Leon A. Waters
Chairperson of the Louisiana Museum of African American History; Manager of Hidden History Tours, @ www.HiddenHistory.us
Africans played a very important role in the victory over the slave holders and the defeat of the Confederacy. Just before and after the war broke out (1861), thousands of enslaved Africans from New Orleans, Louisiana across the South deserted the plantations and fought as maroons (runaway slaves) against the slave masters. Many made it to St. James A.M.E. Baptist Church on N. Roman Street that served as a Union recruiting station. Over 200,000 Black men fought in the Union Army; up to 28,000 former enslaved came from New Orleans and Louisiana. They were in the vanguard of some of the decisive battles of the war. Several regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops participated in the defeat inflicted on General Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia. Black troops of the 25 Corp were among the first Union troops to liberate the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1865* that later led to the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, VA. on April 9, 1865.
In Louisiana, African troops were decisive in defeating the Confederate forces. The Confederate forces were already weakened from within by the mutiny of Confederate troops at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip in Plaquemines Parish (April 1862) and by the desertion of thousands of Johnny Rebs in the face of the armada of Union ships led by Admiral Farragut who captured New Orleans on April 26, 1862. **
At Port Hudson, eight African regiments including the famous 1st and 2nd Native Guards liberated themselves well. The latter two regiments made over five heroic and daring sorties up difficult terrain to capture Confederate positions. In these assaults, the African troops displayed unmatched heroism and courage in the face of sharp fire from entrenched enemy positions. On one charge they nearly carried the enemy’s position and were thrown back only at the last moment. In the battle of May 27, 1863, Captain Andre’ Cailloux, a Black soldier of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, displayed enormous courage and calm under fire. After being shot and seriously wounded he struggled to his feet and led his men in another bold assault. He was then hit again, yet found the fortitude to continue. A third time he was shot; this time it was fatal. He died a glorious death for the cause of freedom. And for this he has become a great martyr for the anti-slavery cause and for self-determination of the African American nation.
The Union Army was pursuing a just and democratic objective. This is why we should honor the Civil War. After the Civil War, the U.S. government passed into the hands of the monopoly millionaire class. The government, then, began to employ African American and white troops in a series of unjust wars. The objective of these wars was to subdue the native peoples (incorrectly called Indians) and to invade Spanish held colonies in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines, etc. in 1898) These wars were unjust wars and were conducted in the interest of the rich millionaires and were contrary to the real interest of the oppressed masses in the U.S.A. For this reason we should not honor these wars.
Long live the heroic African fighters!!
*1 Lerone Bennet, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America (New York: Penguin Books,1993) p. 475.
**2 Col. Robert N. Scott, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I Volume VI (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1882) p. 556-643.