Louisiana

By Ziv Carmi ’23

Historical Context

Due to its history as a colony of both France and Spain, Louisiana developed a unique culture unlike any other Southern state during the antebellum period. During the French colonial period, the plantation system had not yet become the main slavery-based institution in the state; indeed, most enslaved people were either forced to work on smaller farms or in the urban environment of New Orleans (Rodrigue 2014). Following the change in governance from France to Spain in 1763, the economy and size of Louisiana grew, as did the amount of enslaved people in the state. During the Spanish administration from 1763 to 1802, the total population tripled to 30,000, an amount proportionate to the growth of the enslaved demographic, which grew from 4,500 to about 13,000 (Rodrigue 2014). What is notable about the nature of Spanish slavery is that it was comparatively more liberal than the French system preceding it, allowing for enslaved people to purchase their freedom or be manumitted (the latter was legal but fairly rare due to the amount of red tape slaveowners had to go through). Due to these Spanish policies, the freed Black population grew from less than one hundred in 1763 to approximately 1,500 in 1800, reflecting the multicultural nature of Louisiana society (Rodrigue 2014). Indeed, the Spanish included free Blacks as a part of their society in a hierarchy lower than whites but above enslaved people; historians write that this ranking was to show enslaved people that if they worked hard enough, they, too could, enjoy the benefits of a higher echelon of society—an alluring option that whites held before Blacks in an attempt to avoid mass slave insurrections (Rodrigue 2014).

This more inclusive nature of Spanish Louisiana society is showcased in the role that Black men played in militia companies during the American Revolution. Governor Bernardo de Galvez first organized freed blacks into two militia companies to defend the strategic city of New Orleans, then later, recruited enslaved men, promising freedom for anyone who might be severely wounded and a low price for those who had been less seriously wounded to buy their freedom (Rodrigue 2014). It is important to note, however, that this policy’s application on slaves may well have been instituted largely because men who had been severely wounded would be unable to work, and thus had no use to the planter class as enslaved laborers. Following the American Revolutionary period, during the 1790s, Spanish Louisiana grew its ranks of freed Black militiamen, doubling the amount of companies consisting of freedmen of color (Rodrigue 2014). Most significantly, this military service brought freed Black men closer to their white counterparts than enslaved people (both physically and socio-politically), giving them important rights such as the ability to carry arms.

Louisiana’s economy profoundly changed in the 1790s with the advent of modern sugar processing techniques, new varieties of sugar, and the cotton gin. As both the sugar and cotton industries took hold, plantations began to develop across the territory, transforming the nature of slavery in Louisiana into something more similar to other Southern states. Unlike earlier periods, where slavery was centered in New Orleans, by 1850, almost 3/5 of enslaved people lived outside of the city (LA State Museum). While most slaveowners owned ten slaves or less, the average slaves-per-owner rate was the third highest after only Mississippi and South Carolina, suggesting that a large majority of enslaved people were on plantations (Wall et al, 2014). By 1860, about 1/6 of all American cotton and almost 1/3 of all American cotton exports were grown in Louisiana (LA State Museum). As well, 25-50% of all sugar consumed in the US was grown in Louisiana; at veritably any given point in the antebellum period, the combined crop of all other sugar-growing Southern states was less than 5% of that in Louisiana (LA State Museum). These crops generated immense wealth– the Louisiana State Museum estimates that the average antebellum sugar plantation was worth about $200,000 (LA State Museum).

Once America purchased the Louisiana Territory, laws regulating slavery and freed Blacks became far stricter. For example, in 1830, shortly after the appearance in New Orleans of Walker’s Appeal, a treatise written by a free Black Bostonian encouraging enslaved people to rise against their masters, the state government made it a capital crime to distribute printed material that encouraged or incited slave revolts or to say anything from a public location that might create discontent or foment rebellion amongst the enslaved community (Wall et all, 2014). Also, even prior to statehood, Louisiana ended the policy of self-purchase and excluded freed Blacks from participation in their democracy (Schweninger 2011). In the first half of the 19th century, a series of laws was passed to make it harder for enslaved people to be manumitted, including establishing an age minimum for such a practice (this policy was softened in 1827), forcing manumitted slaves to leave the state, and, in 1852, forcing newly freed people to emigrate to Liberia (this policy was repealed three years later) (Schweninger 2011). By 1857, the emancipation of slaves was completely banned (Schweninger 2011). At the same time, state laws restricted the movement of free Blacks, forcing them to carry papers proving their freedom, and in New Orleans, forcing them to seek the permission of the mayor before becoming residents (Schweninger 2011).

Despite these restrictions, the freed Black community flourished in Louisiana when compared to the circumstances in other states. Louisiana had about 25,500 free Blacks in 1840, a population far greater than the free Black population in any of the other Lower South states, and even greater than that in several states within the Upper South, such as Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. It is interesting to note, however, that this number would eventually decrease to about 18,650 by 1860 (Schweninger 2011). Furthermore, free Blacks were allowed many rights usually given only to white citizens, such as education, the ability to purchase property, and a voice in the justice system (despite being unable to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury, freed Blacks were given the presumption of innocence, the right of habeas corpus, and the right to a trial by jury). Additionally, they were allowed to petition the courts to redress their grievances, serve as witnesses, and even sue whites. (Schweninger 2011). Indeed, these unique gestures towards a relative equality between whites and free Blacks even carried through to laws banning enslaved people from testifying against freed people of color, in addition to whites (barring, of course, cases about possible insurrection) (Schweninger 2011). While interracial marriage was banned in the American period, during the French and Spanish periods, mixed-race couples were common, creating a large mixed-race community. Indeed, by 1860, Louisiana had the largest proportion of mixed-race citizens within its colored population. Of all colored people, 81.3% of Louisianians were mixed-race, compared to the average rate of 35% amongst freed Blacks in the Upper South (Schweninger 2011). Furthermore, some wealthy freed people of color even entered the planter class, growing sugar and cotton and even owning slaves (whom they treated just as poorly as their white counterparts) (Schweninger 2011). In 1860, 472 Black Louisianians owned more than $10,000 in property, showing the immense wealth of some of Louisiana’s colored population (LA State Museum).

