des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas. Alexandre
Barde. Text edited by Mary Greenwood.
ISBN: 978-09793230-2-7. $19.50
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Histoire des Comités
de Vigilance aux Attakapas. Alexandre Barde.
Text edited by Mary Greenwood.
1859. The Attakapas District of Louisiana.
With the crisis of Secession looming only a few months in the future,
a group citizens composed of planters, cattlemen, and merchants,
formed numerous militias known as “Vigilante Committees.”
Their mission was to strike down the raging criminal activity and
suspect morality of those who lived on the margins of society. Their
methods: banishment, the whip, and, when needed, hanging.
The resulting prairie fire swept across
the Attakapas, sweeping up in its wake more than 4,000 Creoles and
Cadiens determined to crush those deemed undesirable so that the
region could be returned to the control of “honest people.”
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.
This work offers a troubling and stirring
account of the events that rocked 1859. And yet, it conceals a story
as moving as the history revealed within its pages: this is also
the epic tale of a young Frenchman who arrived in a new nation in
his most vibrant youth, who had abandoned his dreams of literary
glory to discover his own exile in the American wilderness, and
who threw himself into the remarkably romantic enterprise, suggested
by the vigilante chief, Sarrazin Broussard, to “make this
a good story.”