About This Place
Lake Providence is a town in and the parish seat of East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 5,104 at the 2000 census.
The Lake Providence area was first opened for settlement in the late 1830s, when the cypress swamps were drained and the land cleared for habitation. By 1861, at the start of the War Between the States, the region consisted entirely of large cotton plantations. The town of Lake Providence got its start with the arrival of the Union Army in the spring of 1862. Under the direction of General Grant, Lake Providence was established as a supply depot and base of operations for the Vicksburg Campaign. As freed or runaway slaves swarmed into the camp from surrounding plantations, the population quickly soared from a few hundred, to several thousand, and what began as a simple military supply camp quickly transformed into a "city of negroe refugees." By the fall of the Mississippi River to the Union in 1863, most planters in the Lake Providence area had fled, leaving behind their vacant estates. The historian John D. Winters, who was reared in Lake Providence, describes the situation, accordingly:
"The long line of abandoned plantations was then leased by the army and treasury agents to carpetbaggers and to southerners who took the oath of allegiance (known as scalawags). Since the necessary Negro labor, farming implements, and mules were provided by the army, lessees were responsible only for feeding and clothing the Negroes until the harvest, when they paid off their obligations to the army and to the laborers, Yearly expenses ran between $5,000 and $30,000 on a plantation of a thousand acres, while profits might run higher than $200,000. There was little trouble finding lessees for the plantations."