While the population of New Orleans was a mix of whites, freed blacks, and enslaved blacks, other areas were less racially diverse. Outside of the city, over 60% of the people were enslaved, with large concentrations of slaves on plantations along the Mississippi River (Sacher 2016). Many of the large sugar plantations were in the area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, although the northern parishes emerged as significant areas within the sugar industry after the introduction of the frost-resistant ribbon sugar variety (Whitney Plantation). Indeed, most plantation manors were along rivers, allowing for easier transportation of goods and people via steamboat (Sacher 2016).

Following the election of Lincoln, Louisiana became the sixth state to secede. The secession convention was held on January 26, 1861, with delegates voting to secede by an overwhelming margin of 113-17 (Sacher 2016). Once war broke out, Louisiana and Louisianians served central roles in the Civil War. Louisiana native, Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard famously oversaw the shelling of Fort Sumter, later becoming influential in the creation of the infamous Confederate battle flag (Johnson). By November 1861, about 25,000 Louisianians had enlisted, and by the end of the war, between 50 and 60 thousand Louisianians served with the Confederacy, fighting and dying at nearly every major battle of the war, including First and Second Manassas, the Seven Days, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania, to name a few (Sacher 2016). While most Louisianians served with the Confederacy, historians estimate that between five to ten thousand Louisianians fought for the Union (Hunter 2016). Most of these Unionist volunteers were foreign or Northern-born (for example, 90% of the 2nd Louisiana Infantry were from outside of the Confederate states, 77% of which were foreign-born), suggesting a backlash against the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing party that dominated New Orleans in the late antebellum years and strongly embraced secession (Hunter 2016).

With the city of New Orleans serving as one of the most strategic locations in the South (largely due to its status as a major port for both domestic and international trade), the state quickly became one of the most important fronts in the war. In April 1862, Union forces seized New Orleans, swiftly putting it under the strict military administration of General Benjamin Butler. This was a devastating blow to the Confederacy, which had just lost its first major city to the North as well as access to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Louisianians aggressively showed their contempt towards the occupying Union forces, resulting in Butler’s strict repression of dissent. For example, William Mumford was hung for lowering the U.S. flag that had been hung over the Mint building when the Union took the city (LA State Museum). Most infamous, however, is Butler’s “Woman Order,” passed May 15, 1862. This order stated that any woman insulting Union soldiers would be treated as a prostitute (which, of course, allowed her to be arrested, imprisoned, and fined), despite her class or social standing (Wall et al 2014). The order was met with much anger and outrage, including from the mayor of New Orleans, John T. Monroe, who was quickly removed from office and imprisoned by Butler (Winters 1963). Butler would eventually also force all citizens of New Orleans to take an oath to the United States, removing anyone from his military district who refused to enemy lines with nothing more than $50 (Winters 1963). Furthermore, and possibly most controversially, Butler decided to arm Black troops and create Native Guard units consisting of colored soldiers. These black soldiers, the first sanctioned regiment of colored troops in the Union Army, consisted of mostly runaway slaves and also freedmen. Notably, these regiments had black line officers (the First and Second Native Guards had all black officers while the Third Native Guards had both black and white officers), although like every Civil War regiment, white colonels held ultimate authority. For more information on the Louisiana Native Guards, please read this article focusing on their wartime experience! Ultimately, Butler would be replaced by Nathaniel Banks in late 1862, ending the rule of “The Beast,” as Southerners called him, over New Orleans, but leaving in his wake a pall of anger and misery, as well as a thirst for revenge that echoed for decades within the state.

Several other significant battles occurred in Louisiana as well. In 1863, Union forces continued to strengthen their influence over the Mississippi River and southern Louisiana with major battles such as that at Port Hudson, the last southern bastion on the Mississippi, as well as through the multiple battles of the Red River Campaign (Wall et al, 2014). Port Hudson, the battle that showed the bravery of black soldiers, displayed the complicated racial dynamics in Civil War Louisiana. After the battle, fallen Louisiana Native Guard soldiers’ bodies tragically remained uncollected by both sides (historians debate the reasons why). Later in the war, the Native Guards (which were re-designated as the 73rd, 74th, and 75th US Colored Infantry) continued to prove their valor despite discrimination, bravely serving through the Red River Campaign and the April 1865 capture of Fort Blakely in Alabama. Led by Capt. Louis A. Snaer, a freedman, the soldiers of the 73rd USCT were specifically commended for their respect towards the flag at Fort Blakely. Indeed, Snaer’s commanding officer said that “Captain Snaer fell with a severe wound at my feet as I reached the line. He refused to sheathe his sword or to be carried off the field. … No braver officer has honored any flag.”

After the Union took Baton Rouge in early 1862, the Confederate government moved to Shreveport, which held out against surrender even after Robert E. Lee’s 1865 surrender at Appomattox. Indeed, after hearing about Lee’s surrender, General Edmund Kirby Smith, the head of the Confederacy’s Trans-Mississippi Department, told his soldiers that, “With you rests the hope of our nation [the Confederate States] and upon your action rests the fate of our people … Prove to the world that your hearts have not failed in the hour of disaster, and that at the last moment you will sustain the holy cause which has been so gloriously battled for by your brethren east of the Mississippi” (Johnson). By early June 1865, Kirby surrendered, thus making Shreveport the last Southern city to fall.

