Photographs: Marker placed at St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery honoring revolutionary war veterans buried at St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin)
BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
The Saturday afternoon commemorative march was quite shorter and involved less difficult terrain than the journey taken by their ancestors in the Opelousas militia over 200 years before.
Instead of facing poisonous reptiles and staring at British muskets, those dressed in late 18th American Revolutionary century costumes walked the short distance from the Michel Prudhomme Home to the St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery on a paved roadway behind a city police escort.
The “March To Baton Rouge” event dedicated to local residents near Opelousas and Washington, La., who in 1779, left their farms and families to assist the Spanish in removing the British from the lower Mississippi Valley, included a historical perspective which underlined the importance of the military undertaking.
At the Church Landing Cemetery in Washington and the Church cemetery in Opelousas, members of the Louisiana Society Sons of The American Revolution placed identical dedication markers to militia members who are buried there.
The Preservationists of St. Landry, Inc., hosted the Opelousas dedication with assistance by the Opelousas Chapter of the Daughters of The American Revolution.
Michel Prudhomme, who built the 222-year-old home now owned by the non-profit Preservationists, is listed as one of the Opelousas militia members who marched to Baton Rouge in mid-September after a request by Governor Bernardo Galvez.
An examination of each of the two markers placed in Washington and Opelousas features many ancestral names that are still familiar in St. Landry Parish.
Militiamen with the last names of Fruge, Soileau, Lemelle, Cormier, Savoie, Richard, Fontenot and Wyble are etched on the markers that were placed in each of the cemeteries.
Dr. Derrick Spell told the crowd at the Prudhomme Home that under Spanish rule in Louisiana, men ages 15-50 were required to serve in local militia units in order to provide their areas with armed protection.
After the British grabbed possession of Natchez and areas around Baton Rouge, Spell said Galvez summoned all Louisiana militiamen to help expel the British.
James Douget, Preservationists of St. Landry, Inc. president, said about 100 men left the Opelousas area to assist with eliminating the British presence.
It took several days for the militia to reach the Baton Rouge area, after traveling through swamps, bayous and rivers in flotillas, according to Douget.
Those marching to Baton Rouge reflected the various ethnicities which comprised the Opelousas-area, said Douget.
“The militia from Opelousas was a diverse group. There were free men of color, slaves, Native Americans from the area. The outcome was important, since the entire (Mississippi) river now came under control of the Spanish and the colonies,” Douget pointed out.