THIS week marks the 211th anniversary of The German Coast Rebellion.
On January 8, 1811, enslaved men and women from St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes rose up and walked downriver toward New Orleans.
They were armed with few rifles, sabers, machetes, fire-hardened oak sticks, or simply with their tools. After killing two of their enslavers and causing considerable damage to the plantations where they were forced to labor, they participants were stopped only two days later after a battle against the local militia backed by Federal troops.
The insurrection started on the property of Manuel Andry, then the head of the local militia of St. John parish. The 1811 revolt had several leaders from various origins, some of them born in Africa.
The main leader was Charles Deslondes, a Mulatto born on the plantation of Widow Jean-Baptiste Deslondes.
The trial of the participants took place from January 13 to January 15. The judgments were rendered without appeal and death sentences were pronounced.
The sentenced called for each of the captured to “immediately be delivered to be shot to death, each before the habitation to which he belonged; that the death penalty will be applied to them without torture but the heads of the executed will be cut and planted on poles at the place where each of the convicted was enslaved. ”
In New Orleans, the prisoners were held in jail on the lower level of the Cabildo and the trials were held on the second floor. Many death sentences were pronounced and the heads of the victims were severed and exposed on the lower gates of the city. This was the fate of those enslaved people whose only fault was their quest for freedom.
Their goal was to capture New Orleans and free all the slaves. They knew they could not win and only death would be at the end of the journey. Although they did enjoy nothing but few precious hour of freedom, their action is comparable in its principle to that of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence knowing that they would be hanged if they lost the War of Independence.■
[Courtesy: Whitney Plantation]