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Oct 20 12 8:34 PM
October 19, 2012, 6:04
Free Men of Color Go to War
By TERRY L. JONES
As in all things, 19th-century New Orleans was a world apart from much of
the rest of the South. When the Civil War began, it had a large population of
so-called free men of color, citizens descended from French and Spanish men, on
the one side, and slave women on the other.
Colonial-era slave codes granted them complete equality; the “hommes de
couleur libre” could own land, businesses and even slaves; they could be
educated and serve in the military. They created a niche for themselves in the
Crescent City’s multicultural society and became important to Louisiana’s
defense, maintaining their own militia units that served in various Indian wars
and against the British during the Revolutionary War.
After the United States acquired Louisiana in 1803, the status of the free
men of color changed significantly. Louisiana’s Constitution of 1812
specifically restricted the right to vote to white men who owned property. The
free men of color could still own property and serve in the militia, but they
were left out of politics, and their status began to decline. Nonetheless, they
once again volunteered to defend their homes during the War of 1812 and bravely
fought for Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
A week after civil war erupted in April 1861, some of New Orleans’ free men
of color offered to form military companies to protect the state against the
Union. In an announcement published in the Daily Picayune, the men declared
that they were prepared to defend their homes “against any enemy who may come
and disturb its tranquility.” The Daily Crescent newspaper declared: “Our free
colored men … are certainly as much attached to the land of their birth as
their white brethren here in Louisiana. … [They] will fight the Black
Republican with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in
the service of the Confederate States.”
Soon afterward, hundreds of free men of color gathered in the street to show
their support for the Confederacy. A regiment known as the Native Guards was
soon formed and mustered into the state militia, but the Confederate government
refused to accept them into the national army. All of the regiment’s line
officers were of African descent, although Gov. Thomas O. Moore appointed a
white officer to command it.
Popular history clams that many of the Native Guards were wealthy slave
owners who were members of New Orleans’ upper class, but that is not true.
While a few might have been well-to-do and owned slaves, and some certainly
were related to prominent citizens, the 1860 census shows that a vast majority
were clerks, artisans and skilled laborers — lower middle class at the time.
Congress Soldiers from the First Louisiana Native
Guard guarding the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad.
The black militia disbanded when Union forces occupied New Orleans in the
spring of 1862. After the Battle of Baton Rouge in August, Gen. Benjamin F.
Butler, the Union’s military governor of Louisiana, requested reinforcements to
defend New Orleans, but none were forthcoming. In desperation, Butler informed
Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that he planned to raise a regiment of free
blacks. On Sept. 27, 1862, Butler mustered the First Regiment of Louisiana
Native Guards into Union service, making it the first sanctioned regiment of
African-American troops in the United States Army.
It has generally been assumed that the African-Americans who joined Butler’s
Native Guards were the same ones who had served earlier in the state militia
regiment by the same name. Butler, in fact, claimed that was the case. As a
result, historians have questioned the sincerity of the black militiamen who
volunteered for Confederate service in 1861. Their supposed change in loyalty
seems to indicate that their offer to fight for the South was made only to
protect their economic and social status within the community; to not volunteer
would make white neighbors suspicious and possibly lead to retaliation. Some
Native Guards said as much to Butler and others.
Military service records, however, call this assumption into question. Despite
Butler’s claim to the contrary, a vast majority of his Native Guards were not
free men of color but slaves who had made their way into Union lines. James G.
Hollandsworth Jr., a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi who
wrote the definitive study of the Native Guards, found that only 108 of the
1,035 members of the Louisiana militia regiment, or about 10 percent, went on
to serve in the Union’s Native Guards. This would seem to indicate that a large
number of the black militiamen were indeed sincere in their desire to fight for
the South and defend their homes against invasion.
(That’s very different, of course, from saying that a large number of
African-Americans voluntarily served in the rebel army, a claim made by some.
The men of the first Native Guard had unique circumstances and motives that
should be understood in their specific context, and not extrapolated to the
entire black free and enslaved population. One extensive study of Louisiana’s
65,000 Confederate soldiers identified only 15 who were known to be of African
While most of Butler’s Louisiana Native Guards were runaway slaves, some
were free men with connections to prominent white families. During an
inspection, the Native Guards’ white colonel told another officer: “Sir, the
best blood of Louisiana is in that regiment! Do you see that tall, slim fellow,
third file from the right of the second company? One of the ex-governors of the
state is his father. That orderly sergeant in the next company is the son of a
man who has been six years in the United States Senate. Just beyond him is the
grandson of Judge_______ … ; and all through the ranks you will find the same
state of facts. … Their fathers are disloyal; [but] these black Ishmaels will
more than compensate for their treason by fighting it in the field.”
