Aftermath & Reconstruction

    Race Riots  "Battle Of Liberty Place"  September 14, 1874

Even though his administration was faced with widespread violence directed against freed blacks and Republican officials in the South during Reconstruction, President Ulysses S. Grant did little to curb white militancy. He preferred to let matters take their course in the Southern states rather than to risk involving the federal government in a race war. A vigilante group organized in Louisiana in the spring and summer of 1874 counted 14,000 members- mostly Confederate veterans- by fall. Calling themselves the White League, they were dedicated to a "white man's government" and the suppression of "the insolent and barbarous African."

Emboldened by the federal hands-off policies, 3,500 armed White Leaguers assembled in New Orleans on September 14, 1874, and demanded that carpetbag Republican Gov. William Kellog resign. Opposing the White League were 3,600 policemen and black militia troops under the command of ex-Confederate General James Longstreet. Supported by two Gatling guns and a battery of artillery, Longstreet's force formed a battle line from Jackson Square to Canal Street, guarding the Customs House, in which the governor and other Republican officials had taken refuge. The White Leaguers charged the line, captured Longstreet, and pushed his men to the river, where they either surrendered or fled. The attackers occupied the city hall, statehouse, and arsenal. Total casualties in the one-hour fight that has become known as the Battle of Liberty Place were 38 killed and 79 wounded.

The white supremacists deposed Kellog, installed John McEnery as governor, and ran the state government for three days. By the end of that time, Grant, alarmed at the armed insurrection, had ordered federal troops to New Orleans. Upon the arrival of the U.S. Army, the White Leaguers withdrew, Kellog was reinstated as governor, and Longstreet was released. It was obvious that without the presence of the federal military, Louisiana's carpetbag government could not be sustained.

Fascinating Fact:  Longstreet was vilified for leading black troops against his former soldiers. "It was with the greatest difficulty", said one White League officer, "that I prevented the men from firing particularly at Longstreet."


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