2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Introduction Native Americans Colonial Louisiana The Louisiana Purchase Territory to Statehood Battle of New Orleans
Antebellum Louisiana I Antebellum Louisiana II Antebellum Louisiana III The Civil War Reconstruction I Reconstruction II

Soldiers who wore the blue and the gray included native and foreign whites, immigrants of all nationalities, free blacks, and slaves, as well as women, who served as army nurses and canteen women. Most Louisiana Indians did not participate in either side, choosing not to risk their lives to defend slavery or the few rights that they had.

Election and Secession
The drive to keep Louisiana in the Union was strong statewide, especially in New Orleans, where the popular vote in the November 1860 election was three to one against secession from the Union. Once Abraham Lincoln was elected president in that year's election, however, sentiments changed rapidly, as Lincoln represented the purely northern Republican party, and many seemed to see his election as a declaration of hostility by the North.

Influenced by South Carolina's decision to secede from the Union, Louisiana voters elected delegates to the state's secession convention, which met in Baton Rouge in January 1861. Among the delegates, secessionists outnumbered unionists two to one, and the militant attitudes of the public and the press further influenced the convention's vote. Members signed the ordinance of secession on January 26, 1861, thereby making Louisiana the sixth state to secede from the Union.

Secession Convention
E. Wood Perry
c. 1861

The Importance of Louisiana
Because the Mississippi River formed much of Louisiana's border, control of vital ports became a strategic factor for both sides. Once war was declared, the Union's objective in Louisiana was to gain control of the Mississippi River, forcing Confederate troops to defend Louisiana and prevent Federal troops from dividing the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy along the Mississippi.

Louisiana was also strategically important as a conduit for such military supplies as munitions, foodstuffs, clothing, and livestock. Goods from Mexico and Texas flowed eastward and northward along Louisiana railroads and rivers into other Confederate states.

True Delta Extra
October 12, 1861

This newspaper extra contains an account of an engagement between the Confederate navy and the federal blockading squadron at the mouth of the Mississippi. Extras were used to report quick-breaking stories in much the same way that live television broadcasts are used today.

As a major manufacturing center, New Orleans boosted the Confederate cause during the first year of warfare, supplying armaments, clothing, knapsacks, tenting, and tinware. The Confederacy's ability to produce manufactured goods was severely curtailed by the fall of New Orleans in 1862, leaving Richmond, Atlanta, and Selma, Alabama, as the leading manufacturing centers.

In addition, workers in New Orleans shipyards constructed naval vessels for the Confederacy, including the ironclads Mississippi and Louisiana and the gunboats Livingston and Carondelet.

Confederate Submersible
George François Mugnier
c. 1890

Though the true identity of this vessel remains a mystery, it was once believed to be the Pioneer, a prototype for the Confederate submarine Hunley, which sank a Federal warship in 1864. The true Pioneer was built in New Orleans by two New Orleans machinists, James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson, and a wealthy lawyer, Horace L. Hunley. Never used in active duty against the Federal fleet, it was sunk in Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans by local residents in 1862 so that it could not be used by Federal troops who had captured the city. The vessel in this photograph, measuring twenty feet long, three feet wide, and six feet deep, was discovered in the lake in 1878 and brought ashore and forgotten for many years until it was ultimately put on display in front of the Louisiana State Museum's Presbytere in 1957, where it remains today.

By November 1861 Louisiana had enrolled over 23,000 troops into Confederate service. Women also took up arms in order to protect themselves and their homes. Some women even joined Confederate units as canteen women or vivandieres.

Union Attack
Over the course of six days in April 1862, Admiral David G. Farragut, commander of the largest fleet the United States had ever assembled, bombarded the poorly defended Forts Jackson and St. Philip on either side of the Mississippi River downriver from New Orleans. Louisiana military leaders had constructed a chain- and timber- raft blockade to obstruct Union advances up the river, but damage to the chain by storms and floods weakened it, and seventeen federal vessels plowed through the blockade. The forts were captured, and both the Union and Confederacy suffered casualties in the campaign.

Passage of the Second Division of the Federal Squadron Past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, April 24th, 1862
From The Soldier in Our Civil War

This image shows the Federal fleet running the gauntlet under cover of darkness. The Confederate ram Manassas is visible at the left.
Gift of Mrs. Ashbell Bennett

Port Hudson
Port Hudson was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River and the site of the longest siege in American military history. Located 250 miles downriver of Vicksburg, Port Hudson was necessary to complete the Union's control of the river. Its surrender to federal forces on July 9, 1863, after almost two months of attacks, opened up all of the Mississippi and divided the Confederacy in two.

