Today, the Louisiana State Quarter Coin remembers the political machinations of reconstruction in Louisiana 148 years ago.
In 1867, General Sheridan, head of the Fifth Military District had difficulty with Louisiana’s politicians, their objectives for four million dollars and fulfilling the requirements of reconstruction.
On June 3rd, General Sheridan wrote:
To: Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram of this date in reference to the Levee Commissioners in this State.
The following were my reasons for abolishing the two former boards, although I intended that my order should be sufficiently explanatory :
Previous to the adjournment of the Legislature last winter it passed an act continuing the old Levee board in office, so that the four millions of dollars ($4,000,000) in bonds appropriated by the Legislature might be disbursed by a board of rebellious antecedents.
After its adjournment the Governor of the State appointed a board of his own, in violation of this act, and made the acknowledgment to me in person that his object was to disburse the money in the interest of his own party by securing for it the vote of the employees at the time of election.
The board continued in office by the Legislature refused to turn over to the Governor’s board, and each side appealed to me to sustain it, which I would not do. The question must then have gone to the courts, which, according to the Governor’s judgment when he was appealing to me to be sustained, would require one year for decision. Meantime the State was overflowed, the Levee boards tied up by political chicanery, and nothing done to relieve the poor people, now fed by the charity of the Government and charitable associations of the North.
To obviate this trouble, and to secure to the overflowed districts of the State the immediate relief which the honest disbursement of the four millions ($4,000,000) would give, my order dissolving both boards was issued.
I say now, unequivocally, that Governor Wells is a political trickster and a dishonest man. I have seen him myself, when I first came to this command, turn out all the Union men who had supported the Government, and put in their stead rebel soldiers who had not yet doffed their gray uniform. I have seen him again, during the July riot of 1866, skulk away where I could not find him to give him a guard, instead of coming out as a manly representative of the State and joining those who were preserving the peace. I have watched him since, and his conduct has been as sinuous as the mark left in the dust by the movement of a snake.
I say again that he is dishonest, and that dishonesty is more than must be expected of me.
P. H. Sheridan, Major-General, U. S. A.
In removing Governor Wells, General Sheridan first appointed Thomas J. Durant as the new governor.
Durant declined the appointment. General Sheridan then chose Benjamin F. Flanders as the new Louisiana Governor.
However, Governor Wells resisted his removal from office.
On June 7th, General Sheridan sent the following letter:
To: Mr. J. Madison Wells, ex-Governor of Louisiana
Sir: General Flanders has just informed me that he has made an official demand on you for the records of the office which you have hitherto held as governor of Louisiana, and that you have declined to turn them over to him, disputing the right to remove from office by me, which right you have acknowledged and urged upon me up to the time of your removal. I therefore send Brevet Brigadier-General James W. Forsyth, of my staff, to notify you that he is sent by me to eject you from the governor’s room forcibly, unless you consider this notification as equivalent to ejection.
On June 8, 1867, Benjamin Franklin Flanders began his duties as Governor of Louisiana.
The Louisiana State Quarter Coin shows against scenes from Louisiana, circa 1867.