Later, the Second and Third Regiments of Native Guards, likewise made up
overwhelmingly of former slaves, were mustered into service. In July 1863, the
three regiments were brigaded together in what became known as the Corps
D’Afrique. All three regiments had white colonels, but the line officers in the
First and Second Regiments were black, while the Third Regiment had both black
and white officers.
These Louisianians were the only black officers in the Union Army, but their
racist superiors eventually purged most of them. To weed out incompetence, all
officers in the Army had to pass an oral examination given by a board of
experienced officers; those who failed either resigned or were stripped of
their commissions. Army examiners routinely failed black officers or harassed
them to make them resign their commissions. By war’s end only two
African-American officers remained on duty in the entire army, and both were
with the Louisiana Native Guards.
Like all African-American soldiers who served in the Civil War, the Native
Guards suffered from blatant discrimination. Not only were they paid less than
white soldiers, they were also issued inferior arms and rations, and white
soldiers often insulted and harassed them.
Despite their poor treatment, the men served well, and they became the first
black soldiers to see combat in a major battle when the First and Third
Regiments attacked the Confederate defenses at Port Hudson, La., on May 27,
1863. Most of the men fought bravely in their baptism of fire, and the Native
Guards suffered 169 casualties in the attack. Afterward, the bodies of the dead
were left to rot between the lines.
Why that happened is a matter of dispute. In her book This Republic of
Suffering, the Harvard historian Drew Gilpin Faust claims that Confederate
sharpshooters prevented Union soldiers from retrieving the Native Guards’ dead
during a truce that was arranged for that purpose the next day. On the other
hand, the historian Lawrence Lee Hewitt, from Southeastern Louisiana
University, and the late Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., the former manager and curator
of Port Hudson State Commemorative Area, wrote in their book “Louisianians in
the Civil War” that the Union soldiers “inexplicably” failed to collect their
dead on that part of the field. The stench of decaying bodies became so great
that the Confederates finally requested permission from Union Gen. Nathaniel P.
Banks to bury the dead Native Guards themselves. According to Hewitt and
Bergeron, “Banks refused, claiming that he had no dead in that area.”
Northern newspapers and magazines wrote extensively about the black
soldiers’ bravery at Port Hudson, although they greatly exaggerated their
success. A Harper’s Weekly illustration showed the Native Guards mounting the
rebel breastworks and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But in fact, none of the
black soldiers got anywhere near the Confederate position, and their entire
attack may have lasted only 15 minutes. In contrast to the Native Guards’ heavy
casualties, the Confederates who turned back their assault did not lose a
Rather, the most significant contribution the Native Guards made at Port
Hudson was demonstrating to their white comrades and superiors that
African-Americans would fight as well as white soldiers. In the days following
the doomed attack, many officers and men made note of the Native Guards’
bravery and heavy losses. General Banks told his wife, “They fought
splendidly!” Col. Benjamin H. Grierson wrote, “There can be no question about
the good fighting quality of negroes, hereafter, that question was settled
beyond a doubt yesterday.” Largely because of the Native Guards’ service at
Port Hudson, Union officers began recruiting African-Americans for combat
The three Native Guards regiments went on to further glory in the war. After
serving in the 1864 Red River Campaign, they were re-designated the 73rd, 74th
and 75th United States Colored Infantry. When the Union Army attacked and
captured Fort Blakely, Ala., in April 1865, it was the Native Guards who led
the charge. Afterward, one Union general wrote, “To the Seventy-third U.S.
Colored Infantry belongs the honor of first planting their colors on the enemy
parapet.” Capt. Louis A. Snaer, a free man of color, led his men in the
successful assault on Fort Blakely. Commending his courage, Snaer’s commanding
officer wrote, “Captain Snaer fell with a severe wound at my feet as I reached
the line. He refused to sheathe his sword or to be carried off the field. … No
braver officer has honored any flag.”
The Louisiana Native Guards were mustered out of service soon after the last
Confederate surrender, and many of its veterans became active in Reconstruction
politics. One, P. B. S. Pinchback, became America’s first black governor when,
in 1872, he filled out the remaining term of the impeached Louisiana governor
Henry Clay Warmoth.
Nov 1 12 10:15 PM
When George Lucas announced that he was selling his company to Disney, it was (to paraphrase ol' Obi-Wan) as if millions of nerds suddenly cried out in terror. But now that the dust is off and we've all had time to absorb the bombshell news, disciples of the Force are probably wondering what's next. Yes, there will be movies. But what will they be about?
We did a roundup some of the more interesting reporting and rumors floating around. As we all now know, there will be at least three new films: episodes VII, VIII, and IX. But what those films will cover is open to a lot of speculation.
