Gen. Banks’ Red River Campaign, Fire and Looting

The Yankees occupied New Orleans and its surrounding environs from April, 1862 until the end of the Civil War. In 1863, Gen. Nathaniel Banks left New Orleans to start an advance toward Shreveport. He followed the Red River, then a busy inland commercial waterway. He was defeated and had to retreat. On the way back, his troops burned and looted their way back south. They burned literally every farm house and plantation between Shreveport and Alexandria. Alexandria, about midway between Baton Rouge and Shreveport was then a prosperous river town. The Unionists appeared to take particular delight in firing the town.

Of course, Gen. Banks issued orders that no looting or burning would occur,. But the orders were not enforced. As one Union soldier would write years later, “We were like the Israelites of old, accompanied by a cloud [of smoke] by day, and a pillar of fire by night.” One resident of Alexandria watched as the invaders poured in, helpless to stop them. The forced their way into every store, every house on Front street. The cases, windows, iron chests, shelves, and more were broken into and smashed. Officers and enlisted alike participated in the melee, grabbing whatever they could carry. The resident, E.R. Blossat watched, helpless to intervene, as two Federal privates grabbed the silver watch from his black servant. He then saw two Marines and a naval officer enter the Second Street home of Mrs. Caleb Taylor, grab the clock off her mantle, wrap it in her quilt and then dart out the door. Two other marines plundered the Episcopal church.

A little boy of four years old, son of a Confederate captain, loudly proclaimed before a crowd of Yankees that he was a rebel. One of the soldiers then wrapped a rope around his neck and drew him up, choking the boy and asked if he was still a rebel. Gasping for breath, the toddler insisted he was indeed still a rebel. He was again drawn up. Some by-standers then insisted the soldier release the boy.

The Catholic church, St. Francis Xavier, it is said, was almost burned during this infamous campaign. It was the only river front building that was not burned. The story is that the priest, Father J.P. Bellier, saw the Federals approaching his church to set it afire. Disguising his voice to impersonate Gen. Banks, he ordered that the church be spared. The soldiers then left the church alone. See waymarking post here.

Twenty two blocks of the river port were burned. The Federal troops violated the rules of war. for more information about the firing of Alexandria, Louisiana, see the post here.

Walter Brian Cisco, War Crimes against Southern Civilians (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publ. 2016), p. 96.

Confederate Memorials are Veteran Memorials

In the Iraq war, like all wars, we lost a few buddies. Each death carries with it these tremendous ripple effects. For every death, 5, 6 soldiers or more say, “If I had been there SGT Saenz would still be with us. I should have gone out on that patrol.” The guilt, as irrational as it might be, can be devastating. Multiply those ripple effects some 20 or 30 times and you get the U.S. Civil war. The casualty rate in that war was 20-50% in combat units, compared to .02% in the Iraq war for all units. During the Civil War, armies did not collect and bury the dead. There were no funerals back home. There were no honor guarded processions. There were no gifts of a flag to the grieving family. After the war, hundreds of families, North and South, wandered these battle fields looking for lost loved ones. One historian estimated there were 35,000 dead, lying unburied, unmarked between Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. That was just one small corner of the war.

So, after the war, communities across America built memorials to the confederate dead. Northern communities did the same. Those memorials applied a much needed salve to deep, emotional wounds. But, how did a South with its economy in shambles raise the money for memorials?

In her book (“Sacred Memories”), Kelly McMichaels describes the process employed by male veterans and the female United Daughters of the Confederacy in erecting hundreds of veteran memorials across America. Overwhelmingly, most were built by the women. Dr. McMichaels attributes that to the nature or role of women in the 1890-1930 time frame when most of these memorials were built. Women were often the “rememberers.” They tended the graves. They laid aside the old baby slippers and the old worn hat from lost loved ones.

One of the first memorials was the Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans. Fund-raising started the year of Mr. Lee’s death in 1870. The fund-raising committee included bankers and leading merchants of the city. But, these were banks and merchants who had no money. The economy was reeling. The committee came close to disbanding in 1876. But, they re-organized and added many more merchants and former Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. By 1884, the committee raised the $36,000 necessary for a very large, beautiful Lee statue.

But, to reach that huge figure, they held hundreds of bake sales and public entertainments. The public entertainments included militias performing close order drill, a play titled “Cinderella,” for the children; lectures on Robert E. Lee and his life. Admission was generally .25 cents for children and .50 cents for adults. In 1877, 98 persons pledged $100 each which brought them close to the stated goal of $30,000. Contributors included Sen. Charles Furlong, a Republican Senator from Mississippi and union veteran.

This author’s ancestor, George P. Crane, supported one such public entertainment as part of his social club. He recorded in his diary for May 16, 1878, that the old Opera House had never seen such a “jam.” Thousands, he said, had to be turned away. From a building that could seat 1,600 souls. Even allowing for some exaggeration, the white folks of New Orleans supported their Confederate memorials. For more information about the beautiful old Opera House, visit this site.

