September 14, 1874 is an important day in Louisiana History. On this day 5,000 disgruntled members of the “Crescent League”, a paramilitary organization of the Democratic Party who were unhappy with reconstruction, charged New Orleans. There intent was to over-throw Governor Kellogg and Lt. Governor C.C. Antoine from the state capital (during the Reconstruction period New Orleans was the state capital of Louisiana 1864-1879).
Initially the Crescent League defeated 3,500 Metropolitan Police and state militia. The insurgents held the state house, armory and downtown for three days, retreating before arrival of federal troops that 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 eleven 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 towards 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 September 14, 1874 should be taught in Louisiana History and Civics classes and at the very least should not be forgotten. In the past week, this idea has grown support as Governor Jindal has declared Sept. 14th 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 it’s challenges. Many come to New Orleans to learn about it’s 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. 14th should be a day for New Orleanians to learn about their history.