Just so you
extraordinary military unit that served on both sides
in the Civil War.
Louisiana Native Guard was a militia regiment formed by eager volunteers in the
early days of the Civil War to fight for the South. What made it unique among Confederate
military units was the origin of its men.
were all free blacks living in New Orleans.
were they willing to fight for the South?
Some saw it as a way to gain equality.
Others owned property they were afraid of losing if they refused to
fight. Many were mulattoes who
identified more with Southern whites than with slaves.
South didn’t permit the Native Guards to go into battle, and used it more for
propaganda than anything else. This
treatment quickly dampened the unit’s enthusiasm for the Confederate cause.
the men of the Native Guards still desperately want to prove themselves. After New Orleans was occupied by the Union,
many of the officers and men volunteered to fight for the Union. They were joined by runaway slaves also
anxious to take up arms.
so the Native Guards, reconstituted as three Union regiments, became the only unit to serve both the South and the North during the Civil War.
were the first black units in the Union Army, and they fought bravely at the
Battle of Port Hudson. In spite of their
performance, they were not well treated by the army. Black officers were replaced with whites, and
the men were used primarily for guard duty and manual labor.
their willingness to work and fight, the Native Guards were orphaned by two
armies. As one of their officers
observed: “Nobody really desires our
delighted that they
P. Banks on the
Native Guards at Port Hudson
And the rest of the story…
One of the officers of the Native Guards, P. B. S.
Pinchback, served briefly as governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction,
making him the state’s first and only black governor. Pinchback was one-quarter African-American:
the son of a Louisiana planter and his mulatto mistress.
Robert E. Lee suggested recruiting slaves as soldiers in the
late days of the Civil War, but the South’s view of black troops was summed up
by the Confederate general Cobb Howell: “If slaves make good soldiers, our
whole theory of slavery is wrong.”
Source: “The Greatest War Stories Never Told” – Rick Beyer