But, the Lee monument in New Orleans was unique. Most memorials were erected by women, usually the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In a time when women could not work, could not vote, often could not own property, they got the job done. Among the 65 Confederate monuments in Texas, two were started by men, but finished by the women. Of the 65 Confederate memorials, twelve were erected by the male veterans. The remaining 50 or so were erected by the UDC. The San Antonio chapter of the UDC relied on hundreds of bake sales and quilting bees to raise the $3,000 necessary for their memorial in 1899. The San Antonio memorial depicted the common soldier. The Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization for union veterans, contributed to the San Antonio monument and participated in the unveiling ceremony. The Grand Army of the Republic followed right behind the United Confederate Veterans in the lengthy procession.

Both Union and Confederate veterans generally supported each other’s memorials and attended each other’s reunions. The replacement cost of the San Antonio memorial has been valued at $450,000 in today’s dollars.

Some of the monuments, typically those found in the larger cities, depicted Confederate generals, but most Texas memorials depicted the common solder. All included some words on the pedestal asking the community to remember those who fell. “Lest We forget,” a then recent poem by Rudyard Kipling, was a familiar refrain carved into the base. These memorials filled a void. These were the funerals those families never had.

Dr. McMichael states in her book that the statues were also intended to support white supremacy. But, her citation does not support her assertion. Dr. McMichael points to John J. Winberry’s article, “Lest We Forget: The Confederate Monument and the Southern Townscape.”  Mr. Winberry offered four reasons for the erection of Confederate monuments across the South. None of his reasons include sending a message of white supremacy.

Even when the men erected the monument, it was often the women who did the actual work. To some folks today, those memorials represent vestiges of racism. But, in reality, they represent hundreds of bake sales, bazaars (similar to yard sales), public entertainments and thousands of ten, twenty-five and fifty cent contributions. Seeing those beautiful memorials spat on, spray-painted and pulled down unceremoniously deeply saddens this Iraq war veteran.

Kelly McMichael, Sacred Memories, The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas (Denton: Tex. State  Hist. Assoc. 2009), p. 8.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Amusement This Evening,” May 16, 1878, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lee Monument Benefit,” May 18, 1878, p. 2

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “An Appreciated Contribution,” Feb. 10, 1876, p. 5

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lecture on the Life of Lee,” June 19, 1877, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “The Lee Monumental Prospect,” June 5, 1877, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lee Monumental Association,” May 6, 1876, p. 4

John J. Winberry, “Lest We Forget: The Confederate Monument and the Southern Townscape,” Southeastern Geographer, 23 (Nov., 1983): 107-121.

San Antonio Express News, “Who Paid to have the Confederate Statue in Travis Park Made and Then Placed in the Park?” Aug. 14, 2017

San Antonio Express News, “Union Veterans Joined Confederaste Veterans in Celebrating Monument at Travis Park,” Sept. 2, 2017

Leadership in the Texas Brigade, John Bell Hood

Way back when, back when I was a young Infantry Officer attending the Infantry Officer Basic Course in the 1980’s, we had a course called “Leadership.” How do you teach leadership to a group of some 40 lieutenants? The IOBC cadre used the case method, the same method you see in Business school or law school. We looked at a wide variety of stories and examples from real life about good and bad leaders. There was no one ultimate answer to how to be a good leader. But, the point the IOBC cadre drove home with us was that in regard to United States soldiers, the best approach was egalitarian or democratic. Authoritarian leaders did not do so well in U.S. military history. The truism we arrived at was that we, as Infantry leaders, should always expect to explain to the soldiers why a given order made sense. Don’t just tell them. Expect that you will also need to explain to your soldiers why they must follow a given plan or order. We in the U.S. have a different tradition, when compared to Europe and other places.

Some leaders failed the Texas Brigade long before the war began. J.J. Archer, from Maryland, was appointed the first colonel of the Fifth Texas Infantry. He was not well-liked, partly because he was from Maryland – too close to “Yankeedom” said one soldier. But, the fact that he was not from Texas probably played a greater role. The lieutenant-colonel of the regiment faced even greater scrutiny. Frank Schaller, a German émigré, on paper had all the credentials. His grandfather and father served in the French army. He graduated from a military school in Germany and college in France. He served briefly in the Crimea. But, as one descendant explained, he was shy and lacked social skills. He was short, slim and high-strung. In early October, 1861, he rode into the Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment camp. He wore gold lace and stars on his uniform, a regiment that prided itself on officers with well-worn boots and appreciated one officer who rode into battle with a pistol in one hand and a frying pan in the other. Upon seeing the elegant officer, one soldier asked “What is it? Is it a man, fish, or bird?” The last the men saw of Lieut-Col. Schaller, he was riding out of camp on his horse, the mane sheared and the tail cut off. And, the men laughed heartily at their prank. So much for one appointed officer.

