The people of New Orleans were seething.
The hated intruders had forced the city to submit and haul down its emblems. There was tension in the streets. Women of the city scoffed and spat in defiance — until the Union occupiers issued a proclamation.
Henceforth, it said, any woman giving offense “by word, gesture, or movement … shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.”
Its impact was said to be immediate, but the Union general who issued the order was soon known as “Beast.”
It was May 15, 1862 — 155 years ago this week — and the issue before New Orleans was then, as it is today, the matter of the Civil War.
Then, the cosmopolitan metropolis of the South had just been conquered by the Union Navy and Army, in a huge blow to the Confederacy. It would remain occupied, and intact — unlike other, ruined, Southern cities — for the rest of the war.
Now, the city is wrestling again with the war, and public agitation, as it removes the last of its statues that honor Confederate heroes. On Friday morning, New Orleans began dismantling its monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee under police guard. The city has already taken down statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, along with the Battle of Liberty Place monument.
The removals this month have been marked by tension between those who see the statues as memorials to white supremacy, and those who see them as part of the country’s history.
In 1862, the trouble was between conquerors and conquered.
New Orleans fell to Union forces early in the war, in April 1862, after the Navy under Capt. David G. Farragut, smashed the enemy forts…