The Civil War in Louisiana and Its Lasting Impact

More than 150 years after the Civil War ended, the U.S. continues to grapple with the fallout of a costly conflict that pitted brother against brother to resolve a moral dilemma that existed from the very founding of the republic.

In the months following the massacre of nine congregants by an avowed white supremacist at an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 15, 2015, Confederate flags were removed from store shelves and statehouses. Debates continue to rage over the emblem’s symbolism. In Louisiana proposals were made to dismantle Confederate monuments on the grounds of parish courthouses in Shreveport and Lake Charles. New Orleans has taken the most dramatic actions yet after Mayor Mitch Landrieu requested in July that statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and president Jefferson Davis be declared “public nuisances,” along with a marble obelisk marking the site of the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place, a riot that pitted Confederate veterans and their sympathizers against a racially mixed Reconstruction government. The city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission, Human Relations Commission and the Vieux Carré Commission each voted in favor of removal. In August, Governor Bobby Jindal threatened to invoke executive privilege by citing the Heritage Act to block their potential relocation. At a raucous council meeting on Dec. 10, an ad hoc organization, Save Our Circle, submitted 31,000 signatures on a petition calling for the monuments to remain in place, though detractors claim the majority of signees do not live in Orleans Parish. The city council is expected to vote on Dec. 17 on a resolution that could lead to the removal of the monuments.

Know Louisiana invites our readers to delve into the history of the tumultuous 1860s and the decades that followed the emancipation of four million enslaved people and the burial of more than 620,00 soldiers. Features from past issues of Louisiana Cultural Vistas, web-exclusive stories, transcripts of a panel discussion about the Confederate monuments and numerous encyclopedia entries written by Civil War historians offer context on a range of subjects that remain contentious in public discourse.

Louisiana Cultural Vistas and web-exclusive features:

  • Monumental Decisions: Confederate Monuments in the 21st Century • On July 23, 2015, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities invited four scholars to participate a panel discussion about the history of the monuments targeted for removal in New Orleans. The participants proposed various solutions for the reinterpretation of the controversial sites based on examples from other Southern cities confronting similar issues. Video clips and transcripts of the forum are printed here in their entirety.
  • The Battle of Liberty Place: A Matter of Historical Perception • In the late 1980s a proposal was made to rid the city’s landscape of the Battle of Liberty Place monument. A federal court order in 1989 ultimately required reinstallation the memorial that marks the site of the Reconstruction-era melee, though at a less prominent location. Historian Judith K. Schafter chronicled the series of event that led to racial conflict and bloodshed in 1874.
  • A Question of Secession • Historian Gary Joiner spells out the legislative arguments that led to Louisiana departing the Union on January 26, 1861.
  • 10 Fascinating Facts About the Civil War in Louisiana • While living at the White House, Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to see the ghost of her half-brother, among the Confederate dead at the Siege of Port Hudson — among many unusual facts associated with the war in Louisiana.

KnowLouisiana‘s encyclopedia entries explore the personalities, demographics and events related to the four-year conflict and the 13 years of Reconstruction that followed:

The Battle of Liberty Place was the name later bestowed on the brief skirmish between the White League and the “carpetbagger” Reconstruction-era government near the foot of Canal Street in New Orleans on the afternoon of September 14, 1874. Courtesy of Tulane University, Louisiana Research Collection

A 60 ft (18 m) tall monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee towers over a traffic circle in New Orleans, Louisiana June 24, 2015. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday morning called for the replacement of the statue.

A 60 ft (18 m) tall monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee towers over a traffic circle in New Orleans. Photo by David Johnson

 

Statue of Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, located at the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and the entrance to New OrleansÕ City Park. Photo by David Johnson

Statue of Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, located at the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and the entrance to New Orleans’ City Park. Photo by David Johnson

 

Statues of Jefferson Davis, including this one at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Boulevard in New Orleans, were intended to restore honor to the disgraced ex-president of the Confederacy. Photo by David Johnson

Statues of Jefferson Davis, including this one at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Boulevard in New Orleans, were intended to restore honor to the disgraced ex-president of the Confederacy. Photo by David Johnson

 

The Battle of Liberty Place Monument, erected in 1891, originally stood at the foot of Canal Street in New Orleans' Central Business District, near the location of the 1874 insurgency. It was moved to a more obscure location between the Aquarium of the Americas and Canal Place in 1993. Photo by David Johnson

The Battle of Liberty Place Monument, erected in 1891, originally stood at the foot of Canal Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District, near the location of the 1874 insurgency. It was moved to a more obscure location between the Aquarium of the Americas and Canal Place in 1993. Photo by David Johnson

 

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