The Civil War
New Orleans played a unique role in the American Civil War. As a port city with access to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, New Orleans possessed a strategic military advantage. As a slave-holding state and a hub of commerce for many Southern planters, Louisiana seceeded from the Union and declared its allegiance to the Confederacy on January 26, 1860. However, New Orleans was not destined to provide military advantage to the Confederate forces. In the spring of 1862, New Orleans was captured by the Union Flag Officer David G. Farragut. The city was placed under the command of Major General Benjamin Butler, who held the city for the remainder of the war.
One of LaRC’s most extensive collections of Civil War Records is the Louisiana Historical Association records (MSS Collection 55). The Louisiana Historical Association was founded in 1889, making it one of the oldest historical repositories in the state. It’s original purpose was to collect and preserve Confederate records and relics. Varina Davis, widow of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was an early supporter of LHA, and donated her husband’s personal papers and library. When LaRC acquired the records of LHA in 1957, a large repository of Civil War documents came with it, providing a wealth of information on this troubled period in American history.
Another important collection Civil War studies is the George and Katherine Davis Collection (MSS Collection 755). Katherine Davis was a collector of documents relating to Confederate military leaders and Early American statesmen. Of particular interest in the Davis collection are the papers of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. The Stonewall Jackson documents in the Davis collection include many of his letters and diaries, and his Book of Maxims.