A book called ‘Vigilantes of the Attakapas’, by Alexandre Barde, is an eyewitness detailed account of local action against violent crime in the mid 1800’s. First of all, the word vigilante at that time was used by the French speaking people to mean a neighborhood watch and it didn’t have the negative connotations that our fearful and illegitimate Federal government has placed upon it through continual negative associations. There is truly nothing more fearful to a government controlled by a small usurping minority, than local people taking independent action.
In short, the committees of vigilance were made up of the highest ranking experienced military men who were independently retired and whose families were among the founders of the community. If men who have led defensive regiments in warfare are not legitimate or qualified to lead in an emergency, then who is?
They set about to find evidence against a band of criminals who had invaded their land, and who were also being protected by higher ups in the State Capitol, still occupied by Northern Aggressors since 1803. Barde, formerly editor of Le Moniteur in Paris, didn’t use those terms. In fact, he wrote in the most hopeful of terms about being part of the United States. But things weren’t starting off very well.
This bold group of bandits set fire to the Tertrou General Store with the entire family upstairs who all burnt to death. While the family burnt, the arsonists hauled off the store merchandise. But before that, many other thefts of cattle, home invasions and other crimes even to the point of poisoning an entire town. The committee went undercover to collect evidence, held a formal trial and exiled the culprits, since they didn’t have authority to do more. There was no lynching, unfortunately.
The towns have all grown so much and what was a place of exile then is now the town where I grew up, a place of about 60,000 people. It’s been so long everyone has forgotten about it. Or maybe it was the fact that the culprits bought what they thought were all the books and had them burnt. They haven’t stopped being criminals, there’s just more of them now.
Vigilante justice is painted by propagandists as violent, racist, and injust. It’s the job of propaganda to reverse roles, to make the good guy look bad, the bad guy look good. Otherwise, it isn’t necessary to have the propaganda at all. We could just have truth.
Note the dread fear between these lines in the publisher’s brief outline, and containing within it a lie about ‘lynching’ which did not actually occur in the book:
“While nothing could shake their belief in the integrity of Lynch laws, Louisiana’s vigilantes were fully aware that their methods were unlawful. Although they clothed their Comités with all the trappings that could bestow legitimacy to them—constitutions, by-laws, written procedures to be followed—none of this was sufficient. They needed a champion, a defender, a bard who could ennoble the concept of popular justice. It was this atmosphere that gave birth to a book that drew the hate and scorn of the children and grandchildren of those Barde names in his Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas.”
Instead of talking about the unlawfulness of murder and theft, or the horror of burning an entire family to death for the sake of stealing merchandise from their family store, this editor focuses guilt on the survivors who take action to defend themselves.
Those children and grandchildren named by Barde are today members of crime families that continue to function today in prominent government positions. If only these first criminals had been lynched, there might have been some hope for the community. But they lived to breed and take revenge on the honest descendants of the Committee. No one that I know has read this book, even though it describes my own ancestors and those of people very close to me. No one wants to hear about this book or know what’s in it. But one thing that it does make clear is that early South Louisiana was populated by the Christian Nobility of Europe who’d sought refuge there. So when you read European history and they tell you that such and such a family died out…well they probably didn’t. Lot’s of them went to St. Martinville in the Louisiana Territory of France.
The action of Barde’s account takes place in St. Martinville, in the Attakapas region now known as Louisiana. It was located on the Western edge of the Atchafalya Basin Swamp. A giant log jamb to the north made it impossilbe to get through from that direction. Outlaws to the west made it impossible to arrive from that direction, and to the South was the Gulf of Mexico. Just a short distance from New Orleans, the path through the swamp to get there directly was open only to skilled guides. The very remoteness and difficulty of getting there is precisely what the inhabitants sought. Many of them had lost relatives to the various revolutions of the Freemasons. Our grandmothers had grandmothers in remote country farms with elegant and useless Paris clothes in the attic.
St. Martinville was known as Petit Paris, having an opera house in the 1750’s and representatives of some of the oldest and most prominent families in old Christendom. But it was a targeted place and once the log jam in Shreveport was cleared, the assassins entered.
An orderly response to a grave threat in the community is described in the original French, though with the usual censorship. Barde brings up the subject of someone named Hirsch, who he asks, “Is it necessary that an entire town should die because one man died?” The only other sentence is missing the ending. The details have been removed, but he’s obviously talking about the village of Parks where an entire town was completely wiped out by the plague while Barde was in St. Martinville. We know today that the plague was actually the result of wheat tainted with a deadly fungus (bromocryptine) that results in the symptoms of what was called ‘the Bubonic Plague’. Parks is a small village just outside of St. Martinville where every single person died from this poison around the time this book was written and so we are left to connect our own dots.
And still, the modern editor of this republished book has no pity for the victims of this band of murderers. The advertisement focuses completely on the illegality of the committee, which in actuality was not illegal at all. The only error they made was to do too little.
2 thoughts on “Vigilance Committee”
I want very much to get a copy of “Vigilante Committee of the Attakapas”
The copies on Amazon are $300 & &700 – I’ve tried Centenary college but the email address is undeliverable.
Do you know where I can get a copy