The German Coast slave uprising of 1811 is regarded by some historians as the largest revolt of its sort in American history. While that claim has been disputed, recent examinations of the period reveal that the revolt was a significant one.
It took place in New Orleans in a region east of the Mississippi River that was home to several sugar plantations and was led by a man of Haitian descent named Charles Deslondes. Differing accounts say that Deslondes was either a slave or a slave driver, while others say he might have been born a free person. What is generally agreed upon is that Deslondes planned and led the revolt.
The uprising began on January 8, with at least 200 to more than 500 slaves taking up basic arms such as farm tools and whatever they could find to enter the plantation homes of the families that owned and abused them. The revolt began at the Manuel Andry plantation. Deslondes and his men raided the home, taking weapons and uniforms. Deslondes was hopeful that success there would rally others to their cause.
Despite the various language and cultural barriers between the slaves, their goal was clear. The carnage the slaves inflicted attracted the attention of local authorities and a brief but intense war broke out. Considering the odds and their limited resources, academics who reviewed old records discovered that the revolt was more far-reaching than originally thought.
In the end, almost 70 Blacks were killed in battle compared with just two whites, one of which was Andry’s son. Several dozen other slaves were executed or exiled from New Orleans. Some were decapitated and had their heads displayed on spikes. Other slaves, despite their participation were too valuable to masters to be killed and were returned to their plantations. Deslonde was tortured, shot and then burned for his role.
Deslonde’s revolt was inspired by the Haitian Revolution just a decade prior. In 2011, Destrehan Plantation and Tulane University commemorated the 200th year anniversary of the uprising. The German coast area is now the St. Charles and St. John The Baptist parishes. Despite its size, the area has no historical markers of the event and documentation of it is minimal.
PHOTO: Facebook Destrehan Plantation