Louisiana Institute of Higher Education
The Battle that Never Ended: The Long-lasting Impact of the War of 1812 on New Orleans’ Free People of Color—a Case Study
When Andrew Jackson mobilized New Orleans’ civilian population to participate in the war campaign of the winter of 1814/15 against Great Britain, more than 600 free men of color signed up for service in the Louisiana militia, forming two battalions of their own, the 1st Battalion of Free Men of Color under Lt. Col. Fortier and the 2nd Battalion of Free Men of Color under Captain D’Aquin (consisting mainly of refugees from St. Domingue/Haiti) as well as joining several other military units. They fought heroically in combat during the fateful battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Jackson had promised them full equality as American citizens as well as $124 salary and 160 acres of bounty land, the same as white soldiers were to receive, in return for their services, but most of them soon realized that they had been “tricked.” Equal citizenship remained illusive. In fact, the discrimination against their social group, the gens de couleur libre, did not decrease, but increase dramatically after the War of 1812 and escalated towards the Civil War. Not only did the African American Veterans themselves struggle in vain to receive their promised rewards, the government also denied their widows a pension. It took more than sixty years, until during the Reconstruction Era these brave men finally gained equality before the law and, together with their wives, became eligible for Veterans’ pensions through the State of Louisiana and the Federal Government. By then, of course, most of them had long passed away. This presentation includes the cases of African American drummer Jordan Noble and the bi-racial Creole family of Marie Laveau, later known as the Voodoo Queen.
Dr. Ina J. Fandrich holds a Ph.D. (1994) from Temple University, Philadelphia. She was teaching in the fields of Religious History, Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and African and African American Studies for over twenty years at universities throughout the United States, including Temple University, South Dakota State University, Rutgers University, Swarthmore College, and Louisiana State University. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, she chose to stay in New Orleans working mainly as independent scholar, historical consultant, and licensed tour guide. More recently she has also served as Curator of Collections at the New Orleans African American Museum in the historic Tremé neighborhood, where she contributed to ten exhibitions. Dr. Fandrich is the author of the book The Mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveaux: A Study of Powerful Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (Routledge, 2005) and numerous articles. She has lectured on New Orleans African American and Creole history, culture, and religion nationally as well as internationally, providing over 40 presentations at professional gatherings. Her research has been featured in CNN and NPR news reports as well as in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times.