First of Many: Louisiana Native Guards


The black and mixed-race troops of the Louisiana Native Guards offered to serve both South and North.

By Robert P. Broadwater

In general histories of the war, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry is usually presented as being the first African-American regiment in the Union Army to experience the trial of combat. In fact, the 54th Massachusetts' assault on Battery Wagner took place almost two months after the Louisiana Native Guards had stormed a similar Confederate fortification at Port Hudson, Louisiana. They were the first officially mustered black regiment to fight for the Union, as well as the only unit in the Union Army to have black officers as well as white. Owing to the fact that they were far from the spotlight of media attention, their accomplishments were never fully recognized during the war. The men of the Native Guards came from the New Orleans region. Most were free men of mixed-race bloodlines whose families had been given their freedom by the Federal government when New Orleans became an American possession through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.


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