociously murdered by a horde of brigands who from my plantation to that of Mr Fortier have committed every kind of mischief and excesses, which can be expected from a gang of atrocious bandittis of that nature"

The rebellion gained momentum quickly The 15 or so slaves at Andry's plantation, about 30 miles 50 km upriver from New Orleans, joined another eight slaves from the next-door plantation of the widows of Jacques and Georges Deslondes This was the home plantation of Charles Deslondes, a field laborer later described by one of the captured slaves as the "principal chief of the brigands" Small groups of slaves joined from every plantation the rebels passed Witnesses remarked on their organized march Although they carried mostly pikes, hoes, axes, and few firearms, they marched to drums while some carried flags From 10–25% of any given plantation's slave population joined with them

At the plantation of James Brown, Kook, one of the most active participants and key figures in the story of the uprising, joined the insurrection At the next plantation down, Kook attacked and killed François Trépagnier with an axe He was the second and last planter killed in the rebellion After the band of slaves passed the LaBranche plantation, they stopped at the home of the local doctor Finding the doctor gone, Kook set his house on fire

Some planters testified at the trials in parish courts that they were warned by their slaves of the uprising Others regularly stayed in New Orleans, where many had town houses, and trusted their plantations to overseers to run Planters quickly crossed the Mississippi River to escape the insurrection and to raise a militia

As the slave party moved downriver, they passed larger plantations, from which many slaves joined them Numerous slaves joined the insurrection from the Meuillion plantation, the largest and wealthiest plantation on the German Coast The rebels laid waste to Meuillion's house They tried to set it on fire, but a slave named Bazile fought the fire and saved the house

After nightfall the slaves reached Cannes-Brulées, about 15 miles 24 km northwest of New Orleans The men had traveled between 14 and 22 miles 23 and 35 km, a march that probably took them seven to ten hours By some accounts, they numbered "some 200 slaves," although other accounts estimated up to 500 As typical of revolts of most classes, free or slave, the insurgent slaves were mostly young men between the ages of 20 and 30 They represented primarily lower-skilled occupations on the sugar plantations, where slaves labored in difficult conditions

The suppression

After being injured, Col Andry went to the other side of the river to round up a militia organized by planters, who began pursuing the slave rebels By noon on January 9, the residents of New Orleans had heard of the insurrection on the German Coast Over the next six hours, General Wade Hampton I, Commodore John Shaw, and Governor William CC Claiborne sent two companies of volunteer militia, 30 regular troops, and a detachment of 40 seamen to fight the slaves

By about 4 am, the troops reached the plantation of Jacques Fortier, where Hampton thought the insurgents had encamped for the night The insurgents had left hours before Hampton's arrival and started back upriver Over the next few hours, they traveled about 15 miles 24 km back up the coast and neared the plantation of Bernard Bernoudy

There, planter Charles Perret, under the command of the badly injured Andry and in cooperation with Judge St Martin, had assembled a militia of about 80 men from the opposite side of the river At about 9 o'clock, this second militia discovered the slaves moving toward high ground on the Bernoudy estate Perret ordered the militia to attack the slaves Perret later wrote that there were about 200 slaves, about half on horseback Most accounts said only the leaders were mounted, and historians believe it unlikely the slaves could have gathered so many mounts

The battle was brief Within a half-hour of the attack, 40 to 45 slaves had been killed and the remainder slipped away into the woods Perret and Andry's militia tried to pursue slaves into the woods and swamps, but it was difficult territory

On January 11, the militia captured Charles Deslondes, whom Andry considered "the principal leader of the bandits" The militia did not hold him for trial or interrogation Samuel Hambleton described Deslonde's fate: "Charles had his hands chopped off then shot in one thigh & then the other, until they were both broken – then shot in the Body and before he had expired was put into a bundle of straw and roasted!"

