Philip H. Sheridan to Andrew Johnson, New Orleans, Louisiana, August 6, 1866.

Source citation

"Louisiana," The American Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1866 (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 456-457.

Type
Military record
Date Certainty
Exact
Transcriber
John Osborne, Dickinson College
Transcription date

The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

His Excellency Andrew Johnson, President, United States:
I have the honor to make the following reply to your dispatch of August fourth (4th): A very large number of colored people marched in procession on Friday night, July twenty-seventh (27th) and were addressed from the steps of the City Hal by Doctor Dostie, ex-Governor Hahn, and others. The speech of Dostie was intemperate in language and sentiment. The speeches of the others, so far as I can learn, were characterized by moderation. l have not given you the words of Dostie’s speech, as the version published was denied; but from what I have learned of the man, I believe they were intemperate.
The convention assembled at twelve (12) M. on the thirtieth (30th), the timid members absenting themselves, because the tone of the general public was ominous of trouble. I think there were at about twenty-six (26) members present. In the front of the Mechanics' Institute, where the meeting was held, there were assembled some colored men. women, and children, perhaps eighteen (18) or twenty (20), and in the institute a number of colored men, probably one hundred and fifty (150). Among those outside and inside there might have been a pistol in the possession of every tenth (10th) man.
About one (1) P. M. a procession of, say from sixty (60) to one hundred and thirty (130) colored men marched up Burgundy Street and across Canal Street toward the convention, carrying the American flag. These men had about one pistol to over ten men, and canes, and clubs in addition. While crossing Canal Street a row occurred. There were many spectators in the streets, and their manner and tone toward the procession unfriendly. A shot was fired, by whom I am not able to state, but believe it to have been by a policeman, or some colored man in the procession. This led to other shots and a rush after the procession. On arrival at the front of the Institute there was some throwing of brickbats by both sides. The police, who had been held well in hand, were vigorously marched to the scene of disorder. The procession entered the Institute with the flag, about six (6) or eight (8) remaining outside. A row occurred between a policeman and one of those colored men, and a shot was again fired by one of the parties, which led to an indiscriminate fire on the building through the windows by the policemen. This had been going on for a short time, when a white flag was displayed from the windows of the Institute, whereupon the firing ceased, and the police rushed into the building.
From the testimony of wounded men and others who were inside the building, the policemen opened an indiscriminate fire upon the audience until they had emptied their revolvers, when they retired, and those inside barricaded the doors. The door was broken in, and the firing again commenced, when many of the colored and white people either escaped through the door or were passed out by the policemen inside; but as they came out, the policemen who formed the circle nearest the building fired upon them, and they were again fired upon by the citizens that formed the outer circle. Many of those wounded and taken prisoners, and others who were prisoners and not wounded, were fired on by their captors and by citizens. The wounded were stabbed while lying on the ground, and their heads beaten with brickbats in the yard of the building, whither some of the colored men had escaped, and partially secreted themselves. They were fired upon and killed or wounded by policemen. Some men were killed or wounded several squares from the scene. Members of the convention were wounded by the policemen while in their hands as prisoners — some of them mortally.
The immediate cause of this terrible affair was the assemblage of this convention. The remote cause was the bitter and antagonistic feeling that has been growing in this community since the advent of the present Mayor, who, in the organization of his police force selected many desperate men, and some of them known murderers. People of clear views were overawed by want of confidence in the Mayor, and fear of the thugs, many of whom he had selected for his Police force. I have frequently been spoken to by prominent citizens upon this subject, and have heard them express fear and want of confidence in Mayor Monroe. Ever since the intimation of this last convention I must condemn the course of several of the city papers for supporting, by their articles, the bitter feeling of bad men. As to the merciless manner in which the convention was broken up, I feel obliged to confess strong repugnance.
It is useless to attempt to disguise the hostility that exists on the part of a great many here toward Northern men, and this unfortunate affair has so precipitated matters that there is now a test of what shall be the status of Northern men — whether they can live here without being in constant dread or not; whether they can be protected in life and property, and have justice in the courts. If this matter is permitted to pass over without a thorough and determined prosecution of those engaged in it, we may look out for frequent scenes of the same kind, not only here but in other places. No steps have yet been taken by the civil authorities to arrest citizens who were engaged in this massacre, or policeman who perpetuated such cruelties. The members of the convention have been indicted by the grand jury, and many of them arrested and held to bail. As to whether the civil authorities can mete out ample justice to the guilty parties on both sides, I must say it is my opinion unequivocally that they cannot.  Judge Abell, whose course I have closely watched for nearly a year, I now condider one of the most dangerous men we have here to the peace and quiet of the city.  The leading men of the convention - King, Cutler, Hahn, and others - have been political agitators, and are bad men.  I regret to say that the course of Governor Wells has been vacillating, and that during the late trouble he has shown very little of the man.
P.H. SHERIDAN
Major-General Commanding.

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