the battle of liberty place -- 8/8/22

Today's selection -- from Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History by Alex von Tunzelmann.  In one of many instances of a backlash against Reconstruction, in 1874 the New Orleans “Cres­cent City White League” tried to oust Republican Governor William Pitt Kellogg:
"In 1874, [James Longstreet, an ex-Confederate gen­eral who settled in New Orleans, accepted Reconstruction, and joined the New Orleans Metropolitan Police Force,] would get caught up in perhaps the most dra­matic outbreak of white supremacist violence in New Orleans: the Battle of Liberty Place.

"The battle was an armed insurrection against the Republi­can state government of Louisiana, led by members of the Cres­cent City White League. The White League was a paramilitary group that had been formed by well-to-do young gentlemen in response to scare stories about Black men assaulting white women. They had already turned to terrorism: in August 1874, they murdered six white Republicans and up to twenty Black witnesses in what became known as the Coushatta Massacre. Two weeks later, they attempted a coup in New Orleans itself.

The "Louisiana Outrages," as illustrated in Harper's Weekly,1874

"The 1872 election in New Orleans returned a Republican gov­ernor, William Pitt Kellogg, but the result had been disputed. Now, the White League planned to overthrow Kellogg and in­stall their preferred Democratic candidate. On September 14, the White League, commanded by former Confederate General Frederick Ogden, faced down the New Orleans militia and po­lice, commanded by former Confederate General James Longstreet. There was a twenty-minute battle, but the 8,400 men of the White League easily overwhelmed 3,600 militia and police. Thirty-two lay dead, with seventy-nine wounded.

"Longstreet fought valiantly, but was pulled from his horse and wounded by a spent bullet. Kellogg managed to telegraph a message to President Ulysses S. Grant, who sent warships and federal troops. The White League backed down. The white con­servative regime had lasted only a few days.

"Though the coup failed, the Battle of Liberty Place was exalted by white supremacists as a symbolic victory against 'Northern tyranny.' Its anniversary became a day of celebration, with a mass in St. Louis Cathedral, ceremonies at the graves of the White League dead, and a parade to toe-tapping hits such as the 'Ku Klux Klan Polka' and the 'White League Waltz.'"



Alex von Tunzelmann


Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History


Harper Collins Publishers


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