Pinchback and Badger, No. 3

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was not from New Orleans. He was not part of the African-Creole tradition of solid education and somewhat laissez faire attitude toward politics. He was a hard-nosed gambler from the Mississippi River. His father was a Mississippi planter and his mother was a freed slave. After the death of his father in 1849, he lead a hard-scrabble life. He worked as a steward on river-boats and as a part-time gambler. He learned from the notorious cardsharp, George Devol. When New Orleans was first occupied by the Union army, Mr. Pinchback made his way there and recruited a company of Native Guards. The Native Guards was the long-time militia composed of free men of color. They were then preparing to join the Union army.

But, after a year in Federal service, Pinchback resigned his commission. He went to Alabama, seeking political success. Not finding what he was looking for, he returned to New Orleans by 1867.

Pinchback’s light skin, impeccable manners and quality clothing helped him fit in well with the African-Creoles of New Orleans. See more about former Lt.-Gov. Pinchback here.

The Carpet Bagger

Like all African-Americans at the time, Mr. Pinchback supported Republican causes and politicians. He advocated for civil rights protections for blacks in New Orleans. He was never offended by Governor Warmoth, as some black leaders were. Warmoth was a scheming, ambitious, morally corrupt carpet-bagger, But, Warmoth was also successful. Pinchback likely appreciated Warmoth’s daring. Pinchback started a very successful factorage with a prominent African-Creole native of the Crescent City. Pinchback allied himself with Warmoth, perhaps to balance against the Lieutenant Governor, Oscar J. Dunn. Mr. Dunn was Pinchback’s chief rival for leadership of the black community in New Orleans. Unlike either Warmoth or Pinchback, Dunn was known as generally honest.

The Custom House Gang

The principal Republican rival to Warmoth’s power was a group known as the Custom House gang. One of their key leaders was Stephen Packard. Packard was the U.S. Marshall for New Orleans. His office was in the venerable Custom House building on Canal street. The Collector of customs was James F. Casey, brother-in-law to President U.S. Grant. Casey also officed in the Custom House. Those two Republicans, both ambitious for personal gain, gradually acquired more and more power. Eventually, Mr. Pinchback also allied himself with the Custom House gang.

The War Hero

At the same time, Algernon Sidney Badger was finding success as a leader of the Metropolitan police force in New Orleans. Badger, unlike Pinchback, served during the war with distinction. He was a Massachusetts native and African-American. He came to New Orleans with his Massachusetts regiment. He later transferred to a Unionist Louisiana cavalry regiment and did well. He was cool in battle and competent.

The Metropolitan police force was created by Gov. Warmoth to enforce his orders. He knew he could not rely on the Federal troops. The Metropolitans had members from all races, even though today, it is often remembered as solely African-American. It was designed to be a modern police force, with some modern innovations. Even if it was in effect a private militia for Governor Warmoth, it also represented advancements in the science of policing.

By 1877, Republican interests had changed dramatically. Some conservative whites had supported a moderate white, Francis T. Nicholls, for governor. He won. The Republican state legislators and Gov. Warmoth then set up a rival state Senate. Warmoth hid four of the state senators in the city, so he could control the quorum. Pinchback attended the rival state senate, to lobby for appointment as U.S. senator. Quickly realizing the situation, Pinchback, instead, talked with Warmoth and asked him how he would control the senate. Warmoth, apparently not seeing Pinchback as a threat, mentioned where he had stashed the four missing state senators.

The Bribes

Immediately, Pinchback obtained $8,000-16,000 per state senator from the Louisiana State Lottery Company. He persuaded the four state senators to come with him, with the inducement of bribes.

The Metropolitans by 1877 were much reduced from their prior prowess. Their numbers had been reduced by low morale and a skirmish with white citizens. But, they still had Superintendent Badger and a few trusted officers. Stephen Packard, now the rump Governor, ordered Badger, the acting Sergeant-of-Arms for the rump senate, to go to Pinchback’s mansion and bring back the absent four state senators.

Badger grabbed some of the remaining Metropolitans and proceeded to Pinchback’s mansion on First Street, the area known today as the Garden District. Badger still limped from the bullet wounds he received in the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874.

At first, no one answered the door. Eventually, Pinchback appeared, pointing a repeating Henry rifle and told Badger he did not think Badger would take anyone from his house. Badger threatened to assault the home. But, Badger reconsidered when he discovered a handful of White League citizens positioned behind the Pinchback mansion. Badger and his men withdrew. But, as they were leaving, the White Leaguers overtook them and arrested all but two of Badger’s men and took them to a nearby jail. Badger, a man universally respected by all who knew him, was left to make his way back downtown by himself. The man known for his integrity and physical courage lost to the man known for his lack of integrity.

Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans: After the War, Vol. 9 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 2010), p. 36-38, 101-104, 180-182.

The Committee of 51 and Reformers, No. 2

In 1872, after all the fighting over the New Orleans carcass, the white Democrats were becoming agitated. Some had allied with the Custom House faction, in order to get rid of Gov. Warmoth. Dozens gathered in Lafayette Square, off Canal Street. The meeting included many carpet-baggers and black Republicans, as well. It devolved into a meeting of the anti-Warmoth faction.

