Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A man, Captain Andre' Cailloux (1825-1863), and His Excellence

Funeral of Andre Cailloux in New Orleans, July 29, 1863 from the August 29, 1863 edition of Harpers Weekly Mpleahy (talk | contribs)
Captain Andre' Cailloux (1825-May 27, 1863) was a captain of Company E of The First Louisiana Native Guard formed by General B. F. Butler in New Orleans. The Native Guard, According to African American historian, George Washington Williams, was made up of all well educated, wealthy, and influential free "colored" men.

"One of the most efficient officers was Capt. Andre' Callioux, a man whose identity with his race could not be mistaken ; for he prided himself on being the blackest man in the Crescent City. Whether in the drawing-room or on tho parade, he was ever the centre of attraction. Finely educated, polished in his manners, a splendid horseman, a good boxer, bold, athletic, and daring, he never lacked admirers. His men were ready at any time to follow him to the cannon's mouth; and he was as ready to lead them. This regiment petitioned their commander to allow them to occupy the post of danger in the battle, and it was granted." See The Negro in the American rebellion: his heroism and his fidelity, By William Wells Brown (below).

On May 26, 1863, those under the command of Major-General Banks were positioned before the enemy's artillery. At least the First Louisiana Native Guard and the Third Regiment Native Guard (ex-slaves and white officers) would be sent out first. There were four lines of "Negro" soldiers totaling 1080.

"When the order for the assault was given, the men moved forward in quick time, and then changed it into double-quick. The line was almost perfect, and the movement was executed with spirit and dash. The enemy held his fire until the assaulting column was within four hundred yards of the point of attack. Suddenly the earth quaked, and a sheet of fire flashed along the forts; a cloud of smoke rose over the ramparts, and the air was filled with demons of destruction and death—hissing, screaming, howling, and leaping at their black victims with the rapidity of lightning. The slaughter was dreadful, but the shattered, quivering, bleeding columns only wheeled by companies to the rear, reformed at a shoct distance from the foe, and again gallantly dashed down through the Valley of Death and chargod for the guns on the bluff. But the sixty-two pound shot, the shell, canister, and minie-ball were more than infantry could contend with in the open field; the pierced and thinned columns recoiled before such terrible odds.

Lieutenant-colonel Henry Finnegas fearlessly led his columns to the assault over the same crimson path, obstructed by the dead and wounded, ploughed by shell, but lighted forever by fadeless deeds of martial valor. The mill of death was now grinding with rapacious greed. The enemy was serving his guns with rapidity and accuracy; the Union gunboats were hurling monstrous shot and shell into the river side of the enemy's work; but all eyes, of friend and foe, were turned towards the remorseless hell of conflict, bristling with bayonets and glinting with the red flash of shotted cannon, into which Negro troops were being hurled by the inexorable orders of Brigadier-general William D wight. It was of no avail that these troops fought like white veterans. A deep bayou ran under the guns on the bluff, and although the troops reached its edge, some fifty yards from the enemy's guns, they could not cross it. After Colonel Nelson had become convinced that his men could not carry the forts, he despatched an aide to General Dwight to report the difficulties he had to contend with. "Tell Colonel Nelson," he sternly said," I shall consider that he has accomplished nothing unless he takes those guns!"

Not a man faltered when the torn and decimated lines were reformed and led over the same field to the same terrible fate. Shell and solid shot severed limbs from trees, tore off tops, and, in falling, these caused the men much annoyance. The colors of the First Louisiana were pierced by bullets and almost severed from the staff. The color-sergeant, Anselmas Planciancois, was gallantly bearing the colors in front of the enemy's works when a shell cut the flag in two and carried away part of the sergeant's head. His brains and blood stained the beautiful banner, which fell over him as he embraced it in death. In a struggle for the flag the generous rivalry of two corporals was ended by the shot of a sharp-shooter which felled one of them. He dropped upon the lifeless body of the color sergeant, while his successful rival carried the colors proudly through the conflict.

Captain Andre Cailloux, of Company E, First Regiment Native Guards, won for himself a proud place among the military heroes of the Negro race for all time. He was of pure Negro blood, but his features showed the result of generations of freedom and culture among his ancestry. He was a man of fine presence, a leader by instinct and education. He was possessed of ample means, and yet was not alienated from his race in any interest. He loved to boast of genuine blackness, and his race pride made him an acceptable, successful, and formidable leader. It was the magnetic thrill of his patriotic utterances that rallied a company for the service of his country the previous year. Upon all occasions he had displayed talents as a commander, and gave promise of rare courage when the trying hour should come. It had come at length: not too soon for this eager soldier, if unhappily too early for the cause he loved! During the early part of this action the enemy had trained his guns upon the colors of these Negro troops, and they especially received the closest attention of the sharp-shooters.

Captain Cailloux commanded the color company. It had suffered severely from the first, but the gallant captain was seen all along the line encouraging his men by brave words and inspiring them by his noble example. His left arm was shattered, but he refused to leave the field. Now in English and then in French, with his voice faint from exhaustion, he urged his men to the fullest measure of duty. In one heroic effort he rushed to the front of his company and exclaimed, "Follow me!" When within about fifty yards of the fort a shell smote him to death, and he fell, like the brave soldier he was, in the advance with his face to the foe. It was a soldier's death, and just what he would have chosen.

The correspondent of the New York Times gave the following account of the conduct of these regiments:

"During this time they rallied, and were ordered to make six distinct charges, losing thirty-seven killed, and one hundred and fifty-five wounded, and sixteen missing, the majority, if not all, of these being in all probability now lying dead on the gory field, and without the rites of sepulture; for when by flag of truce our forces in other directions were permitted to reclaim their dead, the benefit, through some neglect, was not extended to these black regiments.

"The deeds of heroism performed by these colored men were such as the proudest white men might emulate. Their colors are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains. The color-sergeant of the First Louisiana, on being mortally wounded, hugged the colors to his breast, when a struggle ensued between the two color-corporals on each side of him as to who should have the honor of bearing the sacred standard, and during this generous contention one was seriously wounded. One black lieutenant actually mounted the enemy's works three or four times, and in one charge the assaulting party came within fifty paces of them. Indeed, if only ordinarily supported by artillery and reserve, no one can convince us that they would not have opened a passage through the enemy's works.

"Captain Cailloux, of the First Louisiana, a man so black that he actually prided himself upon his blackness, died the death of a hero, leading on his men in the thickest of the fight. One poor wounded fellow came along with his arm shattered by a shell, and jauntily swinging it with the other, as he said to a friend of mine, 'Massa, guess I can fight no more.' I was with one of the captains, looking after the wounded going in the rear of the hospital, when we met one limping along towards the front. On being asked where he was going, he said, 'I been shot bad in the leg, captain, and dey want me to go to de hospital, but I guess I can gib 'em some more yet.' I could go on filling your columns with startling facts of this kind, but I hope I have told enough to prove that we can hereafter rely upon black arms as well as white in crushing this infernal rebellion. I long ago told you there was an army of 250,000 men ready to leap forward in defence of freedom at the first call. You know where to find them, and what they are worth.

"Although repulsed in an attempt which, situated as things were, was all but impossible, these regiments, though badly cut up, are still on hand, and burning with a passion ten times hotter from their fierce baptism of blood." See A history of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, pages 218-223, by George Washington Williams.

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