Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era

By John David Smith | Go to book overview

2
AN IRONIC ROUTE
TO GLORY
Louisiana's Native Guards
at Port Hudson

Lawrence Lee Hewitt

Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, free blacks in NewOrleans organized the Native Guards. On May 2, Governor Thomas O. Moore authorized the addition of a regiment of Native Guards to the state militia. Though he appointed a white colonel, Henry D. Ogden, to command the regiment, all the rest of the officers he commissioned were black. White New Orleanians approved Moore's action. The New Orleans Daily Crescent claimed that the Native Guards will fight the Black Republican with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in the service of the Confederate States.”1 Such sentiment was limited to Louisiana, however, where blacks, both slave and free, had fought with the French against the Choctaw Indians, with the Spanish against the English, and with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.

Existing Afro-Creole mutual aid societies formed the basis of these companies, and officers of a particular society were often elected to military office within that organization's company. President Charles Sentmanat and Secretary Andre Cailloux of the Friends of Order became captain and first lieutenant, respectively, of Order Company, which was designated Company C. Though some of these free blacks undoubtedly volunteered for other reasons, economics appears to have been the dominant motivation.

These individuals were the elite of black society in New Orleans: doctors, dentists, architects, and skilled craftsmen. They were well educated and, by 1860s standards, wealthy. Collectively, they owned more than $2 million

-78-

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