Henry Watkins Allen

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Henry Watkins Allen
17th Governor of Louisiana
In office
January 25, 1864 – June 2, 1865
LieutenantBenjamin W. Pearce
Preceded byThomas Overton Moore
Succeeded byJames Madison Wells
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives
Personal details
Born(1820-04-29)April 29, 1820
Prince Edward County, Virginia
DiedApril 22, 1866(1866-04-22) (aged 45)
Mexico City, Mexico
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Salome Crane
Military service
Allegiance Republic of Texas
 Confederate States of America
Branch/serviceRepublic of Texas Texian Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1864 (CSA)
RankCommissioned Officer All Other Departments Captain.svg Captain (Texian Army)
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General (Louisiana Militia)
Brigadier General (CSA)
Commands4th Louisiana Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsTexas Revolution
American Civil War

Henry Watkins Allen (April 29, 1820 – April 22, 1866) was an American soldier and politician. He made it to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

Elected as the 17th Governor of Louisiana late in the war, Allen served from January 1864 to May 1865. He was the last governor elected under Constitutional law to the post until the end of Reconstruction. He escaped to Mexico, and lived and worked there until his death due to a stomach disorder. He was returned to the United States and buried in New Orleans.

Early life and career[edit]

Allen was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia. After attending local schools, he was educated at Marion College, Missouri. He moved to Mississippi, where he taught school and practiced law.

He served in the Texas Revolution against Mexico as a private and later as captain. He was elected as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1846, after which he studied law at Harvard University.

He later moved to Louisiana, where he acquired a sugar cane plantation, dependent on the labor of enslaved African Americans. He was elected to the Louisiana Legislature in 1853.[1] In 1859, he went to Europe with the intention of taking part in the Italian struggle for independence but arrived too late. He toured through Europe, the incidents of which he recounted in his memoir, Travels of a Sugar Planter.

He was re-elected to the legislature during his absence. After his return, he took a prominent part in the business of that body. Allen had been a Know Nothing (American Party) in politics but joined the Democratic Party when Buchanan was nominated for president in 1856.

Civil War service[edit]

Allen enlisted as a private in the 4th Louisiana Infantry Regiment but was quickly promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 15, 1861. Allen became the regiment's Colonel on March 1, 1862. He was seriously wounded at Shiloh and Baton Rouge.[2]

Colonel Allen met Sarah Morgan on November 2, 1862, when he was still unable to walk due to receiving wounds in both legs at the Battle of Baton Rouge. She described him as a "wee little man" with a "dough face" in her diary which was published posthumously in the late 20th century.[3]

In early 1863, while recuperating, Allen served as military judge of Pemberton's Army of Mississippi, at the same time also serving as Major General of the Louisiana Militia. In June 1863, he suffered further injury while escaping a hotel fire at Jackson, Mississippi.[2]

He was promoted to a Brigadier General on August 19, 1863.[4] He agreed to run and was elected Governor of Louisiana, taking office in January 1864; his tenure ended when the Confederacy collapsed in the spring of 1865.[5]

As governor, Allen secured legislative passage of a law to prevent illegal impressment by Confederate agents. Another law allowed Allen to purchase medicine and to distribute it to the needy. Disabled soldiers were provided with $11 per month. Allen established new hospitals based on a combination of public and private funding. Recognizing the lack of manufacturing industry in Louisiana, he established a system of state stores, foundries, and factories with the goal of converting the works to civilian production after the war.

Because the lack of medicine was acute in the Confederacy, Allen devoted extensive time and resources toward establishing a large intelligence and covert action service which could secretly procure vital supplies, especially medicine such as quinine, from behind Union lines in New Orleans or from Mexico. Having established the state's military-industrial complex in a short twelve months, state laboratories were soon manufacturing turpentine, castor oil, medicinal alcohol, and carbonate of soda.

Allen made arrangement with General Edmund Kirby-Smith to transfer to the state large amounts of cotton and sugar collected by Confederate agents as tax-in-kind until the Confederate debt could be retired. He tried to make the state self-sufficient and also guarded the civil liberties of the citizens from infringement by military authorities.[6]

Post-bellum career[edit]

As the Union army forces started taking over free Louisiana, military authorities declared Governor Allen an outlaw, punishable by death upon his capture. Historian John D. Winters wrote about Allen's leaving Louisiana to take refuge in Mexico:

"Before leaving he addressed a long letter to the people of Louisiana begging them to keep the peace and 'submit to the inevitable' and 'begin life anew' without whining or despair. The crippled governor then got into his ambulance while a group of friends, tears streaming from their eyes, told him good-by."[7]

In 1865, James Madison Wells, Louisiana's first reconstruction governor, succeeded Allen.

After the war, Allen moved to Mexico City and edited the Mexico Times. He assisted in the opening of trade between Texas and Mexico. He died in Mexico City, of a stomach disorder.[5]

His body was returned to New Orleans for burial at Lafayette Cemetery. In 1885, his remains were reinterred on the grounds in front of the Old Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.


Allen historical marker in Newellton, Louisiana

Allen Parish in western Louisiana is named for him, as is Port Allen, a small city on the west bank of the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge.

The Henry Watkins Allen Camp #133 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in his honor. The neighborhood in which he lived in while in Shreveport was later named as Allendale.

Camp #435, Sons of Confederate Veterans, was chartered in 1903 as the Kirby Smith Camp, but the name was changed prior to 1935 to the Henry Watkins Allen Camp #435 in honor of Shreveport's famous resident. The camp is no longer in existence.

Henry W. Allen Elementary School, a public school in New Orleans, is named for him.

A statue of Allen by sculptor Angela Gregory is located near the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse in Port Allen. A maquette of this statue can be seen on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum.

A bust of Allen, along with Lee, Jackson and Beauregard, is located on the Confederate memorial in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse in Shreveport.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dorsey, Sarah A. (1866). Recollections of Henry Watkins Allen. New York: M. Doolady. p. 41.
  2. ^ a b Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-87338-505-3. Retrieved June 20, 2015. pp. 4-5.  – via Questia (subscription required)
  3. ^ East, Charles, ed. (1991). Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-671-78503-1.
  4. ^ "Civil War Historian recalls Henry Watkins Allen's unique place in Louisiana and American history". The Riverside Reader. Port Allen, Louisiana. February 4, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3, p. 101
  6. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. 318–319.
  7. ^ Winters, p. 426

Further reading[edit]

  • Dorsey, Sarah A. (1866). Recollections of Henry Watkins Allen, Brigadier-General Confederate States Army Ex-Governor of Louisiana. New York: M. Doolady.
  • Roland, Charles P. (1957). Louisiana Sugar Plantations During the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-87338-505-3. Retrieved June 20, 2015.  – via Questia (subscription required)
  • Winters, John D. (1963). The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Overton Moore
Confederate Governor of Louisiana
with Union Governors George Foster Shepley, Michael Hahn, and James Madison Wells
Succeeded by
James Madison Wells
as Reconstruction Governor