Confederate "Creoles of Color"
The Confederate "Creoles of Color"
There are a group of people that came into existence in Mobile, AL as a result of interracial marriage and or sexual relations, forced or consensual, which became known as the "Creoles of Color." The Catholic Church Registrars during the Spanish period show many such relationships and the children were generally given their freedom, by their fathers. These "Creoles of Color" were a bridge between the white and black (both slave and free) populations in Mobile.
This community formed in 1819, the Creole Fire Company, which had as its founding members 5 Hispanic "Creoles of Color." They were Rene Rafael, Vincent Chavana, Manuel Barcello, Augustin Joseph (Jose) and Francis Yrigoyen (born October 31, 1800, son of Miguel Yrigoyen and Constance Hugon). This company saw service in the War Between the States. The company was accepted as part of the Mobile Fire Battalion, for local Home Guard defense, at the onset of the Civil War.
The "Creoles of Color" were mobilized for the war on December 17, 1862 by the Mayor of Mobile Robert H. Slough, who issued a proclamation entitled "An Act authorizing the enrollment of the Creoles of Mobile." This Act authorized the enrollment of all male "Creoles of Color" between the ages of 18 and 50 to defend Mobile and the county. They were "requested and ordered" to appear before the Chief of Police within 10 days for registration and enrollment.
The Creole Fire Company, was accepted into Alabama State service on November 20th, 1862, by an Act of the Legislature, and was renamed the Native Guards on April 8, 1865. This unit served as a Home Guard force and helped do military guard duty as well as helping police the county, and of course, fighting fires. It was officially disbanded on April 12, 1865, but a few of its members left the city with the other Confederate forces and finally surrendered, with General Richard Taylor, at Citronelle, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.
The "Creoles of Color" who had existed since the earliest days of the French period, absorbed the Spanish members of the community to such an extent that almost all Spanish surnames have since "daughtered out." This community was among the last to preserve the French language in Alabama, and its last fluent speaker died in the mid 1960s.
There are still some French passive bilinguals, but no study of this language survival or what influence the language had from Spanish, English or African languages has ever been done. The "Creoles of Color" have always been an intriguing and misunderstood people and it is sad that no true study has ever been performed, on the richness they have brought to Alabama history. The main communities are found on Mon Louis Island, and the north eastern parts of Mobile County and the Weeks Bay area, of Baldwin County.
Mon Louis Island, originally known as Isle aux Maraguans, is located south of Mobile in southeastern Mobile County. It is bounded by Fowl River on the north and west, Mobile Bay on the east, and the Mississippi Sound on the south. Mon Louis is traversed by Alabama State Route 193, which travels in a north to south direction along the eastern edge of the island. The Gordon Persons Bridge on the southern end of Route 193 connects the island to Dauphin Island. The unincorporated communities of Alabama Port, Heron Bay, and Mon Louis are located on the island. Mon Louis Island was first settled in the early 18th century by French Louisiana colonists. A land grant was made to Nicholas Baudin, Sieur de Miragouane, on November 12, 1710. Baudin was from Mont-Louis, France. He established a settlement on the northern end of the island known as Miragouane. The island eventually came to be called Mon Louis, in honor of his native town.
There are many smaller communities, which exist in both counties and the "Creoles of Color" have inter-married into both the White, Black and Native American populations, in southern Alabama. Their influence will remain a part of Alabama historically, linguistically and socially, for generations to come.
Adapted from these sources: