Donning original Buffalo Soldiers uniforms, Ponchatoula historians Melvin McElwee and Bobby Marten took to the stage of Zion Outreach Center to tell eager listeners of the role Louisiana slaves and freed Blacks played in the Civil War.
They spoke to a large number of students on June 19.
“I’m going to introduce you to another perspective of history, it very important to know where we came from. History is sometime positive and sometime negative,” McElwee said. “Louisiana has a rich history. We are talking about the Buffalo Soldiers.”
McElwee, who is president of the Louisiana Native Guard Association, said, “The 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry was formed in New Orleans in the Greenville subsection of New Orleans where Audubon Park and Audubon Gulf Course is located today. The men of the Louisiana Native Guards came from New Orleans. Most free men of mixed race bloodline.
On July 28, 1866, there was massacre in New Orleans at Mechanic Hall on Canal Street as a retaliation against the Civil War and against rights for Blacks.
The Louisiana Native Guard was used to restore order and later used by the military to expand the Western Front. This laid the foundation for the birth of the Buffalo Soldiers.
He said when the white officers left New Orleans, the Native Guard was left behind under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler. Butler burned New Orleans and marched toward a little important railroad town of Ponchatoula.
The Union forces captured and burned Ponchatoula in March 1863 and the soldiers marched toward Camp Moore in Tangipahoa.
Trooper McElwee answered more questions:
Is the Louisiana Native Guard the same as the Buffalo Soldiers?
Civil War veterans were among the first enlisted soldiers to be a part of the organization of the 9th (Horse) Cavalry Unit founded in Greenville, LA (At Audubon Parks golf course).
How did they get the names LNG and BS?
Louisiana Governor Thomas D. Moore, in which Camp Moore is named after in Tangipahoa, LA, issued a resolution to organize an African American unit during the Civil War. The resolution was named “Defenders of the Native Land.” After the Civil War, the 9th (Horse) Cavalry along with 10th (Horse) cavalry were used by the Federal government to occupy lands in the west. The Cheyenne Indians observed the Negro soldier’s coarse hair, calm demeanor, and agile fighting abilities and stated that they resembled the buffalo’s mane and protection instincts, thus naming the Negro Soldier, :Buffalo Soldier.”
In Louisiana were more escaped slaves Buffalo Soldiers or free Blacks?
The Civil War fighting efforts were comprised of both slaves and free Blacks. The statistics of composition is unknown to me. Refer to The Louisiana Native Guards written by James G. Hollandsworth Jr., produced by Louisiana State University Press.
Since the soldiers were allies of the Union, did this mean victory in burning Ponchatoula?
It aided in the continuation of efforts to bring civil rights to white women, and the Negro race. Victory has never been reached. Racism still continues this day.
Did Louisiana soldiers go on to enlist in the United States Colored Troops?
The United States Colored Troops was the name given to the United States new effort to grow the number of colored units. It was comprised of former slaves, and free people of color.
Is the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary a division of the Louisiana Native Guard, the Union, or the Buffalo Soldiers?
The Louisiana Native Guard is one of, if not the first, Negro unit of soldiers organized during the Civil War. It was in existence before the 54th Massachusetts regiment. General Benjamin Butler, a lawyer from Massachusetts, was responsible for waging arguments that aided the Union in enlisting slaves into the Union’s war effort. The Buffalo Soldiers were remnants of the Civil War effort, and beneficiaries of the newly formed United States.
How was the chapter formed?
Trooper McElwee, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant, is also a member of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. As president he is leading the Louisiana Native Guard Association’s request to become an official chapter of the 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. The Louisiana Native Guard Association came into existence as non-profit in the State of Louisiana on July 22, 2016. The 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association has at least 41 active chapters across the United States.
Does the chapter focus on the 9th and 10th Troop only?
No. The Louisiana Native Guard Association focuses on all elements of its role that aided in the development of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Each chapter compiles historical education for its particular area.
Why is this group—and the history of the soldiers– valuable to our community a century later?
The study of American History aids in understanding the relationships of the present day. Understanding is the principal thing. With understanding comes tolerance for coexistence.
How can the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers be continued from a military standpoint?
It has and will continue. It is the United States Military that has lead the way in creating understanding. The mission has always been to create an understanding for coexistence.
By Eddie Ponds
The Drum Founding Publisher