Washita River or Ouachita River?

Reading history, especially hundreds of years prior, I notice words spelled differently sometimes. I recently observed that Ouachita used to be spelled Washita.

Ouachita River: Buckhorn Bend

I realized this occurrence while reading Frank Moore’s The Rebellion Record – A Diary of American Events:

The Washita River expedition, consisting of the greater part of General Logan’s old Brigade, a regiment of cavalry, and a battery of artillery, returned to Vicksburgh from the portion of Louisiana lying adjacent to Washita River. No organized force of the rebels could be found. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

It took me a while to figure out when the word was changed, but here’s what I discovered:

  • Indian tribes (Washita, Caddo, Osage, Tensas, Chickasaw and Choctaw) lived along the Washita River.
  • “Washita” is an Indian word translated “river of good hunting grounds” or “river of sparkling silver water.”
  • The first French settlers renamed it “Ouachita” in the early 1700’s, according to Ouachita River Foundation.

I was fascinated that an Indian tribe thought this river was so awesome that they decided to name themselves Washita as well. It is quite understandable, however, seeing as I have witnessed the majesty of the now Ouachita River, which runs through the city (Monroe) where I currently reside. Furthermore, the river must have held such significance to the people living here back then, since the parish in which I live is also named after it.

From River to Clan, From County to Parish:

The Ouachita were a small clan, apparently belonging to the Caddoan family, who resided on the Ouachita river in the northeastern part of Louisiana. At the close of the seventeenth century they numbered five cabins and about seventy men; but their identity seems to have been quite early lost in that of other tribes.

The name of the Ouachita Indians lives in that of the parish and of a river. The original county of Ouachita was established in 1805; it became a parish in 1807, with an area much smaller than that of the old county. (Source: Louisiana Place Names of Indian Origin, pages 49-50)

I could literally keep writing about the Washita River; how it was used during the American Civil War, what type of boat dominated this waterway and why, or how long it extends through this geographic location:

Ouachita River: Borders

But until next time, check this out & Spell Check…

Sweet Home Louisiana

I live in Louisiana!  Now that you know this, I’m sure one of your next thoughts is:

(Does he know anyone from Duck Dynasty?)  I actually don’t, even though I live literally right across the river from them.  But, I always sarcastically answer that question with “Oh yeah, Willie and I had lunch last week!”

(I wonder if he lives in the swamp.)  Not even Swamp People live in the swamp; they live on it.  Boo-Ya!  Seriously though, some people think that all of Louisiana is swampland.  Not true.  But, I have a great story about this; just ask.

(He’ll probably mention something about alligators…)  You’re right!  Yet, I want to talk about blackberries and the American Civil War some too.

I’ve been reading a book lately by a local author named Kelby Ouchley.  What a great name, and what an amazing book!  Flora and Fauna of the Civil War was a gift signed by Kelby and given to me by my friend, Nancy.

In his section on blackberries, Kelby inserts a diary post from Corporal Rufus Kinsley (another great name) of the 8th Vermont Regiment on June 5, 1862.  Stationed near Des Allemands, LA, CPL Kinsley writes this: “Not much to eat but alligators and blackberries: plenty of them.” (Page 26)

Though short, I resonated with this entry tremendously.  Let me tell you why.

I lived in Des Allemands for a few years when I was a boy.  It brings back fond memories.  One is how I got into a somewhat cordial argument with a college roommate and dear friend over what “des allemands” means.

I knew that it was French and argued with Jacob that it translated to the plural “Germans.”  I mean, come on!  Des Allemands seems to be plural with the “s” on the end, right?  According to Google Translate, however, I’m wrong.  “Des Allemands” does mean “German” in English.  Oh well.

Another memory I have of Des Allemands is a story my mother told me.  She was a teacher at Allemands Elementary when we lived there; hence why we moved there in the first place.  Anyway, she said they would actually have alligators come up to the school sometimes.  Imagine shooing an alligator away…

We later moved to Luling, which is only 11 miles away.  Alligators certainly are abundant in that area.  One spring and summer season, my friend Dane and I fished like crazy.  We would throw fish scraps in a canal behind his house.  In the fall, the local news reported that an 8-foot alligator was found in a nearby drain off.  Oops!  I’m sure we contributed a little to that.

Ah yes, blackberries.  Those were also vast in our area.  We used to walk to a pond behind my subdivision (infested with marshes and alligators of course) to go fishing.  Along the railroad tracks that we walked on to get to the pond, there were a whole slew of blackberry bushes.  To say we got sidetracked with picking blackberries over fishing the day we discovered them is an understatement.  Raw or thrown into homemade cobbler, those puppies were the bomb!

All these stories make me proud of my home state and even hungry!

Until next time, Eat up troops…