Sept. 14, 1874, was an important day in Louisiana history. On this day, 5,000 disgruntled members of the Crescent League, a paramilitary organization of the Democratic Party that was unhappy with Reconstruction, charged New Orleans. Their intent was to overthrow Gov. William Pitt Kellogg and Lt. Gov. C.C. Antoine from the state capital (during the Reconstruction period, 1864-1879, New Orleans was the state capital of Louisiana).
Initially, the Crescent League defeated 3,500 Metropolitan Police and state militia. The insurgents held the statehouse, armory and downtown for three days, retreating before arrival of federal troops who restored the elected government.
Eleven police officers died in the battle protecting the elected officials.
The event, now known as the Battle of Liberty Place, was nine years after the Civil War and veterans were on both sides of this battle; many were too young to have served in the Civil War.
Today, there is a monument at the Mississippi River near Canal Street that marks the day of the Battle of Liberty Place and has the words: “A CONFLICT OF THE PAST THAT SHOULD TEACH US LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE.”
Remembering those lessons, perhaps the story of how 11 officers died protecting C.C. Antoine, the grandson of an African chief who was sold into slavery by a rival tribe, could be used to reduce the tension toward police forces and at the same time showcase the opportunity that America presents.
Mr. Antoine was a successful businessman, he invested in railroad stocks and raised racehorses. In 1880, he became president of the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company and was a co-partner in a cotton factorage. In 2008, the C.C. Antoine Celebration was established as an annual event in Shreveport.
The events of Sept. 14, 1874, should be taught in Louisiana history and civics classes and at the very least should not be forgotten. Recently, this idea has grown support as Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared Sept. 14 a “Statewide Day of Prayer” for law enforcement. Tulane professor Richard Marksbury recently proposed a “New Orleans Cultural Heritage Day.”
Our country’s history of integrating numerous cultures into one city has had its challenges.
Many come to New Orleans to learn about Civil War history as well as visit the WWII museum and learn about the reconstruction of Europe. Monuments create an outdoor museum and provide tours for visitors to learn about American history. Sept. 14 should be a day for New Orleanians to learn about their history.