The trials

Having suppressed the insurrection, the planters and government officials continued to search for slaves who had escaped Those captured were interrogated Officials conducted three tribunals, one at Destrehan Plantation owned by Jean Noel Destréhan St Charles Parish, one in St John the Baptist Parish, and the third in New Orleans Orleans Parish

The Destrehan trial, overseen by Judge Pierre Bauchet St Martin, resulted in the execution of at least 18 slaves by firing squad, whose heads were put on pikes The plantation displayed the bodies of the dead rebels to intimidate other slaves One observer wrote, "Their Heads decorate our Levée, all the way up the coast, I am told they look like crows sitting on long poles" The trials in New Orleans, also in the local court, resulted in the conviction and summary executions of 11 more slaves Three of these were publicly hanged in the Place d'Armes, now Jackson Square

US territorial law provided no appeal from a parish court's ruling, even in cases involving imposition of a death sentence on an enslaved individual Governor Claiborne, recognizing that fact, wrote to the judges of each court that he was willing to extend executive clemency “in all cases where circumstances suggest the exercise of mercy a recommendation to that effect from the Court and Jury, will induce the Governor to extend to the convict a pardon” In fact, Gov Claiborne did commute two death sentences, those of Henry, and of Theodore, each referred by the Orleans Parish court No record has been found of any referral from the court in St Charles Parish, or of any refusal by the Governor of any application for clemency


Militias killed about 95 slaves at the time of the insurrection, as well as by execution after trials From the trial records, most of the leaders appeared to have been mixed-race Creoles or mulattoes, although numerous slaves in the group were native-born Africans

Fifty-six of the slaves captured on the 10th and involved in the revolt were returned to their masters, who may have punished them but wanted their valuable laborers back to work Thirty more slaves were captured, but the whites determined they had been forced to join the revolt by Charles Deslondes and his men, and returned them to their masters

The heirs of Meuillon petitioned the legislature for permission to free the mulatto slave Bazile, who had worked to preserve his master's plantation Not all the slaves supported insurrection, knowing the trouble it could bring and not wanting to see their homes and communities destroyed

As was typical of American slave insurrections, the uprising was short-lived and quickly crushed by local authorities It lasted only a couple of days and did not overcome the local Government Showing planter influence, the legislature of the Territory of Orleans approved compensation of $300 to planters for each slave killed or executed The Territory accepted the continued presence of US military troops after the revolt, as they were grateful for their presence The insurrection was covered by national press, with Northerners seeing it arising out of the wrongs suffered under slavery


No state or federal historical marker commemorates the insurrection, though it is mentioned on the marker for the Woodland Plantation formerly the Andry plantation: "Major 1811 slave uprising organized here" Despite its size and connection to the French and Haitian revolutions, the rebellion is not thoroughly covered in history books As late as 1923, however, older black men "still relate the story of the slave insurrection of 1811 as they heard it from their grandfathers"

Since 1995, the African American History Alliance of Louisiana has led an annual commemoration at Norco in January, where they have been joined by some descendants of members of the revolt The Whitney Plantation, in St John the Baptist Parish, opened in 2014 and is the first plantation museum in the country dedicated to the slave experience The Whitney Plantation includes a memorial and information to commemorate the 1811 Slave Uprising of the German Coast

Artist Dread Scott has planned a massive re-enactment of the uprising

See also

  • Charles Deslondes
  • Denmark Vesey
  • Destrehan Plantation
  • Gabriel Prosser
  • Haitian Revolution
  • History of slavery in Louisiana
  • List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States
  • Nat Turner's slave rebellion
  • Slave rebellion
  • St John the Baptist Parish