African-American regiments from Louisiana who fought at Port Hudson on behalf of the Union were the first black units in the Civil War to engage in large-scale combat against white soldiers. The First Louisiana, made up primarily of free men of color, and the Second and Third Louisiana, composed of both free blacks and former slaves, proved their bravery by making several charges across open fields near Port Hudson. Although the charges failed, their actions laid to rest the attitude prevalent among whites that blacks would not fight. Newspaper accounts of their bravery and military capabilities helped convince northerners to accept black soldiers in the Union army.

Assault of the Second Louisiana (Colored) Regiment on the Confederate Works at Port Hudson, May 27th, 1863
From The Soldier in Our Civil War

This print shows the Second Louisiana at the crest of Confederate earth-works. When both sides stood fast, hand-to-hand combat was the result.
Gift of Mrs. Ashbell Bennett

African Americans in Gray and Blue
Statewide by early 1862 more than 3,000 free African Americans had formed military organizations, called Native Guards, and offered their services to the Confederacy. Their duties were similar to those of white home guards--protecting their areas of residence from internal and external threat. They provided their own uniforms, horses, and arms and ammunition. Some were large land- and slaveowners, who, like white planters, opposed the end of slavery and the loss of their possessions. Many free blacks recognized and wanted to maintain distinctions between themselves and slaves or the newly freed. Only a few blacks actually served alongside whites in Confederate units and received Confederate pensions.

As Union forces swept through a particular region, they attracted a large number of runaway and abandoned slaves, some of whom joined the federal army. Labeled "contraband" early in the war, former slave men and women labored for the Union as domestics, nurses, hospital orderlies, and cooks. Union officers also organized freedmen into military units, generally known as the Corps d'Afrique. Other former slave soldiers used their considerable skills to build roads, fortifications, dams, and canals, repair levees, herd cattle, shoe horses, and act as scouts and guards, in addition to fighting battles.

Our Colored Troops - Line Officers of the First Louisiana Native Guards
February 28, 1863
Reproduced from Harper's Weekly

Originally raised for Confederate service and later changed to Union, the First Native Guards was one of the Louisiana units that had black officers. Before the war Lieutenant Lavigne was a cigar-maker and Lieutenant Montieu was a clerk.
Gift of the Louisiana Museum Foundation

P. G. T. Beauregard
One of the most notable Louisianians to serve in the Civil War was P. G. T. Beauregard, a graduate of West Point and the Confederacy's first brigadier general. As commander of Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, Beauregard ordered the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, firing the first shot of the Civil War. Liky many Civil War troops and officers, Beauregard received his early combat experience in the Mexican War of 1846-48.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Thomas Cantwell Healy after George Peter Alexander Healy
Loaned by the Louisiana Historical Society

Thomas Healy's older brother, George Peter Alexander Healy, an internationally known portraitist, was commissioned in New Orleans to paint a large portrait of Beauregard. Thomas followed George to South Carolina as his assistant, continuing the painting until they had to evacuate the area following Beauregard's firing on Fort Sumter. Thomas returned to New Orleans, his sympathies being with the Confederacy, and his brother returned to his home in Massachusetts, describing himself as "a Northern man, with Northern feelings and anti-slavery principles." Thomas was then commissioned to create the smaller painting shown here, faithfully copying his own brother's earlier portrait but adding the soldiers and the cannon in the lower left. A respected painter, Thomas never achieved the recognition or accomplishments of his older brother.

"Beast" Butler and Life in Occupied New Orleans
On April 26, 1862 Farragut and his marines raised the Union flag over the New Orleans branch of the United States Mint, today a property of the Louisiana State Museum, making New Orleans the first Confederate city captured and occupied by Union troops. Three days later he marched to city hall amidst throngs of jeering and threatening New Orleanians to take formal possession of the city. General Benjamin F. Butler and his 1,400 troops arrived in New Orleans on May 1 to take military control of the city.

Butler directed Union actions and policy during the first eight months of the occupation of New Orleans and lower Louisiana. A man of ambition and intense egotism, Butler alienated northern business interests, even though he himself was a millionaire. In both his home state of Massachusetts and in New Orleans he built his power-base on the working class, the poor, and the needy.

