A Black Patriot and a White Priest: Andre Cailloux and Claude Paschal Maistre in Civil War New Orleans
In A Black Patriot and a White Priest, Stephen J. Ochs chronicles the intersection of two lives in Civil War New Orleans -- that of the first black ... Show synopsis In A Black Patriot and a White Priest, Stephen J. Ochs chronicles the intersection of two lives in Civil War New Orleans -- that of the first black military Civil War hero, Captain Andre Cailloux of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, and that of the Reverend Claude Paschal Maistre, the lone Catholic clerical voice of abolition in New Orleans and one of the first white radicals to emerge in the city. Their paths converged on a humid day in July 1863, when Maistre, in defiance of his archbishop, officiated at a large public military funeral for Cailloux, who had perished while courageously leading a doomed charge against the Confederate bastion of Port Hudson. The story of how Cailloux and Maistre arrived at that day and of what happened as a consequence provides a prism through which to view the complex interplay of slavery, race, radicalism, and religion during American democracy's most violent upheaval. Born a slave, Cailloux eventually gained his freedom, attained respectability as a cigar maker within antebellum New Orleans's Afro-Creole society, and became one of the first black officers in the Union Army during the Civil War. In death, Cailloux became a powerful mythic symbol of heroism and freedom for Afro-Creole and English-speaking blacks, as well as for their white radical allies -- such as the French-born Father Maistre -- who regularly invoked his memory in their campaigns for emancipation, suffrage, and civil rights. The enigmatic Father Maistre, a maverick throughout his priestly career, allied himself with the cause of Afro-Creole radicalism and prodded his church to do more on behalf of black Catholics. Suspended by Archbishop Jean-Marie Odin for his outspokenabolitionism, Maistre defiantly maintained a schismatic parish for seven years and publicly supported Radical Reconstruction until his submission to a new archbishop in 1870. Combining social, African American, Civil War, and church history, A Black Patriot and a White Priest provides a vivid picture of antebellum Afro-Creole society, of the black military experience, and of the complex relationship between Afro-Creoles and Roman Catholicism. It illustrates how the crisis of wax transformed two relatively common men into symbols of freedom and hope for people of color, and of dangerous radicalism for many whites. Both Cailloux and Maistre paid dearly for their efforts on behalf of racial justice, but they helped foster an Afro-Creole protest tradition that would plant the seeds of a later, more successful Second Reconstruction.