Natchitoches Union

Natchitoches Parish

Publication of the Natchitoches Union began in 1859 in Natchitoches, an important cotton shipping center on the Red River near Louisiana’s western border with Texas. Its editor, Ernest Le Gendre (ca. 1828-1862), was a native of Bordeaux, France, who had come to Louisiana as a political exile after the Revolution of 1848. In 1857, he and Eugene Dumez purchased the French-language newspaper Le Meschacébé [LCCN: sn86079080] from fellow exile Hippolyte-Prudent de Bautte. After one year, Le Gendre left the paper to publish the Natchitoches Union.

Printed weekly in two pages, with one in English and one in French, the Union’s earliest surviving issues date from the first year of the Civil War. The paper frequently carried proclamations of Louisiana Confederate governor Thomas Overton Moore, soldier lists, articles on military supplies and civilian organizations such as the Ladies’ Military Aid Society, and miscellaneous war news from throughout the United States. After the fall of New Orleans to Federal forces in 1862, the Union reprinted general orders of Benjamin Butler, head of the occupying army, as well as news of the Federal advance up the Mississippi and Red Rivers toward Natchitoches.  

The Union also published original poetry and songs on war-related themes, some of it by Le Gendre himself: for example, “Gloire et douleur,” “La mère du soldat,” “Napoleon and Moscow” (on the fate of invading armies), and “La Louisianaise,” by Creole poet and playwright Louis Placide Canonge, set to the tune of “La Marseillaise.” In November 1862, the paper carried a long essay on war speculators by “M.E.B.” (Mary Edwards Bryan), the wife of a local planter; Bryan would later co-edit the Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times [LCCN: sn86053712] before going on to a career as a novelist and literary editor in Atlanta and New York.

Ernest Le Gendre died suddenly in February 1862, after which the Union was edited by another French immigrant, Louis Dupleix (1820-1900). In April or May 1864, probably out of anti-Union sentiment, Dupleix changed the title of the Natchitoches Union to the Natchitoches Times (Henry W. Allen, the Confederate governor of Louisiana, wrote to Dupleix in June 1864 listing atrocities committed by Union soldiers and complimenting Dupleix on his paper’s new title). Although a shortage of newsprint compelled the Union/Times to reduce the size of its sheets in May 1862, at war’s end it was able to expand its circulation to twice a week as the Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times [LCCN: sn86053712], which Dupleix published until 1868.