Henry Watkins Allen

Henry Watkins Allen (April 29, 1820 – April 22, 1866)[1] was a member of the Confederate States Army and the Texian Army as a soldier, also serving as a military leader, politician, writer, slave owner, and sugar cane planter.

Henry Watkins Allen
17th Governor of Louisiana
In office
January 25, 1864 – June 2, 1865
LieutenantBenjamin W. Pearce
Preceded byThomas Overton Moore
Succeeded byJames Madison Wells
Personal details
Born(1820-04-29)April 29, 1820
Prince Edward County, Virginia, U.S.
DiedApril 22, 1866(1866-04-22) (aged 45)
Mexico City, Mexico
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseSalome Crane
Military service
Allegiance Republic of Texas
 Confederate States
Branch/serviceRepublic of Texas Texian Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1864 (CSA)
RankCaptain (Texan Army)
Major General (Louisiana Militia)
Brigadier General (CSA)
Commands4th Louisiana Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsTexas Revolution
American Civil War

He had made it to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate States Army, during the American Civil War. Allen was elected as the 17th Governor of Louisiana late in the war, Allen served from January 1864 to May 1865. He was the last governor elected under Constitutional law to the post until the end of Reconstruction. He escaped to Mexico, until his death a year later. His body was returned to the United States and buried in New Orleans.

Early life and careerEdit

Allen was born on April 29, 1820, in Farmerville in Prince Edward County, Virginia.[1] He was a Presbyterian.[1] After attending local schools, he was educated at Marion College, Missouri.[1] He moved to Mississippi, where he taught school and practiced law.

He served in the Texas Revolution against Mexico as a private and later as captain. He was elected as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1846, after which he studied law at Harvard University.

In 1842, Allen and Salome Ann Crane married.[2] His wife died in 1851 at the age of 25,[2] and she is buried in Bruinsburg, Mississippi.


In February 1852, Henry Watkins Allen and William Nolan purchased the Westover Plantation in southern Louisiana.[3][4] Three years later in 1855, the land was divided and split; with Nolan keeping the name Westover Plantation on his portion of land and Allen using the name Allendale Plantation for his portion of the property.[5] His plantation was dependent on the labor of enslaved African Americans, of which he had many.[6]

He was elected to the Louisiana Legislature in 1853.[7] In 1859, he went to Europe with the intention of taking part in the Italian struggle for independence but arrived too late. He toured through Europe, the incidents of which he recounted in his memoir, Travels of a Sugar Planter.

He was re-elected to the legislature during his absence. After his return, he took a prominent part in the business of that body. Allen had been a Know Nothing (American Party) in politics but joined the Democratic Party when Buchanan was nominated for president in 1856.

Confederate States Army serviceEdit

Allen enlisted as a private in the 4th Louisiana Infantry Regiment but was quickly promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 15, 1861. Allen became the regiment's Colonel on March 1, 1862. He was seriously wounded during the American Civil War at Shiloh and Baton Rouge.[8]

Colonel Allen met Sarah Morgan on November 2, 1862, when he was still unable to walk due to receiving wounds in both legs at the Battle of Baton Rouge. She described him as a "wee little man" with a "dough face" in her diary which was published posthumously in the late 20th century.[9]

In early 1863, while recuperating, Allen served as military judge of Pemberton's Army of Mississippi, at the same time also serving as major general of the Louisiana Militia. In June 1863, he suffered further injury while escaping a hotel fire at Jackson, Mississippi.[8]

He was promoted to a brigadier general on August 19, 1863.[10] He agreed to run and was elected governor of the portions of Louisiana still under Confederate control, taking office in January 1864; his tenure ended with the Confederacy's collapse in the spring of 1865.[11]

As governor, Allen secured legislative passage of a law to prevent illegal impressment by Confederate agents. Another law allowed Allen to purchase medicine and to distribute it to the needy. Disabled soldiers were provided with $11 per month. Allen established new hospitals based on a combination of public and private funding. Recognizing the lack of manufacturing industry in Louisiana, he established a system of state stores, foundries, and factories with the goal of converting the works to civilian production after the war.

Because the lack of medicine was acute in the Confederacy, Allen devoted extensive time and resources toward establishing a large intelligence and covert action service which could secretly procure vital supplies, especially medicine such as quinine, from behind Union lines in New Orleans or from Mexico. State laboratories manufactured turpentine, castor oil, medicinal alcohol, and carbonate of soda.

Allen made arrangement with General Edmund Kirby-Smith to transfer to the state large amounts of cotton and sugar collected by Confederate agents as tax-in-kind until the Confederate debt could be retired.[12]

After the Civil WarEdit

Parts of Allen's Allendale Plantation in Port Allen, Louisiana had burned down, including the Allendale sugar mill during the American Civil War (1861–1865).[13][14]

As the Union army forces started taking over Confederate Louisiana, military authorities declared Governor Allen an outlaw, punishable by death upon his capture. Historian John D. Winters, known for romanticizing the Confederacy and denigrating African Americans, wrote about Allen's leaving Louisiana to take refuge in Mexico:

"Before leaving he addressed a long letter to the people of Louisiana begging them to keep the peace and 'submit to the inevitable' and 'begin life anew' without whining or despair. The crippled governor then got into his ambulance while a group of friends, tears streaming from their eyes, told him good-by."

