The War Ends and Veterans Return to the German Coast

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“The War Between the States ended in disaster for the South. The Union soldiers returned home to the North to cheering open arms and accolades from all. The German Coast soldiers were forced to return to desolations, humiliation and profound poverty. Mark Twain wrote that, “the whitewash is gone from the negro cabins now; and many, possibly most, of the big mansions, once so shining and white, have worn out their paint and have a decayed, neglected look. It is the blight of the war.”

“During the occupation period many of the former free Negroes enjoyed economic prosperity and political prestige. They organized businesses which were patronized by the occupying military forces and established newspapers… But the old antebellum wealthy, cultured free Negro group, under whose leadership the New Orleans Negro had reached a higher level of culture than had any Negro group anywhere in the entire world, gradually passed from the scene.

Closely allied economically with white slave-holding planters and businessmen, they fell victim to the Civil War and the war’s radical aftermath. Of all the population groups, it was the former slave who suffered most during the period. At the end of the war wild wild rumors flooded the state that he would be given land, farm animals, and equipment, and even that the government would completely support him… Unscrupulous politicians promised him riches, free markets… places in the Legislative Halls… and a great deal more.

After the first glorious days of freedom had passed, the rural Negroes realized the government was not going to support them… Many former slaves returned to farms and plantations where they greatly contributed to the economic rebuilding of the state. Although some were fairly paid for their labor, many others were gradually reduced to a position approaching agricultural peonage, a situation which lasted until after World War II.”

(Quoted from Edwin Adams Davis’ LA the Pelican State books pages 222, 223 and 222 and 222 respectively.)

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