John Bell Hood understood how this worked. He might be appointed, but he still had to earn the respect of his men. Not the first, but one of the best commanders of “Hood’s Texas Brigade,” he knew instinctively to treat the citizen-soldiers as equals, or as near equals. The Texans were difficult. They complained about some commanders and found ways to force them out. Not so with John Bell Hood. Gen. Hood was from Kentucky originally, but he had lived many years in Texas. He was a West Point graduate. So, he was “regular Army” when compared to the Texas volunteers. The Confederate army could elect their company grade officers, but regimental and above officers were appointed by the central government. So, the Texas Brigade did not ask for him. But, they took to him right away.

How did Gen. Hood succeed where others failed? He would say later that he devoted the entire winter quarters to show he valued his men, both as soldiers and for their pre-war status. Many men were persons of standing in their home communities, but were now just another soldier. In his way, Gen. Hood recognized they had a place of significance before the war. He made a distinct effort to make the junior officers better junior officers. He said later he lost no opportunity to “arouse” their pride and to impress upon them that they would be the best soldiers. That goal of being the best appealed to the brash Texans. He urged them to police themselves, to look out for soldiers not doing their best and to take steps to fix the problem.

Gen. Hood mentioned that his predecessors did not take the time to explain the “why” of a given order. They would just issue the order and expect instant obedience. Hood, on the other hand, would take the time to explain. For example, he had a rule that lights had to be out by ten o’clock at night. He explained to the Texans that in keeping a light on, the soldier would not just keep himself awake, but all the others in his tent or cabin. An army must have its sleep if it was to do well the next morning. The general insisted that officers had to explain the reason for orders, not simply issue the orde

I have to say that same approach certainly worked for me during my Army time. I spent almost all my time during a drill weekend talking or counseling with soldiers. A decent soldier always responds to respect and simple listening. I learned from IOBC and Ft. Benning. Col. Hood likely learned from simple trial and error and good instincts.

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 48-49, 79-80.

1868 New Orleans Race Riots, Part 2

Riots broke out the next day, Sunday in adjoining parishes.

The Metropolitan police force, a new creation, came in for a round of criticism from the white newspapers. The Metropolitans were seen as all black, but in reality, blacks simply made up a large percentage of the force. Traditionally, for decades, Metropolitans were scorned in the same breath as carpetbaggers and scalawags. It was probably more nuanced than that. This author’s family was generally dedicated Confederates. But, one cousin practiced law during the 1870’s at a small law firm which advised and defended the Metropolitan police force.

In any event, many black members of the Metropolitan force refused to report for duty after the city-wide melee. Commentators of the time, outside of the Democrats, sympathized, noting that any Negro who left his home may not return. Gov. Warmoth was forced to ask  Federal troops to restore order. The concern was that the Federal commander, Gen. Rousseau, was a Democrat. See a piece about Gov. Warmoth here.

The following Monday, violence resumed. Cooler heads met with Gen. Rousseau. The Democrat leaders agreed they would call on their political clubs to refrain from violence until the election on Nov. 3. Apparently not receiving that message, some 3,000 white Democrats gathered and offered their services to the Mayor that night. They offered to patrol the city and enforce order. Again, cooler heads stepped up. The Mayor, the former, redoubtable Confederate general, Harry T. Hayes, and two other Democrat leaders spoke to the crowd. They urged the crowd to return home. They assured the white Democrats that Gen. Rousseau would keep order. Most of those listening did indeed return home. But, not all.

The Innocents were not done. Later that night, about 10 p.m., they were parading through the city with their captured trophies, one of the banners of the Republican clubs and captured Republican caps. It was a deliberate provocation intended for the Negro Republicans. Shots were fired from upstairs balconies. The Innocents returned fire. Edward Malone, a 36 year old native of Ireland and a member of the Innocents was killed. His body, retrieved later by the authorities, had six bullet holes and several cuts and slashes apparently inflicted by a meat cleaver.

The Innocents continued to seek revenge throughout the night, now joined by many whites. The federal troops could not be everywhere. They were not able to stop the attacks. Roaming bands of whites started to attack random homes of blacks. Whites broke into the home of a Dartmouth educated teacher, destroyed $1200 worth of furniture and school equipment, took jewelry and carried away cash. Other homes of prominent black Republicans suffered the same fate. Black barber shops, grocery stores and churches were similarly ransacked and destroyed.

