The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 334
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Throughout the rest of 1862, small Union and Confederate forces
moved into this region sparking months of skirmishing, bushwhacking,
and fighting between the two sides as each sought to control this no-
man's land of sugar plantations. Union Gen. Benjamin Butler's forces
finally met and defeated Confederate Gen. Alexander Mouton's troops.
With the issue of control settled, the Union leadership was free to use
the region as a laboratory to test the validity of their social, political, and
economic views in the contest, while advancing their war aims. To hold
these precious gains, U.S. troops constructed fortifications at Brashear
City on the Atchafalaya River and Fort Butler at Donaldsonville on the
The results of the campaigns of 1862 clearly revealed what was at
stake politically in at least that portion of the trans-Mississippi. Besides
resources lost to the South and added to the North, the capture of the
Lafourche District provided psychological dividends for the northern
war effort. Many wealthy and influential sugar planters threw their sup-
port behind the Union and dismissed the Confederacy as a shadow gov-
ernment, at best, without ability to protect or coerce. At worst, these
men of influence became convinced that the Confederacy was of dubi-
ous legitimacy, as President Abraham Lincoln had argued all along.
In addition to this windfall, the capture of such prime plantation real
estate would also allow northern social experimenters to test one of
their cherished beliefs. Free labor, these abolitionists argued, would be
viable in Louisiana, and indeed would prove superior to the debilitating
slave system in place. The Lafourche District, like the other southern
plantation regions overrun by Union troops, would prove the validity to
this claim. With the government's practice of leasing confiscated planta-
tions reaching full bloom by this point in the war, Federal agents lured
northern entrepreneurs and capitalists into the sugar parishes. Here,
the clever Yankee would in theory employ production techniques suc-
cessful in northern industry while being subsidized by the government.
This great experiment would be the genesis for a new, post-war, labor
system in a humbled South.
Most southern observers realized that the longer the productive
regions were in Union hands, the more likely that their social and eco-
nomic system would be forever changed. If free labor succeeded, then it
would prove false the cherished southern views regarding race, slavery,
and the nature of wealth. At the very least, there was the issue of property
" Barnes Lathrop, "The Lafourche District in 1862: Invasion," Lousiana History, 2 (Spring,
1961), 175-20o; see also Nathaniel P. Banks, " Emancipated Labor in Louisiana," an address
delivered before the Young Men's Christian Commission, Boston, Massachusetts, Oct. 3o, 1864,
Special Collections (W. S. Hoole Library, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/402/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.