Louisiana suffered devastating economic and military losses during the war. Comparatively, military casualties were less than other Confederate states such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama, with estimates of about 4,000 soldier casualties (American Battlefield Trust). However, of the approximately $3 billion lost by the Confederacy through emancipation, Louisiana lost about $500 million (Wall et al 2014). Thus, not only did the state suffer from the physical devastation wrought by the war, but Louisiana was so poor that it was unable to even fix its damaged infrastructure in the immediate aftermath of the war.

During Reconstruction, Louisiana encountered significant political instability as well. The pro-Confederate legislature almost immediately passed Black Codes and the convict-lease program (the first in the South), effectively reconstructing slavery in a new light (Wall et al 2014). By 1866, the Republican Party of Louisiana attempted to reconvene the 1864 Constitutional Convention, culminating in the New Orleans Massacre, where 34 blacks and three whites were murdered, and 17 whites and 119 blacks were wounded (Wall et al 2014). This violence proved, in no uncertain terms, to Republicans in Congress that Black people in the South needed protection. Northern politicians’ shock and outrage over the myriad, violent grievances endured by Louisiana’s black community during this time heavily influenced the passage of the 1867 Reconstruction Act that ushered in Radical Reconstruction (Wall et al 2014). During this new phase, Louisiana was controlled by General Philip Sheridan, whose first order was registering all adult men to vote on the condition that they had never voluntarily aided the Confederacy (which, of course, disenfranchised most white males while finally giving the vote to Black men). Sheridan then held elections based on this new voter bloc to send delegates to another constitutional convention in order to officially begin to remake the state under Republican terms and eliminate the power of infuriated former Confederates. The election also resulted in Republican domination of the legislature and executive branches, creating even more resentment amongst the largely former Confederate white population. Many resentful former Confederates organized themselves into the Knights of the White Camellia, an organization modeled after the Klan, which spread a wave of terror throughout the state (Wall et al 2014). While it is unclear whether these terrorist organizations specifically targeted largely the formerly enslaved people, or whether they also went after free-born blacks and mixed-race citizens, they did especially attack Republican leaders of color, most of whom were free-born or mixed-race (LA State Museum).

The rapid spread of vigilante violence produced significant backlash from Republican lawmakers, thus fomenting even greater political instability. Forming the “Returning Board,” an organization that would rule on the validity of the votes from any precinct or parish and throw out any they deemed illegitimate for any reason (thus giving them the power not only to regulate but also outright steal elections), Republicans established a system that was decried by the ex-Confederate opposition as illegitimate (Wall et al 2014). In addition, the state’s Republican Party split over Governor Henry Warmoth’s corruption and racist policies, resulting in a divided Returning Board deciding the 1872 gubernatorial election. The more radical faction of the Republican party that nominated William Pitt Kellogg (called the “Custom House” Republicans after Grant’s brother-in-law who served as the New Orleans Customs Collector) supported their candidate, while the pro-Warmoth faction supported the Democratic candidate, John McEnery. This contested election culminated in both candidates taking the gubernatorial oath of office and the impeachment of the lame-duck Warmoth by a coalition of Democrats and Custom House Republicans. Ultimately, Kellogg, who was despised by white Louisianians for his support of civil rights and viewed as an illegitimate governor by McEnery’s supporters, was seated (Wall et al 2014). Given the circumstances of his election, Kellogg’s power never truly reached past New Orleans, resulting in anarchy across much of the state. The worst such incident was the so-called “Colfax Riot,” which resulted in the murder of anywhere from 63 to 100 Black men, the single deadliest episode within the Reconstruction-era South (Wall et all 2014). Ironically enough, this tragic act of violence occurred in Grant Parish, a parish with a majority of freedmen named after the President in an attempt to build up the Republican Party. The perpetrators of this massacre walked free, emboldening the White League, a new paramilitary organization comprised of white men who assembled (unmasked) to terrorize white Republicans and Black people, and often coerced them into resigning from their political posts with intimidating threats or even going so far as to lynch them. The White League grew rapidly following its creation in early 1874, even managing to overwhelm the ranks of the New Orleans Metropolitan Police and state militia and ultimately seize the State House and City Hall, a conflict which will be discussed in detail later in this paper (Wall et al 2014). It was then that President Grant sent troops into New Orleans to reinstitute Republic order and reinstate Kellogg as governor.  Nevertheless, many Northerners were growing tired and frustrated with the long Reconstruction period. In an attempt to finally resolve the constant strain of intersectional tensions, the Republicans gave Democrats the majority in the U.S. House in succeeding elections, which ultimately helped to bring about the end of Reconstruction in Louisiana.

However, before the official end of Reconstruction, Louisiana would still play one more significant part. In the chaotic and tumultuous Election of 1876, which once again produced both a Democrat and a Republican that took the gubernatorial oath (and a legislature to go with each), Louisiana’s electoral votes remained just as contested, with the outcome of the Presidential election hanging in the balance (Wall et al 2014). The ensuing compromise, which formally ended Reconstruction, gave the Republican Hayes the Presidency, and allowed Democrat Francis Nicholls, a former Confederate who had lost an arm at Winchester and a foot at Fredericksburg, to serve as governor, along with a strong Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature. Thus began a period of Democratic power and white supremacy that lasted until the Civil Rights period of the 1960s.

The Democratic government almost immediately began undermining the advances made in Reconstruction, as happened across the South. Intimidation and corruption ran rampant, the quality of public education declined (to the point that Louisiana became the worst state in the Union for schooling), and, in 1890, the state’s first segregation law mandating “separate but equal” accommodations in railroads was passed (Wall et al 2014). This law was challenged in court in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which almost unanimously upheld segregation for the next half-century. Furthermore, the legislature passed a series of laws to curtail the voting strength of the “uneducated” (both white populists and Black men), creating a new constitution in 1898 that mandated literacy tests before citizens could vote (Wall et al 2014).

