Date of Award

Fall 2013

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

J William Harris


Judge Edward Henry Durell has faded from the historiography of New Orleans, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. When he does appear, the long held belief that he was a drunkard, corrupt and feeble man sometimes remain. This Thesis utilizes his virtually untouched personal papers to reveal a far different picture. Edward Durell exerted great effort to never be corrupt, despite numerous opportunities to enrich himself at the public expense. He was a brilliant man, who played an important role in modernizing the infrastructure and government of New Orleans in the years 1850 through 1856. He served in his many public roles during the Civil War and Reconstruction at times unwillingly. He distrusted and dislike politicians of both sides of Reconstruction, and resisted numerous attempts by politicians to abuse his power as a Federal Judge to advance partisan agendas. His ruling on the Louisiana state election of 1872 has long stood as evidence of either his incompetence or corruption. This thesis reveals his motivations were noble and, he felt, entirely legal. It was the actions of others, both Democrat and Republican, to scapegoat him for their own political ends that has resulted in a distorted and unfair representation of what actually occurred, and why.