  1. ^ Rothman 2005, p 106
  2. ^ Mary Ann Sternberg, Along the River Road: Past and Present on Louisiana’s Historic Byways, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001, p 12
  3. ^ "'American Rising': When Slaves Attacked New Orleans" NPR January 16, 2011 Retrieved January 16, 2011 
  4. ^ a b Eugene D Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, New York: Vintage Books, 1976, p 592
  5. ^ a b James W Lowen, Lies Across America: What Our History Sites Get Wrong, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, p 192
  6. ^ a b Rothman 2005, p 111
  7. ^ Nathan A Buman, "To Kill Whites: The 1811 Louisiana Slave Insurrection", Louisiana State University, August 2008, pp 32–33, 37, 51, 58 Retrieved January 18, 2013
  8. ^ Rasmussen 2011, p 11
  9. ^ Manuel Andry 1757-1839 in the Dictionary of Louisiana Biography Retrieved 15 April 2017
  10. ^ Rasmussen 2011, p 135
  11. ^ Rasmussen 2011, p 109
  12. ^ a b c "January 8, 1811" African American Registry 2005 Archived from the original on October 1, 2009 Retrieved December 8, 2008 
  13. ^ a b Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p156
  14. ^ Smith, TR 2011 Southern Queen: New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century Bloomsbury Academic p 31 ISBN 9781847251930 Retrieved April 6, 2015 
  15. ^ "Jean Noël Destrehan" by John H Lawrence, KnowLouisianaorg Encyclopedia of Louisiana Ed David Johnson Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 18 Jun 2013 Web 15 Apr 2017
  16. ^ Rasmussen 2011, p 148
  17. ^ January 16, 1811, and January 19, 1811, Rowland, Dunbar, ed Official Letter Books of WCC Claiborne, 1801–1816 Vol 5 State department of archives and history, 1917, pp 100–01, 107–08
  18. ^ Carter, 1940, p 983
  19. ^ Carter, 1940, p 982; Rowland, pp 198–99
  20. ^ Eaton, Fernin November 7, 2011 "Slave Uprising; Governor on Trial: Claiborne in His Own Words" Salon publique, Pitot House, New Orleans Academiaedu Retrieved February 19, 2015
  21. ^ Rothman 2005, p 115
  22. ^ Rothman 2005, p 116
  23. ^ Marael Johnson, Louisiana, Why Stop: A Guide to Louisiana's Roadside Historical Markers, Houston: Gulf Publishing Co, 1996, p 52
  24. ^ Lubin F Laurent, "A History of St John the Baptist Parish", Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 7 1924, pp 324–25
  25. ^ Boucher, Brian 2015-09-29 "Dread Scott Stages Slave Uprising—artnet News" Artnet News Retrieved 2017-09-06 


  • "John Shaw to Paul Hamilton", New Orleans, January 18, 1811, National Archives
  • "Samuel Hambleton to David Porter", January 15, 1811, Papers of David Porter, Library of Congress, in Slavery, Stanley Engerman, Seymour Drescher, and Robert Paquette, eds New York: Oxford University Press, 2001 p 326
  • Aptheker, Herbert 1943 American Negro Slave Revolts New York: Columbia University Press ISBN 0717806057 
  • Carter, Clarence Edwin, ed The Territorial Papers of the United States, V 9: The Territory of Orleans – 1803–1812 US Government Printing Office, 1940, p 983
  • Conrad, Glenn R ed The German Coast: Abstracts of the Civil Records of St Charles and St John the Baptist Parishes, 1804–1812 Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1981
  • Engerman, Stanley, Seymour Drescher, and Robert Paquette, eds Slavery New York: Oxford University Press, 2001 pp 324–26 ISBN 0192893025
  • "German Coast Uprising 1811", in Junius P Rodriguez, ed, The Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion, Westport, Connecticut, and London: Greenwood Press, 2007, 213–16 ISBN 0313332711
  • Rasmussen, Daniel 2011 American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt New York: Harper ISBN 0061995223 
  • Rothman, Adam 2005 Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press ISBN 0674024168 
  • Sitterson, J Carlyle Sugar Country; the Cane Sugar Industry in the South, 1753–1950 Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1953 ISBN 0837170273
  • Thrasher, Albert, ed On to New Orleans! Louisiana's Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt 2nd ed New Orleans: Cypress Press, 1996 ISBN 0964459507

External links

  • "Slave Insurrection of 1811" in Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities' Know Louisiana encyclopedia 2011
  • "Slaves Rebel in Louisiana" at African American Registry
  • Daniel Rasmussen discussing his book about America's largest slave revolt on YouTube 2012
  • 200-year commemoration of the revolt; with photo of historic marker at The Times-Picayune 2011
  • ANDRY, Manuel 1757-1839 in the Louisiana Historical Association's Dictionary of Louisiana Biography 1988
  • François Trepagnier second planter killed on Find a Grave

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