Profile: Charles Deslondes (1789-1811)

Charles Deslondes was one of the slave leaders of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, a slave revolt that began on January 8, 1811, in the Territory of Orleans. He led more than 200 rebels against the plantations along the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. White planters formed militias and ended up hunting down the rebels. The slave insurgents killed one Free Man of Color, the “commandant” “overseer” or “slave driver” on the Andre plantation which started the revolt and one white man during their retreat from the outskirts of New Orleans. The militia and the Army killed 95 slaves which included the battle, which took place on Bernard Bernoudy’s plantation, some gratuitous “accidental” killings of innocent slaves by the Army on its march from New Orleans and the executions which followed the Tribunals after the revolt was put down.

Early life

Charles Deslondes was born on the plantation of Jacques Deslondes about the year of 1789.Deslandes plantation succession records have Charles described as being a “Creole mulatto slave” by the name of Charles, “about 16 years old”, listed as a “field laborer.” Contrary to many published articles, we do not know if Jacques Deslondes ever brought Charles over from Saint Domingue after the revolt there, there is no record of Jacques ever having lived in Saint Domingue, there is no record of Jacques buying Charles before he died in 1793 and he has a continual documented presence in Louisiana from the time he was 17 years old until his death in 1793.

Charles Deslondes worked as a “driver,” or overseer of slaves, on the plantation of Col. Manuel Andre or Andry (this plantation was later called Woodland and no longer exists), who owned a total of 86 slaves. In a letter printed in the Philadelphia Political and Commercial Advertiser on February 19 that year, Deslondes was mistakenly described as a free person of color.

The revolt

Deslondes had organized slaves and maroons for revolt in what is now St. John the Baptist Parish, part of the German Coast (of the Mississippi River) because it had been settled by many German immigrants in the 1720s, long before cultivation of sugar cane in the area. Deslondes’s forces recruited other slaves from plantations along the way southeast into St. Charles Parish before turning back shortly before encountering militia sent from New Orleans. Accounts of the number of insurgents vary, from 200 to 500 men.  The men killed two whites near the beginning of their march, and burned down three plantation houses and some crops. They fought primarily with cane knife, and captured a limited number of weapons, although they had planned on more.

On January 11, a planter militia led by Col. Manuel Andry attacked the main body of insurgents at the back of Bernard Bernoudy’s plantation west of New Orleans. Andry and his overseer, a free man of color by the name of “Petit” Baptiste Thomassin had been the first targets of the insurrection. Mr. Thomassin discovered the rebels who then killed him and then attacked Manuel Andry and seriously wounded him with an ax. There have many articles which stated the younger Andry had been killed as well. This is completely false. The “younger Andry”, Gilbert Andry, died on January the 2nd and was buried on January the 3rd, five days prior to the start of the revolt. Gilbert was married to the daughter of Jacques Deslondes, Marie Marcelline Deslondes. The militia killed about forty slaves in the battle, from which many slaves fled into the swamps. Shortly afterward, militia killed fourteen more slaves in other skirmishes and captured many more, although as many as 100 may have escaped permanently. After they interrogated the captives, they quickly tried and executed eighteen slaves at the Destrehan plantation. They tried and executed eleven slaves in New Orleans. A total of ninety-five insurgents were killed in the aftermath of rebellion.

Deslondes was among the first captured by dogs after the battle. The militia did not hold him for trial or interrogation. Samuel Hambleton described Deslonde’s fate: “Charles [Deslondes] had his hands chopped off then shot in one thigh & then the other, until they were both broken — then shot in the body and before he had expired was put into a bundle of straw and roasted!” His dying cries sent a message to the other escaped slaves in the marshes.

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