With this disenfranchisement came even more segregation and racial violence. Shortly after Plessy, streetcars were segregated (1902), New Orleans forbade prostitutes from sleeping with customers of the opposite race, interracial marriage (1894) and cohabitation (1908) were made into felonies, and even jails were segregated (1918). Per capita, Louisiana ranked only below Mississippi in the number of lynchings committed, and, between 1889 and 1922, the three counties with the most acts of violence in the nation were all in Louisiana (Wall et al 2014).

This racial animosity continued through the post-WWII period, when the Civil Rights period began in earnest. While Governor Earl Long extended suffrage to many Blacks during his second term (1948-1952), raising the number of registered Black voters from 7,000 to almost 110,000, segregationists exploited loopholes in the law to purge Black people from the voter rolls to great effect (Wall et al 2014). In 1958, Long created the Louisiana State University in New Orleans (later renamed University of New Orleans), the first integrated public university in the South (Wall et al 2014). Despite these advances, segregationists opposed school integration, creating a crisis that culminated in violent riots across New Orleans in which black and white people brutally attacked each other. In 1965, the Klan waged a series of violence in the city of Bogalusa, which led to the rise of militant Black groups who sought to defend themselves (Wall et al 2014). Even entering the 1970s, relations between the two races were fraught, demonstrating the continuation of bitter tensions existing since the Long Civil War period well into modern times.

Given Louisiana’s complex relationship with its Confederate- and racial- past, the state poses many questions about the nature of Confederate monumentation therein. Those advocating for the removal of Confederate monuments argue two main points: First, that these monuments were erected strictly or predominantly to protect white supremacy and the Lost Cause, as well as to legitimize Jim Crow laws in the face of calls for racial equality and the long Civil Rights movement; and secondly, that they honor men who committed treason against the United States, such as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis.

The objective of this report is to examine the basis for these arguments within the state of Louisiana using maps and historical sources. The aim is not to unequivocally answer these controversial questions or make any argument in support or against the monuments, but rather to provide concrete data and historical context to the debate. The first goal of this report is to map when, where, and by whom Confederate monuments were erected in Louisiana, from the Reconstruction era to the present (Spring, 2022). The second goal of this study is to help provide historical context and possible reasons behind some of the Confederate monumentation trends in Louisiana since the end of the war. This study focuses solely on monuments, memorials, and statuary, and omits buildings, roads, or natural features named after Confederate soldiers or statesmen. It is important to note that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s data used to create these maps was generated through crowdsourced map points, and the exact locations cannot be immediately verified. As well, some monuments might not be included due to the crowdsourced nature of the SPLC dataset.

Overview of Results

Map 1: Specific Honorees vs. Non-Specific Honorees
Map 2: Louisiana Confederate Monuments, 1880-1909

Of the 38 statues erected in Louisiana, nearly half (48.6%) are dedicated to specific honorees (Map 1). Of these eighteen monuments, four of them (22.2% of total Confederate monuments in the state) honor Jefferson Davis and two (11.1% of total Confederate monuments in the state) honor Robert E. Lee. Chronologically speaking, this state also has a somewhat unusual pattern. Unlike many other states, which had a surge of monumentation between 1900 and the American entry into World War I, Louisiana’s monument-erection rate did not start growing until 1910, and even then,  not by much. Furthermore, unlike most other southern states, which often ceased large waves of monumentation following the death of the Civil War generation, monumentation remained fairly consistent across the state well into the late 20th century.

 Many monuments are centered around the three cities of Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, with trends favoring urban environments and cities significant within the story of the Civil War. Indeed, a majority of the statues erected during and after Civil Rights were erected in these cities.

Map 4: Louisiana Confederate Monuments, 1910-1919
Map 5: Louisiana Confederate Monuments, 1920-1939
Map 6: Louisiana Confederate Monuments, 1940-Present

Analysis of Results

Much of the debate surrounding Confederate monuments in general tends to focus on whom these statues are memorializing. Arguments center around the ethics and value of honoring men such as Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson, who committed treason against the US as they tried to form a nation built upon slavery and white supremacy.

Unlike many of the other states studied thus far, which average approximately 20% of their monuments as dedicated to specific people, nearly half of all monuments in Louisiana are dedicated to specific figures. Interestingly enough, seven of the eighteen monuments to specific honorees (about 39%) are in New Orleans, including two to Jefferson Davis (one at the house where he died) and one to Robert E. Lee. Indeed, the presence of two Davis statues in New Orleans (as well as two markers denoting the Jefferson Davis Highway) reveals the strong sentiments of urban Louisianians towards the Confederacy.  The existence of two separate statues to Davis, erected nineteen years apart in 1911 and 1930, respectively, demonstrates just how much Louisianians valued his memory and legacy as president of the fledgling nation of which Louisiana proudly was a part, and how strongly they valued his presence in New Orleans during his last days. However, the Lee monuments are unusual since the general never was in Louisiana during the war. Indeed, the erection of these monuments might, rather, attempt to showcase a general support for the Confederacy and what it stood for rather than honoring the actions of one man. Furthermore, Lee’s status as a mythical figure in the postwar South meant that his name carried symbolic weight amongst white Southerners. As such, many communities tried to form a connection with the general, no matter how tenuous, in order to gain honor or respect via their affiliation with him. In addition, about 13,000 Louisiana infantrymen served in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the war, including the infamous Louisiana Tigers, so it is quite possible that veterans, their families, and their descendants wished to pay homage to the great commander whom they or their loved ones served under (Barrett 1988).

