Chalmette Cemetery – USCT #HonorThem

Chalmette Cemetery – USCT #HonorThem

Chalmette Cemetery – USCT

Chalmette Cemetery

Markers of graves of Unknown Soldiers from the Civil War in Chalmette Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)

Chalmette Cemetery and United States Colored Troops

Many men died fighting for the Union in South Louisiana. New Orleans surrendered in April, 1862. The Union Army used the city as a base to move north. They pressed the rebels from both directions along the Mississippi. Major General Benjamin Butler brought a force close to 3000 men to Ship Island to invade New Orleans. A sizable contingent of that force were United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Black men served in the US Army for a number of reasons. They were citizens of the free states. Some were the sons and grandsons of slaves. Their ancestors escaped from the South. So, they made lives for themselves in the Northern states. There were 175 regiments of USCT by 1865, a full one-tenth of the US Army.

Fighting for the Union

Chalmette cemetery

Chalmette National Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)

Black soldiers fought as segregated units The “Colored Troops” battalions and regiments were often raised by white men who were willing to command black soldiers, such as the 54th Massachusetts. While the men might know each other, was, the white officers didn’t. In many cases, Their soldiers didn’t live anywhere near where the unit was raised. So, when these men died in action in the Deep South, the survivors and the locals had no idea who they were.

Butler held incredible power as the general commanding the occupation. Since the war continued after the invasion, the army needed a place to bury their dead. The battlefield in Chalmette was a possible choice for a cemetery. The city preserved the battlefield, and nobody really lived down there, even by the 1860s.

The army sectioned off a portion of the battlefield on the eastern side. This was the “British side” of the battlefield, Pakenham’s army advanced on the Americans from there. Since the bulk of the action took place on the “American side,” nobody considered the cemetery as an affront.

Visiting Chalmette

The top photo shows the markers of “unknowns,” mostly USCT soldiers. The second photo shows the standard markers used by National Cemeteries at the time.

If you haven’t been down to Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery since your eighth grade field trip, jump in the car!



Podcast: Maunsel White in the days after the Battle of New Orleans

Podcast: Maunsel White in the days after the Battle of New Orleans

Maunsel White, Irishman, planter, and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, is the subject of our first pod of 2017.

maunsel white

Beyond Bourbon Street by Mark Bologna

Guest Starring on Podcasts!

Our first pod for 2017! We’re behind a bit, because @NOLAHistoryGuy started out the year doing a guest segment on another podcast. It was fun to sit and chat with Mark Bologna of Beyond Bourbon Street about the Battle of New Orleans. Mark is @BeyondBourbonST on Twitter – note the “ST” for “Street” in Mark’s Twitter handle and website.

After attending a wonderful talk by Mr. Winston Hu of the University of New Orleans Department of History (my old stomping ground as an undergrad) on the history of Chinese people in New Orleans, I went out to Cypress Grove Cemetery to photograph the “Chinese Tomb” that Hu discussed.

(editor’s note: Let’s be honest here, walking through Cypress Grove isn’t a huge sacrifice for me, since I park on Canal Street by the cemetery, then walk over to Banks Street, to go to Wakin’ Bakin’ for breakfast, coffee, and writing time.)

Maunsel White

Maunsel White, 1851

Maunsel White and Cemetery Exploration

Maunsel White

White family tomb in Cypress Grove Cemetery, on Canal Street

As I walked through Cypress Grove, I came across a mausoleum with “Maunsel White” carved in the top. There was a small bronze plaque at the base of the mausoleum, indicating that the senior White was a veteran of the War of 1812. I remembered the name, that he was one of Jackson’s officers on 8-Jan-1815. I shot a bunch of photos, then made a note to do an article on him for my cemetery website. Then I looked him up, and realized he was part of the bigger story of the Battle of New Orleans. Not to steal the thunder from what Mark and I chatted about on his pod, I decided that talking about White would be a good complementary discussion.

Maunsel White

Plaque on Maunsel White’s tomb

So, have a listen to White, and his involvement in the days following the Battle of New Orleans. Be sure to add Beyond Bourbon Street’s pod to your playlist, and recommend it to your friends.

Cities of the Dead (dot net) — COTD Wiki needs you!

Cities of the Dead (dot net) — COTD Wiki needs you!

Screenshot from 2016-08-26 10-29-57

Screenshot of COTD Wiki


So, I finally got around to setting up a Wiki for the Cemeteries stuff!

The URL is

So far, I’ve created one page, for the St. Peter Street Cemetery. My plan is to go more-or-less chronologically, so the next page will be St. Louis No. 1.

