FIRST TO SECEDE, LAST TO SURRENDER
By Ann Middleton
In his March 11, 1971, The Bossier Banner article "Bossier Parish in Retrospect," Rupert Payton shares his view of how the Civil War began in Bossier Parish and ended in Caddo Parish.
When the citizens of Bossier declared war on the United States on November 26, 1860, at the tiny community of Rocky Mount, they preceded South Carolina's secession by almost a month and the firing on Fort Sumter by almost five months. Bossier Parish's strong spirit of rebellion and its resentment of the election of Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln did not receive a single vote in the 1860 presidential election) led Bossier citizens to hold a mass meeting where a resolution declaring war "For the Protection of Our Homes" was almost unanimously adopted. Bellevue and Collinsburg took similar action three days later. A company of militia, the Minute Men of Bossier was immediately organized, uniforms and weapons were purchased and drilling was begun. Five months later the company, now called the Bossier Volunteers, marched off to war, many of its soldiers never to return.
Payton goes on to explain that, in 1862, when Federal Forces captured New Orleans, the Confederate capitol was moved to Shreveport which was also the headquarters of the army of Trans-Mississippi, in addition to being the office of then governor Henry W. Allen. Union forces targeted Shreveport frequently but not until after the Confederate surrender were Union forces able to take Shreveport. The last significant Confederate victory of the war was at Mansfield, Louisiana, on April 8, 1864. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 but the army of Trans-Mississippi under the command of General Kirby Smith continued the struggle hoping that England and France would come to the aid of the South. In spite of further Confederate resistance, Smith realized the futility of continuance and he left Shreveport leaving General Simon Bolivar Buckner in command. Morale of the Confederate soldiers sunk low. They were unpaid and hungry. General Buckner finally accepted surrender as his only alternative and he signed the requested terms at New Orleans on May 26, 1865. Smith formally ratified the surrender terms at Galveston, Texas, June 2nd, and then sought asylum in Mexico.
In his address on the Shreveport Court House Square, Governor Allen said:
"My countrymen, we have for four long years waged a war we deemed to be just in the sight of high heaven. We have not been the best, the wisest, nor the bravest people in the world, but we have suffered more and have borne our suffering with greater fortitude than any people on the face of God's green earth. Now let us show the world that as we have fought like men, like men we will make peace. Let there be no acts of violence, no heart burning, no intemperate language, but with manly dignity, submit to the inevitable events."
Allen, as did General Smith, sought asylum in Mexico.
J. Fair Hardin, twentieth century Shreveport historian, wrote "So here in truth we may say that the sun which rose in such material glory at Manassas, on the hills of the Potomac, sank forever here in Shreveport, on the banks of the Red."
To read more about the Civil War in Northwest Louisiana, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.
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