1811 German Coast Slave Uprising


Regarded as the largest Slave Uprising in the History of the U.S.
The 1811 German Coast Uprising was a slave revolt that took place in parts of the Territory of Orleans on January 8-10, 1811.


The revolt took place on the east coast of the Mississippi River in what are now St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes, Louisiana.

The German Coast (French: Côte des Allemands) was a region of early Louisiana settlement located above New Orleans on the Mississippi River — specifically, from east to west, in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes of present-day Acadiana.

Its name derived from the large population of German pioneers who were settled there in 1721 by John Law and the Company of the Indies. When the company folded in 1731, the Germans became independent land-owners. Most of the German Coast settlers hailed from the Rhineland region of Germany, the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland, and other places today called, Bayou des Allemands and Lac des Allemands. Gradually, the German immigrants intermarried with the Acadians and their descendants, and began speaking French. Together with other settlers, they helped create Cajun culture.


One of the leaders was Charles Deslondes, a free person of color from Haiti


Whites: 2
Slaves: 66 killed in battle, 16 executed, 17 escaped or dead

It began January 8, 1811, on a plantation owned by Manuel Andry in St. Charles Parish, thirty-six miles south of New Orleans (near the present-day town of Norco). Charles Deslondes, a refugee from St. Domingue who worked as a slave driver on the plantation, organized the other slaves on the plantation. With the support of runaway slaves, or "maroons," who lived in the nearby swamps, Deslondes' band wounded Andry and killed his son. Seizing weapons on the plantation, they set off on the road along the river headed for New Orleans, gathering recruits from other plantations as they went. Accounts differ, but they numbered between 150 and 500 strong. Alarmed planters fled with their families down-river to New Orleans ahead of them, sounding the alarm. During the night of January 9 and the morning of January 10, a detachment of United States regular troops and two companies of militia attacked the slaves at Jacques Fortier's plantation in St. Charles Parish, stopping the advance on New Orleans. Sixty-six slaves were killed. Seventy-five were held for questioning. After a week of investigation, Judge Pierre Bauchet Saint Martin of St. Charles Parish empanelled a tribunal of five plantation owners, some of whom had suffered property damage in the revolt. Of the seventy-five slaves who were held, twenty-five were tried at Noel Destrehan's plantation. On January 15, 1812, after one day of investigation, the tribunal condemned eighteen of the slaves. They were taken to the plantations of their respective masters, where they were shot and their heads cut off and mounted on poles as an example to the remaining slaves.

Some slaves involved in the revolt escaped to Orleans Parish, where they were captured and tried. Jailed in the Cabildo in New Orleans, the slaves' cases were heard in the City Court, January 15-18 and again on February 2. As was the custom, they were tried by a tribunal consisting of a judge or two justices of the peace and three to five white landowners or "freeholders." Slave owners who served on the tribunals included Louis Leblanc, J.E. Boré, Daniel Clark, Peter Colsson, Stephen Henderson, Chas Jumonville, Thomas Porée P. Dennis LaRonde, Jacque Villére, and J.B. Labatut.

Examples of case files from the 1811 insurrection include:

* Territory v. Negro Jerry, slave of James Fortier City Court case #185
* Territory v. Negro Etienne (Neptune), slave of James Fortier City Court case #186
* Territory v. Negro Jean, the slave of Madame Christiene City Court case #187
* Territory v. Garret, Daniel, the slave of Mr. Butler and Mr. McCutcheon City Court case #188
* Criminal case file no. 189, Territory of Orleans v. Hector, the slave of I.E. Trask, 1811
* Territory v. Louis, the slave of Israel E. Trask City Court case #190
* Territory v. Jessamin, the slave of Noel Destrehan City Court case #191
* Territory v. Theodore, the slave of Judge Truard City Court case #192
* Territory v. Gilbert, the slave of Mr. Andry City Court case #193
* Territory v. Caesar, the slave of Israel E. Trask City Court case #194
* Territory v. Jaco [Jacob], the slave of the late Mr. Mueillon City Court case #195
* Territory v. Guery or Gery, the slave of James Fortier City Court #185.

