It was early in the morning between 8 AM and 9AM on May 13, 1864 when Union soldiers burned ninety percent of Alexandria, Louisiana down on the darkest day in the history of the city.
The soldiers attempted to burn down the Catholic church but Father J.B. Bellier refused to let the church be burned down as related in the book Alexandria Way Down in Dixie written by Harry G. and Elizabeth Eskew:
A party that approached the Catholic church to destroy if found Father J. B. Bellier barring their path. He stood at the front door, rapier in hand, and told them grimly that he’d kill the first soldier who should attempt to apply the torch. Father Bellier had been trained in the French army before studying for the priesthood and had reached the rank of Lieutenant of Cavalry. He was an expert swords man. When the soldiers saw that they would have to kill the priest in order to set fire to the church, they left.
The following paragraph from the book describes the chaos in the streets after the fire was raging leaving homeowners with no homes and no food:
Thousands of men, women and children carrying whatever they could of edibles and valuables ran choking, sobbing for the levee. Women with helpless babies in their arms frantically fought their way through the smoking, burning town and the crowds of excited citizens. Screaming chil- dren running hither and thither hunted for their mothers and fathers. Old men leaning on their staffs for support hobbled toward the river.
The courthouse was destroyed leaving no documentation of any legal records that had transpired before the day of the fire.
For those readers who are interested in more details about the occupation of Alexandria by Union soliders and the burning of Alexandria:
146 years have passed since the day Alexandria was burned down by Union soldiers but it is still the most newsworthy event to ever occur in the 203 year old city.