Henry Vignaud (1830-1922)
Henry Vignaud was a journalist, diplomat, and historian. He was born and educated in New Orleans. His career as a journalist commenced with articles for the newspapers of New Orleans. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he became a captain in the 6th Louisiana Regiment but was imprisoned in 1862, when New Orleans was captured by the Union Army. He escaped, went to Paris, and never returned to the United States.
In Paris, Vignaud entered the service of the Confederate mission under John Slidell. In 1869, he was appointed to a secretaryship in the Roumanian legation at Paris. On December 14, 1875, he was appointed second secretary of the United States legation in Paris, and on April 11, 1885, was promoted to be first secretary. For thirty-four years, he was an indensable member of the Paris mission, frequently acting as chargé d’affaires, and serving always with distinction.
Vignaud’s distinction was achieved after the age of seventy. His special interest in Columbus grew out of his close association with Henry Harrisse and with the Peruvian scholar Manuel Gonzalez de la Rosa, and the publications of the Columbian anniversary in 1892. He published several works on Columbus and European exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries, including: La Lettre et la Carte de Toscanelli (1901), Toscanelli and Columbus (1902), Études critiques sur la vie de Colomb avant ses découvertes (1905), Histoire critique de la grande entreprise de Christophe Colomb (2 vols., 1911), Améric Vespuce, 1451-1512 (1917), and Christophe Colomb et la Légende (1921).
Vignaud also displayed a broad interest in the whole range of studies of aboriginal America and of the earliest European contacts with the new world. His work was recognized by the award of numerous honors and prizes, and by election as a foreign corresponding member of the Institut de France.
Vignaud’s library of many thousand books, pamphlets, and maps now resides at the University of Michigan.
Vignaud’s work also includes an unfinished history of cartography in approximately 650,000 words.
Biographical note has been excerpted from Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), s.v. “Vignaud, Henry”
Link to article above:
1911 Click here to view “Henry Vignaud, After Fifty Years of Research, Issues Historical Work in Which Famous Explorer is Branded as Imposter and Humbug” article in the March 21, 1911 issue of the Ohio Plain Dealer.
Jean-Héliodore Vignaud was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 27, 1830, the eldest of six children of Jean Lucien Vignaud and Clémence Godefroi. Jean- Héliodore later changed his name to Henry Vignaud. Vignaud taught school in New Orleans before founding two weekly journals, L’Union de la Fourche and La Renaissance Louisiannaise. During the Civil War, he served as captain of the Confederate Army’s 6th Louisiana Regiment until his capture during the fall of New Orleans in 1862. Vignaud fled to France after his imprisonment and remained there for the rest of his life.
In 1863, Vignaud became secretary of the Confederate Diplomatic Commission to Paris, and, after the war, Chancellor of the Romanian Diplomatic Agency. From 1875 to 1909, he served as secretary to the American legation in Paris. Vignaud developed an interest in early American history and frequently corresponded with the self-styled “Americanistes” Pierre Margry and Henry Harrisse. He became president of the Société des Americanistes de Paris (1908), and he published many works on American history. He married Louise Compte in 1879 and lived in the Parisian suburb of Bagneux. Henry Vignaud died in 1922.