@PhDThesis{ lathrop1945,
	author = {Barnes F. Lathrop},
	title = {The Pugh Plantations, 1860--1865: A Study of Life in Lower Louisiana},
	school = {University of Texas},
	year = 1945,

See also the genealogical and property tables, copied from after p. 65.


This thesis examines a network of plantations owned by the Pugh family and their circle of friends in the Bayou Lafourche region of Louisiana. The family came from North Carolina to the region led by sons of William Scott Pugh (Whitmell H., Augustin Franklin, and Thomas). Augustin, Thomas, and Whitmell’s son William W. (W. W.) Pugh founded plantations known respectively as Augustin, Madewood, and Woodlawn.

The families were also closely entwined with the family of Robert Campbell Martin, Sr., who married Mary Winifred Pugh (daughter of Whitmell H. Pugh, and brother of W. W. Pugh), and established a plantation called Albermarle; and of William Littlejohn (Melrose Plantation), whose daughter Margaret (or Maggie) married Martin, Sr.’s son Robert Campbell Martin, Jr.

The children of Augustin Pugh (A. Franklin Pugh, Whitmell H. (d. 1857), John E., and George W.) also formed a partnership known as W. H. Pugh & Co., which became connected with Boatner plantation (also known as Rosedale, and located next to Woodlawn) by Franklin’s marriage to Ellen M. Boatner (orphan daughter of Daniel Boatner, d. 1834).

Both Thomas Pugh and Augustin Pugh died in the early 1850s, leaving estates whose combined value was over $1.2 million (pp. 40–41). The plantations were also extremely valuable on the eve of the Civil War. By 1861, Woodlawn had grown to include 900 improved acres and 1450 acres of swamp land. Albermarle was less well-developed but not heavily indebted, and Martin was looking to sell.

Littlejohn’s Melrose plantation a stark contrast:

William Littlejohn proved reasonably able in making Melrose Plantation produce sugar. Unfortunately his ability as an agriculturist was overshadowed by his genius for intricate transactions that spawned mortgages. By these transactions had become by 1860 sole owner of Melrose, a good plantation with 126 Negroes attached, worth at prevailing prices upward of $200,000. But in the process of acquisitin Littljohn had accumulated a mortgage indebtedness of $110,000 to his commission merchants and of at least equal amount to his brothers. He operated the plantation only on the sufferance of his creditors.

The key figures in these families for Lathrop’s story during the Civil War are Robert Campbell Martin, Sr., William W. Pugh, and A. Franklin Pugh (who managed all of the Augustin Pugh plantations and the Boatner property). They were all large slaveholders by 1860:

Plantation Slaves
Boatner 9
Albermarle 91
Melrose 126
Woodlawn 161
Augustin 272
Madewood 313

Altogether, on the eve of the War, “the Pughs and their circle owned eighteen plantations and 1,918 Negroes. Their equity in this property, excluding their partner’s shares, was not less than $3,200,000. The Pughs alone [i.e., excluding Martin, Litteljohn, Boatners, partners] owned thirteen plantations and 1,502 Negroes” (p. 63).

After Occupation

Lathrop details how disruptive arrival of Northern occupation was to all of these plantations, leading to massive flight of slaves (detailed by A. Franklin Pugh’s diary and by OR records, particularly account of Energy Plantation revolt), and collapse of sugar crop for the year. “The Negroes on Boatner, Augustin, Whitmell, and Highland melted away in the night” (p. 200). The Lafourche campaign left all of the Pugh families with stark choices: “submission or flight, which should it be?” (p. 195).

Choice A: Flight

William Littlejohn left Melrose on October 26 to take 50 slaves to Alexandria. Robert Campbell Martin, Sr. also left. Edward and Richard L. (Dick) Pugh, sons of Thomas Pugh, “made their way to Alexandria and thence to Texas, probably with a substantial number of Negroes” (197); they were the only Pughs who left and “remained refugees.” Dick had been a Confederate soldier during Lafourche campaign, but “since ‘his presence was considered necessary in Texas with his family’, he secured a furlough in January, 1863, and subsequently furnished a substitute” (197).

According to Lathrop, p. 197–198:

The proportion of the total population of the Lafourche district involved in these movements was not large. The great mass of the white population was Creole, and few Creoles were recorded among the refugees. The number of Negroes that could be removed, especially at the last moment, was necessarily limited; any estimate of the number must be sheer surmise, but two or three thousand was probably an ample allowance. Heavy proportionate depletion of population was confined to the relatively small class of large planters and professional people. By early 1863 perhaps one-third or one-half of this class was in the army or in exile.

