The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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FOR THE ANGLO-AFRICAN.
THE LOUISIANA NATIVE GUARD AT PORT
THE LOUISIANA NATIVE GUARD AT PORT
Where stand Port Hudson's frowning walls, And brutal, treacherous foes combine, 'Tis not the nation's favored sons Who lead this morn in battle line; But lo! those counted last and least, Stern courage on their faces black— The Louisiana Native Guard— Move first and foremost to attack.
Through shot and shell they onward press, And high our spangled banner bear, Through fires in awful tempests hurl'd, Where none but they themselves would dare; Defiant crowd the jaws of death, While veterans grim by battle scarred, Awe-struck, behold the wondrous charge, Made by this untried, dusky Guard.
On, through ravines of fire they move, Up heights with flaming wrath o'ergrown, To batteries belching forth a hell— Hell furious to sustain its own; And thrice they charge the cannon's mouth, And thrice that day they charge again, Till of that steady, wondrous Guard, The ground is strewn with hundreds slain.
Baptising with his blood our flag, Anselmo falls in the attack, And on those deadly ramparts high Dies Cailloux—blackest of the black— Oh, generous blood that there was shed; And ever fresh historian and bard, In memory's sacred trust shall keep, These heroes of that Hero-Guard.
How blest the nation with such sons! One Winkelreid the Switzer's boast; But here each man's a Winkelreid, Of all our trusty, sable host; And if we e'er may boast of blood, What nobler than the gushing tide Of the young martyr-heroes black, Who thus in front so nobly died.* * * * *
Unlocked, at last, the gates and free The Mississippi's waters run; For, by the generous negro gained, Our flag waves o'er the fortress won. Oh, people who receive the boon, Say from the blood shed by this Guard, Shall Freedom not arise and bloom, To bless the Mississippi's sward?
- The First and Third Regiments of Louisiana Native Guards bravely attacked Port Hudson on May 27, 1863. Some newspaper correspondents mistakenly reported that it was the Second Regiment which had taken part in the assault. In the summer of 1863 Boker's poem circulated in the antislavery press under the title "The Second Louisiana" (see also "The Second Louisiana" in the Christian Recorder, June 13, 1863, and "The Second Louisiana" in the Anglo-African, June 27, 1863). Boker probably wrote the poem in response to early reports, then changed the title to "The Black Regiment" when the mistake became apparent."Col. Daniel's Second Louisiana negro regiment distinguished itself . . . especially in charging upon the enemy's siege guns, losing killed and wounded over 600," reported the Boston Daily Evening Transcript of June 6, 1863 (quoted by James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience during the Civil War [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995], 63). "Nobly done, Second Regiment of Louisiana," proclaimed the Liberator a fortnight later. General Nathaniel Banks's official report praised the First and Third Regiments. The Anglo-African of June 13, 1863, brushed aside reporters' confusion as to which Louisiana regiments had taken part in the battle: "It is immaterial which statement is true, so long as the great fact remains; that no such fighting has been seen since the war began." Smith's precise footnote to "The Louisiana Native Guard at Port Hudson" implies a concern that the right soldiers be given their due.
- Alfred P. Smith (1832–1901), journalist and editor. Born in Saddle River, New Jersey, the son of day laborer and farmer Peter Smith, Alfred P. Smith received a public school education (David Steven Cohen, "Alfred P. Smith: Bergen County's Latter-Day Ben Franklin," Journal of Rutgers University Libraries 38 : 23–24). In the winter of 1858–59, Smith petitioned New Jersey's state legislature to "take the initiatory steps to give colored persons the right of suffrage" (Minutes of Votes and Proceedings of the Eighty-Third General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, Convened at Trenton, Jan. 11, 1859 [Salem, NJ: Sharp, 1859], 388). During the war years, he contributed letters to the Paterson Daily Guardian. The Anglo-African printed a cluster of poems attributed to Smith over a seven-month period in 1863: "A Tribute: In Memory of Edward M. Thomas" (April 18, 1863); "The Patriot's Vow" (May 16, 1863); "The Fast God Hath Appointed" (May 30, 1863); "The Louisiana Native Guard at Port Hudson" (August 8, 1863); "To a Young Friend" (August 15, 1863); and "A War Song for the Black Volunteers" (October 10, 1863). Smith's Anglo-African verse expresses his strong support for African American soldiers. Earlier in the war, he took a strong stand against colonization schemes (see "Letter to the President," Paterson Daily Guardian, reprinted in Douglass' Monthly, October 1862 [730–31].According to T. Robins Brown and Schuyler Warmflash, from 1876 until his death, Smith took care of his widowed mother and largely stayed at home, because of "increased disability" (The Architecture of Bergen County, New Jersey: The Colonial Period to the Twentieth Century [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001], 170). At home, however, he worked a press and established A. P. Smith's Paper in 1881. The title, reminiscent of Frederick Douglass' Paper, did not last long; Smith renamed his publication The Landscape: A Country Newspaper in 1882. The monthly ran until July 1901.
