The Louisiana in the Civil War Message Board - Archive

Obituary of Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen

In case anyone is interested, here is one obituary of Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen:

The Ouachita Telegraph (Monroe, Louisiana)
24 May 1866, page 2, column 2

Death of Ex-Gov. Henry Watkins Allen.

"How are the mighty fallen!" General Henry W. Allen, the impersonation of chivalry, the friend of Louisiana's poor and a martyr in the cause of Southern nationality, has passed to his final account, far from home and friends, an exile from the land which gave him birth and to which he devoted for many years the energies of his being. The mournful intelligence is thus conveyed to the world in an article from the Vera Cruz La Revista:

Mr. H.W. Allen, late Governor of Louisiana under the Confederates, and formerly brigadier general in the armies of the South, has just died in Mexico, after a short and painful illness.

Consecrated to the cause of his country, Mr. Allen sacrificed his fortune, which was considerable, and which he lost entirely. He devoted his life to her on the field of battle, and did not leave them until wounds, which never entirely healed, compelled him to return to civil life. His compatriots then elected him Governor of Louisiana. As such, all the products of the country, principally cotton, passed through his hands for exportation, and many others would have been able, in such a position, to speculate and acquire an enormous fortune, and that without falling into any malversation, Mr. Allen left the governorship as poor as he took it. Such admirable disinterestedness, known to everybody, was adorned with a simplicity of manner no less admirable.

On the advent of the catastrophe to the South, Mr. Allen came to Mexico. Firm and spirited; without making any parade of it, this man, who had possessed an income of $80,000, sat himself to editing a paper-the Mexican Times-and to live by his labor.

He was about to leave for Europe in order to get cured of his wounds, when sickness and death came suddenly to tear him from the affection and esteem with which he inspired all who knew him.

We had the honor to count him among our friends, and we have wished to sketch in these lines the honorable and sympathetic being, the loyal heart and the just and sensitive spirit of H.W. Allen; we have sought to pay the last tribute of affectionate respect to the man who was an honor to his country; to the man of whose friendship we were proud, and who carries with him the unanimous regards of all who knew him.

Gov. Allen died of typhoid fever. He was born in Prince Edward County, Va.; removed to Mississippi, where he taught for some months; went to Texas and assisted in the struggle for her independence; afterwards practiced law in Mississippi; then removed to this State, settling in the Parish of West Baton Rouge. He was, we believe, twice elected to the Legislature, where we first made his acquaintance in 1857.

He was an ardent advocate of seccession, and immediately after the declaration of war proceeded to organize a regiment. It was known subsequently as the 4th Louisiana, and was commanded by him at Shiloh and at Baton Rouge. At the latter place he was severely wounded in both legs. After months of suffering he partially recovered and was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to the command of a brigade in the Trans-Mississippi Department. But about this time he was elected Governor of Louisiana. In order to hold up to public admiration a worthy example and to incite the youth of our land to deeds of usefulness, we copy the following lengthy extract from the New Orleans Crescent reviewing Gov. Allen's course as Governor: In the discharge of the functions of his office, Governor Allen displayed great administrative capacity, and talents of the highest order. He addressed himself to the work of relieving the general and severe distress suffered by the people of that part of the State within the Confederate army lines. Poverty and suffering were universal. The people lacked all the luxuries, very many of the comforts, and not a few of the necessities of civilized life. Ragged starvation called for food and clothing. The supplies were exhausted for army use within Confederate lines, or were destroyed by floods or by invasions. Conscription had taken away most of the able bodied-men impressment had exhausted provisons, cattle, and work animals. White women were ploughing in cornfields in torn homespun, or driving lame horses with ricketty carts to some distant place in search of a little bacon or meal. The wealthy were reduced to pauperism-the poor to squalid wretchedness. The accumulated sufferings of the uncomplaining heroic people are beyond all description.

Gov. Allen devoted himself to the relief of this distress. He had nothing to operate with but a depreciated State currency, whereof forty dollars represented one dollar in coin. But he established a laboratory for the preparations of indigenous medicines. He established a dispensary, from which a million of dollars worth of medicines were distributed in twelve months. He imported and distributed forty or fifty thousand pairs of cotton cards. He appointed agents in many places and gave them many steamboat loads of corn to distribute. He contracted with mill owners and secured their services for the distressed people. He raised, armed, and equipped a fine regiment of cavalry. He built a foundry and had a fine furnace in operation. He printed and distributed five thousand spelling books and as many grammars. He imported and sold at a very moderate price twenty thousand calico dresses, and a quanity of general merchandise almost beyond belief. He made harness, clothing, farming implements. He watched the Confederate officials with a hawk-eyed vigilance and had many hundred cases of oppressive or thoughtless action corrected. He fought for the legal rights of his people and stood between the proprietor and the careless commissary. Yet he gave a powerful helping hand to good men in office, and worked with enthusiasm for the cause he thought just. Never was a man more patient. His office was thronged all day with people who had some aid to ask. He listened to each one, however humble, until his or her story was done, and then in his quick off-hand prompt way gave an order for assistance or relief. If an Arkansas, Missouri or Texas soldier wanted a shirt or a pair of shoes, the order issued. If a poor lady's last mule had been impressed, an aid-de camp was sent instantly to headquarters. If news was wanted of some young private in North Carolina or Virginia, secretaries were ordered to write at once. If the people needed an appeal, the proclamation was written and printed in ten hours. The Governor's office became the great center and focus of excitement. Men and women came from Arkansas and Texas for the aid they could not get at home, and the Missourians claimed Allen as their Governor. Gen. Smith and all his staff loved and trusted him. Every day in the week, including Sundays, and all the year, to the very day of his departure from Shreveport to Mexico, continued this unending labor, and on the very day of the surrender Allen seemed to take as much pleasure in giving a poor woman an order for a bushel of meal as he did in presenting a sword to Gen. Polignac.

The amount of relief he gave is beyond estimate-the manner in which it was given is beyond description. This giant's work lasted fifteen months-the last day was the same as the first. "God bless Governor Allen!" said the poor women and the sick soldiers. "God bless Governor Allen," will echo in Louisiana for centuries.