As a result of the 1811 revolt, the Louisiana legislature and those in several other slaveholding states and territories, passed new and tougher slave control laws.
[Excerpted Data from "The Louisiana Purchase: A Heritage Explored", LSU Special Libraries Collection. Other background data excerpted from wikipedia.org]

Between 64 and 125 enslaved men marched from sugar plantations near present-day Norco on the German Coast toward the city of New Orleans. They collected more men along the way. Some accounts claimed a total of 200-500 slaves participated. During their two-day, twenty-mile march, the slaves burned five plantation houses (three completely), several sugarhouses, and crops. They were armed mostly with hand tools.
On January 11, a planter militia led by Col. Manuel André attacked the main body of insurgents at Destrehan Plantation west of New Orleans. The militia killed about forty slaves in their immediate confrontation. Fourteen slaves were killed in other skirmishes. Numerous slaves were captured. After interrogation, eighteen were tried and executed at the Destrehan plantation. Eleven slaves were tried and executed in New Orleans. A total of ninety-five insurgents were killed in the aftermath of rebellion. As for Deslondes, upon capture the militia did not hold him for trial or interrogation. Samuel Hambleton described Deslonde's fate: "Charles [Deslondes] 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!"
[Source: Wikepedia.org]

The slaves of a plantation, in the parish of St. John the Baptist, on the left bank of the Mississippi, about thirty-six miles above New Orleans, revolted and were immediately joined by those of several neighboring plantations. They marched along the river, towards the city, divided into companies, each under an officer, with beat of drums and flags displayed, compelling the blacks they met to fall in their rear; and before they could be checked, set fire to the houses of four or five plantations. Their exact number was never ascertained, but asserted to be about five hundred. The militia of the parish and those above and below, were soon under arms; major Milton came down from Baton Rouge, with the regular force under his orders, and general Hampton, who was then in the city, headed those in Fort St. Charles and the barracks. The blacks were soon surrounded and routed; sixty-six of them were either killed during the action, or hung on the spot, immediately after. Sixteen were sent to the city for trial, and a number fled to the swamps, where they could not be pursued: several of these had been dangerously wounded, and the corpses of others were afterwards discovered. The blacks sent to New Orleans, were convicted and executed. Their heads were placed on high poles, above and below the city, and along the river as far as the plantation on which the revolt began, and on those on which they had committed devastation. To insure tranquillity and quiet alarm, a part of the regular forces and the militia remained on duty, in the neighborhood, during a considerable time.

[Source: The history of Louisiana from the Earliest Period", New Orleans: J.A. Gresham, 1882]

The following newspaper items are from The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA, transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Nancy Piper

February 27, 1811
New Orleans papers of the 14th of January have been received at New York. They contain a number of official articles relative to a formidable insurrection of the slaves in that territory. By the activity of the governor, aided by General Hampton, with a few of the United States’ troops, the negroes were quelled, but not until they had committed considerable ravages and lost a number of lives. Gov. Claiborne’s brother-in-law was wounded by the brigands. The whole militia of the city were ordered on duty. – Balt. Ev. Post.

March 6, 1811
Bloody News!!
Insurrection of the Brigands in the upper part of the Mississippi Territory – insurpents put to flight, and many killed by General Hampton’s troops. Militia ordered under arms – Civil War in Mexico – three battles fought – much blood spilled – government party victorious. (The particulars follow.] N. Y. Gaz.

March 6, 1811
General Orders
Head Quarters, Government House, New Orleans, January 9th, 1811
The whole militia of the city and suburbs of New Orleans are ordered into immediate service. The governor commands in person. The militia within the limits of the suburbs of Marigny and Declonet, will rendezvous at the house of Mr. Beard Barigny, and will receive the orders of colonel Arnoud, of the second regiment. The militia residing between St. Peter’s street and the suburb Marigny, will rendezvous at the principal and receive orders of Major Zenon Cavelier. The militia residing between the Custom Houses and St. Peter’s streets are ordered to rendezvous at the government house, and will receive the orders of Colonel Labature. The militia residing in the suburb of St. Mary are ordered to rendezvous at the house of Mr. Labranch fronting the levee and will receive the orders of Major Anthonp Cavelier. The militia residing at the Bayou St. John, will rendezvous at the house of Mr. Serre, and will receive the orders of Major Dercantel, or in his absence of Captain Louis Arpuente.
The officers are enjoined to maintain the strictest discipline, Col. F. Duollet, Major M. Forster, Cap. Geo. W. Morgan, Messis, Th. Urquhart, John Clay, Lewis Serre and Anthony Lamarlere are named aid-de-camps to the commander in chief, and will be obeyed accordingly.
Wm. C. C. Claiborne,
General Orders

Headquarter’s, Government House, New Orleans, Jan. 9th, 1811
All the Carbarets in the city and suburbs of New Orleans are ordered to be immediately closes, and no male negro is to be permitted to pass the streets after six o’clock.
Wm. C. C. Claiborne
March 6, 1811

January 14
We lay before our readers the following letter, addressed by the brave and respectable Mr. Andry, father to his Excellency Governor Claiborne. It contains the most positive and latest intelligence from above,

