Colfax Riot
Manie White Johnson

It seemed that there were two factions of negroes in the court house; one, mostly young darkies who had wished to surrender earlier, but had been prevented by some older negroes who were filled with undying hatred for the white race. These latter were under the command of Alex Tilman. Mr. Hadnot, Sidney Harris, A. I. Hopkins, C. A. Duplissey and several others, seeing the flag of truce and being desirous of making terms of capitulation as quickly as possible and letting the negroes escape from the burning building, rushed up to the court house. When they reached the door a volley was fired at them by the Tilman faction, mortally wounding Mr. Hadnot, and Mr. Harris who fell in the doorway.

Infuriated at this cowardly and treacherous murder of their comrades who had been thus lured to their death by the false flag of truce, the whites slaughtered many of the negroes as they rushed from the burning building, and many were ridden down in the open fields and shot without mercy. Those lying wounded on the court house square were pinned to the ground by bayonets. By four o'clock all firing had ceased and about forty of the fleeing "black sons of Canon," as the Rev. Smith called them, were put under a guard and taken to an "old garden surrounded by a picket fence, ostensibly to bring them to Alexandria to jail."

Late that afternoon, said Mr. Duplissey, "Captain Dave Paul and Mr. Yawn came walking by me and says, "We got most of them, but the man which we want. We don't see him among the dead." I says, "examine them carefully, maybe you can find him there (in the garden). We walked down the line and there was a negro with his hat pulled down over his eyes. Jim Yawn was laying for the man who killed Jeff (in 1871). Yawn lifted his hat up and grabbed him by the coat and says, 'I got you,' and took him about twenty steps and shot him."

By nightfall most of the white men had dispersed, many of them going to their homes. The Rapides and Catahoula men spent the night at the Calhoun sugar house. When Mr. Tanner arrived there about dusk "Dave Stafford was issuing out rations. We had not had anything to eat since the night before and he gave me a section of raw pork and a piece of corn bread. That was the best supper I ever ate. "That night a messenger came riding up to the sugar house and asked Tanner and Mason to help take some prisoners to Alexandria. "When I got to the garden," continued Mr. Tanner, "I heard Luke Hadnot say, 'I can take five,' and five men stepped out. Luke lined them up and his old gun went off, and he killed all five of them with two shots. Then it was like popcorn in a skillet. They killed those forty-eight."

Another version of that night's massacre, as told by the father of A. M. Goodwyn, is as follows:

"Notwithstanding this fearful carnage some forty prisoners were taken by those disposed to be more kind. At four o'clock all firing had ceased and the whites were masters of the situation. There was a general disbandment of the whites, many of whom went home thinking all was over.

"About dark the steamboat, Southwestern, came down the river, taking Mr. Hadnot, who was then in a dying state, and other seriously wounded on board. While this boat was at the landing a number of whites drank pretty freely and became intoxicated. After the boat was gone and nearly all the sober and influential men had lain down to sleep, these parties, all of whom were young, reckless, and irresponsible men, determined to go to the yard where the negroes were. About ten o'clock before anyone was aware of their intentions, they opened fire on the defenseless negroes, who broke and ran in all directions. Of the forty negroes in the yard about twenty were killed."

Neither Mr. Duplissey nor Mr. Hopkins witnessed the scene of that night's horror, for late that evening Captain Paul called together the men from Rapides and said: "Every one that came in here with me, I want to go out with me. Now we have accomplished what we came to do, and I don't want nothing touched. Get on your horses and let's go.' And the men who went in there with him came out without anything in their hands." And Captain Peck of the Catahoula detachment, remarked, "Boys, let's don't have anything to do with that. We did not go there to kill unarmed negroes."


The Colfax Riot of April, 1873 by Manie White Johnson, probably written in the 1920's
Reprint by Dogwood Press, Hemphill, Texas, 1994, pages 27-29