Thibodaux is a small city in and the parish seat of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, United States, along the banks of Bayou Lafourche in the northwestern part of the parish. The population was 14,431 at the 2000 census. Thibodaux is a principal city of the Houma–Bayou Cane–Thibodaux Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The community was settled in the 18th century. It was incorporated as a town in 1838 under the name Thibodauxville, in honor of local plantation owner Henry Schuyler Thibodaux, who provided land for the village and served as acting governor of Louisiana in 1824. In 1896, the first rural free delivery of mail in Louisiana began in Thibodaux. It was the second in the United States. The name was changed to Thibodeaux in 1838, and the current spelling Thibodaux was officially adopted in 1918.
In October 1862, following the Battle of Georgia Landing (Labadieville), Thibodaux was occupied by the Union Army under Godfrey Weitzel. Before they left the city, the Confederates under General Alfred Mouton, later killed in the Battle of Mansfield in De Soto Parish, burned the depot, the bridges, sugar, and supplies that they could not otherwise carry with them. In 1863, the Union under James P. Major temporarily abandoned Thibodaux but soon returned. Winters reports that "terrified Negroes and whites raced into the town announcing that 3,000 Confederate cavalrymen were en route to attack Thibodaux and Lafourche Crossing. [Union] Colonel [Thomas W.] Cahill ordered an immediate retreat. The bayou bridges were burned, three field guns were destroyed, and as many of the men and the horses as possible were loaded . . . and ordered to Raceland. . . . Ammunition was destroyed, horses abandoned, and four field pieces were left behind.
Planters about Thibodaux had difficulty obtaining labor contracts for Negro workers once the area was under Union control. Alexander F. Pugh, a large sugar planter near Thibodaux, complained that the "Negroes and federal officers took up too much time in negotiating new labor contracts. Part of the delay was occasioned by the fact that the Negroes were dissatisfied with the settlements from the past year, and additional delays were brought about because of changes in labor rules and regulations. Pugh wrote in his diary: "I have agreed with the Negroes today to pay them monthly wages. It was very distasteful to me, but I could do no better. Everybody else in the neighborhood has agreed to pay the same, and mine [laborers] would listen to nothing else."
Main article: Thibodaux massacre
A sugar cane workers' strike culminated in the "Thibodaux massacre" of November 22, 1887, one of the bloodiest labor disputes in U.S. history. The strike for higher wages of 10,000 workers (1,000 of whom were white) was organized by the Knights of Labor during rolling period. This was critical to the sugar cane harvest. Planters were alarmed both by outside organizations and the thought of losing their total crops.
The governor called in the State militia at the planters' request. Efforts to break the strike resulted in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of workers at the hands of white paramilitary members.