Arthur Bergeron ,Jr., who devoted much study to the war in Louisiana, found that, contrary to the accepted consensus, “a number of Louisiana free blacks did serve as soldiers, and their white comrades in arms did know them to be ‘free men of color.’”
Some 1,500 free blacks made up the First Louisiana Native Guards, and Winters estimates that as many as 3,000 free blacks volunteered for Confederate duty at some point during the war.
Bergeron says three of the “most prominent” of those free black soldiers came from St. Landry Parish.
The first of them, Charles F. Lutz, joined the Opelousas Guards in June 1861. The unit became Company F of the 8th Louisiana Infantry and was sent to Virginia, where it was folded into a brigade commanded by Gen. Richard Taylor.
The brigade fought in a number of key battles in Virginia and Lutz was one of more than 100 Confederates captured at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg in May 1863.
He was released in time to fight at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was severely wounded and again taken prisoner.
After the war he came home to Opelousas and later moved to Calcasieu Parish, where he fought for more than 30 years to finally receive the soldier’s pension that was due him.
The second soldier identified by Bergeron was Jean Baptiste Pierre-Auguste, whose unit became a part of the 29th Louisiana Infantry, one of the units that held out for weeks after Vicksburg was surrounded and besieged by Union troops under U.S. Grant. He also ended up in Calcasieu Parish and finally got his pension decades later.
Jean-Baptiste’s cousin, Lufroy Pierre-Auguste, was a soldier in the 16th Louisiana, which fought at Shiloh and in several other skirmishes before his superiors apparently “discovered” that he was black - something he had never concealed - and ordered his discharge. Bergeron could find nothing about what happened to him after the war.
Two free men of color, Evariste Guillory Sr. and Evariste Guillory Jr., joined the Second Louisiana Reserve Corps, a home guard unit that saw practically no fighting.
Home guardsmen were irregular troops made up mostly of men too old or boys too young to fight as regular troops. They were poorly trained, poorly equipped and largely ignored by Confederate governments both national and statewide, so there is only a scanty record of their activity.
The Guillorys and their comrade “sometimes acted as drovers gathering cattle for the army in the field,” Bergeron reported.
They surrendered at the end of the war and were mustered out at Washington (La.) in 1865.
Bergeron reads some significance into the participation by these free men of color in Confederate ranks.
“The actions of these free blacks seem to argue for what may be to some an unpopular conclusion,” he writes. “By volunteering for combat duty in regular Confederate service, these men took what can be seen as the final step of their acceptance or acculturation into the local white societies where they lived. . . . In areas of Natchitoches, St. Landry, Calcasieu, and possibly other parishes, many whites and free blacks must have enjoyed a freedom of association that has received relatively little attention by social scientists. The actions of these free men of color in volunteering for - and of their white comrades in accepting them into - military units should lead us to take a closer look at race relations in Louisiana’s pre-Civil War period.”
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.