This is part two in a five-part virtual book club on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.
For this week, we read Chapter One: “A Kidnapping in the Back of Town.” Chapter one sets the stage for introducing one of our country's most sensationalized kidnapping mysteries in history. Through the lives of ordinary Americans from every segment of society in 1870 New Orleans, we see the entire social order of society turned upside down at the height of Reconstruction after the Civil War.
With the kidnapping of Molly Digby, the 17-month-old baby from Irish working class parents, a cast of citizens navigate their identities, roles and responsibilities in a city torn apart by politics, racial fear, rumors, hysteria and religious accusations of Voodoo sacrifices. This includes:
- Louisiana's Governor, Henry Clay Warmoth,
- a Union army veteran from Illinois,
- suspect Ellen Follin, described in the press as a "fashionable tall, mulatto woman, probably for the purpose of receiving a ransom,"
- police chief Algernon Sidney Badger, originally from Massachusetts, and
- African American detective John Baptise Jourdain, assigned to the Digby case.