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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Ninteenth Century Black Military Heroes

Tony, I agree with your assessment one hundred percent of the "USCT and The Buffalo Soldiers." However, for the sake of discussion, we must include the evolution of the Black Militia units in Louisiana.

The African American Soldier in Louisiana:

African American Soldiers have a long history of military service in the Louisiana Territory and the State of Louisiana. Not only did they struggle to enter the armed forces, but when finally accepted by three governments (France, Spain and the United States), they had to work under segregated and unequal conditions and prove their abilities. This internal battle continued through the late seventeenth, eightyeenth and nineteenth centuries, up into the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1729, after the massacre of Fort Rosalie in Natchez, the French government established a small unit of slave soldiers(Slaves were promised freedom) to fight the American indians. Under Governor Jean Baptist Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, a company of 104 slaves and freemen would be organized to fight the Chickawaw an ally of the Natchez. These slave soldiers were praised for their "deeds of surprising Valor." The French Government recognized the first Black Militia unit.

When the Spanish Government took over territorial control of Louisiana, the Spanish government recognized the Black Militia unit that was in place.
During the American Revolution, Bernard de Galvez, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana and Commander of the Fixed Regiment, mobilized a force of 670 men of which 80 were freemen organized into two companies. These companies helped in capturing Baton Rough, Mobile and pensacola. In praising his troops for their performance Galvez sited, "no less deserving of eulogy are the companies of Negro and Free Mulattoes," who "conducted themselves with as much valor and generosity as the whites."

One of the most significant battles in American history occurred at the Chalmette Plantation - Battle of New Orleans. It was the last time the United States and Great Britain fought as enemies.

After the Louisiana Purchase, on June 21, 1804, Governor Claiborne presented a Stand of Colors to the (Black Militia) Battalion.

Two months after the war's outbreak in 1812, the Louisiana Legislature passed a new militia bill which, in addition to authorizing 2,200 new troops, also empowered the Governor to enlist "Certain Free People of Color. As a result of the militia bill authorization, Claiborne organized four companies of Black Militia, with each company mustering 64 men. The new unit was designated as the Battalion of Free Men of Color. One provision of the bill specified that the new Black units be commanded by white property holders. However, Claiborne defied the Legislature's restriction concerning white officers. Among the battalion's newly commissioned officers were three Black second Lieutenants: Isadore Honore',Jean Louis Dolliole, and Etienne Saulet.
The Battalion of Free Men of Color were officially mustered into the service of the United States and became paret of the United States Army on December 16, 1814. Vincent Populus was the ranking Negro officer with a grade of second Major or Aide Major. This was the first recognition by the United States Army of a Black Officer of or near field grade, indeed, of one with superior rank. On many occasions Populus was in charge of the orgranization.
The Battle of New Orleans lasted less than two hours, with major fighting confined to aboaut 30 minutes. British casualites exceeded 2,000; the Americans reported only 13. The Free men of Color Battalions sustained many injuries and a few casualties, though exact figures have not survived. General Jackson himself stated in a letter to the Secretary of War that the fatal shot that felled the British leader in the battle, General Sir Edwards Pakenham, "have always believed (was) the bullet of a free man of color, who was a famous rifle shot."

NOTE: These Men were the Fathers and Grandfathers of the Native Guards. On September 27, 1862, the 1st Regiment of the Native Guards was mustered into the service for three years and thus became the first officially sanctioned regiment of Black Soldiers in the Union Army.

More to come......

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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