"When the United States bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803 its French , Creole and Spanish citizens already had several existing militia units, organized by the Spanish to fight the Indians and to protect the infant colony before it became a part of the U.S. During the Battle of New of New Orleans, As part of General Jackson's attacking force in this action was the "Battalion of Free Men of Color."
Among them were several companies composed of intermixed free blacks and Creoles. The U.S. authorities soon disbanded these units. However, with the impending invasion of the British Army to capture New Orleans in late 1814, the governor authorized the reorganization of a new battalion of the black freeman. It was commanded by Major Pierre Lacoste, a prominent black property (and slave) owner.
He had been the former commander of the battalion disbanded in 1804. The new battalion numbered 280 men, later reinforced by an additional 180 men. It fought well this night, gaining praise from Jackson himself. And it saw combat as part of the American line that repelled major British assault on January 8, 1815.
Once the enemy threat was removed, as often happened following the end of other periods of national crisis, the black battalion was again disbanded by the government. No black would again serve in any state militia or Regular Army capacity until 1862 during the Civil War.
A painting by Charles McBarron for the U.S. Army Art Collection