We can safely assume that the films will be original stories and not adaptations of "http://l.yimg.com/pb/webp...themes/black-theme.png); ">Star Wars" novels, comics, or games. This is kind of a bummer. The Admiral Thrawn book trilogy by Timothy Zahn is highly regarded and would make a compelling series of films. However, according to E! Online, the new films will be based on original treatments written by George Lucas.
The Wrap spoke with Dale Pollock, author of the Lucas biography, "Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas." The author, who interviewed the director at least 80 times for his book, says that while he was doing research in the 1990s, he was allowed to read the outlines to the 12 (yes, 12!) stories.
"It was originally a 12-part saga," Pollock said. "The three most exciting stories were 7, 8, and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, 'I want to see these three movies.'" He did say that the three films feature Luke Skywalker in his 30s and 40s. No other details were given due to a confidentiality agreement Pollock signed.
But that was a long, long time ago. Plot lines, stories and characters can come and go. Still, it would seem likely that the next trilogy would go back to the trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. IGN has an interesting idea -- why not use "Avatar"-style versions of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher in these new films? Yes, many would object, but let's be honest — that trio is the heart of the saga and it's going to be difficult to accept other actors in the roles.
Of course, that's just one theory. There are others. The Hollywood Reporter writes that Disney may do an "'Avengers'-style universe with not only Lucas' planned final trio of films but offshoot movies focusing on individual characters." While there is no official confirmation, the idea makes sense. The "Star Wars" universe is ripe for interesting characters and Disney will want to get its $4 billion worth.
Entertainment Weekly sat down with Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. Hamill revealed that he and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) had lunch with George Lucas in August. Lucas told them that he was planning to make another trilogy. "When he said, 'We decided we're going to do episodes VII, VIII, and IX,' I was just gobsmacked," Hamill said. Still, he had no idea the director was planning to sell his company. "Oh my gosh, what a shock that was," Hamill said.
The films, whatever they end up focusing on, will be executive produced not by Lucas but by his successor, Kathleen Kennedy. She will work with Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn to produce the films and build the brand. Horn is highly regarded. He previously worked at Warner Bros., where he helped to oversee the "Harry Potter" films. Clearly, the guy knows his way around valuable franchises.
When it comes to who will direct the films, that's anybody's guess. Danny Boyle would make a nice choice. He directed the under-seen sci-fi flick "Sunshine." Steven Soderbergh would surely make an interesting film set in a galaxy far, far away. If producers want to go with a blockbuster kind of guy, how about James Cameron or Steven Spielberg? Other possibilities that would likely be met with approval (again, we're just guessing): Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson. Notice we did not include Michael Bay?
Sep 21 13 6:12 PM
A new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “interim memo” on the IRS scandal suggests that media coverage of the tea party movement as “dangerous” and full of “rage” pushed IRS agents to scrutinize conservative groups unfairly.
But could such collusion to target groups with the words “tea party” or “constitution” in their names – a program that the IRS acknowledges was a mistake – have chilled political speech to such an extent that it cleared the way for President Obama’s victory?
As it was, Obama won the popular vote by 5 million votes in 2012 over challenger Mitt Romney, while carrying 332 Electoral College votes to Mr. Romney’s 206.
RECOMMENDED: Briefing IRS 101: Seven questions about the tea party scandal
But what has become clear to many conservatives is that federal agencies going back to 2010 appeared to openly champion liberal causes by, for example, putting on special conferences to show black churches how to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status, all the while stonewalling tea party groups with questions ranging from queries about religion to personal relationships.
At the very least, writes the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto this week, “Barack Obama’s reelection deserves to be listed with an asterisk in the record books. We know only that he did win with the help of a corrupt IRS. And if indeed the election was stolen, many in the media were complicit in its theft.”
The IRS has apologized, several officials lost their jobs, President Obama has assured Americans that the IRS doesn’t target people for their political beliefs, and Congress is investigating.
Lois Lerner, who is on leave from the top spot at the IRS’ tax exempt unit, has pleaded the Fifth Amendment – her right to not incriminate herself. Meanwhile, some of the central figures in the scandal have sought out high-profile Washington counsel as Republican-led House committees grind away at the truth.
So far, that truth has been slippery.
Officials first pointed fingers at a few IRS agents in Cincinnati. But Congressional investigators found that the decision web reached throughout the IRS, reaction that was tied heavily to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which allowed rich Americans and corporations to fund tax-exempt groups allowed to do some political work.
The interim memo released this week by the Oversight committee – chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, known for his political aggressiveness – suggests professional malfeasance on a more ambiguous scale.
According to this theory, the IRS responded to anti-tea party frenzy in the Beltway press, all of which a growing contingent of conservatives believe had a deeply chilling effect on grass roots organizers, who had a lot to lose if they became political targets of the IRS.
