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White League Massacre at Coushatta (1874)

In August 1874, the White League murdered six white Republicans and as many as 20 black witnesses in Coushatta, Louisiana. Following the massacre, Louisiana governor William Kellogg issued the following statement.

Having felt it my duty to issue my proclamation offering a large reward for the apprehension and conviction of the murderers in the Coushatta outrage, and to the end that the law-abiding citizens of the State may fully comprehend the magnitude of the crime committed and be induced to render more active assistance to the officers of the law, I deem it proper to make the following statement :

These facts are gathered from reliable information received at the executive department :

On or about the 28th day of August, 1874, a body of persons, belonging to a semi-military organization known as the White League of Louisiana, assembled in the town of Coushatta, parish of Red River, in this State, for the purpose of compelling by force of arms the State officers of that parish to resign their positions.

These officers were men of good character, most of them largely interested in planting and mercantile pursuits. They held their positions with the full consent of an admittedly large majority of the legal voters of the parish, this being a largely republican parish, as admitted even by the fusion returning-boards.

The only known objection to them was that they were of republican principles. Frank S. Edgerton, the duly-qualified sheriff of the parish, in strict compliance with the laws of this State and of the United States, summoned a posse comitatus of citizens, white and colored, to assist him in protecting the parish officers in the exercise of their undoubted rights and duties from the threatened unlawful violence of the White Leagues. His posse, consisting of sixty-five men, was overpowered by a superior force assembled from the adjacent parishes, and finally, after several colored and white men had been killed, surrendered themselves prisoners with the explicit guarantee that their lives would be spared if the more prominent republicans would agree to leave the parish and those holding office would resign their positions.

These stipulations, though unlawfully exacted, were complied with on the part of the republican officials, who were then locked up in the jail for the night.

The following-named persons were among those so surrendering and resigning:

Homer J. Twitchell, planter and tax-collector of Red River, and deputy United States postmaster in charge of the post-office at Coushatta; Robert A. Dewees, supervisor of registration, De Soto Parish; Clark Holland, merchant and supervisor of registration, Red River Parish; W. J. Howell, parish attorney and United States commissioner; Frank S. Edgerton, sheriff of Red River Parish; M.C. Willis, merchant and justice of the peace.

On the following morning, Sunday, the 30th day of August, these persons were bound and conducted by an armed guard to the McFarland plantation, just over the parish-line of Red River, within the boundaries of Bossier Parish, about forty miles east of the Texas line. There they were set upon and deliberately murdered in cold blood. Their bodies were buried near where they fell, without inquest or any formality whatever.

On the night preceding the surrender a body of forty members of the White League of Caddo Parish, mounted and armed, left the city of Shreveport, and were seen riding in the direction of the place where the murder was subsequently committed.

WILLIAM P. KELLOGG, Governor.1

  1. Citations

    • 1 From Index to Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the Second Sessions of the Forty-Third Congress, 1874–1875, 1003.

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