General Benjamin Butler

Many citizens of lower Louisiana openly showed their contempt for Butler and his occupation government. They resented his orders against treating the United States flag with disrespect and showed their contempt for Union officers and soldiers by assembling in groups on public streets and singing treasonable songs. New Orleanian William Mumford was hanged by Butler for lowering the Union flag that flew over the New Orleans branch of the United States Mint. White Louisianians also objected when Butler decided to arm black troops and organize them into Native Guard units.

The United States Branch Mint, at New Orleans
September 11, 1858
From Ballou's Pictorial

The oldest existing United States Mint building and the Civil War's only Confederate Mint, this large landmark is now a property of the Louisiana State Museum. After he lowered the Union flag from its roof, Confederate William Mumford was hanged from the central portico of the building by General Butler.
Gift of Lynne Farwell

Although Butler managed to quiet the city's male population with the example of Mumford's hanging, New Orleans women of all social stations continued to express their disapproval and contempt for Butler. In response, Butler dispensed his inflammatory "Woman Order" on May 15, 1862. The New Orleans "Woman Order," modeled on similar ones issued in Maryland and Europe, stated:

  • As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insult from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation [a prostitute].

This order curbed the rebellious activities of local women but made Butler a hated man. P. G. T. Beauregard was the first to call him "Beast."

Butler required all citizens who wished to remain in New Orleans and lower Louisiana to swear allegiance to the Union, ordering those who refused to do so to leave Union-held territory with only their personal clothing and no more than fifty dollars. Butler then began confiscating property belonging to enemies of the Union, earning him the name "Spoons" Butler from well-to-do New Orleanians for his rumored but unproven fondness for valuable silver spoons.

To broaden local support for the Unionist movement in southern Louisiana, Butler tried to help the poor and those left destitute by the war. He distributed beef and sugar seized by his troops to the New Orleans poor, reinstituted the free market, and organized massive projects to reconstruct the levee and clean the city's filthy streets by scouring the city and picking up trash in grimy neighborhood markets. As a result of the cleaning efforts, only two yellow fever cases were reported in 1862, although pro-southern sympathizers hoped that an epidemic would kill off General Butler and his Yankee forces.

Margaret Haughery
During the Civil War and for two decades, another citizen made efforts to lessen the hardships brought on by the war. Margaret Gaffney Haughery was a native of Ireland whose husband and daughter both died after the three arrived in Louisiana in the 1830s. Having started life as an orphan herself, she cared for children orphaned by warfare and by the epidemic diseases that constantly attacked Louisiana. To the hungry citizens of occupied New Orleans, Haughery also gave wagonloads of bread and flour, fresh from her bakery.

Statue of Margaret Haughery
George François Mugnier
c. 1890

Located on Camp Street in New Orleans, this statue was erected in 1884.

Life of the Soldier
Over 56,000 whites from Louisiana contributed to a total Confederate force of over 850,000 soldiers and sailors. This represented more than one-sixth of the 350,000 whites residing in Louisiana when the Civil War started. In addition, about 10,000 boys, older men, and foreigners served in home-guard units, protecting and policing their homes, neighborhoods, and towns.

The clothing, equipment, and overall morale of southern soldiers deteriorated as the months and years of warfare dragged on. Most of these soldiers were in their twenties, some of them even younger, and they had to learn to cook and set up tents properly to survive the war. Military rations were fairly generous in the early stages of the war compared to those issued in the last year or two. Confederate soldiers in Louisiana continually grumbled about the numerous insect and animal pests, especially mosquitoes, that disrupted their sleeping and waking hours, but even worse than the mosquitoes were the long hours of waiting between engagements and during sieges. To fill the time, soldiers played cards, drank whiskey, sang and danced, and wrote home.

Rebels' Den
John H. Clarke

c. 1861

Confederate soldiers lounging in their quarters.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Duffy

Union troops, like Confederate ones, also had to adjust to the life of a soldier during wartime. Their main food ration was bread and coffee, and they were just as bothered by mosquitoes and intense boredom as Confederate troops.

Union Cavalry Private
c. 1861

Dressed in the regulation shell jacket for mounted troops, this soldier looks barely old enough to serve. Boys as young as twelve and thirteen fought on both sides during the war.