From its beginning in early 2009 to its 2010 heyday, when it helped Republicans take back control of the House, the tea party emerged as a powerful antidote to Obama’s outspoken progressivism.
It focused mostly on debt, spending and taxes, but also became wrapped up in allegations of racism, nativism, and xenophobia that hurt its overall image. The movement did not have as much of an impact on the 2012 elections, partly, some conservatives argue, because of the IRS targeting of grassroots groups.
The House Oversight memo suggests that some of those tea party criticisms were fomented and fueled by the liberal Beltway media, which sent what former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has called “dogwhistle” messages to IRS brass to scrutinize the validity of the tea party movement and local groups seeking tax exempt status to spread their message.
“Washington Post columnists accused Tea Party groups of ‘smolder[ing] with anger’ [Colbert King] and practicing a brand of patriotism reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan [Courtland Milloy],” the memo states. “Another Post columnist opined in late March 2010 that Tea Party rhetoric ‘is calibrated not to inform but to incite’ [Eugene Robinson]. In April 2010, Reuters tied the Tea Party movement to ‘America's season of rage and fear.’”
The idea that the IRS did the President’s political bidding by proxy has been widely ridiculed by the left, but the idea lives on among conservative critics, who have long chided what they see as Obama’s bully presidency, where friends are rewarded and enemies punished.
“Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action,” Ms. Noonan said on “Meet the Press” back in May, as the scandal was breaking.
Yet Lloyd Mayer, a tax law expert at the University of Notre Dame who was in the room when Ms. Lerner made her apology on May 10, suggests that Congressional investigators can’t find a smoking gun connection to Obama’s political operation because there may not be one.
That leaves the option that the program was exactly what the IRS has described: A badly thought-out attempt to gauge the seriousness of the tea party groups before approving their applications to become tax exempt.
Per IRS protocol, says Mr. Mayer, that job should have gone to IRS auditors who would have been able to follow up to determine whether the groups were doing what they told the IRS they were going to do. Nevertheless, to suggest that Beltway coverage and political spin – including the New York Times editorial page coming out in support of the IRS tea party scrutiny – changed the election is “laughable,” says Mayer.
Tea party groups “clearly were burdened, this was clearly a distraction from what they wanted to do … but I don’t find it credible that if the IRS had approved all these applications with relatively minimal questioning, that that would allow the tea party to become this incredible political force and change a presidential election,” says Mayer.
May 19 14 6:13 PM
Amid a deadly backlash again vaccinations and a resurgence of polio in Pakistan, the White House has promised that the CIA will never again use an immunization campaign as a tool of spycraft.
“I wanted to inform you that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directed in August 2013 that the agency make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” President Obama’s top counterterrorism and homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco, wrote to deans of 12 schools of public health. Yahoo News obtained a copy of the May 16 letter.
“Similarly, the Agency will not seek to obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs,” Monaco wrote. “This CIA policy applies worldwide and to U.S. and non-U.S. persons alike.”
The Central Intelligence Agency had enlisted a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to collect intelligence under the guise of an immunization effort in the city of Abbottabad as part of planning for the high-risk May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound there.
The agency aimed to confirm intelligence that bin Laden was at the compound by comparing DNA obtained from children living there to a sample from the fugitive al-Qaida chief’s late sister, the Guardian newspaper reported in July 2011.
Even before those revelations, the Taliban in Pakistan had already opposed Western-backed vaccination campaigns, claiming that they were secret efforts to sterilize Muslim children. But the CIA’s actions helped fuelan armed backlash against immunization workers, reportedly killing 56 people between December 2012 and May 2014. The victims include not just medical workers but police officers assigned to guard them.
Another result of the CIA’s actions was to lead many Pakistani parents to forgo vaccinations for ailments like polio. The crippling and sometimes fatal illness has no known cure – but there are several safe and effective vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Of the 77 documented new cases of polio worldwide in calendar year 2014, 61 were in Pakistan, mostly from the remote and restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region, which serves as a Taliban stronghold.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on anyone coming from Pakistan, one of just three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. The rules, to be implemented June 1, will require travelers leaving the country to have polio vaccination certificates.
Monaco’s letter came nearly a year and a half after the deans of 12 schools of public health wrote a letter to Obama saying that “as a general principle, public health programs should not be used as cover for covert operations.”
“While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as an open society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those boundaries,” they wrote, referring to the CIA’s hoax campaign.
CIA Director John Brennan made the decision himself because he “took seriously the concerns raised by the public health community, CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz said.
“By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers,” Ebitz said by email.
Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer on emerging pandemics, was the first to reveal the existence of the letter on Twitter and her Facebook page.
White House & #CIA sent letter to deans of US schls pub hlth vowing never again us fake #vaccination as did to track bin Laden.
Lisa Monaco's letter
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