Lake Providence, Louisiana

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{land, century, early}
{build, building, house}
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{area, part, region}
{mi², represent, 1st}

Lake Providence is a town in and the parish seat of East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, United States.[1] The population was 5,104 at the 2000 census.



Civil War

With the fall of the Mississippi River to the Union by 1863, most planters in the Lake Providence area fled, taking their slaves with them but leaving behind their vacant estates. The historian John D. Winters, who was reared in Lake Providence, describes the situation, accordingly:

"The long line of abandoned plantations was then leased by the army and treasury agents to carpetbaggers and to southerners who took the oath of allegiance (known as scalawags). Since the necessary Negro labor, farming implements, and mules were provided by the army, lessees were responsible only for feeding and clothing the Negroes until the harvest, when they paid off their obligations to the army and to the laborers, Yearly expenses ran between $5,000 and $30,000 on a plantation of a thousand acres, while profits might run higher than $200,000. There was little trouble finding lessees for the plantations."[2]

Winters reports further: "Many of the white lessees showed far less regard for their hired Negro laborers than the most negligent planter had shown for his slave. Negroes old, or infirm, or too young were weeded out and sent to Federal contraband villages and camps located along the river, where they had to be cared for by the provost marshals. In 1863 few lessees paid their labor except in food and clothing. For these items they often charged the Negroes five times the actual value, and at the end of the year the Negro was told that nothing was due him. Some lessees realized up to $80,000 profits, paid their labor nothing, and then boasted of their ability to swindle the Negro. A few lessees used their plantations for shipping out stolen cotton or for illegal trade. Provost marshals and labor agents often were bribed to shut their eyes to malpractices carried on by the lessees."[3]

On July 29, 1863, at Goodrich's Landing south of Lake Providence, Confederate Partisan Rangers surprised two companies of black troops in a small fort located on an Indian mound and seized two hundred prisoners. The Rangers then burned cotton gins, plantations houses, and Negro quarters on the estates along the river and in the back country occupied by federal lesees and scalawags, the term heaped on those southerners who pledged loyalty to the Union.[4]

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