Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in the Congress of the United States in the first half of the 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because they considered it immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from the Deep South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida) believed that slavery was essential to their agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy. By the 1850s, Southerners saw their power slipping in Congress, the clamor for abolition of slavery was at a high pitch, and many in the South came to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other Southern states began to follow, and war looked imminent. Louisiana withdrew from the Union on January 26, 1861, the sixth state to do so. Shortly thereafter the seceded states formed a confederacy, the Confederate States of America, and began mobilizing for war. The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery bombarded a federal fort in Charleston harbor.
Louisiana was remote from most of the action in the war, which occurred to the north and east. The Confederates erected forts on the Mississippi below New Orleans to protect the city and keep the port open. One year later, in April 1862, a fleet of Union Navy ships under Captain David G. Farragut entered the mouth of the Mississippi.
After bombarding the forts, Farragut slipped past them and occupied the city without a struggle on April 26. This was a costly loss to the Confederacy, for New Orleans was not only the South’s largest city, it had also been an important supply center.
Continuing upriver after taking New Orleans, Farragut’s forces captured Baton Rouge. The Confederate state government withdrew to Opelousas and later to Shreveport, where it remained for the duration of the war. Baton Rouge did not become the capital again until 1882.
The Union made New Orleans the capital of all federally held territory in Louisiana and placed it under martial law, enforced by the controversial Union Major General Benjamin F. Butler. Butler’s arbitrary rule provoked charges of corruption, earned him the nickname Beast Butler, and caused his dismissal as governor. In August 1862 Confederate troops attempted to recapture Baton Rouge. Failing, they entrenched themselves at Port Hudson, 32 km (20 mi) upriver from Baton Rouge. Port Hudson fell to Union forces in July 1863, by which time it was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. However, western and northern Louisiana remained under Confederate control for the remainder of the war. "Louisiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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