One of Acadiana’s most celebrated Civil War generals, Jean Jacques Alexandre Mouton, is interred at Lafayette’s St. John’s Cemetery. Mouton rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War, and served the rebellion in several battles including Shiloh (1862), and the Lafourche Campaign (1863), and the Red River Campaign (1864).
graduated from United States Military Academy in 1850, and then resigned his
commission after his graduation. Alfred
then started with “New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad” in the
civil engineering field. Before the Civil War and his engineering career, Mouton led the
Lafayette Parish Police Jury--the parish council form of government
unique to Louisiana. As did many wealthier Planters of his era, he
oftentimes formed up slave patrol companies to guard against slaves'
movement and potential slave rebellions. With his own slave-labored
plantation joined to his father’s, he had a definitive interest in
keeping his labor force captive, and used violence for that goal. Alfred Mouton and his father, combined, were the largest slaveholders in the entire state.
At the outbreak of Civil War, Mouton organized a company of men from the local population of the Lafayette Parish. The company had mostly farmers from the area, but Mouton was captain of the company upon its organization. The company organized into the 18th Louisiana Infantry Regiment, and Mouton was elected colonel. He made a reputation for himself as a strict disciplinarian and an efficient drillmaster.
Mouton became interim commander of West Louisiana for the Confederacy, performing as best he could with the limited men and supplies that he had to fight off Federal attempts to move into the state from Arkansas from the North, and from New Orleans to the east. Alfred’s leadership and his Louisiana brigade helped the Confederates undermine Union attempts to access the resource-rich Bayou Teche region.
Mouton vacated his West Point officer's commission at the outbreak of the Civil War and led the 18th Louisiana Infantry as colonel into battle at Shiloh, where he was wounded. After recovering, Mouton’s team was the lead unit in the Confederate massacre at the Battle of Mansfield, but while leading his crew against the Union position, Mouton was shot and killed on April 18, 1864. General Richard Taylor lamented Alfred Mouton’s death: “Above all the death of the gallant Mouton affected me…modest, unselfish, and patriotic. He showed best in action always leading his men.” These words were used as the inscription on the Mouton grave marker where his body was moved in 1874 to St. John’s Cemetery in Lafayette, LA.
Acadians--or cajuns as they are popularly known, are descendants of the original French Canadians who settled the area around present-day Lafayette in 1758 and 1760. Called la Grand Derangement (great expulsion), nearly 11,500 French Canadians were expelled from their Canadian settlements as a result of the changing fortunes during the Seven Years' War (or French & Indian War). After trips across the Atlantic Ocean to France, in 1758 and again two years later, the Acadians were transported to Louisiana colony by several Spanish ships.
Once settled in Louisiana colony near present-day towns of Lafayette and New Iberia, among many others, the Acadians continued their distinctive French practices and culture, even as Louisiana changed hands from French control to Spanish, and finally the United States purchased the territory in 1803. Yet French culture among the cajuns continued.
St. John's Cemetery in Lafayette (once called Vermilionville) serves as the final resting place for some 250,000 people of French Canadian descent. It was plotted in 1821, and continues as an operating cemetery.