My vision for COTD Wiki is that it should be a collaborative effort. I don’t want to be the only author/editor. If you have an interest in our cemeteries and would like to contribute, you are most welcome! If you enjoy MediaWiki development/structure, you are equally welcome.

Example: There is so much stuff out there on St. Louis No. 1, since it’s the oldest cemetery in town that’s still around. I plan to do a history page to start, but then there are so many details to be added. Please join me in filling in those gaps.


Photographers: If you have cemetery photos, either done for documentary or artistic, please consider sharing them. I’ll be raiding the Commons as this unfolds, as well. Full credit given to ‘togs for their photos, but keep in mind, this Wiki is public domain.

If you’re a cemetery fan/historian in another city, let’s talk. We can easily set up sections for other cities/towns.


TEACHERS: If you are a history or social studies teacher, and would like to include COTD Wiki in your lesson plans/activities, let’s talk. This would be exciting and make me very happy, to see the site used in this way. Students do some of the best research/development/writing, and there are lots of us in the community who would like to help you and your kids succeed. Let’s make that happen as much and as often as we can.

My vocation as a teacher compels me to encourage learning, exploration, and discussion. Our cemeteries are not just local treasures; they are known the world over. Let’s document them, preserve them, explore them, and have fun doing it!

Easter Sunday in St. Roch Cemetery in the 9th Ward

Easter Sunday in St. Roch Cemetery in the 9th Ward

easter sunday st roch cemetery by frank moore

Easter Sunday morning in St. Roch Cemetery, by Frank B. Moore (courtesy UNO Earl K. Long Library)

St. Roch Cemetery at Sunrise

The sun rising over St. Roch Cemetery in the 9th Ward, in this lovely photograph from Frank B. Moore. The cemetery, located on St. Roch Avenue in the Upper 9th Ward, was constructed in 1874. It is, along with Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, the anchor of this particular section of the “Upper Nine”.

Here is the bio on Moore from the University of New Orleans Earl K. Long Library:

Frank B. Moore (1869-1957) was a commercial photographer in New Orleans from 1896 until his death on January 21, 1957. Born in Sauk Center, Minnesota, Moore learned his trade in Milwaukee working with the noted photographer Simon Leonard Stein. He had various studios during his sixty-seven year career in New Orleans, including 1008 Canal St. (1896-99), 147 Baronne St. (1900-02), 1001 St. Charles Ave. (1903-06), 1700 St. Charles Ave. (1907-14); 114 ½ Baronne (1915-20); and 1317 Tulane Ae. (1923-58). For a brief time in the mid-920s he also managed a film studio called “Crescent Comedies.” Moore married Elizabeth (Bessie) Meade, sister of British artist Sir Arthur Meade, and they had two children: Frank B. (Sonny) Moore, Jr., and Gladys Renya Moore. At various times the whole family was involved in the business. Bessie worked before their marriage as a “retoucher”, as president and secretary of the business after they married, and photographer after her husband retired. Frank, Jr., worked as a photographer for a time in the 1930s, while Gladys served as a frequent model for her father, winning many beauty contests in the 1920s, including “Miss New Orleans” in 1926. After Bessie retired, Gladys Moore continued the business until 1972.

If you’re roaming the Bywater, perhaps stopped for lunch at St. Roch Market, St. Roch Campo Santo is just a short walk up the street. It’s worth exploring, to learn more about the neighborhood and the German community who founded it.

Roses for Marie Laveau in St. Louis Number 1

Roses for Marie Laveau in St. Louis Number 1

"Roses for Marie" by Edward Branley

“Roses for Marie” by Edward Branley


The Voodoo that Marie Laveau do

Marie Laveau. This is an older photo, from before St. Louis Cemetery #1 was restricted to tours given by licensed tour guides. The “X” marks on the tomb offended one visitor so much a couple of years ago, they painted the tomb pink, thinking it was a help. Wrong kind of paint, though, which caused thousands of dollars to be spent on restoration. I hope people continue to leave the offerings and mementos, even if they don’t mark the tomb itself.



Glapion family tomb in St. Louis #1, 1930s (WPA photo in the public domain)

This WPA photo from the 1930s shows the tomb unmarked.

"Tomb of Marie Laveau", 1970s, unknown photographer (State Office of Tourism, in the public domain)

“Tomb of Marie Laveau”, 1970s, unknown photographer (State Office of Tourism, in the public domain)

The tradition of the “X” marks was in full swing by the 1970s, though, as can be seen in this tourism promotion photo.