Dawn on Tuesday, Oct. 27 did not see a respite from the violence. The Metropolitans were now thoroughly demoralized and were not present at all. The few federals for a city of 191,000 were not enough. Fighting centered on the French Market, Canal Street and on the levee. At the Innocents headquarters, the body of Edward Malone lay. Federal reinforcements arrived from Mississippi. White gangs conducted more attacks and invasions on Tuesday. Gen. Rousseau announced a prominent Democrat, Gen. James B. Steedman, would assume control if the Metropolitans. Even though, Gen. Steedman had only agreed to assume control for a few days, that announcement helped restore confidence in the much maligned police force. The violence did wane. The election took place a few days later, removing the impetus for strife.

In the end, six and perhaps seven whites were killed. Thirteen blacks or more were killed. The Democrats largely won the Nov. 3 election. The election day itself saw no violence and a few complaints of harassment. The governor admitted later that he advised many Republicans not to vote, because he did not believe they could do so safely. The whites could not accept that blacks, their former slaves, could now compete with them for votes. But, compete with them, they did.

See Smithsonian article on the 1868 riots here.

Melinda Meek Hennessy, “Race and Violence in Reconstruction New Orleans: The 1868 Riot,” Louisiana History, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter 1979), p. 77-91.

1868 Race Riots, Part One

After the war, how did the whites and blacks work things out? Or, did they work anything out?  In New Orleans, the federal soldiers had been in control for years. New Orleans also had a strong, vibrant freed Negro (to use the contemporary term) culture. For decades, many blacks had succeeded in business and had acquired first-rate educations. New Orleans, a major world port and the largest city in the South, was cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Prior to the Civil War, the freed blacks had their own militia, the Native Guards. The Native Guards had served with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Even before, the fall of New Orleans to the Yankees in 1862, the Native Guards were prepared to defend the city.

So, during Reconstruction, the blacks generally responded to white supremacy with considerable strength and skill. By 1868, there was an uneasy truce. The Metropolitan police had been created, which included many black policemen. Federal troops remained. But, many whites were, nevertheless, determined to diminish the black and Republican vote.

This was a time of political clubs. Groups formed their clubs generally based on their wards. They would hold barbacues and parade through the city advocating their candidate. The New Orleans blacks took to this mode of politics right away. They formed clubs named Warmoth Guards (for the Republican governor), Colfax Defenders (for the site of a massacre of black voters), Grant Invincibles, and Pinchback Zouaves (named for the well-known black Louisiana politician). These were the black Republican clubs.

The white citizens also had their political clubs, also generally formed along the ward or neighborhood lines. The white clubs were all Democratic. The largest club, limited to 1200 members, among the Democrats was the “Innocents.” The Innocents was named for a political club in Sicily. They had members who were Sicilian, Italian, Maltese, Latin Americans, Portuguese, Spaniards and American. The Innocents were conspicuous with their garb, a red shirt and red cap. They also had perhaps the most incendiary banner. Their banner depicted a black man on the ground about to be stabbed. Most whites and blacks of the time believed the Sicilians were hot-headed, stealthy, and prone to revenge.

The Democrats lost in the April, 1868 election. In the lead-up to the November, 1868 election, the clubs turned to violence. On Sept. 22, 1868, several of the black political clubs paraded through the streets. At Canal and Bourbon streets, there was a saloon and restaurant known as Dumontiel’s. It was frequented by wealthy white persons. The fracas likely started when a few whites cheered the Democrat candidate when the black clubs paraded by. Some blacks gave chase. The whites dashed into Dumontiel’s. The blacks followed. Entire Republican clubs entered. On an upstairs balcony, a white began to fire into the crowd of blacks. The blacks returned fire. The shooting spread. Many were injured, but just one black man was killed. Suddenly, the fighting ended.

Saturday night was a popular time for the political clubs to parade. Canal street is said to be the widest main street in the country. There is room for parades on both sides of the street. On Oct. 24, 1868, the Republicans, including the Grant Guards, Colfax Guards, Tenth Ward Club, Eleventh Ward Club, and others, were parading on one side, while the Democrat Workingmen’s club was on the other side. Several men and boys jumped from the center of the street, from the area known as the neutral ground, a tree-lined boulevard. They started firing into the Republican groups. The Republicans dropped their torches and ran. The blacks returned fire. But, they were surprised and got the worst of it. Seven blacks were killed. Five were members of the Republican clubs. One was unidentified and the seventh was a ten year old boy. The boy appeared to have been trampled by the fleeing crowd.

The blacks were furious. They went home to gather their weapons. By 11:30 p.m., large number of Negroes were in the streets attacking every white person they could find. A streetcar was stopped. One white passenger was severely injured by an axe. Other white passengers were stabbed or shot. A carriage maker was hacked to death by hatchets. A former Confederate officer and former policeman was shot to death. Federal soldiers eventually brought an end to the butchery.

Melinda Meek Hennessy, “Race and Violence in Reconstruction New Orleans: The 1868 Riot,” Louisiana History, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter 1979), p. 77-91.