Colonial Militia in Louisiana
The first settlers of North America coming from the Old World often had to be self-reliant when it came to common defense. By the 18th century, organized militia existed for this purpose. The colonial French settlers of Louisiana included citizen soldiers, who had to be ready at a moment’s notice to defend their new homeland.
Spain gained control of the colony in 1769, and further organized and expanded the Louisiana militia. During the American Revolution, Spain was an ally of the rebelling colonists. Under Governor Bernardo de Galvez, Louisiana militia troops participated in military action against the British in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, including battles at Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Pensacola.
The Early Republic
In 1803, Louisiana was brought in as U.S. territory and its citizen soldiers became part of an American force. In 1812, Louisiana became a state and its militia became the foundation for the Louisiana National Guard. The U.S. and Great Britain again clashed in the War of 1812. The final battle of the war, the Battle of New Orleans, took place in present day St. Bernard Parish. General Andrew Jackson used Louisiana citizen soldiers as well as regular troops to deliver a crushing defeat to the British army. Decades later, Louisiana militia participated in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War.
The Civil War to Spanish American War
Louisiana militia, including the famed “Louisiana Tigers”, took an active part in the Civil War within the state as well as in other theaters, most notably as part of the Army of Northern Virginia. Federally recognized units were called on to maintain the peace during the tense Reconstruction period. In 1878, Governor Francis T. Nicholls reestablished state control of Louisiana militia units. Many units were mobilized for federal service during the war with Spain in 1898. Louisiana also organized a naval militia in this period which lasted into the early 20th Century.
The 20th Century
In 1903, U.S. Congress passed the Militia Act, which organized the country’s assortment of state militias and officially established their dual federalstate mission. The Louisiana National Guard mobilized for federal duty on the Mexican Border under General John J. Pershing in 1916, but the nation’s priorities soon shifted with entry into another war. World War I brought Louisiana’s citizen soldiers onto an international stage. In 1917, The 39th Infantry Division was organized, including Guard units from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The 39th trained at Camp Beauregard and many Louisiana Guardsmen saw action in Europe.
The Great Flood of 1927 caused the entire Louisiana National Guard to be activated. Duties included security, aiding in evacuation, search and rescue, and assisting civilian authorities.
World War II to Desert Storm
Louisiana Guardsmen were very active in the second World War. The 141st Field Artillery, the 156th Infantry Regiment, and many other units participated in the liberation of Europe from fascist control. World War II also saw the origins of the Louisiana Air National Guard with the organization of the 122nd Observation Squadron in 1941. Major General Raymond H. Fleming, adjutant general, was head of the state’s Selective Service and later served as Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Louisiana units made tremendous contributions to the war effort, several earning Battle Honors. During the Cold War, some units were activated for the Korean conflict and later in response to the Berlin Crisis of 1961.
In the latter half of the 20th century, Louisiana Guardsmen were activated for hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, industrial accidents, assistance to civil authorities, and many other emergencies and actions. In 1991, 17 Louisiana units were mobilized for Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, including 9 serving on the front lines.
The 21st Century
Following the terror attacks on 9-11-2001, the Louisiana National Guard began deploying units to combat threats overseas as part of the Global War on Terror. It also conducted homeland security missions such as Operation Noble Eagle. The state sent thousands of its Soldiers and Airmen to play a major role in Afghanistan and Iraq in the following decade and beyond. 2005 brought 2 devastating hurricanes to the people of Louisiana. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flooded and endangered the southern part of the state, including the city of New Orleans and Louisiana National Guard Headquarters at Jackson Barracks. Louisiana Soldiers and Airmen conducted extensive and harrowing missions throughout the state. Search and rescue was the primary concern, but Guard operations lasted a long time after the hurricanes had passed. Many guardsmen had just returned from overseas as the disaster was unfolding in their home state. Not missing a beat, they went from one dangerous mission to the other. Since the 2005 hurricanes, the Louisiana National Guard has successfully prepared for and responded to several emergencies, including Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the Gulf Oil Spill, and the Mississippi River flood of 2011.
The Louisiana National Guard continues to support overseas contingency operations and to train for homeland defense against potential terrorist attacks. Whether it is from foreign threats or emergencies at home, the Louisiana National Guard stands ready to protect what matters.