Does Gen. Mouton have the law behind him?

by Walter Pierce

A 1980 stipulated injunction granted to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy could shield the General Mouton monument Downtown from ever being relocated.

On Feb. 26 Lafayette residents are scheduled to discuss during the public comment segment of the City-Parish Council meeting the prospect of uprooting the Downtown monument to Confederate Brigadier Gen. Alfred Mouton and relocating the marble statue to the grounds of the Lafayette Museum, AKA the Alexandre Mouton House (the home built by Gen. Mouton’s father, Alexandre Mouton, son of Lafayette founder Jean Mouton). But that discussion or debate, whatever you want to call it, could happen with a significant caveat: a 35-year-old injunction obtained by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy barring the city from relocating the statue.

Some history: In 1980 the pre-consolidated city of Lafayette under Mayor Dud Lastrapes, who was sworn into office in January of that year, announced plans to relocate the General Mouton statue from its location in front of the old City Hall at the Jefferson-Lee intersection to the “new” City Hall on St. Landry Street at University Avenue — the current site of Lafayette Consolidated Government. When the UDC’s local Alfred Mouton Chapter caught wind it went to court and sought temporary restraining order against Lastrapes, the city and two companies — Castille’s Marble & Granite Works and Lafayette Steel Erectors — that had won the bids to perform the relocation.

Based on a series of court documents from the time, it appears that the city wanted nothing to do with the court action and essentially let the matter go away after the UDC initially obtained the temporary restraining order and city eventually agreed to what is essentially a permanent stipulated injunction. The injunction stipulated that if the city of Lafayette sold the parcel of land where the monument stands, the new owner could request that it be moved; but it also stipulated that if street improvements were necessary adjacent to the monument, it would simply be moved within the confines of the lot to accommodate the improvements unless moving the statue was impossible. Beyond that, as far as anyone can tell, that stipulated injunction still carries the weight of law.

One of the court documents offers an insight into Lafayette history and the UDC’s motivation in erecting the monument in the first place:

The statue of General Alfred Mouton stands at the end of that section of Jefferson Street, formerly known as Oak Avenue and even earlier for Emma K. Gardner, the second wife of former Governor Alexander Mouton, whose plantation home, Ile Copal, was situated on the Vermilion Bayou at the present site of LeRosen Elementary School.

The Governor’s son, General Alfred Mouton, as a boy and into adulthood, travelled this road to and from Vermilionville numerous times.

It was also the road used by Union General Nathaniel Banks’ ill-fated Great Texas Overland Expedition through southwestern Louisiana during the fall of 1863. This was under the immediate command of General William Franklin, who advanced for the occupation of Vermilionville following the Battle of Vermilion Bayou at Pinhook Bridge in his pursuit of General Alfred Mouton’s far outnumbered Confederate forces.

After the decisive defeat of the Yankees at the Battle of Bayou Bourbeux near Grand Coteau, and their retreat to Vermilion Bayou and advancing again along Emma K. Lane until their final retreat to New Iberia and ultimately to New Orleans.

The statue, therefore, stands on a historic spot, which served as the gateway to the then small village of Vermilionville, which now forms the heart of modern-day Lafayette.

For more on the issue of relocating the General Mouton monument to the nearby Lafayette Museum, read this month’s Independent cover story, “A Monumental Question.”

For the perspective of a Mouton, click here.