From The Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon: Long Ride to Paradise. Coming in early December, it is the second of the Drunken Irishman Trilogy.
The Canal Street Custom House, New Orleans
Allen Kell Edwards had gotten himself into another fine mess. The politics of the issue smelled like rotten fish. Neither the Republicans nor the fusion Democrats were on the side of the angels. There was no truth in politics in 1874.
A warm bed with a warmer body waited for him at home but home was several days’ travel at a saloon named The Drunken Irishman in Trinity, Louisiana. “Oh, Lucretia, why didn’t you try and stop me? Instead of stroking your sweet bottom, I’m holed up in the Canal Street Custom House with James Longstreet.”
Theirs was a diverse group. Longstreet, the former Confederate general, was the commander of the black militia. Under his command was James Edwards, Allen Kell’s former slave, now, a member of the New Orleans Metropolitan Police. They had been charged with defending the lawful Republican governor, William Pitt Kellogg, and his cabinet. Yes, a fine mess…one he had not asked for. He had come for a visit, but they had convinced him they needed him.
“What a fine mess!” They, along with Longstreet, the Republican governor and his cabinet, the metropolitan police superintendent and a mixed bag of police and militia were under siege in the Customs House.
“A siege but at least nobody’s shooting right now. Everyone seems to be waiting.” Allen Kell stroked his chin thinking, “At least my quare feeling is quiet.” Allen Kell seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to trouble, something he called his ‘quare’ feeling.
There had been plenty of shooting earlier in the day. The battle had raged around Canal Street as Longstreet failed to stop the White League from receiving weapons being unloaded onto the New Orleans docks where they sat. At his old commander’s request, Allen Kell had stood with the militia as they were attacked…and were routed.
“I couldn’t lead a starving man to a St. Louis steak”, thought Allen Kell.
Longstreet had been hit with a spent bullet which had done no damage before being pulled off his horse by members of the White League, some of whom he had probably commanded. Allen Kell had fought frantically to free his former commander and managed to whisk him away to the custom house.
The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Sidney Badger was not as lucky. He had been severely injured and there was talk he might lose his leg.
Allen Kell felt rather than saw the shadow falling across him. Longstreet had cast a large shadow during the days of the Civil War, especially at Gettysburg and the defense of Petersburg. “Old Pete” had changed little. His beard was a bit grayer than at Petersburg, and with better vittles, his form had filled out.
The fact he was working for the Republicans and was a friend of Sam Grant had made him a controversial figure in the nine years following the war. Allen Kell had heard former Confederates calling Longstreet a scalawag…Allen guessed his present predicament made him one too.
“Sergeant Edwards, it appears you have failed to save my bacon once again,” Longstreet’s eyes twinkled as he said it.
Allen Kell thought he should stand and struggled through his tiredness to find his feet.
“Stay down boy, you don’t need to stand.”
Allen Kell settled and forced a smile, “General, I agree beings we’re holed up here with the entire Republican government,” surrounded, as they were, by the Louisiana State White Militia, waiting on the Federals to show up.
“Sir, I’m a bit tired of fightin’ on the wrong side of history.”
“Son, you got me here and I’d say we’ll have to die to be on the right side of history. Old Sam’ll send troops soon enough and these hoodlums ain’t nothing more than a white militia wanting to overthrow the rule of law. Kellogg has wired Grant, appraising him of the situation.”
Life had not calmed after Allen Kell had returned home. Political and racial strife erupted immediately as the state and parish governments moved to limit the rights of the newly freed slaves and return to pre-Civil War normalcy.
Democrats, white and mostly Confederate veterans, clashed with Republicans, mostly black or if white, Northern carpetbaggers or Southern scalawags. Violence seemed to crescendo before each election. It had begun back in 1866 with a riot in New Orleans and spilled northward to include the Colfax riot last year. Colfax was spitting distance from Allen Kell’s home, Edwards Crossroads and Trinity City.
“Riot? James called it a massacre”, thought Allen Kell. Fifty colored men, who surrendered to the White League, had been executed and thrown into the Red River according to James. Another hundred had been killed in the riot itself. His friends, Alexandré and Shailene Dupreé֒ had been smart to leave for Barbados. He wondered how they were faring under British control.
“General, how’s Badger?” The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Algernon Sidney Badger had been nearly crushed when his dead horse fell on him.
“Touch and go but I believe Superintendent Badger will recover from his physical wounds if he can recover from the shock of losing his leg…I’m not sure either of us will recover our good names. Well, I will leave you to your ruminations. I thank you for your efforts.”
“Wait, General.” Allen Kell stood, “General, I’d like to shake your hand if I might. Our war was a bloody waste but if I had to serve, I’m glad I had a chance to serve under you.” Longstreet nodded his thanks, shook Allen Kell’s hand, and saluted him. Smartly Allen Kell returned it. Watching Longstreet march off, it would be the last time he would speak with “Old Pete.”
When published, Long Ride to Paradise, along with Don Miller’s other books will be available at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR09QzUebNCSmqTEoOnCRjpbQ4FuMoyAcB3cBnUPsmVqQIdAV3GlPMeqhw4