Mutiny at Fort Jackson

The Untold Story of the Fall of New Orleans

By Michael D. Pierson

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 27 illus., 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2911-7
    Published: March 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8702-8
    Published: January 2009

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

2010 Albert Castel Book Award, Kalamazoo Civil War Round Table

New Orleans was the largest city--and one of the richest--in the Confederacy, protected in part by Fort Jackson, which was just sixty-five miles down the Mississippi River. On April 27, 1862, Confederate soldiers at Fort Jackson rose up in mutiny against their commanding officers. New Orleans fell to Union forces soon thereafter. Although the Fort Jackson mutiny marked a critical turning point in the Union's campaign to regain control of this vital Confederate financial and industrial center, it has received surprisingly little attention from historians. Michael Pierson examines newly uncovered archival sources to determine why the soldiers rebelled at such a decisive moment.

The mutineers were soldiers primarily recruited from New Orleans's large German and Irish immigrant populations. Pierson shows that the new nation had done nothing to encourage poor white men to feel they had a place of honor in the southern republic. He argues that the mutineers actively sought to help the Union cause. In a major reassessment of the Union administration of New Orleans that followed, Pierson demonstrates that Benjamin "Beast" Butler enjoyed the support of many white Unionists in the city.

Pierson adds an urban working-class element to debates over the effects of white Unionists in Confederate states. With the personal stories of soldiers appearing throughout, Mutiny at Fort Jackson presents the Civil War from a new perspective, revealing the complexities of New Orleans society and the Confederate experience.

About the Author

Michael D. Pierson is associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is author of Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics (from the University of North Carolina Press).
For more information about Michael D. Pierson, visit the Author Page.


"One of those singular contributions to American history where a small slice, an episode, horrible as it was becomes human. . . . Both the lay reader and academic will equally enjoy Pierson's treatment of the Fort Jackson mutiny."--The Advocate

"This compelling, sometimes poignant account reflects exhaustive research. . . . Pierson's examination . . . illuminates broad thinking about Southern society, even modern America."--America's Civil War

"An original and significant contribution to Civil War history."--Soldier Studies

"A blend of military and social history at its best. . . . An important addition, not only to Civil War studies, but also to labor and immigrant history. This is a well-written, soundly researched book. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of American studies of the 19th century."—

"A well-written, thoroughly researched, and clearly organized account of the mutiny and the soldiers involved in the affair."--Choice

"Pierson has contributed to our understanding of the Civil War home front, and the Confederacy as a whole. . . . All social and military historians of the Civil War should take the time to read this engaging, provocative monograph."--Military History of the West