Erected to the memory of the Heros,
Stephen Decatur Parish
James West Hadnot
Who fell in the Colfax Riot fighting
for White Supremacy.
13 April 1873 The terrible riot of April 13, 1873 (Easter Sunday), will never be forgotten. It originated in the fact that Gov. Kellogg appointed two sets of officials with the view, it is alleged, of bringing about just such a result. On April 1, a meeting of Caucasians was called to consider their condition. On that morning, 200 armed Negroes came into town, and the Caucasians did not meet. The White officers held the courthouse, but were soon driven off by the Radicals, who installed their set of officials. During the succeeding five days Colfax was filled by Negroes, who threatened to kill the White males and hold the White females for the purpose of creating a new race. The Whites fled and the work of rapine began. In the house of Judge Rutland the Negroes round a coffin containing the remains of his child, which they cast out of the house. On April 5, a body of 200 White men from adjoining parishes encamped within two miles of Colfax, and sent a demand for the surrender of the courthouse and offices, but this demand was refused and the Negroes entered at once on the construction of a line of defenses. Capt. C. C. Nash, the sheriff-elect, and leader of the Whites, repeatedly told them that they should surrender or they would be attacked, and the climax was reached on the 13th, when the Colored women and children were removed and the black warriors manned the works.
At 10 A.M., that Sunday, 125 Whites opened the attack on the fort, then held by 250 Negroes, twenty-five White men held the horses. Skirmishing continued until 3 p. m. when thirty men, led by James A. Daniels, crept up behind the works and opened fire, the main body attacking in front. The Negroes fled, 100 took refuge in the brick stable, then used for courthouse purposes, and kept up a fire on their assailants. The only approach to this was from one end, and even then there was no opening. Five White men were already wounded, Hadnot, Moses, and Harris seriously. The Whites made a torch which they placed in the hands of a Negro prisoner to set fire to the eaves of the roof. The flames spread, the Negroes desired to surrender, and the men named rushed up to make terms of capitulation quickly. They were shot down. The enraged Whites then killed each Negro as he rushed from the burning building, while fugitives were ridden down and killed. Forty Negroes were made prisoners and protected until night, when twenty of them were killed, making a total of Negroes killed, ninety-five.
The battle was over at 4 o'clock P.M. The year 1873 was given up to political warfare and dreadful riots. Two sets of parish officials were deliberately commissioned by Gov. Kellogg with the object of creating the very troubles which disgraced that Easter day of 1873, and gave to Louisiana its darkest historical page. The state officials did not try to mete out justice, but by wholesale arrest essayed to scare the people into subjection, but their plans were faulty, for the first man arrested, Gen. Cosgrove, of Natchitoches, had nothing to do with the riot. In 1874 W. R. Rutland was parish judge with register clerk J. O. Grayson collector, and Layssard recorder. The new judge abandoned the Republican party after the riot and became a Democrat. The seventeen days' trial of the Grant County prisoners (ninety-eight were indicted), Dumas, Lemoine, P. Lemoine, Thomas Hickman, Alfred Lewis, and T. Gibbons, in the United States Court and under the Kuklux law, ended March 20, 1874. The jury disagreed, but the prisoners were refused liberty on bail. A second trial resulted in the conviction of W. J. Cruikshank, John Hadnot, and William Irwin, and even this verdict was set aside by Justice Bradley. This ended the prosecution but not the tribulations of the people, for troops were within calling distance to enforce the mandates of the oppressor and assist in the extortion of exorbitant taxes.
Taken from: La AHGA