Louisiana Native Guards



The Creole military experience during the Civil War




The Call to Arms

On August 24 Butler issued an appeal for men of color to join the Union army. The response in the free people of color community was enthusiastic. Within three weeks Butler was able to inform Stanton that “I shall…have within ten days a regiment, 1,000 strong, of Native Guards (colored), the darkest of whom is about the complexion of the late Mr. [Daniel] Webster.”

The new regiment would be composed “altogether of free men,” he reported. 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 provost marshal from New York, Captain Spencer H. Stafford, to command the new regiment. Despite the radical departure from his policy of accepting only free people of color so as not to be accused of arming slaves against their masters, Butler still did not have authorization from Washington to organize the Native Guards.

No one in Washington had responded. In the absence of outright disapproval, Butler concluded that “I must therefore take it to be approved, but would prefer distinct orders on this subject.”Butler’s Native Guards were now officially members of the Union army and were beginning to look the part, as evidenced by the 1st Regiment when it paraded down Canal Street one bright Saturday afternoon that fall. Captain Emile Getiege’s company illustrated how the recruiting had gone in the 1st Regiment.

Youngest among the ninety-eight enlisted men were Pierre Silvester and Eduard St. Cryr, both sixteen. The oldest was a fifty-three-year-old carpenter named Brazile Brown, Jr. Half of the men were under thirty, but twenty in Captain Detiege’s company were in their forties. The first sergeant, Joseph Frick, was forty-three. The median height was five feet, seven inches. Young Sylvester was the shortest at five two, while William Anderson, a forty-two-year-old bricklayer, was six three.


The First to be called

the First to be enlisted


About a third of the company was of unmixed African heritage, while another third gave evidence of having some European blood. The remaining third were mulattoes, described on the roll as “yellow,” “fair,” or “bright.” Almost 60 percent of the men had worked in the skilled trades – bricklayer, shoemaker, and carpenter- before joining the army.

The remainder had been laborers.Most of the new recruits for Butler’s Native Guards were native to Louisiana, although the 2nd Regiment included two privates whose home until recently had been Africa.All of the captains and lieutenants in the 1st and 2nd Regiments were people of color. The 3rd Regiment had both people of color and white officers.

The Colored officers in Butler’s Native Guards were, for the most part, an impressive lot, representing the elite of the free people of color population in New Orleans. A newspaper correspondent found them to be well-educated and conversant in a variety of subjects, including civic affairs, history, literature, and politics. “I found on one or two occasions,” he reported, “that I was conversing with men of no ordinary knowledge and mental capacity.”

Those of Creole ancestry were fluent in both English and French. One characteristic of the heritage was a light complexion, which reflected the relationship between skin color and free status that existed in New Orleans during the mid-nineteenth century. Several of the people of color officers “were, to all superficial appearance, white men,” another correspondent reported.


Francis E. Dumas

was a case in point. The son of a white Creole father and a mulatto mother, Dumas was educated in Paris, where he assumed the manner of a sophisticated Frenchman.

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Andre Cailloux,





Andre Cailloux

Another free man of color who accepted one of Butler’s commissions was Andre Cailloux, a cigar maker by trade. Cailloux was a splendid horseman and an excellent athlete.

He had been educated in Paris, and his polished manners and confident air made him one of the most respected leaders of the free black community. But unlike most other free men of color, Cailloux’s line was untainted by European blood.

By his own account, Cailloux was the blackest man in New Orleans, a distinction he noted with pride.


Like Cailloux, many Creole officers in Butler’s Native Guards were drawn from the ranks of the city’s working elite. One of these was Emile Detiege, who had set aside his schoolbooks at the age of thirteen to follow the bricklayer’s trade

. When Phelps began organizing former slaves who fled into his lines around Camp Parapet, Detiege volunteered to drill the would-be soldiers. He was well-suited for this duty, having been instructed in military matters by his uncle, an old Belgian soldier who had served in Napoleon’s army.

In the evenings, Detiege became a schoolmaster, teaching the new recruits how to read. After Butler decided to follow Phelp’s lead by organizing the Native Guards, Detiege enlisted as a private in Captain Joseph Follin’s company. By the time the 1st Regiment was ready to be mustered in, Detiege had been promoted to first lieutenant.

Some of the creole officers in Butler’s Native Guards were of African-American rather than Creole ancestry. John H. Crowder, for example, was born in 1846 to free parents in Louisville, Kentucky. After his father abandoned the family by running off to Mexico with the army during the Mexican War, John Crowder’s mother moved to New Orleans.


P.B.S. Pinchback

was another Creole officer with Creole roots. Born in Georgia to a white planter from Holmes County, Mississippi, and his mulatto mistress, Pinchback was irreverent, intemperate, combative, and confident- just the right combination for an aggressive company commander.

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