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Charles Deslondes was one of the slave leaders of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, a slave revolt that began on January 8, 1811, in the Territory of Orleans. He led more than 200 rebels against the plantations along the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. White planters formed militias and ended up hunting down the rebels. The slave insurgents killed two white men, and the militias and executions killed 95 slaves.
Born into slavery in Saint-Domingue (now, Haiti), Deslondes was described in some accounts as mulatto or mixed race. He was brought to the Louisiana Territory by his master after the Haitian Revolution, when thousands of French Creoles brought their slaves and mixed-race refugees also left the island. Of the 9,059 immigrants in 1809, about 30 percent were white and 35.6 percent were slaves; the remainder were free people of color.
Deslondes worked as a "driver," or overseer of slaves, on the plantation of Col. Manuel Andre or Andry (this plantation was later called Woodland and no longer exists) who had a total of 86 slaves. In a letter printed in the Philadelphia Political and Commercial Advertiser on February 19 that year, Deslondes was mistakenly described as a free person of color.
Deslondes had organized slaves and maroons for revolt in what is now St. John the Baptist Parish, part of the German Coast (of the Mississippi River) because it had been settled by many German immigrants. As he led his forces, they recruited other slaves from plantations along the way southeast into St. Charles Parish before turning back. Reports were that he led some 200 insurgents in total, although accounts vary. The men killed two whites near the beginning of their march, and burned down three plantation houses and some crops. They captured a limited number of weapons, although they had planned on more.
On January 11, a planter militia led by Col. Manuel André attacked the main body of insurgents at Destrehan Plantation west of New Orleans. André and his son had been the first targets of the insurrection, and the younger André had died as a result of his wounds. The militia killed about forty slaves in their immediate confrontation. They killed fourteen more slaves in other skirmishes and captured numerous men. After they interrogated the captives, they quickly tried and executed eighteen slaves at the Destrehan plantation. They tried and executed eleven slaves in New Orleans. A total of ninety-five insurgents were killed in the aftermath of rebellion.
As for Deslondes, upon capture the militia did not hold him for trial or interrogation. Samuel Hambleton described Deslonde's fate: "Charles [Deslondes] had his hands chopped off then shot in one thigh & then the other, until they were both broken — then shot in the body and before he had expired was put into a bundle of straw and roasted!"
While the number of slaves in the 1811 Louisiana revolt was the largest in U.S. history, they killed only two white men.
- Rodriguez, Junius P. “Rebellion on the River Road: The Ideology and Influence of Louisiana’s German Coast Slave Insurrection of 1811.” In McKivigan, John. R., and Harrold, Stanley. Antislavery Violence: Sectional, Racial, and Cultural Conflict in Antebellum America, Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1999, accessed 5 January 2011
- Thomas Marshall Thompson, "National Newspaper and Legislative Reactions to Louisiana's Deslondes Slave Revolt of 1811", The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History, Vol 3: The Louisiana Purchase and its Aftermath, 1800-1830, Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana, Lafayette, 1998, p. 311
- Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 156
- Dormon, James H., “The Persistent Specter: Slave Rebellion in Territorial Louisiana.” Louisiana History 28 (Fall 1977): 389-404.
- Paquette, Robert L., “Revolutionary St. Domingue in the Making of Territorial Louisiana", in A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution in the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 218–20.
- Rasmussen, Daniel, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt
- Rodriguez, Junius P. “‘Always En Garde’: The Effects of Slave Insurrection upon the Louisiana Mentality”, Louisiana History 33 (Fall 1992): 399-416.
- Thompson, Thomas Marshall. “National Newspaper and Legislative Reactions to Louisiana’s Deslonde Slave Revolt of 1811”, Louisiana History 33 (Winter 1992): 5-29.