Digging holes here and there in American history.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013


     I recently visited one of the 750 prisoner of war camps established in the United States during World War II.  While there's not much left of Camp Monticello, Arkansas, many of the features of the facility are still evident in a thick pine forest.  Most WWII POW camps in the U.S. have been completely razed with no trace remaining.
     Camp Monticello housed Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa and Italy.  Other camps housed German prisoners and the few Japanese who allowed themselves to be captured.
     After the war, most camps were dismantled immediately, with the buildings provided to other government entities or sold to the public.
      Here are some photos from my exploration:
POW camps were like small cities, with their own  utilities--water, electricity, sewer system.  Camp Monticello is dotted  with fire hydrants and other remnants of infrastructure.

      See more and enlarge the photos...


March 12, 1872
Vienna, Jackson Parish, Louisiana

      Although every community in the South suffered deprivations and despair during the Civil War, some were spared the horrors of armies turning their cotton fields and pastures into battlefields.  North central Louisiana, between Monroe and Shreveport and from north of Alexandria to the Arkansas state line, was such a pocket never penetrated in force by Yankee invaders until the war ended and Reconstruction began.
     The small town of Vienna, then in Jackson Parish, was located in the center of this pocket.  Vienna watched the war go by as plantation owners marched their slaves west toward refuge in Texas and meager military supplies came through headed east.  Confederate armies marched through and trained on the outskirts of town but the fighting never reached the little village.  The real war, North Louisiana’s war, began with chaos of Reconstruction as white Democrats fought Radical Republican control of local offices and state government with the assistance of federal troops.  More blood flowed from lawlessness and clashes with the government and freed blacks than was ever experienced in the region during the war.  Vigilantism was the norm to correct perceived wrongs that the carpetbag government refused to rectify.
     But Vienna thrived after the war, rivaling the parish seat of Vernon in size.  It boasted hotels and a number of stores and churches and even cultural activities.  There was a dancing school, operated by two men—Peace and Whatley—who also gave lessons in Vernon and perhaps elsewhere in Jackson Parish.  Rumors abounded, however, about what was really happening at the men’s dance studio.  There was something sinister and disturbing about the men.  Supposedly, they were from Natchitoches but had spent time in Texas where one of them had killed a man.

    On the evening of March 12, 1872, a young local man who had imbibed too much liquor accompanied Peace into Dr. Jackson’s drug store.  The man was loud and obnoxious.  Jackson told the rowdy youth to leave the store.  He snapped back with a rude remark and the doctor replied in kind.  Peace then stepped forward in support of the youth and made remarks of his own.  "Do you take it up?"  the doctor asked.  The men were now in front of the store where 54-year old John Huey, Jr., and Whatley, Peace's partner, were standing.  The exchange of words led Huey to step forward to back up Dr. Jackson and say, "Fighting is the game, is it?" 

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