Department of the Gulf: "General Order No. 63"

Sketch of an eagle spreading its wings with a banner in its mouth

Union General Benjamin Butler issued General Orders No. 63 in August 1862, allowing the Louisiana militia unit "Native Guards" to enlist for volunteer service with the Union army. The "Native Guards" was formed of freed men of color from the city of New Orleans. Butler includes two orders issued by Louisiana Confederate authorities and these documents are noted with smaller font in this transcription to help avoid confusion.


General Order No. 63


Whereas, on the 23d day of April, in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-one, at a public meeting of the free colored population of the city of New Orleans, a military organization, known as the "Native Guards" (colored) had its existence, which military organization was duly and legally enrolled as a part of the militia of the State, its officers being commissioned by Thomas O. Moore, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the militia of the State of Louisiana, in the form following, that is say:


"By Thomas Overton Moore, Governor of the State of Louisiana, and Commander-in-Chief of the militia thereof.

"In the name and by the authority of the State of Louisiana:

"Know Ye, that ------- --------, having been duly and legally elected Captain of the of the "Native Guards" (colored,) 1st Division of the Militia of Louisiana, to serve for the term of the war.

"I do hereby appoint and commission him Captain as aforesaid, to take rank as such, from the second of May, eighteen hundred and sixty-one.

"He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of his office, by doing and performing all manner of things thereto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all officers, non-commissioned officers and privates under his command, to be obedient to his orders as Captain; and he is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Louisiana, or other superior officers, according to the Rules and Articles of War, and in conformity to law.

"In testimony whereof, I have caused these letters to be made patent, and the seal of the State to be hereunto annexed.

"Given under my hand, at the city of Baton Rogue, on the second day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one.

(Signed) By the Governor: Thos. O. Moore

(Signed) P.D. Hardy, Secretary of State


"I, Manrice Grivot, Adjutant and Inspector General of the State of Louisiana, do hereby certify that ------- --------, named within commission, did, on the second day of May, in the year 1861, deposit in my office his written acceptance of the office to which he is commissioned, and he oath of office taken according to the law. 

(Signed) M. Grivot, Adj't and Inspt. Gen. La."

And whereas, such military organization elicited praise and respect, and was complimented in General Orders for its patriotism and loyalty, and was ordered to continue during the war, in the words following:

"Headquarters, Louisiana Militia, Adjutant General's Office, March 24, 1862.

"Order No. 426.

"I. The Governor and Commander-in-Chief relying implicitly upon the loyalty of the free colored population of the city and State, for the protection of their homes, their property, and for Southern rights, from the pollution of a ruthless invader, and believing that the military organization which existed prior to the 15th February, 1862, and elicited praise and respect for the patriotic motives which prompted it, should exist for and during the war, calls upon them to maintain their organization, and to hold themselves prepared for such orders as may be transmitted to them.

"II. The Colonel Commanding will report without delay to Major General Lewis, commanding State Militia.

"By order of Thos. O. Moore

(Signed) "M. Grivot, Adjutant General."

And whereas, said military organization, by the same order, was directed to report to Major General Lewis for service, but did not leave the city of New Orleans when he did:

Now, therefore, the Commanding General believing that a large portion of this militia force of the State of Louisiana are willing to take service in the Volunteer forces of the United States and be enrolled and organized "to defend their homes from ruthless invaders;" to protect their wives and children and kindred from wrong and outrage; to shield their property from being seized by bad me; and to defend their Flag of their native country, as their fathers did under Jackson at Chalmette, against Packenham and his myrmidons, carrying the black flag...

Appreciating their motives, relying upon their "well-known loyalty and patriotism," and with "praise and respect" for these brave men—it is ordered that all members of the "Native Guards," aforesaid, and all other free colored citizens recognized by the first and late Governor and authorities of the State of Louisiana as a portion of the Militia of the State who shall enlist in the Volunteer Service of the United States, subject to the approval of the President of the United States. All such persons are required at once to report themselves at the Touro Charity Building, Front Levee Street, New Orleans, where proper officers will muster them into the service of the United States.

By command of Major-General Butler.

R.S. Davis, Capt. and A.A.A. Gen.



"General Orders from Headquarters, Department of the Gulf, issued by Major-General B. F. Butler, from May 1st, 1862, to the present time," Library of Congress.