12 May 2015

Brickwall Comes Down: Gravesite of Henry M. Walker, Sr. (1829-1865), Part 2.

Location.  Location.  Location.

So I needed to identify the location of the accident.  All the reliable sources reported a number between three and four miles "west of Boutte Station."  I looked at many dozens of maps.  I was blessed that since we are dealing with an accident on a railroad, maps contemporary to the accident were plentiful.

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The reported location would have put the accident somewhere in the vicinity of what is now Paradis, LA.  Now what is interesting is that right around this point there is a canal with a crossing.  The witnesses to the accident said that there were a horse and a mule racing the locomotive on the track, and as they approached "a crossing" they expected the animals to take it, which the mule did and the horse started to, but changed its mind and turned back onto the track instigating the tragedy.  I can easily envision this being the site of the accident, and seeing the animals not wanting to enter the canal veering off.  Further, we are told that as many as six of the men "drowned" under the overturned trains, including my 2xg-grandfather.

In any case this is conjecture.  As of now, having broken through the brickwall, I no longer need to pinpoint the exact location except the desire to put a bow on this story.  So I believe inevitably I will return to finding the exact location.

The "enemy."

One of the most interesting eyewitness accounts by one of the soldiers describing the immediate action following the train accident, came from page 261 of HISTORY of the Thirty-Third Regiment Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry IN THE CIVIL WAR: 22nd AUGUST, 1861. to 7th DECEMBER, 1865 by General Isaac H. Elliott, published in 1902 --

The wounded and killed were removed as fast as recovered to the nearby farm house. There was a veranda on three sides of the house. On this and under the trees the dead and wounded were placed. Dr. Rex asked permission of the occupants of the house to use these and some tables. The request was refused. As a result of the refusal, the piano served as an operating table and the Brussels carpet deadened the sound of the feet of the operators as they moved among the furniture in the parlor.
This mean, heartless antagonism toward the hurt and dying is easy to envision as belonging to someone deeply committed to the Confederate cause.  Would this be, could this be a case of the Union Army burying their dead on their antagonists doorstep?

Feret, Ferret, or Freret?

For reasons of story cohesion I would like to jump ahead a bit here.  I discovered that the men who were killed in the train accident, including my 2xg-grandfather were originally buried on the "F.G. Ferret(sic) Plantation."  In other records this is spelled "Feret" and also "Freret."  I spent weeks putting flesh on this subplot, and am leaving much out of the story. I again returned to contacting local researchers in the New Orleans area, even a PhD anthropologist who wrote a paper on a related matter on a "G.F. Freret."

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Long story short, I discovered there was a Frederick George Freret who, along with his brother, owned two plantations in the area of Boutte (St. Charles Parish): the Louisa Plantation was east of Boutte and the Anton Plantation was west.  There is some question if the Anton Plantation extended far enough south from the Mississippi River to buttress the railroad tracks anywhere near the site of the accident?  But then again, it might not matter -- the Frerets owned a third piece of property that did.

As for antagonism toward the Union soldiers?  F.G. Freret owned over a hundred slaves, was a sergeant in the Louisiana cavalry, and a prominent citizen of New Orleans.  Following the war, his wife was a leading officer of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and on the committee to erect the Confederate War Memorial in New Orleans.


Just as a reminder, these are the pieces of the puzzle I had and have on the research table right now.  Collecting all these pieces of the story and so many more, looking them over, evaluating them, got me through the brickwall.  I have not completely enjoined these last pieces together yet conclusively, because my goal was breaking the brickwall and finding where my 2xg-grandfather is buried.  But I seriously want to go back and completely put the puzzle together!  One day.  As time allows.

Tomorrow PART 3 -- the wall comes down.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

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