Gallier Hall can be found at 545 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
New Orleans surrenders to the Union at City Hall – marked the beginning of Reconstruction.
In late April 1862 Reconstruction in the South began with the Confederate surrender of New Orleans at City Hall. After advancing up the Mississippi River and sending the Confederate forces on retreat Union Officer David Farragut sent a few soldiers to City Hall to demand for the city’s surrender. These soldiers were accompanied by an angry mob of New Orleanians that insulted and pestered them along the way. Mayor John T. Monroe comically stalled the inevitable surrender of New Orleans to allow Confederate soldiers and supplies enough time to evacuate the city. The first time Monroe was ordered to surrender the city he declined, claiming he held no power over the situation. The city was under martial law meaning only the Confederate
Major General Lovell had such power. When Lovell was approached about the surrender he too declined, claiming that because he was retreating out of the city and the power to surrender fell in the hands of the municipal government. After Lovell had evacuated the city Mayor Monroe told the Union soldiers that he now possessed the power to surrender the city, but that he could not because first he had to meet with the city council.(1)
During these negotiations the citizens of New Orleans protested the surrender of their city. One citizen, William B. Mumford, went as far as desecrating a Union flag in front of the United States Mint while negotiations were taking place. He was later hanged by Union officers for his actions.
After Monroe met with the city council Farragut again demanded the surrender of the city. As before, Monroe declined the surrender but informed Farragut that the city was vulnerable and could be occupied if he chose to do so. The next day (April 29th), tired of Monroe’s games, Farragut marched to City Hall and removed the state flag placing New Orleans under Union control. (1)
Rex on the steps of City Hall
The years following the Civil War were difficult for New Orleans. Much like the rest of the South, New Orleans was plagued by social and political chaos or instability. While the Democratic and Republican parties both split into multiple pieces diminishing their political strength and the elite white society of New Orleans did the same. Due to political and social issues the reconstruction era was filled with rallies and parades constructed by the leading groups of the city. These opposing elite groups were in a constant “tug of war” towards rebuilding their broken city. Rex, the self-proclaimed king of carnival created by the Boston Club, utilized City Hall to display his influence when he shared a toast with men such as Henry Clay Warmoth, the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia, and General Custer. (3) Rex was the Boston Club’s attempt to take control of the city. Some will argue that they did so simply to bring order to Carnival, but others are convinced underlying agendas were at play. Underlying agenda or not, City Hall was the perfect place to express the King’s powerful presence because Lafayette Square was filled with hundreds of spectators. The politicians and elite class in New Orleans were in a frenzy to regain power during reconstruction which resulted in many events like this one. (1)
The Rex parade still takes place every year in New Orleans on Mardi Gras and still passes by the old City Hall (Gallier Hall). On arrival tradition is kept alive as he meats with the city’s leaders. To end the parade Rex toasts the Queen of Carnival at the Hotel Intercontinental. Whether or not the Boston Club’s presence in Rex is still alive today is uncertain, but the joy and economic benefits that Rex brought to city still remains.
1. Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2010)
2. Neil P. Chatelain, “The End of Confederate New Orleans,” New Orleans Historical, Web. accessed December 10, 2015
3. “Rex.” Rexorginization.com. School of Design, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
4. Albert Kautz, “Incidents of the Occupation of New Orleans,” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Volume 2. New York: The Century Co, 1887.