GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Sunday marked the 150th anniversary of the 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard. Those in the guard were free African American men and former slaves who chose to enlist in the Union Army.
"Where else in the South did you have this kind of situation?" Louis Skrmetta said. "Free men, merchant, ship wrights, guys that volunteered originally for the Confederate Army and were shunned and then when the occupation took place in 1862 joined the Union Army and were made officers, commission officers and combat soldiers."
The guard made history by completing a successful attack on a confederate naval base in Pascagoula in 1863.
"It's important, number one because it's the first occurrence of black soldiers in the region. Second it was important because they were lead by black officers which is extremely unusual in the civil war," Skrmetta said.
Skrmetta and a group of others formed a historical committee to make sure these brave men and their heroic efforts are never forgotten.
During the anniversary of the 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard, several in the community gathered to learn more about them and to see a new monument built to pay tribute to these men.
"Often times this is a larger history that Americans don't know," United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey said. "To think black soldiers, or African Americans, were passive recipients of white benevolence to freedom and not that they fought side by side with white soldiers to make our country the better county it continues to be becoming."
Gulf Islands National Seashore Deputy Superintendent Steve McCoy said, "They stepped right up on the front lines and paid the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in. For their country. For their families also for their freedoms too."
Their bravery will be remembered and honored with a monument, in front of the light house in Jones Park, for years to come.