Opelousas Confederate Monument
The Confederate memorial in Opelousas, Louisiana
Backstory and Context
Opelousas Confederate Monument
The Opelousas Confederate Monument was constructed on February 22, 1920. It is located close near the Saint Landry Parish Courthouse in Opelousas, Louisiana. The Confederate Monument was constructed to specific and nonspecific veterans during the war. It was erected by the Louisiana Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Gordon Chapter No. 1470 of the UDC.
On February 22, 1920, after many years of organizing completed by the Louisiana Division and Gordon Chapter of the UDC, the white residents of Opelousas dedicated a Confederate Monument. A Catholic priest—Father A.B. Colliard had written a petition calling for the monument to the southern Confederacy, indicating that the southern soldiers should be honored for their hard work, bravery, and nationalist ambitions.
As historian Charles Reagan Wilson notes in his 1980 monograph, Baptized in Blood, a wave of Confederate memorialization occurred all across the former Confederate states, from East Texas to Virginia. He explains that the Confederate past had been shaped by many ideologues of the Lost Cause, who successfully taught white and Black southerners that the southern cause of the Civil War was just, and had little if anything to do with slavery. Wilson shows that religious leaders in addition to memorialization societies stoked the flames of the Lost Cause, and historian Karen L. Cox argues that southern women—a generation removed from the Civil War—formed a wave of monument building all over the South between the 1880s and early 1900s. She argues that women were much more important to the Lost Cause than were actual war veterans or other men a generation removed from the conflict. Her study focuses on the women who made up the United Daughters of the Confederacy, or UDC for short.
An Opelousas UDC operative named Mrs. C.P. Richard "warm-heartedly" displayed the Confederate monument to the townspeople of Opelousas in 1920. That Opelousas day was filled with fanfare as residents turned out to view the monument to the Confederacy. O.D Brooks, the Major General of the Louisiana Division—UDC, presented an address that closed with the honoring of the unknown dead. Reverend J.O. Harper spoke about the total number of Confederate soldiers who fought for Confederate Louisiana between 1861 and 1865 and the soldiers who were still living. The Opelousas Mayor A.H Garland referred in his speech to the history of the mothers and daughters who endured Civil War Louisiana in addition to troops serving in the Trans-Mississippi Army. Alex. W. Swords, another town official, related the life of a Confederate soldier from his enlistment to his return to his “desecrated home” that had stolen by the white paramilitary organizations such as the White Leagues during the Reconstruction era.
After the speakers had concluded on that day in 1920, Commander J.O Clachere and Miss Genrie Fux unveiled the monument as a band erupted in a version of “Dixie”—the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy and the official anthem of the Lost Cause. The crowd joined in with other Southern songs as they placed wreaths at the base of the monument and Hon. D.L. Guilbeau, the master of ceremonies, read many flattering telegrams the UDC had received from across the country.
The memorial is dedicated to both specific and nonspecific Veterans. The four sides commemorate different soldiers but has the same purpose. The sides dedicated read “Fidelis Fortisimis Erected by The Louisiana Division U.D.C. and Gordon Chapter No. 1470, U.C.D.”
“In Loving memory of the Confederate Soldiers 1861-1865. The principals of our forefathers and the heros in gray consummated by Our Young Heros 1917-1919 (sic).”
“In Loving Memory of Brigadier General De Polignac and Captian H.L. Garland CSA.”
“In Memory of Captian WM. Dejean and Captian Sam Haas CSA.”
“In Memory of Brigadier General Alfred Mouton CSA.”
1. S.A. Cunningham. Confederate Veteran: The Official Book of the Confederate Interest and Kindred Topics. Vol. 28. Nashville, Tenn., 1920, 232.
2. Karen L. Cox. “Women, the Lost Cause, and the New South: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Transmission of Confederate Culture, 1894-1919.” Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi. May 1997.
3. Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980.