In 1764, the colony of New Orleans was traded from the French to the Spanish. This trade occurred at the end of the French and Indian War, but the king of France failed to tell the colonial citizens about the transfer. Because of this, when the Spanish arrived to replace the French, the people of New Orleans assumed they were being invaded and fought back. An army of locals forced the Spaniards out of their city, but this would lead to one of the darkest events in New Orleans history.
Soon after the Spanish forces were pushed out of their newly-owned city, the new governor, Don Alejandro O’Reilly, or “Bloody O’Reilly,” arrived back in the city with another army. This time, he had the leaders of the rebellion that had forced his men down hunted. Without a second thought, he had each of them executed and then left in front of St. Louis Cathedral to rot. O’Reilly, angered by the rebellion’s victory over his initial army, told the townspeople to leave the bodies there to serve as a lesson for any future rebellious people.
Pere Dagobert Takes a Stand
Priest Pere Dagobert, a man of the people in colonial New Orleans, asked on multiple occasions if he could give the bodies a proper burial. O’Reilly, a stubborn man, refused adamantly on every occasion. But one night, a fierce storm hit the city, forcing everyone indoors because of the danger it posed. During this time, Pere Dagobert, along with the families of the executed, picked up the rotting bodies and gave them a burial in unmarked graves. He then led a precession and sang out the funeral mass.
Pere Dagobert continued to be a prominent figure in New Orleans. He always put the people first and because of that earned the respect of the townsfolk. He went on to die a natural death many years later, but is said today to haunt the French Quarter. On the quietest nights, when the fog sets in and the city is at its most peaceful, you can still hear a ghostly voice singing the Kyrie. Perhaps he still mourns the deaths of those innocent men to this day.