— Winters, page 426

With the Confederacy's end, James Madison Wells, who had been governor of Union-controlled Louisiana, became governor of the entire state. Allen moved to Mexico City and edited the Mexico Times, an English language newspaper.[1] In November 1865, a special election was held under the Reconstruction government, with Allen (already in Mexico) defeated by Wells, with 5,497 votes to Wells' 22,312.

Death and legacyEdit

Allen died in Mexico City on April 22, 1866, of a stomach disorder.[11] Allen was initially buried at Mexico City National Cemetery and Memorial, however his body was returned to New Orleans 10 years later, for burial at Lafayette Cemetery. In 1885, 19 years after his death, Allen's remains were reinterred on the grounds in front of the Old Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, in a grave marked by a rose-colored obelisk.[15]

Many things in Louisiana have been named after Allen, and in 2020 a debate opened up on the impact of Allen's legacy since he had been a Confederate official, slaveholder, and opponent of Black political rights.[16]

Allen Parish in western Louisiana is named for him, as is Port Allen, a small city on the west bank of the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge.[17] The neighborhood in which he lived in while in Shreveport was later named as Allendale.

The Henry Watkins Allen Camp #133, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in his honor. Camp #435, Sons of Confederate Veterans, was chartered in 1903 as the Kirby Smith Camp, but the name was changed prior to 1935 to the Henry Watkins Allen Camp #435 in honor of Shreveport's famous resident. Camp #435 is no longer in existence.

Henry W. Allen Elementary School, a public school in New Orleans, is named for him. In 2021, the elementary school name is being debated for a name change based on Allen's controversial legacy.[16]

A statue of Allen (1962) by sculptor Angela Gregory is located in Port Allen.[18] In July 2020, a proposal to remove the statue was presented to the West baton Rouge Parish Council. The council voted 6-3 not to remove the statue.[19] A maquette of Gregory's Allen statue can be found at the West Baton Rouge Museum. A bust of Allen, along with Lee, Jackson and Beauregard, is located on the Confederate memorial in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse in Shreveport.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Henry Watkins Allen". Louisiana Department of State. Retrieved 2021-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b "Inspiration Life of Henry Allen, War Governor, Recalled on the 119th Anniversary". Newspapers.com. The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana). 23 April 1939. p. 16. Retrieved 2021-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Louisiana Department of Historic Preservation National Register (August 1987). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Allendale Plantation Historic District". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved May 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) (with with 13 accompanying photos taken in August 1996)
  4. ^ "Saturday". Newspapers.com. Sugar Planter. 23 March 1867. p. 5. Retrieved 2021-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Louisiana Department of Historic Preservation National Register (August 1987). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Allendale Plantation Historic District". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved May 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) (with with 13 accompanying photos taken in August 1996)
  6. ^ Miller, Robin (July 18, 2020). "Confederate Statue Becomes Point of Controversy in Louisiana". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press, The Advocate.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Dorsey, Sarah A. (1866). Recollections of Henry Watkins Allen. New York: M. Doolady. p. 41.
  8. ^ a b Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals Archived 2020-08-02 at the Wayback Machine. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-87338-505-3. Retrieved June 20, 2015. pp. 4–5.
  9. ^ East, Charles, ed. (1991). Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-671-78503-1.
  10. ^ "Civil War Historian recalls Henry Watkins Allen's unique place in Louisiana and American history". The Riverside Reader. Port Allen, Louisiana. February 4, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3, p. 101
  12. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. 318–319.
  13. ^ Louisiana: A Guide to the State. United States Works Progress Administration (Louisiana). US History Publishers. 1943. p. 452. ISBN 978-1-60354-017-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Leeper, Clare D'Artois (1976). Louisiana Places: A Collection of the Columns from the Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate, 1960-1974. Legacy Publishing Company.
  15. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14000 Famous Persons (entry 187) by Scott Wilson
  16. ^ a b "New Orleans Public Schools unveils potential names for schools named for segregationists, slave owners". Uptown Messenger. May 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Jones, Terry L. (Oct 1, 2016). "Port Allen turns 100; celebration set Oct. 7-9". The Advocate. Retrieved 2021-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Miller, Robin (July 18, 2020). "Confederate Statue Becomes Point of Controversy in Louisiana". U.S. News & World Report. The Advocate. Associated Press.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "WBR Parish Council votes to keep Confederate statue in place".

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Louisiana
1863, 1865
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Confederate Governor of Louisiana
with Union Governors George Foster Shepley, Michael Hahn, and James Madison Wells
Succeeded byas Reconstruction Governor