The Yankees at the Gates

Clara Solomon wrote a wonderfully detailed diary during the Civil War in New Orleans. She was born in 1844. Her family were Sephardic Jews from South Carolina. Her father was Solomon Solomon who made a good living as a merchant. After the Civil War, his finances would reverse. But, for now, they were solidly middle class.

The Provost Marshalls

The war was never far from Clara’s thoughts or activities. But, on March 15, 1862, Clara felt fear when the Confederate Army (i.e., Maj-Gen. Lovell) declared martial law in New Orleans. She commented that the news “startled the timid,” but on seeing the Provost Marshals, confidence was at once restored. The marshals were as follows

Wm Freret                               First District

Cyprien Dufour                       Second District

Hon. Pierre Soule                   Third District

Col. H. D. Ogden                    Fourth District

Capt. Norbert Trepagnier       Algiers

Judge Victor Burthe                Jefferson Parish

And, well they should have confidence. William Freret was the man for whom Freret street is named. He had served as mayor of the city in the 1840’s and was a strong supporter of the school system.

Pierre Soule was one of those persons in Louisiana politics who was a household name. He had served as senator from Louisiana and as ambassador to Spain. He has been described as  a “fire-eater,” meaning he was an ardent secessionist. He was a lawyer in New Orleans, known for defending the filibusterer, William Walker. Soule had a colorful past. He published in France an article critical of church and state. He was sentenced to prison, but left for the United States. Later, during the Yankee occupation, he will be arrested for allegedly provoking unrest. He will be sent to prison in New York, but will escape. For more about Pierre Soule, see Dictionary of Louisiana Biography here.

Cyprien Dufour had studied law in the office of Pierre Soule. He later served as District Attorney for Orleans parish and as assistant Attorney General for the state of Louisiana. These were the heavy-weights in New Orleans political circles who were still in town. Everyone else was off at war.

Martial Law

Martial law also meant the city’s coffee houses and saloons would close at 8 pm every night, recorded the young Clara. Not mentioned by Clara, there would also be a system of passports issued which would restrict egress and ingress into the city.

The Federal fleet had appeared at the mouth of the Mississippi on March 13, 1862. The Confederate commander, Maj-Gen.Mansfield Lovell, had been begging for reinforcements. Now, all that was too late.

Sources:

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 290.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 15, 1862, p. 1

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