The Minute Man statue in Baton Rouge was dedicated on May 21, 2019 in honor of the Louisiana National Guard Service Men and Women who died serving our state and nation. Louisiana’s Citizen Soldiers served in nearly all our nation’s conflicts over three centuries. These Service Members, Army and Air, died protecting the United States, Louisiana, and local communities. Let us never forget their ultimate sacrifice. Resources for our veterans can be found at the Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs (LDVA).
The original Minute Man statue is an 1874 sculpture by Daniel Chester French in Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts. Inspired by Revolutionary War Citizen-Soldier Captain Isaac Davis, French modeled the face on Davis’ descendants’ and based the plow on Davis’ own plow that was on display at Acton Town Hall. Captain Davis was elected commander of Acton’s minuteman company in early 1775. As tensions continued to rise with the British government, Acton was proactive in drilling and training his Soldiers. The men in Davis’ and other nearby units were called “minute-men”. During the American Revolutionary War, Minutemen were known for being ready at a minute’s notice. Minutemen provided a highly mobile, rapidly deployed force that enabled the colonies to respond immediately to military threats. Today, the Minuteman represents the citizen Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard. He stands as a reminder that sometimes our freedoms must be fought for, and to never take them for granted. This “embattled farmer” has adorned the uniforms and flags of our nation’s National Guard as they serve around the globe.
On April 16, Davis received word from famed patriot Paul Revere that British soldiers were gathering to storm the countryside in an attempt to find and destroy hidden weapons and ammunition caches. He gathered his Soldiers to meet other patriot units at Concord, anticipating the beginnings of the expected conflict. On April 19, a group of seventy-seven American minutemen exchanged fire with the British at nearby Lexington, the so called “shot heard ‘round the world.” This small force retreated and the enemy converged on Concord. Captain Davis led the advance against the Redcoats in a defense of the town. He and two of his soldiers were quickly gunned down. Following his charge, the Americans were able to hold off the British and eventually push them back to Boston. Davis’ heroic actions played a major role in a chain of events that led to American Independence and the creation of our Republic.
French’s Minute Man statue was cast from the bronze of ten Civil War-era cannons appropriated by Congress. It depicts a minuteman stepping away from his plow to join the patriot forces in defense of his family, his community, and eventually his new nation. The young man has an overcoat thrown over his plow and a musket in his hand.
The statue was unveiled in 1875 for the centennial of the Battle of Concord and later became the symbol of the National Guard. For more information on Louisiana’s National Guard history click the button below to visit the Louisiana National Guard Museums Website.
The National Guard
Today’s National Guard is the modern incarnation of the militia forces that began in colonial times and later became a part of the US military system. Traditionally, the American “First Muster” occurred in 1636 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The famous “minute men” of the American Revolution, embodied by Isaac Davis, epitomized this Citizen-Soldier ethos. Over the course of the 19th century, the militia evolved as a state-based military system, driven by the federal structure of our Constitutional government. States had organic and independent units that served when called upon to protect against Native American attack on the frontiers as well as to serve during greater conflicts, such as the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
By the turn of the 20th century, the United States was an economic and industrial world power. Officials and military leaders realized the need for a modern military that could compete with other powerful nations. The Navy expanded and the Active Duty Army saw better training and professionalization. Top brass and Congress understood that the state and community-based nature of American militia was essential to the spirit of our founding, but they still saw a need for a degree of reform and modernization.
In 1903, Congress passed an act that drastically altered militia policy. Pushed through by former Ohio militia officer, Congressman Charles Dick, it kept the militia system based within the states, but with nationalized standards of uniform, conduct, policy, and training. Independent militia units were removed or integrated into the official system. Connections to the US Army were strengthened. Other reforms were initiated through later bills as this modernized militia system became officially designated The National Guard. The National Defense Act of 1916 ensured the Guard’s legality of serving in foreign conflicts under higher US Army command. Almost immediately, National Guard units were serving in the Mexican Expedition and World War I. Going forward, the National Guard integrated more fully into the Army system while in federal service while simultaneously serving under governors for state and local missions. In 1947, the Air National Guard was created with a similar relationship to the Air Force.
The Louisiana National Guard
1750s French Militia
The Louisiana National Guard’s origins begin with the French and Spanish colonial administrations. Early French militia in Louisiana was unorganized and decentralized. They assisted regular French forces in a war against the Natchez tribe in 1729. When the Spanish took over the colony, General Alexander O’Reilly reformed the militia into a centrally organized and professionally trained institution in 1770. Despite considerable evolution, the organization has maintained continuity of its existence from 1770 to today.
With the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and West Florida Revolt (1810), the Louisiana Militia became a US force. Louisiana’s diverse Citizen Soldiers joined Army Regulars, Sailors, Marines, and fellow militia from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi to repel the British attempt to invade New Orleans in 1814-1815. Louisiana militia Soldiers continued service through the nineteenth century. Three current units have lineage dating to the 1800s: The 1-141st Field Artillery (Washington Artillery), the 156th Infantry Regiment (First Louisiana), and the 769th Brigade Engineer Battalion, originally known as the “Baton Rouge Fencibles.”
LA Infantry Staff, 1915
In the 20th Century, the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) served in both World Wars, limited Cold War mobilizations, and the Gulf War. In addition to federal combat service, the Guard frequently activated for various natural disasters and industrial emergencies.
The early 21st century pushed LANG to the most active it had ever been. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks put the nation back into a war posture. Soon, LANG units entered a heavy rotation of combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq that lasted well over a decade. In the meantime, mother nature ramped up her attacks on Louisiana as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Isaac, Harvey, Laura, Delta, Xeta, and Ida battered the state. Guardsmen provided search and rescue, security, engineering, logistics, and many other missions in response. Other major emergencies included the Gulf Oil Spill and the floods of 2016. The Louisiana National Guard continues to protect what matters – the nation, the state, and our communities.
Today’s enlisted people can find resources through Louisiana National Guard Enlisted Association (LANGEA) which provides a platform or enlisted members to voice issues to political and organizational leaders, defend educational and financial benefits, support the well-being of its members and coordinate MWR activities to promote networking and camaraderie among the enlisted force! Further resources include membership in National Guard Association Louisiana (NGALA) where you can add your voice to thousands of others who understand the role of the National Guard in the nation’s security and want to enhance its capabilities to perform that vital mission at home and overseas.