Henry W. Allen

Henry W. Allen served as Confederate governor of Louisiana during 1864 and 1865, after a brief military service in which he received wounds as Shiloh and Baton Rouge. According to simpson1964, Allen fled to Mexico after the war and edited an English newspaper, the Mexican Times, until he died in 1866. See also Sarah Dorsey’s Recollections of Henry Watkins Allen (1866), which contains lengthy chapters on the war years and the flight to Mexico, and Allen’s January 1865 Annual Message.


Allen’s program of state aid after taking office appears very similar to the sort of “patronal politics” that downs2011 attributes to Zeb Vance of North Carolina. See especially Sarah Dorsey’s descriptions of Allen in her Recollections. According to Dorsey, Allen constantly received letters petitioning him for supplies and food:

Again and again has Governor Allen handed to me the most sorrowful notes of this kind, and would say with tears in his eyes, and unaffected concern on his countenance: ‘My God! how shall I meet the absolute necessities of this destitute, starving people?’ He kept trains running into Texas continually, bringing out corn, meal, flour, and bacon, which he distributed as far as he could. The people had a trust and reliance upon him that was frequently ludicrous (p. 253).

Dorsey describes Allen as “the veritable Pater Respublicae” who had adopted the entire state “as a sort of family” (p. 258), and claims that “his people” idolized him.

State Works

After his election in November 1863, Allen proposed appropriations for distributing cotton cards to women, a program of cotton exporting through Houston and Galveston that would bring medicine and food into the state, and the establishment of bureaucracies meant to encourage manufacturing and mining, chemical laboratories, and geological exploration.

His plans called for the purchase and transportation of cotton by contractual agents who would receive 25 percent of their proceeds, with the remaining going to the state.1 Agents were appointed in each parish to distribute aid, and Allen himself “made gifts amounting to more than eleven thousand dollars from the governor’s contingent fund to wounded soldiers and destitute women.”2

Allen also took steps to manufacture cloth within Louisiana, bringing several iron looms out of storage at the state prison and establishing state-owned cloth manufacturing factories as well as a rope-producing plant near Minden. The state chemical laboratory was also established by mid-1864, and a medicinal dispensary at Shreveport turned a profit for the state, paying $793,925.84 into the state treasury.3 So did state stores set up by Allen’s administration that were overseen by the Quartermaster General; the stores’ goods were liquidated at the very end of the war by selling them to those with state money on hand.

While exploring the possibility of finding sources of iron in Louisiana itself, Allen also “arranged for the state of Louisiana to buy a quarter interest in some iron works in Davis County, Texas,” which became the Sulphur Fork Iron Works.4

According to Dorsey, however, these enterprises were all arrested by the end of the war: “The sudden stoppage of all the wheels of the industrial machinery had put in motion, by the failure of the Confederate cause, necessarily left affairs in an unfinished and entangled condition” (p. 303).

Policies on Slavery

In his 1865 address to the legislature, Allen also reported on his efforts to stop “evil-doers” from kidnapping slaves from plantations under federal control and bringing them behind Confederate lines for sale or hire. Describing these practices as a “fraud on the rights of the owners,” Allen claimed to have successfully recaptured 500 enslaved people and had appointed F. H. Farrar as a commissioner to “take charge of these recovered slaves, to hire them for the benefit of their owners,” and to confer with Pendleton Murrah about how “to devise some means by which all persons taking slaves into Texas shall be required to exhibit their titles.”

The 1865 address also indicates that Allen, at this juncture, supported Confederate proposals to arm slaves at some later date if it became necessary, offering “freedom to every slave who fights the battles of his country.” But the most immediate implication of his view was that enslaved laborers should be attached to trans-Mississippi armies to do manual labor, thus freeing white soldiers for combat and preparing for the possible eventual step of arming slaves. “If necessary,” said Allen, “if the worst should come, perish slavery—perish the institution for ever—but give us independence.”5


  • NYT Opinionator blog by Terry Jones on Allen as “the SOuth’s greatest governor”

  1. See simpson1964, 260-2, who also note that the “exact amount of business involving cotton conducted by the state are not available, but it must have been extensive.” Allen’s chief agent in Texas for buying cotton was Emory Clapp. Dorsey’s Recollections, pp. 239-234, report that Allen negotiated with Kirby Smith to have taxes-in-kind paid in cotton transferred to the state instead of to the Confederacy, which enabled his cotton trading plans to proceed without any expense to the state of transportation.

  2. simpson1964, 265.

  3. simpson1964, 264.

  4. simpson1964, 264.

  5. Levine’s Confederate Emancipation, 108, also notes that Allen imagined slavery being replaced by “bondage under some other name.”