Lee Monument, New Orleans, LA (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

While Lee and Jackson are the two most famous figures honored in stone in Louisiana, many others are memorialized as well. Abram Ryan, a Catholic priest who travelled with the Confederate Army, for example, has a monument to him in New Orleans. Given the high proportion of Catholics in the Louisiana population, this monument is likely due to his role in promoting the faith amongst Confederates during the war.

Abram Ryan Monument, New Orleans (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike Ryan’s statue, which is clearly religiously motivated, the monument to Matthew Calbraith Butler is somewhat more puzzling in its existence. Butler was a South Carolinian fire-eater who served as a cavalry commander, initially under Wade Hampton, and later in the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry. Losing his foot at Brandy Station in June 1863, Butler was later sent to South Carolina in an attempt to stave off Sherman’s march through the state. He would serve as the South Carolina Senator from 1877-1895 and as a major general and a member of the Cuban Peace Commission during the Spanish-American War (Begley 2016). In other words, he was not a Louisianian and did not try to defend the state in any specific way during the war.

The monument to Matthew Calbraith Butler stands at the site of Fort Butler, which was initially built in 1862 by Union forces and thus likely named after Benjamin Butler (to whom Matthew Butler did not have any particular relation). Indeed, the only evident relationship between Fort Butler and Matthew Butler is the last name, which suggests that perhaps, the 1999 monument to the Confederate Butler was an attempt to reclaim the name from the infamous “Beast” of New Orleans.

Another strangely placed monument is that to Albert Pike in New Orleans, despite him seeming to have no relationship with the city other than his attempt to create a transcontinental railroad from there to the Pacific in the antebellum period. Another Civil War general, Pike was an Arkansas resident who raised troops of Native Americans, most famously fighting at Pea Ridge in 1862. However, the inscription of the monument does not even mention Pike’s role in the New Orleans railroad or the Civil War (besides noting that he was in the Confederate Army), focusing more on his role within the Freemasons and further complicating its presence in New Orleans.

Other monuments, however, clearly honor native Louisianan Confederates. For example, in Baton Rouge, monuments were erected of Governors Henry Watkins Allen (two of them) and Francis Nicholls, both of whom served in the Confederate Army prior to their election as governor. However, the Nicholls monument (located in the State Capitol) merely displays his name and one of the Allen monuments simply notes his role as Confederate Governor without any other details, suggesting that perhaps they are moreso monuments to their governorships rather than to their service with the Confederacy. However, the other Allen monument, placed near his grave at the location of the old Capitol at Baton Rouge, has an inscription evoking a highly sentimentalist image of the Old South. Indeed, besides noting his role as a Confederate Brigadier General, this monument calls him the “Last Governor of Louisiana under the Old Regime,” suggesting a feeling of resentment towards the “new regime” that forever changed (or “ruined”) the South.

1970s picture of one of two monuments to Governor Henry Watkins Allen, West Baton Rouge Courthouse, LA (courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Library).
Henry Watkins Allen Monument, Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge (Courtesy of LSU Library)
Inscription on the Allen Monument, Old Capitol, Baton Rouge (photo courtesy of Find a Grave)

There is also a monument to Judah P. Benjamin, the Confederate Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. Benjamin served as a Senator from Louisiana until the state seceded, after which he joined the Davis Administration.

Another statue honoring a native Louisianian is that to P.G.T. Beauregard, the man who ordered the first shots fired against Federal forces at Fort Sumter. While more research is needed before a conclusion can be made, it is quite possible that this monument is not only honoring the man as a soldier, but also honoring this iconic moment in time which became the first, seminal act of rebellion against the federal government—an act viewed by Louisianians and other southerners as not at all traitorous or villainous, but bold, brave, and honorable. In other words, by romanticizing the man who began the “war for Southern independence” (as some Confederate sympathizers still describe the Civil War) the monument may well honor the symbolic nature of his actions and thus, the cause for which he fought.

Monument to Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, New Orleans, LA (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Another monument to a “martyr” of the Civil War is that to Charles Didier Dreux, the first Confederate field officer to die in the war, or, in the eyes of Southern sympathizers, the first to die for the “doomed yet noble Lost Cause” for Southern rights. Another monument honors J.J. Alfred Mouton, a Louisiana Confederate general who died in battle at Mansfield during the Red River Campaign. This monument was erected in Lafayette, where he was buried; his relative, R.L. Mouton was the mayor of the town when it was dedicated in 1922, suggesting that perhaps his influence encouraged the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect this monument.

Daily Advertiser article describing the unveiling of the Mouton Monument, April 10, 1922
Monument to Charles Dider Dreux, New Orleans, LA (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

While he did not die in battle, Richard Taylor (the son of the President and war hero, Zachary Taylor and brother-in-law of Jefferson Davis) was also a significant figure for Louisianians during the war. In the early days of 1861, he was the Colonel of the 9th Louisiana Infantry at the First Battle of Bull Run, and in October he was promoted to Brigadier General of the 8th Brigade (which included the famous “Wheat’s Tigers” regiment), leading them through battles in the Shenandoah and the Seven Days. The Confederacy would later promote him once again to command the district of West Louisiana. In this role, Taylor would not only try (unsuccessfully) to recapture New Orleans, but he also protected Shreveport during the Red River Campaign, foiling Gen. Banks’s plan to seize the de facto Confederate capitol during the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill (where the monument to Taylor is located). Taylor was buried in New Orleans following his death, an interment befitting his integral importance to the state.

