The Native Guard consisted of free men of color from New Orleans’ Creole elite who, following Louisiana’s secession, opted to join the Confederate cause in an effort to defend their homes and businesses against a potential Union invasion. The volunteer militia was met with praise in the local press. “Our free colored men … are certainly as much attached to the land of their birth as their white brethren here in Louisiana,” the Daily Crescent
assured its readers. “[They] will fight the people of color Republican with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in the service of the Confederate States.” Southern military leaders, however, largely snubbed the Native Guard and never called them into active duty. When the Union Navy took control of New Orleans in April 1862, after initial reluctance and without approval from his superiors, Major General Benjamin Butler sought the aid of these decommissioned black soldiers. The 1st Louisiana Native Guard (later to become the 73rd Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored Troops) was organized on Sept. 27, 1862, and included many former slaves who had escaped from Louisiana plantations. The unit first saw combat in mid-1863 at the Battle of Port Hudson
where Captain Andre Cailloux, among the first African Americans to lead troops into battle, was killed in action. He received a hero’s funeral in New Orleans with a procession that included marching units from 37 benevolent, charitable, religious and patriotic societies.
Funeral of Andre Cailloux in New Orleans, July 29, 1863, from the August 29, 1863 edition of Harpers Weekly.