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Post Is the "Lost Cause" Lost? First Louisiana Native Guard (CSA)
Created by John Eipper on 08/22/17 9:04 AM

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Is the "Lost Cause" Lost? First Louisiana Native Guard (CSA) (Timothy Ashby, South Africa, 08/22/17 9:04 am)

John E asked on August 21st:

"The issue [about the Confederate Monuments] in a nutshell: How can history be preserved without perpetuating its injustices? Is the Lost Cause on the brink of being forever...lost?"

I can't see how keeping Confederate monuments perpetuates historical injustice. I don't believe a monument exists anywhere that praises slavery, the Holocaust, etc. If it were, I would wholeheartedly favor tearing it down. But how can monuments to honor the memory of brave men--ancestors of millions of Americans alive today--who served and suffered in a great national tragedy be a perpetuation of injustice?

The "Lost Cause" has been forever lost for well over a century. No responsible Southerner, or descendant of Confederate soldiers, would think otherwise. Only foolish people or White supremacist radicals (most of whom I suspect have no ancestral connection to the Civil War) advocate such an absurdity.

As WAISers know, history is much more convoluted than most people understand, and can never be accurately portrayed in simple terms. The 1st Louisiana Native Guard (CSA) is a prime example.

The 1st Louisiana Native Guard was a Confederate Louisiana militia regiment composed of "free persons of color" formed during May 1861, consisting mostly of free persons of color, Creole Francophones (gens de couleur) (photo below). While some members of the new regiment came from wealthy prominent free black families, a majority of the men were clerks, artisans, and skilled laborers. At that time, an estimated 10,000 African American residents of Louisiana and New Orleans had gained their freedom.

Although three white officers served as commanders of the regiment, the company commanders were appointed from among the free blacks of the unit (which not even the Union army allowed at the time, making it the first of any in North America to have African-American officers). Although temporarily forced to disband after the Louisiana State Legislature passed a law in January 1862 that reorganized the militia into only "free white males capable of bearing arms," Louisiana governor Thomas Overton Moore promptly reinstated them to defend New Orleans after regular Confederate forces abandoned the city.

After the city fell to Union forces, some of the men joined the Union Army. One of these was Jamaican-born Lieutenant Morris W. Morris, who served as an officer in the Confederate Louisiana militia regiment and subsequently served for six weeks in the Union Native Guard regiment. Morris was unique in that he was of Jewish ancestry, making him both the only black Jewish Confederate officer and the only black Jewish Union officer. He later became a famous actor as Lewis Morrison and his granddaughters, Joan, Constance and Barbara Bennett, were actresses whose black ancestry was never revealed.

By the way, the first Jew to serve in any American government as a Cabinet level official as Secretaries of State and War, and Attorney General, was the Confederate Judah P. Benjamin. I wonder if the Nazis and Klansmen who marched in Charlottesville chanting anti-Semitic slogans were aware of that fact?

A final note: several dozen descendants of these men are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans today.

JE comments:  I once read that citizens of every US state were under arms for both sides.  John C. Pemberton, who led the defense of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was from Philadelphia.  And in one of the war's countless ironies, in its waning weeks of existence (March 13th, 1865) the desperate Confederacy offered enslaved Blacks their freedom in exchange for military service.  The Irish-born General Patrick Cleburne, considered one of the South's best front-line commanders, had advocated the arming of Blacks far earlier.  (This is not necessarily relevant, but historians also mostly agree that Cleburne was gay.)

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