Catahoula Parish

THIS MAP pinpoints the locations of the plantations of General St. John Richardson Liddell (Llanada) and Col. Charles Jones’ (Elmly). In between is Garrett’s Landing. Along this four-mile stretch of Black River on Feb. 14, 1870, a longtime feud between Jones and Liddell came to a head with the killing of General Liddell. Two more men would be slain 13 days later in Harrisonburg, the parish seat of Catahoula Parish.  

 (42nd in a Series)  

A short time after noon on Monday, Feb. 14, 1870, at the Llanada Plantation landing, Catahoula Parish planter Gen. St. John Richardson Liddell boarded the St. Mary steamboat, which had just returned from Camden, Ark., on the Ouachita River. The vessel had entered the Black River at nearby Trinity and was headed to the Red and Mississippi, making stops along the way on the journey home to New Orleans, its home base.  

Liddell immediately began conversations with two friends who were already onboard, Mr. Marbury and Col. Charles Morrison.  

Three miles downriver, the boat made another stop “at Mr. Garrett’s,” where, according to The Ouachita Telegraph, Morrison reported that “Mr. Marbury came to me and said that he understood Col. Jones was coming on the boat at his (Jones’s) landing, and wished that I, as a friend, would go to meet him and ask him to go home and ask him not to come on.  

“One of Jones’s sons was then on the boat. I went to him and told him to go home and ask his father to wait until the next boat, as Liddell was on the boat and I feared that there might be difficulty, and that trouble was more easily avoided than corrected. He promised me he would do so.  

“Mr. Marbury had talked to Gen. Liddell, and he promised not make any demonstration toward Jones, if he came on board.”  

Another newspaper, The South-Western of Shreveport, said the St. Mary had been “lying at Garrett’s Landing, taking on cotton, when Cuthbert and William Jones, sons of Col. Charles Jones came on board and said that their father was to get on the boat at his landing, as he was going to New Orleans with cotton.”  

Morrison said that while at Garrett’s Landing, Liddell “expressed fears of an attack, and was much pleased to learn that they had gone away without any demonstration, as he was most anxious to avoid a collision.”  

The Jones’ boys mounted their horses and raced a mile downriver to Elmly, where they found their father awaiting the arrival of the St. Mary.  

They told him of Col. Morrison’s request, but Jones would not hear of it. Because of the longtime feud between Jones and Liddell, it would appear that a sensible man would have waited for the next boat, unless he was looking for a confrontation.  

The South-Western reported: “When the boat reached Jones’ Landing, Col. Jones was seen on shore with his trunk ready, and having some twenty bales of cotton to ship. The boat had considerable trouble to make her landing, and Gen. Liddell, with Col. Morrison and a Mr. Marbury, sat down at the officers’ table to dine.”  

It was 2 p.m.  

JONES OPENS FIRE  

During the past 23 years, Jones and Liddell had been embroiled in a bitter feud. It began when Jones was shot in the head and back by a woman he had slandered. General Liddell was on the scene – in front of Jones’ house at Elmly Plantation -- but did not take part in the shooting. Yet Jones blamed Liddell and falsely claimed that Liddell had shot him in the back.  

Jones vowed revenge.  

He attempted to hire assassins to kill Liddell, but in 1852 Liddell shot and killed two of the men working in conjunction with Jones to murder the general. A Catahoula Parish jury found Liddell had acted in self-defense.  

During the late 1850s and throughout the Civil War, the feud had been put on the backburner. However, when Liddell lost Llanada due to bankruptcy in the late 1860s, Jones attempted to buy it. Liddell warned Jones in a letter that his wife and family members were buried in the family cemetery beside his home and that it would be unwise for Jones to attempt to take ownership of that sacred spot.  

Then, a cotton broker working on the land deal for Jones was shot and killed in New Orleans by the banker who had purchased Llanada. The banker had originally planned to make Jones and Elijah B. Cotton partners, but when he found out about the long violent feud, he refused to sell to Jones and Cotton.  

The broker was killed in early January 1860 during a confrontation with the banker at the Boston Club. Four weeks later, the Jones-Liddell feud was about to come to a head aboard the St. Mary.  

According to Col. Morrison, “Marbury, Liddell and myself … had taken our soup, and were waiting for dinner, when the Joneses came on board. The Colonel passed ahead, passing in front of us — we being seated at the table occupied by the officers, most of whom had dined and left the table.  