To his Excellency Gov. Claiborne,
I have only time to inform you in the shortest way, of the unfortunate events which lately happened, and of which I am one of the principal sufferers. An attempt was made to assassinate me by the stroke of an axe and my poor son has been ferociously murdered by hord 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 bandidi of that nature. But at last, notwithstanding all their nefarious deeds, their plot has been completely frustrated, and seeing that they were unable to perform it, they have come up to pursue their criminal course. With unremitting exertions and exhortations, I have been able to collect a detachment of about 80 men, and although wounded, I have taken the command of my brave fellow planters. We have been so happy as to meet the brigands who were in the neighborhood of the plantation of Mr. Bernoudi, colors displayed and full of arrogance. As soon as we perceived them we rushed upon their troops, of whom we made considerable slaughter. The spot was unfortunately unpropitious to cut off their retreat, so that many have been able to take to the woods, and the chiefs principally being on horseback, have made their escape with greater facility. I have immediately ordered several strong detachments to pursue them through the woods, and at every moment our men bring them in or kill them. I hope we are now free from any fear of this plot, because it does not appear to be general. But we must make a great example. I think a detachment of regular troops would be very useful for the tranquility of our coast, because I am obliged to order many detachments of militia to meet and destroy the remaining of those brigands. If we can take alive the chiefs whom I perfectly know, I consider the affair as entirely finished. I have several other informations to give you, but for the present I am too harassed and pressed by sorrow, and I will very soon transmit you further communications.
Accept, sir, the assurance of the profound respect of your most devoted servant.
German Coast, Jan. 11, 1811

March 6, 1811
Extract of a letter from Mr. Andry, father, to his excellency Gov. Claiborne, dated at the German Coast the 11th of January at 10 o’clock, P.M.
By this opportunity I have the honor to inform you that we continue to maintain ourselves and destroy the brigands. The first of those banditries, named Charles Destandes, has fallen into our hands and several others who appeared to have commanded in second are now in my power. Our detachments find many runaways dead in the woods, and 3 or 4 of the ring leaders are now missing, but ar perhaps expiring in some recess of the woods, or probably taken by our men.”

March 6, 1811
Extract of a letter from Gen. Hampton to Governor Clairborne, bearing date the 12th of January, 1811, from the plantation of Mr. Destrehan.
“Having yesterday formed a junction with Major Milton’s command, was (who) has descended far beyond the commencement of this shocking insurrection, and having posted him in this neighborhood, to protect and give countenance to the various companies of the citizens, that are scourging the country in every direction, I shall permit the detachments that came with one from the city to return. But I have judged expedient, to order a company of Light Artillery and one of Dragoons to descend from Baton Rouge, and to touch at every settlement of consequence, and to crush any disturbance that may have taken place higher up. The chiefs of the party are taken.”

March 6, 1811
Col. J. Fortiner, in his private name, and in that of all the inhabitants of the upper coast, begs leave to address to General Hampton, and the officers and troops under his command, as well as to the detachment of the corps of marine, the sincerest expressions of thankfulness, for the zeal and promptitude with which they have been protected. The respect for the persons and property and strict discipline of the troops, deserved the greatest encomium. The body of volunteers are also requested to make a merited share of praise for their courage and patience, in suffering privations and unavoidable fatigues on such occasions; and although the invaluable service which they have rendered to the county can be but feebly expressed, it will ever be engraved in the hearts of all the inhabitants, and peculiarly in that of col. J. Fortiers.

March 20, 1811
Extract of a letter from an officer in the United States army, to his friend in this place dated:
“Garrison, N. Orleans, Jan 12”
“I have at last arrived at this great city, in fourteen days from For Adams – started 23d December and arrived here on the 7th instant. I have delayed writing till this time, expecting to hear from the coast above. On the 9th instant the negroes assembled in a body and got possession of a sugarhouse about three leagues above this place, to the number of 180 or more, - killed 1 or 2 overseer men and threatened general destruction. An express arrived at this place to Claiborne. The whole of the town are under army day and night. General Hampton with a detachment of artillery from this garrison, are up the coast now and have been for several days, negro fighting. Their ill treatment is said to be the cause of their rebelling. Americans, who have negroes, are under no fear. They are well treated and the masters boast that they could sleep in the huts with their negroes and be perfectly safe. When I got within about 25 leagues of this place, I got out of the boat with Mr. **, and walked to new Orleans. We slept one night on the levee – were refused house room among the French rascals. I plead with them to lie on the platform under the portico of the house, to keep the dew off me – But no.
They are without doubt the most inhuman, unfriendly, disobliging rascals in the world. One negro has a peck of corn per month for his allowance – some have blankets, some without. I could stand by and laugh all the time to see a few of the French planters on the coast murdered by their negroes.
Major Milton, who I was ordered to join at this place, has been ordered by General Hampton to Baton Rouge with his command. I missed him on the river.” – Bedford Gaz.

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