One monument not included within the SPLC dataset, but is worth noting, is a monument to the so-called “Battle of Liberty Place,” commemorating the 1874 takeover of New Orleans by the White League. Erected in 1891, this monument explicitly praises white supremacy and was used by the Klan as a rallying point even into the 1990s and 2000s. While the phrase “white supremacy” was not carved into the statue until 1932, the implications were clear as far back as its installation in 1891. Indeed, despite the addition of a bronze plaque to contextualize the monument in the 1970s noting that “the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and belief of present-day New Orleans” and the 1993 removal of the white supremacist words in favor of a more neutral plaque, the monument remained extremely controversial until its removal in 2017.

Battle of Liberty Place Monument, 1906, New Orleans, LA (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
1936 Dorothea Lange photo of the Liberty Place Monument inscription titled “One side of the monument erected to race prejudice,” New Orleans, LA (Courtesy of the Library of Congress).

It is important to note the intriguing geographic spread of Louisiana’s monuments. Six monuments (15%) are in Baton Rouge, seven stand (18%) in New Orleans, and three (8%) stand in Shreveport. In other words, 41% of all monuments in Louisiana are in these three cities, showing a remarkable concentration of commemoration in these areas. Given the political important and influence, as well as the symbolic nature of these cities, it makes sense that so many monuments are in these areas. In addition to serving as the cultural and political centers of Louisiana, both Baton Rouge and New Orleans were seized by the Union during the war, breeding intense anger and tensions between Union occupiers and the occupied; therefore, these monuments may well be symbolic of local Louisianans’ attempts to “reclaim their heritage,” honor, and pride from the “Yankees” who “invaded their homes.” Furthermore, as the “last bastion of the Confederacy,” Shreveport holds enormous symbolic weight, as statues there serve to memorialize the “honorable” persistence of the southern—and Louisianans, in particular—troops in the face of overwhelming odds and inevitable defeat. This romantic portrayal of the “final days of the Confederacy” in Louisiana thus gives that state a proud, distinctive identity which also serves well the myth of the Lost Cause in that it grants Louisianians—and southerners, by extension—a symbolic, cultural victory to make up for the actual military victory they were not able to achieve on the battlefield.

Another interesting geographical trend is that many of the monuments follow the Mississippi River, suggesting that there is indeed a likely correlation between the areas with high concentrations of slaves (and thus a slaveholder-dominated socio-political culture, both before and after the war) in Louisiana, and monumentation. In addition, 13 of the 22 monuments (59%) outside of Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans are located on courthouse grounds, suggesting as well that the monuments tend to be concentrated more so in urban areas. These “courthouse monuments” also suggest that honoring the Confederacy via sculpture within these location was more of a civic, and perhaps more politicized, ritual than a martial or mourning tradition. However, unlike other states, which have more of a gradually “honed-in” geographic clustering pattern over time, Louisiana boasts a rather even geographical distribution of its monuments across generations.

Unlike most other states, the United Daughters of the Confederacy did not sponsor a majority of Louisiana’s statues (18 of 38 statues total, about 47%). While it is unknown who sponsored many of the monuments in Louisiana, other sponsors included the Robert E. Lee Monument Association, Louisiana Army National Guard and Louisiana State Government, Grand Consistory of Louisiana, American Legion Auxiliary, and the Beauregard Monument Association. Louisiana has a significantly lower proportion of monuments sponsored by the UDC than other states studied (which had an average of about 65% of monuments sponsored by the UDC). 44% of all UDC-sponsored monuments were erected in the first two decades of the 1900s, prior to America’s entry into WWI, which encompassed the heart of the UDC’s wave of influence amidst the 50th anniversary commemorations of the war and the final years of most of the Civil War generation, as well as the Jim Crow era. However, the state saw an unusual number of monuments erected during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (39%), and one even erected in 1999. Indeed, the comparative later timing of these monuments suggests that perhaps the post-war economic conditions within the state did not allow for the funding of monuments until after WWI, indicating different economic circumstances and trends than other states such as Georgia or Mississippi; these such states had a surge of UDC-sponsored monumentation in the 1900s-1910s but slowed down their monumentation rates following WWI. However, further exploration into the finances of the UDC is needed before any conclusions can be made.

Indeed, the chronology of monumentation overall is interesting. The first monument erected in the SPLC dataset honored Robert E. Lee in 1884. Installed in the center of New Orleans, this statue was sponsored by the Robert E. Lee Monument Association. Outside of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the first monument was erected in Tallulah (northeast Louisiana) in 1890. This heavily agricultural area had a large number of freedmen who were sharecroppers, suggesting racial connotations (ie, whites’ attempts both to exert both symbolic and political supremacy over Blacks in the tense postwar years) behind the erection of this monument. The low number of monuments erected (7) in the period from 1884-1910 separates Louisiana from many other southern states that saw monumentation begin to surge during the later portion of this period. This trend might be indicative of poor economic conditions within Louisiana which stymied more significant memorialization projects. It is unusual that, unlike other states which had a surge of additional monumentation coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war, only 7 monuments (18%) were erected during the semicentennial period of 1911-1915, a rate which was fairly consistent with monumentation in other, non-war anniversary decades. Interestingly, a similar amount of monuments were erected during the Great Depression (6 monuments went up between 1930 and 1936). Given the poor economic conditions of the 1930s, perhaps this monumentation was an attempt by the UDC, which sponsored nearly every monument during this period, to employ workers in projects similar to those of the WPA, while also trying to inspire Louisianans through the challenging financial times of the 1930s by focusing their gaze on the inspiring, heroic, and “noble” acts of their brave Confederate ancestors.

