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Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas. Alexandre Barde. Text edited by Mary Greenwood.

ISBN: 978-09793230-2-7. $19.50

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Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas. Alexandre Barde. Text edited by Mary Greenwood.

     1859. The Attakapas District of Louisiana. With the crisis of Secession looming only a few months in the future, a group citizens composed of planters, cattlemen, and merchants, formed numerous militias known as “Vigilante Committees.” Their mission was to strike down the raging criminal activity and suspect morality of those who lived on the margins of society. Their methods: banishment, the whip, and, when needed, hanging.
    The resulting prairie fire swept across the Attakapas, sweeping up in its wake more than 4,000 Creoles and Cadiens determined to crush those deemed undesirable so that the region could be returned to the control of “honest people.”
While nothing could shake their belief in the integrity of Lynch laws, Louisiana’s vigilantes were fully aware that their methods were unlawful. Although they clothed their Comités with all the trappings that could bestow legitimacy to them—constitutions, by-laws, written procedures to be followed—none of this was sufficient. They needed a champion, a defender, a bard who could ennoble the concept of popular justice. It was this atmosphere that gave birth to a book that drew the hate and scorn of the children and grandchildren of those Barde names in his Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas.
    This work offers a troubling and stirring account of the events that rocked 1859. And yet, it conceals a story as moving as the history revealed within its pages: this is also the epic tale of a young Frenchman who arrived in a new nation in his most vibrant youth, who had abandoned his dreams of literary glory to discover his own exile in the American wilderness, and who threw himself into the remarkably romantic enterprise, suggested by the vigilante chief, Sarrazin Broussard, to “make this a good story.”

Clint BRUCE.