Choice B: Submission

Others remained and tried to reconstruct their labor forces, taking advantage of Union policies under Banks enforcing “contracts” between white planters and black laborers. This was a slow process, however: “One might safely say that plantations on Lafourche remaining in the hands of their owners were very nearly idle from October 27, 1862, until February, 1863, and that most of the cane crop of 1862 rotted in the field” (p. 229).

To avoid losing property altogether, William W. Pugh and Franklin Pugh both took oath of allegiance November 8, 1862. After Banks took over from Butler, Franklin began to deal with the situation that Pugh & Co. faced, p. 247:

Negroes, carts and mules remained scattered. Where the Negroes were and whether they would be willing to return were both uncertain. Whether they would work of their own accord if they did return, or whether the Federal authorities could and would make them work, was yet more uncertain. … To get the plantations going again would take money, of which Franklin had none on hand. Shipments of supplies would require permits from the authorities. Besides all this, W. H. Pugh & Co. had debts that now loomed mountainous [because of failure of crop].

Pugh had three choices: scrape together livable money and leave plantations idle; lease the land; or try to recover enough slaves, mules and supplies to resume operations. He combined these solutions, leasing Augustin and Whitmell to Benjamin F. Smith (a speculator), while trying to get Boatner and New Hope back up and running. To accomplish this he sold:

  • Boatner sugar in January
  • cattle and sheep at Boatner
  • 76 cattle from New Hope
  • all the sugar and molasses at New Hope
  • liquidated debts to commission agents (Foley, Avery & Co.)

He also, with the help of his wife (Ellen Boatner), attempted to recover mules, carts, and slaves who had left the plantation, with tactics like (a) getting laborers to sign contracts without a destination specified; (b) attempting to bribe provost marshall B. F. Lewis (p. 258); (c) trying to persuade laborers back to the plantations. Success of these methods with former slaves owned by Pugh uncertain, but over time he gradually assembled labor force about as large as prewar levels, “composed to a large extent of the same Negroes” according to Lathrop (p. 262), but also supplemented by some brought by Smith.

Robert Campbell Martin, Sr. managed a combination of “A” and “B.”

Confederate Interlude

Confederates briefly drove Northern forces from Lafource district, an opportunity which Pugh circle and Robert Martin Campbell, Sr. seized.

Franklin also used the opportunity of the Confederate interlude to visit plantations at Augustin, Whitmell and Highland. But during this time a group of 66 slaves managed to escape from New Hope plantation via rail (p. 294). According to Franklin’s wife, many of the slaves on the Augustin and Whitmell plantation were also being put to work on Confederate fortifications at Berwick Bay. Perhaps because of these events, Franklin remained “close to home at Boatner” for remainder of Confederate occupation.

Union Reoccupation

Many of the plantations resumed operations with black labor forces and attempted to work on the fall cane crop in the fall of 1863, but apparently with high sickness rates among the “hired hands.” Crops were also relatively small. Franklin also managed to settle accounts with Smith after some trouble. “Pugh secured full and unimpeded possession of the plantations about February 15, 1864. He was now ready to try the experiment of working with hired Negro labor on a large scale” (p. 320), and soon decided to move permanently from Boatner to Whitmell and Augustin area.

In Littlejohn’s absence from Melrose, his creditors Bellocq, Noblom & Co. wrote to Banks on December 12, 1863, trying to secure possession of the property to protect their interest. Their request seems to have ultimately been granted in January 1864.

Franklin Pugh reported Union agents “conscripting negroes” in the parish in August 1864, including 18 from his plantations and 2 volunteers (though ten of the conscripts were back by end of year). Some discharged soldiers who returned to the plantation with items for sale upset New Hope community at the end of the year, leading Franklin Pugh to ask provost marshal to ban his (Elias’s) visiting the plantation any more, a letter indicating that New Hope had also become a “rendezvous for all the negroes in the neighborhood” (p. 363-364).

Remainder of dissertation focuses on attempts to restablish labor system on the sugar plantations in late 1864 and through 1865, especially Franklin Pugh’s contracts with his former slaves..


p. 428:

“The war crippled the Pughs and their circle as planters, but destroyed only one of them. Nearly all of the plantations were held through Reconstruction, and a majority remained in the families after the war had become a distant memory. Of the three major blocks of Pugh plantations, one was lost in 1880; a second was relinquished in 1887–1890; the third did not go until 1910. And Albermarle belonged still to the Martins in the 1940’s.

The one destroyed was William Littlejohn, whose Melrose plantation suffered from neglect after its abandonment in October 1862. “At war’s end Littlejohn was in east Texas,” and Melrose was seized and sold by his creditors at sheriff’s sale on July 3, 1866, sold to Citizens’ Bank of Louisiana for $31,000.

The Franklin and William Pughs managed a slow recovery, keeping most of their lands in the family. Some of the Robert Campbell Martin, Sr. family stayed in Texas, but Martin himself and two of his sons relocated to Lafourche.