The State Militia

The Custom House leaders approached senior white officers in the state militia. Packard (the Custom House faction leader) and his supporters suggested the militia attack the Metropolitans guarding the state house, so as to provoke a crack-down by Federal troops. Eugene Waggaman, the commander, rightly asked Packard how he could be sure the Federal troops would not arrive and arrest the militia under the recently passed Ku Klux Klan law? Packard simply looked at him with his hands in his pockets. Waggaman, a former officer in the Washington Artillery during the war, was suspicious of the Custom House gang. Too, it simply struck him as dis-honorable to attack a force, simply as a ruse. The militia turned down the Custom House gang.

Eventually, Gov. Warmoth won. The legislators at Packard’s saloon eventually found their way back to the state house. The state house was securely guarded by the Metropolitans and the state militia.

Meanwhile, the white Democrats were more and more upset about this breakdown of government and order. They were anxious to restore New Orleans to something like normalcy. Many of them sought a middle ground, somewhere between the reactionary white radicals and the Warmoth carpet-baggers.

A group of merchants, including many members of the new Boston Club, formed the Committee of Fifty-One. They held a mass meeting on the steps of City Hall four days after the close of Mardi Gras. Thousands attended. The Committee included 162 Vice-Presidents. The Committee included the head of Leeds Foundry, Charles Leeds, prominent lawyers and doctors. It included well-known Creole African-Americans. New Orleans was unique in the South in that it had a long tradition of freed blacks who were well-educated and well-travelled. These Creole Blacks similarly sought a more stable government. The Committee also included many working class whites. The Committee included Frederick Ogden Nash, who in just a few years will lead the whites at the Battle of Liberty Place. Edward D. White, the future Supreme Court justice also joined the group.

The Reform Party

The Committee adopted resolutions supporting a return to work. The resolutions tossed aside any “Lost cause” sentimentality. They called for the creation of a new party, the “Reform” party. They called for a convention to select candidates, regardless of color and previous political association. They adopted a platform lamenting that the lack of “political sympathy” between the black and white races of Louisiana had rendered her a “victim to the most frightful spoliation and robbery.” The party platform attacked the Warmoth regime. But, they did not address the issues of sharing transportation between the races or discuss the many white and black men then supporting the Warmoth regime. That was still an issue too sensitive.

Lt-Gov. Pinchback’s newspaper, the Louisianian, criticized the Reform party as hypocritical. They would seek black support, but would not share a carriage or trolley car with a black man. Still, this was the first movement toward something like equality. Similar movements occurred across the South, as whites tired of Federal occupation.

Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans: After the Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 2010), p. 118-120

Fighting for the Spoils, No. 1

By 1865 and the close of the Civil War, New Orleans had been occupied by Federal troops for three years. That time allowed many carpet-baggers, persons from outside the state seeking fortune, to infiltrate the city. Clay Warmoth was one such person. Former Lt-Col. Warmoth was sent to New Orleans during the occupation and stayed. By 1871, he was governor of the state, and not yet 30 years old. Gov. Warmoth made several enemies. Though he courted all factions, Republican, freed slaves, and former Confederates, it was another Republican, another carpet-bagger, who sought to elbow Warmoth side. Stephen B. Packard, a Union veteran with an undistinguished war record, secured appointment as the U.S. Marshall for New Orleans. Packard’s office was in the Custom House, a large, imposing granite building in the downtown area. Packard’s faction became known as the Custom House ring.

The Republican Party Convention

In the Summer of 1871, the two factions wrestled for control of the Republican party as the party convention approached. Warmoth, as governor, had his own semi-military force, known as the Metropolitan Police Force. The Metropolitans were a modern innovation in some respects, but they also answered only to Gov. Warmoth. They were a private militia. Marshall Packard had his own armed ruffians. The two competed for control and influence with the ward clubs all summer.

The Metropolitans Strike

At a meeting of the Tenth Ward Mother Republican club, the Metropolitans came in force, in civilian clothes. They occupied a large number of the seats, to prevent regular members from staying for the meeting. The meeting ended with a riot between the two factions. The Tenth Ward included many African-Americans. The Metropolitans who broke up the meeting and beat numerous attendees were lead by light-skinned Negroes. The Convention took place in August, 1871. Marshall Packard out-smarted Gov. Warmoth by holding the convention at the Custom House and arranging for Federal troops to provide security. The Metropolitans came to the conventions seeking to upset the proceedings. But, they were met by one well-manned gatling gun.

At the Republican convention, Packard tried to engineer a quorum in the state legislature which would impeach Warmoth. The plan collapsed only when Lt.-Gov. Dunn, a close ally of Packard’s, died. Some suspected foul play.

The Warmoth Faction is Arrested

The Louisiana state legislative session opened in January, 1872. Packard still hoped to impeach Gov. Warmoth,. A,B Pinchback, a prominent man of color was now the Lieutenant Governor. Lt.-Gov. Pinchback was a close ally of Gov. Warmoth. Warmoth engineered an invasion of the session to move aside the Speaker, George Carter, a close ally of Packard. Packard promptly swore out arrest warrants for Warmoth, Lt.-Gov. Pinchback, some dozen legislators and some of the key leaders of the Metropolitans.

The Warmoth faction, however, soon got themselves out of jail. Warmoth called in the Metropolitans to “guard” the state house and called up the state militia. The Custom House ring retreated to a saloon and organized a rival legislature. Such was Reconstruction politics in 1872 Louisiana.

For more about Gov. Clay Warmoth, see this site.

Source:

Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans: After the Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 2010), p. 104-110.

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.