Military leader, artisan
Captain André Cailloux was the first black hero of the Civil War. Gunned down on the battlefield while leading an ill-fated charge against a Confederate Army stronghold, Cailloux's body was found forty-one days later among other black dead on a Port Hudson, Mississippi battleground. Historian Steven J. Ochs, in A Black Patriot and a White Priest, said of Cailloux: "For black people, he became a symbol of valor, of rocklike determination, a symbol of black manhood. He had given the lie to the notion that blacks could not fight bravely."
André Cailloux was born into slavery on August 25, 1825 on a plantation owned by Joseph Duvernay, in Plaquemines Parish. Cailloux's mother, Josephine, who had been sold four times since 1813, was purchased by Duvernay while she was pregnant with André. Josephine had already given birth to two sons by Duvernay: Molieré and Antoine who were also purchased by Joseph Duvernay. The third child that Josephine was carrying was fathered by a slave named André Cailloux, who was born to a twenty-year-old slave named Francisca on November 30, 1793. The elder André Cailloux was inherited by Aimee Duvernay Bailey and her husband, William Bailey, from Aimeé's family. André's carpentry and masonry skills made him quite valuable to the Baileys. Aimée sold the elder André to her brother Joseph after her husband's death on March 12, 1827. In December of the same year, elder and younger André and Josephine all became the property of Aimée Bailey.
At age two, in July 1827, Cailloux was baptized at St. Louis Cathedral. In 1828, Joseph freed André's half brothers: six year old Antoine and eight year old Molieré. They became the wards of their aunt Aimée and were united with their half brother André and his family. Aimeé Bailey sold Josephine on June 20, 1830. In the same year, Aimée moved to New Orleans, taking her two wards, Moliére and Antoine, and her slaves. For unknown reasons, the elder André left Aimée Bailey's household between the years 1834 and 1846.
Aimée married Mathieu Lartet, a French immigrant. Months after they were married, the couple asked their neighbor J. B. Glaudin, a free man of color, to train fifteen-year-old Moliére, thirteen year old Antoine, and one of their slaves, nine-year-old John in cigar making. The three children taught André the trade as they learned it themselves. André may have also later been trained by Glaudin. In 1845, the Lartets petitioned to free both twenty-one-year-old André and John. They were freed in 1846.
Cailloux soon married Felicie Coulon, who was born in 1818. Her mother, Feliciana, was a slave-concubine of sugar planter, Valetin Encalada. Felicie's father was Antoine Coulon, who was most likely a slave. Encalada, nearing the end of his life, freed Feliciana and Bastien, Felicie's older half-brother, and gave them financial support. Feliciana saved her money that she made as a domestic servant and purchased her daughter and Jean Louis, the infant grandson that Felicie gave birth to in 1839, from Encalada.
In December of the same year that Cailloux became free, Feliciana emancipated Felicie and seven-year-old Jean Louis, whom Cailloux legally adopted in 1847. At this time, Felicie was pregnant with Cailloux's baby. The baby boy, Eugene, was born in early June 1847. Three weeks later on June 22, 1847, Cailloux and Felicie wed at St. Mary's Assumption in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. The couple had three more children: Althalie Clemence, born August, 20, 1850; Hortense, born January 28, 1854, and died later in the same year; and Odile, born May 6, 1857.
On January 22, 1849, Cailloux purchased his mother, then forty-five-year-old Josephine, for $100 Cailloux owned other slaves, but he purchased his mother with the intention of emancipating her as soon as possible. No record of her emancipation exists; it is possible that Josephine died before her son could free her. As one of 156 Afro-Creole cigar makers in New Orleans, Cailloux had security in an occupation that was not accessible to free people of color in the rest of the United States. This security, however, was uncertain for the Caillouxs and most other free blacks. Times became tough for the Caillouxs in the 1850 as Andre had to compete with large cigar factories and as the 1850s led to the Civil War, the environment in New Orleans for free people of color became hostile. In the face of such hostility, Cailloux was proud of his heritage, describing himself as the blackest man in New Orleans.
In October 1860, Cailloux was elected secretary of the Society of the Friends of Order and Mutual Assistants. This order was one of many aid societies of the Afro-Creole population of the mid-1800s. In the same year, Cailloux helped to organize a Confederate regiment of free blacks. Cailloux served as its first lieutenant. The black soldiers did not participate in battle but were assigned to training and ceremonial duties. The militia disbanded on the evening of the Union takeover and occupation in 1862.
Fights for Equality, Respect, and Freedom
In July 1862, Cailloux helped to organize a Union regiment from people in his community and he became its captain. The regiment, comprised mostly of free men of color as well as some runaway slaves, faced hostile treatment from both the government and the white members of the Union army. White soldiers were openly disrespectful to black officers. Black officers and soldiers were scapegoats for many of the real and perceived flaws in the Union army.
Despite these conditions, Cailloux was admired by both Union and Confederate sympathizers for his polished professional manner, attractive looks, and bilingualism: he, like many of the free people of color, spoke both English and French. But this admiration would slight when compared to the adulation he received posthumously.
Port Hudson and Vicksburg were the two remaining Confederate strongholds. On May 27, 1863, Cailloux led a charge on the battlefield towards the Confederate army. Two hundred yards from the Confederate lines, gunfire was exchanged. Cailloux was shot in the arm. He kept on charging. The second shot to the head instantly killed him.
Cailloux's body was retrieved from the battleground forty-one days after his death. Cailloux's bloated, disfigured corpse was identified solely by his ring from the Friends of Order. On the day of his funeral, July 29, 1863, downtown streets were crowded with thousands of people, mostly black, waving flags. Claude Maistre, a Catholic priest and abolitionist, delivered an eloquent eulogy, calling Cailloux a martyr for the cause of freedom. The New Orleans black newspaper run by Afro-Creole radicals, L'Union, praised Cailloux for his patriotism and sacrifice. Cailloux's courage and sacrifice contradicted the myth that black men were not capable of fighting in battle. Helen Johnson, Cailloux's great-great-granddaughter, praised her ancestor to the Associated Press: "My mother was proud of him, proud of the Cailloux name. She would beam when she would say her great-grandfather was a Civil War hero. I often think how happy she would be to know that others have remembered André Cailloux and the contributions he made."
- Born in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on August 25
- Baptized at age two
- Freed at age twenty-one
- Marries Felicie Coulon on June 22
- Purchases his mother on January 22
- Elected secretary of the Society of the Friends of Order and Mutual Assistants in October; organizes a Confederate regiment of free blacks
- Organizes a Union regiment of free blacks in July
- Dies in Port Hudson, Mississippi on May 27
Ochs, Stephen J. A Black Patriot and a White Priest. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
Mullener, Elizabeth. "Freed Slave Fought for Union after New Orleans Fell during Civil War." Associated Press State and Local Wire, 15 November 1998.
Ochs, Stephen J. "Black Officer Gains Almost Mythic Status in Death." Washington Times, 13 May 2000.
"Andre Cailloux." frenchcreoles.com. http://www.frenchcreoles.com/CreoleCulture/famouscreoles/andrecailloux/andrecailloux.htm (Accessed 25 December 2005).
Ochs, Stephen J. "'American Spartacus': Captain André Cailloux of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards." Georgetown Preparatory School. http://www.gprep.org/fac/sjochs/Times%20article-2.htm (Accessed 25 December 2005).