Tuesday, April 29, 2014

African American Officers

The Confederate 1st Louisiana Native Guard was disbanded by order of General John L Lewis on April 29th 1862, as Union troops entered and took over the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Following secession, Louisiana’s Governor Thomas Overton Moore, made a request for troops in April 1861.  In response to this call a committee of free New Orleans blacks called a meeting at the Catholic Institute on April 22nd 1861, at which around 1,500 free African American men enlisted.  Most of the men were French Speaking Creoles.  Moore made these men part of the state’s militia, forming the 1st Louisiana Native Guard on May 2nd 1861.  There were three white officers appoint to command the regiment, but the company commanders came from among the men of the regiment, making this the first North American military unit to have African American officers.   Among these officers were Lieutenant Andre Cailloux, who would latter die fighting the Confederacy, and Lieutenant Morris W Morris who was not only African American, but also Jewish.

The men of the 1st were never used in any Confederate military action, and the men had to use their own money to buy uniforms and weapons. The men mostly found themselves part of parades and grand reviews.  They were forced to disband on February 15th 1862, because of a new Louisiana law, stating that only white men could be part of the militia.  Governor Moore reinstated the 1st on March 24th 1862 when Union Admiral David G Farragut’s navy sailed into the Mississippi River.

When Confederate troops under the command of Major General Mansfield Lovell left New Orleans the General of the Louisiana Militia; John L Lewis ordered the 1st disbanded on April 29th 1862, telling them to go home, and to hide their guns and uniforms. Union Major General Benjamin F Butler, after accepting the surrender of New Orleans approached some of the members of 1st to fight for the Union; about 10% were willing and would become the Union 1st Louisiana Native Guard, latter known as the 73rd United States Colored Troops.

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