The Civil War Connections Blog

The Hispanic Experience

Hey there, folks, and welcome back to the Connections blog! As you kind readers have no doubt surmised by following this blog, the Civil War was fought by social and ethnic groups of all kinds. One of the largest ethnic groups that are often overlooked in the conflict is the Hispanic population. Heavily concentrated in Florida, Louisiana, and the areas north of Mexico, Hispanics played a large role in the Civil War. Most of these Hispanics lived inside the United States, and most of them sided with the Confederacy during the war since they belonged to states that seceded. In fact, one of the more famous Confederate units, the Louisiana Tigers, was formed from Hispanic and Creole soldiers from the New Orleans area.

The Louisiana Tigers wore a variant of the French “Zouave” uniform, which could occasionally be seen on the Union side early in the war.

 

That’s not to say that ALL the Hispanics joined the Confederacy. Many Hispanics lived in southern California, which stayed loyal to the Union, and many more in the areas of modern day New Mexico and Arizona, which were then part of the territory of New Mexico. These Hispanics were heavily divided between North and South. Many Hispanics in these areas used to be Mexican, and were still bitter with the United States for the Mexican-American War and therefore sided with the Confederates. On the other hand, slavery had been abolished in Mexico and many Hispanics had no desire to become part of a nation that allowed it. The result was a lot of split loyalties and fierce fighting among the peoples in New Mexico.

New Mexico Territory included both New Mexico and Arizona back then.

 

In addition to Union sympathizers out west, some Hispanics stayed loyal to the Union when the war broke out, even though they came from southern states. One of the most famous figures in the Civil War was Admiral David Farragut, who was a Hispanic from Tennessee who lived in Virginia when the war erupted. Admiral Farragut was a great maritime hero, who led the US Navy to victory after victory at New Orleans, Vicksburg and Mobile Bay. Admiral Farragut was the first full Admiral in the United States, and is famously remembered as saying “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” at the Battle of Mobile Bay.

“Torpedoes” meant “sea mines” back then, not the torpedoes we think of today.

 

The Hispanic experience in the Civil War was, in many regards, about the same as that of the white (European) majority. Like their white brethren, most Hispanic Americans in the South supported the Confederacy once their respective state seceded. Also like their white brethren, some Hispanics chose their nation over their state and sided with the Union despite the secession of their home state. In this regard, the Hispanic experience in the Civil War was fully integrated with the white experience. Once the war ended, however, the Hispanic experience in the war helped facilitate the spread of republican ideals and the spirit of Freedom throughout the Spanish Empire in North America. Tune in next week, and I shall talk about the effect that the Hispanic-American Civil War experience had on Mexico and Cuba!