- The phrase "jaws of death" echoes Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854). Smith was not alone in drawing a parallel between the bravery of Tennyson's heroes and that of African American soldiers in the Union Army. See, for example, George H. Boker's "The Second Louisiana" (Anglo-African, June 27, 1863) and J. Madison Bell's "The Black Brigade" (Anglo-African, February 6, 1864).
- Anselmo/Anselmas Planciancios (1822?–May 27, 1863); sergeant, Company E, First Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards. Prior to his enlistment, free-born Planciancios worked as a driver to support his family (Stephen S. Ochs, A Black Patriot and a White Priest: André Cailloux and Claude Paschal Maistre in Civil War New Orleans [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000], 80). He was chosen to carry the regimental colors during the Port Hudson attack: the dangerous role was perceived as an honor and a mark of military distinction. Early in the battle, Planciancios was mortally wounded in the head: "He hugged the colors to his heart and fell forward on them," reported the Boston Journal (Anglo-African, June 27, 1863, ).
- André Cailloux (1825–May 27, 1863); captain, Company E, First Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards. Born into slavery in Plaquemines Parish, Cailloux secured his manumission in 1846. By 1856 he had established himself as a cigar maker and paid for a family home in New Orleans. He was a husband and a father and was well respected within his community. Smith may have drawn on reports that Cailloux "prided himself on his color" (Anglo-African, June 27, 1863, ; Stephen S. Ochs, A Black Patriot and a White Priest: André Cailloux and Claude Paschal Maistre in Civil War New Orleans [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000], 9).Cailloux was one of about a thousand free people of color who enlisted in the Native Guards Militia, before New Orleans fell to Union forces at the end of April 1862 (Ochs, 70). In response to General Benjamin Butler's summer call for Afro-Creole men to join Union regiments of Louisiana Native Guards, Cailloux helped to raise what would become Company E of the First Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards. The regiment was mustered into service on September 27, 1862, with nineteen Afro-Creole line officers, Captain Cailloux among them.The soldiers of Company E led the attack on Port Hudson (May 27, 1863), with Cailloux at their head. He was wounded and then killed during the regiment's charge. His bravery and leadership were praised in the Northern press, but Confederate soldiers or white Union commanders prevented Cailloux's comrades from recovering his body and the bodies of his men. The corpses lay on the battlefield until Port Hudson surrendered (Ochs, 148). Cailloux's remains were then brought back to New Orleans, where a grand public funeral was held on July 29. Huge crowds brought city streets to a standstill. Stephen Ochs describes Cailloux as "the first nationally publicized black warrior-hero of the Civil War" (156).
- Arnold von Winkelried, a Swiss soldier reputed to have turned the tide of the Battle of Sempach (1386). When the Swiss found themselves surrounded by Austrian enemies, Winkelried "seized with both arms as many of the enemy's spears as he was able, buried them in his body, and sank dead to the ground, while the confederates rushed forward through the breach, over the body of their heroic and self-devoted compatriot" (Frederick Kohlrausch, A History of Germany; From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, trans. James D. Haas [New York: Appleton, 1852], 220).
- Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863, and days later, the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson surrendered. The capture of Vicksburg reopened the Mississippi to navigation. Smith's line of asterisks preceding this stanza creates a typographical boundary that represents a temporal divide between the moment of the Battle of Port Hudson and the moment of the fort's surrender.