After finishing Justin A. Nystrom’s New Orleans After the Civil War and James K. Hogue’s Uncivil War, I have some new information on my topic. The metropolitan police unit was formed in 1868 by Governor Henry Clay Warmoth as a defensive barrier between his government and his political opponents. The Louisiana state militia was formed in the same year and for similar reasons. Both the metropolitans and the state militia essentially acted as the strong arm of Warmoth’s regime, enforcing the governor’s policies and trying to maintain peace during a very turbulent time. I have discovered again that A.S. Badger’s wounds were far more serious than I initially thought. Not only did Badger barely survive the battle, but one of his legs had to be amputated after the battle. The force that Badger and Longstreet’s men faced at the Battle of Liberty Place was quite formidable. Confederate veteran Frederick Nash Ogden led the White League forces into battle and apparently his unit had better training and equipment than that of some Civil War armies. I also recently found president Grant’s papers at the UNO library and he talks quite a bit about the troubles in Louisiana including the Battle of Liberty Place.
I had a very fruitful day at the library today, thanks to the spectacular efforts of Connie Phelps and Sonnet Ireland. I was able to find an article in an issue of the Louisiana Historical Quarterly about the history of the events leading up to the battle, and the after effects of the conflict. What’s really exciting about the article is it contains a report from the leader of the White League forces and also the State Supreme Court’s take on the events. I’ve also checked out Jacob A. Wagner’s dissertation, The Myth of Liberty Place: Race and Public Memory in New Orleans, in hopes that I will come across some useful works in his bibliography. With America’s Historical Newspaper database, I found that the New-Orleans Times covered the incident quite extensively. I was surprised to find that the Times even had a report on the battle the day after it happened.
After reading more of Joe Gray Taylor’s Louisiana Reconstructed, I learned that there was quite an audience watching the battle: “thousands of spectators watched from windows, rooftops, and boats on the Mississippi” (Taylor 294). I suppose it must have been a spectacular sight to see such a large fight break out in downtown New Orleans. I also learned that Longstreet and Badger’s forces faced a much larger regiment of troops with the White League commanding around 8,400 men while Longstreet and Badger had about 3,600 men. As Taylor notes, the casualties on both sides were relatively light considering the number of men involved and the rather close quarters fighting in downtown New Orleans. The Republican side lost eleven men with sixty others wounded, while the White League lost twenty-one men with nineteen wounded.
Joe Gray Taylor. Louisiana Reconstructed 1863-1877. Louisiana State University Press, 1974.
In regards to both my microhistory and my master’s thesis, I think I have found some encouraging signs in regards to my topic. I could certainly be wrong, but in all of my research on the Battle of Liberty Place, I have found only one book that is entirely based on the battle and it is The Battle of Liberty Place by Stuart Omer Landry published in 1955. I did find a doctoral dissertation by Jacob Wagner published in 2004 that talks about the monument that was dedicated to those who fought at the battle and how the battle has been remembered in public memory. Wagner’s dissertation does touch on some topics I would have liked to have brought up, but after skimming Wagner’s work it seems that he chose to focus on public memory in the twentieth century whereas I am more interested in the battle itself and its immediate repercussions. One of the reasons I initially became interested in the Battle of Liberty Place is how such an important conflict has been forgotten in today’s society. Stuart Omer Landry complains in his introduction that people have already forgotten the conflict by the mid 1950’s.
I have also found another excellent resource in Joe Gray Taylor’s book Louisiana Reconstructed. After reading a bit of Taylor’s book, I learned that the conflict began when the metropolitan police stopped a shipment of guns from landing in New Orleans. The guns were for the White League and the police were trying to prevent the league from arming. This act was the last straw for the White League, and on September 14, 1874 tensions came to a boiling point and the Battle of Liberty Place broke out.
Justin A. Nystrom’s book New Orleans After the Civil War has given me a lot of good information so far. I learned that the Battle of Liberty Place struck a great blow against the Republican Government of Louisiana and also the state militia, which was disbanded just a few years after the battle. I also found out that Algernon Sidney Badger was wounded more seriously than I initially thought. He was shot four times and only survived because his enemies admired his courage and brought him to a hospital. Not only that, a former member of the Metropolitan Police, who was fighting under Badger at Liberty Place, attempted to murder Badger in his office in the Customs House several years after the battle. A final interesting note I discovered was that the heaviest fighting during the battle took place where Harrah’s casino now stands.
After reading some more of Justin A. Nystrom’s book New Orleans After the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom, I learned more about Algernon Sidney Badger’s role at the battle of Liberty Place and I also found Republican Governor Henry Clay Warmoth to be a fascinating character as well.
With A. S. Badger in command, the metropolitan police force was extremely well armed with not only a few Gatling guns and cannons, but a gunboat as well. I also discovered that A. S. Badger was fairly seriously wounded at the battle of Liberty Place.
Henry Clay Warmoth was the Governor of Louisiana from 1868 until 1872 and during this time it seems he caused quite a stir in Louisiana and New Orleans politics. Despite shady political tactics and questionable morals, Warmoth was able to create quite a following during his reign. I am quite interested to learn more about Henry Clay Warmoth and his political rise and fall.
I’m still not 100% sure, but I think I want to do my microhistory on Union officer A. S. Badger. After reading some of Stuart Omer Landry’s book The Battle of Liberty Place, I learned that A. S. Badger was stationed in New Orleans as a Colonel in the Union army during the City’s occupation, and would move to New Orleans after the war (Landry 77). During the battle of Liberty Place, Badger was in command of a force of Police officers that were stationed at the Cabildo, fighting on the side of William Pitt Kellogg and the Republicans (Landry 96). After a bit of digging, I found Justin A. Nystrom’s recent book, New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom. Nystrom mentions that Badger led the Rex parade on more than one occasion, and I would like to see if I could find more on this part of Badger’s life (Nystrom 134).
I think I am going to change my microhistory a bit and instead look at the Battle of Liberty Place as a whole from the perspectives of not only James Longstreet, but also Republican Governor at the time William Pitt Kellogg and the opposing White League leader, John McEnery. In my research thus far, it seems that not much has been written on not only the views of these men, but also the battle itself. I have also been reading up on the Colfax massacre and I was thinking of maybe taking my microhistory in that direction somehow. In any case, I have found that Reconstruction violence in 1870’s Louisiana to be a deeply fascinating subject.
My microhistory will be on Confederate General James Longstreet’s life in New Orleans after the Civil War. More specifically, I want to look at Longstreet’s role at the Battle of Liberty Place and how he was viewed by both sides of the conflict. I find Longstreet very interesting because he became a Republican after the war and lost a lot of respect from his fellow Confederates. I am anxious to find out how Longstreet’s political views changed after his conversion to the Republican Party.
As for my sources, I have a three biographies on Longstreet that were all written within the past 26 years, and Longstreet’s autobiography he wrote several years after the war. I also found a book at the UNO library on the Battle of Liberty Place which should contain a lot of crucial information. Tulane’s special collections have some letters that Longstreet wrote to local newspapers and magazines of the time and will hopefully prove to be a fantastic primary source.