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City of a Million DreamsNew Orleans at Year 300$
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Jason Berry

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469647142

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469647142.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

The Burial Master

The Burial Master

Times of Yellow Fever and War

(p.143) 8 The Burial Master
City of a Million Dreams

Jason Berry

University of North Carolina Press

In the early 19th century, New Orleans included a thriving artisan class of colored Creoles. One such artisan was Pierre Casanave, a black furniture-maker-turned-undertaker who operated a thriving business that served whites and blacks alike. Benevolent societies of various ethnic groups guaranteed members a dignified funeral. Yellow fever broke out in the city in 1853. The embalming of corpses became popular, and funeral rites became elaborate and ceremonial, often featuring music. Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861 as the Civil War began. Free blacks, such as Andre Cailloux and Henry Louis Rey, formed militias to participate in the war. After the Union took control of New Orleans, the black militia joined the Union war effort. Cailloux died fighting for the Union and was memorialized as a hero. After being honourably discharged for medical reasons, Rey joined a group of black spiritualists who held séances to communicate with the dead. The real war in New Orleans began after the Civil War ended. The conquered city became a free zone for former slaves, but the transition to a peacetime economy ran head-long into the identity crusade of the defeated South, providing the foundation for white supremacy and the “lost cause” mythology.

Keywords:   Yellow fever, Civil War, Lost cause, Funeral rites, Pierre Casanave, Andre Cailloux, Henry Louis Rey, Black militia, Black spiritualists, Confederacy

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