Furthermore, unlike many other states, the American entry into World War One did not result in the immediate erection of any new monuments. New monumentation was a cultural initiative fairly typical of the period, where citizens and political entities alike promoted national unity and celebrated a shared martial American past (with each southern state, of course, still seeking to promote their own native sons as the most shining and inspirational models of a Confederate-brand of “true American” patriotism, valor, and sacrifice that had the ability to transcend time and multiple conflicts). That Louisiana failed to take part in this tradition suggests that it was perhaps fiscal inability rather than cultural factors that resulted in the lack of new monumentation during the World War One period. However, four monuments were dedicated in the 1920s, perhaps serving as outlets for World War I-era patriotism or a collective mourning of Louisianian men who had sacrificed much for both for the Confederacy and for America during WWI. Indeed, the beginning of the decline in the Civil War generation might have been an impetus for monumentation, ensuring that Louisiana society would remember their deeds.

Like many other states, there were only two monuments erected in the 1940s, one in 1940 and one in 1949. While more research is necessary to determine why, it is possible that this drought in monumentation is due to the desire and necessity to save financial resources and materiel during WWII. Indeed, famously, the federal government had made plans to melt down existing monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield if America found itself in dire straits during the war, implying that certainly no excess materials were available to create new monuments. Even after the war, after four years of intense wartime rationing, it is possible that the culture of frugality remained within American society throughout much of the rest of the decade.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, which saw the post-World War Two economic boom, the rise of Cold War sentiment, the impending Civil War Centennial, and the core start of the Civil Rights movement, only four monuments were erected. Perhaps Louisianans chose to fight the majority of the battles of civil rights and race relations in the streets or the courthouses rather than waging a symbolic battle for Confederate memory. However, the figures honored do, nevertheless, suggest at least some kind of symbolic war against civil rights. Of the four statues, two of them were monuments to the former governor, Henry Watkins Allen, one of which was sponsored by the State of Louisiana itself. The other two were to Albert Pike and Judah Benjamin. While the specific connections of these figures to Louisiana were explored above, it is quite possible that they were erected as a response to the end of segregation and the close of the Jim Crow period. As the final Confederate governor and “the last one of the Old Regime,” it is very likely that the Allen monuments, as well as the Pike and Benjamin monuments, were erected to hearken back to the “good old days” of the antebellum South. Indeed, given the tenuous relationship between Pike and the city of New Orleans discussed earlier, it is likely that pro-Southern groups simply chose any famous Confederate with even marginal relations to the state as a show of sympathy towards the Southern cause. While only the two monuments to Allen were erected in 1962 (which could have honored the hundredth anniversary of his promotion to commander or his wounding at Shiloh), the other two were erected either before or after the Civil War centennial. Since the planning, finance, and construction of monuments takes a long time, it is possible that they were intended to commemorate the hundredth anniversary; however, given all the developments in American society at this time, more research into these statues is necessary before arriving at any one conclusion.

A final group of monuments of particular interest is the newest group of post-1960s monuments. These five monuments, erected from 1984 to 2006, range from a Lee statue (Johnson Bayou, LA, erected 1984) to two commemorating the Red River Campaign and Richard Taylor (Pleasant Hill, LA, 1994), to the bizarre Fort Butler Memorial honoring Matthew Calbraith Butler (Donaldsonville, LA, 1999) and the monument in Shreveport sponsored by the Louisiana Army National Guard honoring the Confederate Fort Humbug (2006).While most of these either honor a campaign or an individual figure, the rationale behind their somewhat puzzling individual installations remains unclear. It is clear that there is an ongoing fascination and deeply felt connection with the Civil War within Louisiana, although the nature of these monuments (some of these were erected around the 125th anniversary of the war, which occurred between 1986 and 1990) merits more research.

Indeed, the memory of the war remains contested. In the wake of the deadly Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, the city of New Orleans removed the monuments to Lee, Davis, and Beauregard, as well as the Liberty Place monument. In even more recent years, following renewed controversies over race and Civil War monuments that flared up after the death of George Floyd in 2020, the South’s Defenders Monument in Lake Charles, Confederate Memorial in Plaquemine and the Alfred A. Mouton Statue in Lafayette were removed. As America continues to grapple with the lasting memory, meaning, and legacy of the Civil War, the debates over monumentation continue to rage in Louisiana and elsewhere.

Conclusion

Confederate monuments in the state of Louisiana show a vastly different picture than many other slaveholding states, reflecting the unique nature of slavery, the Civil War era, and Reconstruction in the state. Following the trend of large plantations along the Mississippi River, it is fascinating that a majority of monuments have a fairly strong correlation with areas of high slave concentration, where the political economy and culture of slaveholding society remained ingrained after the war and emancipation for generations to come. Unlike most other states, there is no consistent surge in monumentation, with installations of statues extending well beyond the typical time period into the late 20th century. Also, Louisiana did not particularly commemorate (in stone) significant historical anniversaries, such as the Civil War semicentennial and centennial, on any large scale, possibly due to fiscal inability.

Like several other (though not all) states, Louisiana began its monumentation in the 1880s. However, while other states had a notable surge of monumentation in the 1900s and 1910s, Louisiana’s monumentation remained fairly consistent during this period. Furthermore, Louisiana’s monuments are far more aimed towards honoring specific individuals than other states, suggesting a vastly different approach toward the memorialization and historical memory of the war than the rest of the South. Indeed, many other Southern states tend to focus their monuments more on the contributions of the common Confederate soldier, suggesting both a more shared and more generalized approach to Civil War memory rather than one centered around a few “great men” who shaped the Civil War era, as Louisiana has. The state’s unique approach toward monumentation and memory is also reflected in the lower number of monuments sponsored by the UDC and the somewhat puzzling choice of specific honorees; the eclectic group of sponsors and honorees suggests that many, different organizations had diverse interpretations of the war’s larger meaning, as well as somewhat competing visions of how to properly commemorate the Civil War and what historical narrative of this time period was best or most impactful to hand down to future generations.

