About Henry Watkins Allen
Henry Allen served Confederate Louisiana as an officer in the Battle of Shiloh and in the defense of Baton Rouge, La. where he was wounded in both legs. As governor, Allen persuaded the Legislature to adopt programs which benefited a poverty-stricken populace: approving the free distribution of cotton cards and the free distribution of medicine. He established a system of unified currency and state-run stores for citizens to buy basic supplies at low cost.
His administration began a program of cotton collection and trading that defeated the Union blockade, maintained public schools and opened two medical dispensaries in northern Louisiana.
Allen doggedly promoted military resistance, forming the 8th Louisiana Cavalry Regiment and advocating freeing and arming slaves to fight for the Confederacy. He favored continued resistance after Lee's surrender.
Allen fled to Mexico in 1865 where he began publishing an English language newspaper. He died in Mexico City in 1866. Gov. Allen's body now lies at rest on the grounds of the Old State Capitol.
Henry Watkins Allen (April 29, 1820 – April 22, 1866) was an American soldier and politician, and a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He served as the 17th Governor of Louisiana late in the war and was the last governor elected under Constitutional law to the post until the end of Reconstruction. Port Allen, a small city on the west bank of the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge, was named after him in 1878.
Early life and career
Allen was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and educated at Marion College, Missouri, taught school and practiced law in Mississippi, and served in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives in 1853, after having studied law at Harvard. In 1859 he went to Europe with the intention of taking part in the Italian struggle for independence, but arrived too late. He toured through Europe, the incidents of which are recounted in Travels of a Sugar Planter. He was elected to the legislature during his absence, and on returning took a prominent part in the business of that body. He had been a Whig in politics, but had joined the Democratic Party when Buchanan was nominated for president in 1856.
Civil War service
Allen joined the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel on August 15, 1861, and was promoted to colonel on March 1, 1862. He was wounded at Shiloh and Baton Rouge. Allen became a brigadier general on August 19, 1863, and was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1864, losing office when the Confederacy collapsed in 1865.
As governor, Allen secured legislative passage of a law to prevent illegal impressment by Confederate agents. Another law allowed Allen to purchase medicine and to distribute it to the needy. Disabled soldiers were provided with $11 per month. Allen procured the establishment of new hospitals both with public funds and private contributions. Recognizing the lack of manufacturing industry in Louisiana he established a system of state stores, foundries, and factories with the goal this new works would be put to civilian productio after the war. Because the lack of medicine was acute in the Confederacy he devoted extensive time and resources toward establishing a large intelligence and covert action service which could secretly procure vital supplies especially medicine such as quinine from behind Union lines in New Orleans or from Mexico. Having established the state's military-industrial complex in a short twelve months, state laboratories were soon manufacturing turpentine, castor oil, medicinal alcohol, and carbonate of soda. Allen made arrangement with General Edmund Kirby-Smith to transfer to the state large amounts of cotton and sugar collected by Confederate agents as tax in-kind until the Confederate debt could be retired. He tried to make the state self-sufficient and also guarded the civil liberties of the citizens from infringement by military authorities.
As the Union army forces started flooding into the rest of free Louisiana, Governor Allen was declared an outlaw by military authorities punishable by death upon his capture. Historian John D. Winters writes on Allen's exodus from Louisiana as the war ended to take refuge in Mexico:
"Before leaving he addressed a long letter to the people of Louisiana begging them to keep the peace and 'submit to the inevitable' and 'begin life anew' without whining or despair. The crippled governor then got into his ambulance while a group of friends, tears streaming from their eyes, told him good-by."
With his departure, Louisiana would begin the process of reconstruction. In 1864 electing Michael Hahn, finally representing all citizens, both black and white.
After the war, Allen moved to Mexico City, edited the Mexico Times, and wrote Travels of a Sugar Planter. He assisted in the opening of trade between Texas and Mexico. He died in Mexico City, of a stomach disorder, and was buried on the grounds in front of the Old Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.
The Henry Watkins Allen Camp #133 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in his honor as is Allen Parish in western Louisiana. The neighborhood he lived in while in Shreveport bears the name Allendale. Camp #435, Sons of Confederate Veterans was chartered in 1903 as the Kirby Smith Camp, but the name was changed prior to 1935 to the Henry Watkins Allen Camp #435 in honor of Shreveport's famous resident. The camp is no longer in existence.
Henry W. Allen Elementary School, a public school in New Orleans, is named for him.
A statue of Allen is located near the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse in Port Allen.
Civil War Confederate Brigadier General, Confederate Louisiana Governor. Henry Watkins Allen was born in Virginia. He was the son of physician Dr. Thomas Allen and Ann (Watkins) Allen. The family moved to Missouri in 1833 and he attended Marion College, in Philadelphia, Missouri for two years until he was 17. In 1837 he became a tutor on a plantation in Grand Gulf, Mississippi and after studying the law at night was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1841. In 1842, he served in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. He married in 1844 after he returned to Mississippi. From 1845 to 1847, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives. After his wife died in 1851, he moved to West Baton Rouge Parish and purchased a large sugar plantation which included 125 slaves.