“As Col. Jones passed I spoke to him, without leaving my seat. He passed on and to my left out of the angle of vision. Wm. Jones came next, and was about in front of us, the other son {Cuthbert} about opposite the front end of the table.  

“My attention was called from the parties for an instant by something. The next thing that attracted my attention was Gen. Liddell made a motion as if to rise. I touched him gently on the shoulder and asked him not to rise. He, however, arose, and at the same time I also arose, and endeavored to place myself just in front of him.  

“In a moment he had his hand on his pistol and attempted to draw it.  That, I knew, or felt sure, would draw the fire of the Joneses, and a further interference would endanger my own life and perhaps give the advantage against Liddell.  

“I let him go, and just as I did so a pistol fired, just missing me, and I saw from the General’s countenance that he was stunned or seriously hurt. Almost in a second a second shot was fired, still before Liddell had out his pistol. He fell, or was falling, I think, from the first shot.  

“He, however, got his pistol out, and fired once after he was down and dying. His shot took no effect. The Jones’s fired many shots, say 8 to 10 – continued to fire till Liddell was dead.”  

According to Michael Lanza in his study of the feud, when Liddell reached for his revolver, Morrison said, “Stop, General.”  

Lanza wrote: “Jones, from ten to fifteen feet away, turned on hearing this and fired at Liddell. Another shot was reportedly aimed at Liddell by one of Colonel Jones’s sons. Liddell, falling, drew his revolver and shot once at Colonel Jones, who was retreating out of the pantry gangway. The ball lodged in the ceiling. William and Cuthbert fired more shots at the dying Liddell.”  

‘LIDDELL NEVER SPOKE’  

Meanwhile, Captain Sweeney, was on the upper deck of the boat when he heard shots.  

He told The Ouachita Telegraph: “As soon as I heard it, I went over the rail and into the cabin where I found one of the Jones boys with a navy revolver in his hand, and the father ran out toward the barber shop. I stopped him, and then went for the son to come out of the cabin, which he did.  I found Gen. Liddell about dead, lying on his back, having fallen {on} the first fire, with three large bullet holes in his breast.”  

Historian Lanza reported that Dr. W.A. White in “an affidavit to Justice W.P. Cherry of Catahoula, stated that he had examined Liddell’s body and found seven gunshot wounds, three of which could have caused death.”  

Col. Morrison said that Jones and his sons “offered to surrender to me or anyone else. Not a word was spoken between the parties previous to the shooting. Liddell never spoke.”  

Captain Sweeney landed again at Jones’ landing, where Jones and his sons debarked. Then the captain turned back upriver for Liddell’s Llanada Plantation: “I took the General back to his place, carried the body up to the house and left it with his grief-stricken family.”  

The people on the St. Mary and those in nearby Trinity, “were very much excited” about the killing of Liddell, Morrison said.  

‘TROUBLES HAVE JUST BEGUN’  

In W.M. Crawford’s account of the feud, Jones and his sons went to visit a close friend, planter Michael J. Beard, on the morning after the shooting.  

Jones told Beard what had happened and said, “I suppose our troubles are over now.”  

“Colonel,” Beard replied. “Your troubles have just begun.”  

He advised Jones to “get out of the country or give yourself up to the sheriff. You are no longer safe here.”  

Jones and his sons soon traveled to Harrisonburg, the parish seat, and turned themselves in to 26-year-old sheriff Oliver Ballard.  

Later in the week, the St. Mary arrived in New Orleans. Warren Guice Mobley, a newspaper man and Democratic Party leader who wrote about the feud in the Tensas Gazette in the early 20th century, was standing on the landing when the steamer docked.  

The news of Liddell’s death was stunning.  

In the city, Liddell was “held in the highest esteem,” wrote Mobley, a Catahoula Parish planter who would be elected sheriff in the 1880s.  

Mobley had been born on Fairview Plantation in Concordia Parish in 1842 before moving to on the other side of the Tensas in Catahoula. He joined the Tensas Calvary during the Civil War and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Shiloh after his horse was shot from under him.  

Active as a Democrat in Reconstruction politics, he established his own newspaper, The Catahoula Times, which he published until 1892 when moving to Alexandria.  

Mobley wrote that the “steamboat which conveyed” him back to Catahoula a day or two after receiving word of Liddell’s death “was boarded at every landing on Black and Tensas rivers, by one or more friends of General Liddell, who made no secret of the fact … that an expedition was being organized to go to Harrisonburg and avenge his assassination, for such was it considered throughout the entire country.”  

(To Be Continued)  

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