While the arguments put forth by individuals on both sides of the Confederate monument debate have merits, many of them overlook the complexities and nuances of Confederate monuments when analyzed by specific location, genre, and origins, as this map and report does with Louisiana. Indeed, the specific context of these individual monuments, their dates of erection, their subject matter, and the full nature of their dedication speeches require reevaluation, or a more complete examination of the individual stories behind these monuments. As these maps show, the context surrounding Confederate monuments in the state of Louisiana is a lot more complex and multi-layered than many have frequently made them out to be.

This research, of course, has its limitations. It does not map schools, buildings, towns, counties, roads, or natural features named after Confederates, all of which are extraordinarily prevalent throughout Louisiana. Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s data used to create these maps was generated through crowdsourced map points, and the exact locations cannot be immediately verified. Furthermore, several monuments do not have dates of dedication or erection, which limits a complete and thorough analysis of the data. Without a thorough examination of the full historical context of each and every monument’s story, such as dedication speeches and events, monument inscriptions, and symbology, final conclusions about the exact historical nature of Confederate monumentation in Louisiana leave many intriguing questions still unanswered. However, these maps and this report seeks to draw attention to the intricacies of monumentation patterns in Louisiana as well as highlight the importance of further research into some of these currently unanswerable questions.

Table 1: Data Sources

NameCreatorDate Valid For DescriptionHyperlink
Louisiana Counties Data.gov2016Shapefile representing Louisiana’s counties. Link
Whose Heritage Master SheetSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)2021Google Sheets dataset containing name, location, date of dedication, and other available information of all Confederate monuments across the United States. Link

 Works Referenced

“Albert Pike Monument.” n.d. Wikimapia.org. http://wikimapia.org/18271838/Albert-Pike-Monument

“Fort Butler.” 2020. Historical Marker Database. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=155976

American Battlefield Trust. n.d. “Civil War Casualties.” https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties

Barrett, John G. 1988. “Lee’s Tigers: The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia (review)” in Civil War History 34, no. 2 (June 1988), 178-179. Project Muse.

Begley, Paul. 2016. “Matthew Calbraith Butler.” https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/butler-matthew-calbraith/

Bradshaw, Jim. 2019. “The Battle of Baton Rouge.” https://64parishes.org/entry/battle-of-baton-rouge-2

Brown, Nikki. 2015. “Jim Crow & Segregation.” https://64parishes.org/entry/jim-crowsegregation

City of New Orleans. 2017. “City of New Orleans Begins Removal of Divisive Confederate Statues Commemorating ‘Cult of the Lost Cause.’” https://www.nola.gov/mayor/news/archive/2017/042417-pr-city-of-new-orleans-begins-removal-of-di/

Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 2020. “Albert Pike.” https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/albert-pike-1737/

Finley, Keith. 2021. “Lynching.” https://64parishes.org/entry/lynching

Hunter, G. Howard. 2016. “Unionist Troops in Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/entry/unionist-troops-in-louisiana

Johnson, David. n.d. “10 Fascinating Facts About the Civil War in Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/10-fascinating-facts-about-the-civil-war-in-louisiana

Louisiana State Museum Online Exhibits. “The Cabildo. Two Centuries of Louisiana History.” https://www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-museum/online-exhibits/the-cabildo/

Marcus, Frances Frank. 1993. “New Orleans to Remove Obelisk Revered by White Supremacists.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/16/us/new-orleans-to-remove-obelisk-revered-by-white-supremacists.html

Moneyhon, Carl. 2020. “Albert Pike.” https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/albert-pike-1737/

Nystrom, Justin. 2020. “Reconstruction.” https://64parishes.org/entry/reconstruction

Rodrigue, John C. 2014. “Slavery in French Colonial Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/entry/slavery-in-french-colonial-louisiana

Rodrigue, John C. 2014. “Slavery in Spanish Colonial Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/entry/slavery-in-spanish-colonial-louisiana

Sacher, John M. 2016. “Antebellum Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/entry/antebellum-louisiana

Sacher, John M. 2011. “Civil War Louisiana.” https://64parishes.org/entry/civil-war-louisiana

Sacher, John M. 2016. “Confederate Soldiers.” https://64parishes.org/entry/confederate-soldiers#:~:text=More%20than%2050%2C000%20white%20men%20from%20Louisiana%20shouldered%20arms%20for%20the%20Confederacy.&text=More%20than%2050%2C000%20white,in%20battle%20or%20from%20disease.

Schweninger, Loren. 2011. “Free People of Color.” https://64parishes.org/entry/free-people-of-color

Simoneaux, Marie. 2018. “Statue of Confederate Officer Charles Dider Dreux Vandalized in New Orleans.” Nola.com. https://www.nola.com/news/crime_police/article_74136d60-dcce-5a07-b0a1-dba1fd3dcf6c.html

The American Battlefield Trust. n.d. “Richard Taylor.” https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/richard-taylor

The Daily Advertiser. 1922. “Mouton Monument is Unveiled with Impressive Program, and is Witnessed by Large Crowd.” https://www.newspapers.com/clip/54643547/the-daily-advertiser/

The New York Times. 1981. “Racism is Issue in Clash Over New Orleans Monument.” https://www.nytimes.com/1981/01/18/us/racism-is-issue-in-clash-over-new-orleans-monument.html

Wall, Bennet H., Rodrigue, John C., Cummins, Light Townsend, Schafer, Judith Kelleher, Haas, Edward F., and Kurtz, Michael L. 2014. Louisiana: A History. Somerset: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Proquest.

Whitney Plantation. n.d. “Slavery in Louisiana.” https://www.whitneyplantation.org/history/slavery-in-louisiana/

Winters, John D. 1963. The Civil War in Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press.

css.php