Christopher Columbus Nash

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Christopher Columbus Nash
Sheriff of Grant Parish, Louisiana
In office
1873 – Unknown
Personal details
Born (1838-07-01)July 1, 1838
Sabine Parish, Louisiana
USA
Died after 1922
Nationality American
Political party Fusionist/Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Malinda Williams Nash
Parents Valentine and Mary Anderson Nash
Occupation

Merchant; Law-enforcement officer

Founder of the White League

Christopher Columbus Nash (July 1, 1838 – June 29, 1922; still living in 1922, when he applied for a Confederate pension through the state of Louisiana)[1][2] was a merchant and a Democratic sheriff in Grant Parish, Louisiana,[3] who in 1873 led a company of white militiamen to regain control of the parish courthouse in Colfax, which had been seized by armed African-American insurgents. Thereafter, the segregationist Nash formed the first contingent of the White League in the American South during the second half of Reconstruction.

Biography[edit]

Nash was born in Sabine Parish in western Louisiana, a son of Valentine Nash and the former Mary Anderson. He was married to the former Malinda Williams, a daughter of Richard B. Williams of Montgomery in northwestern Grant Parish. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he volunteered with the Sabine Rifles and reached the rank of lieutenant in Company A, Second Louisiana Infantry in Virginia under General Stonewall Jackson. He fought at Antietam and Gettysburg until he was captured in November 1863 and spent the last eighteen months of the conflict as a prisoner of war on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay on the coast of Lake Erie.[3]

After the war, Nash apparently spent some time in New Orleans before his arrival in Grant Parish. He directed the events in Colfax on Easter, April 13, 1873, to regain control of the courthouse, an event known as the Colfax Riot on the southern historical marker, but called the "Colfax massacre" or "The Day Freedom Died" by Union sympathizers or northerners concerned with African American civil rights.[4] The riot occurred when the Republican Governor William Pitt Kellogg refused to recognize Nash as the legitimate "sheriff" of Grant Parish. Nearly 70 to 100 blacks were killed in the riot. A white man named Cruikshank was arrested and indicted for violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice Morrison Waite heard this case, United States v. Cruikshank. The court held there are two kinds of citizenship: state and national. Protection against murder and other crimes is not guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the court held, in effect stripping the Fourteenth Amendment and the Enforcement Acts of their power. This ruling empowered a landslide of white against black violence in the South, starting in Louisiana. The white supremacists felt they had precedent for the repent-less killing of African Americans. Home rule hence returned to the American South, a process completed by 1877, with removal of the last of the federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina on order of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.[5]

After the Colfax Riot or Colfax Massacre, Nash led companies of white militias in the formation of the first unit of the White League.[6] The league defined its purpose as the defense of a "hereditary civilization and Christianity menaced by a stupid Africanization."[7] The White League intimidated, lynched, performed fraud against and killed black voters. Eventually, key members of the Colfax Massacre, which were indicted by James Beckwith for killing and lighting on fire black men, supported by the White League and white southerners gained powerful positions in Colfax and Grant Parish.

Nash is interred at the historic American Cemetery in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the first cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Military History On-line: Civil War Genealogy Database". militaryhistoryonline.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ The Fourteenth Amendment forbids the payment of pensions or other emoluments to those involved in armed insurrection against the United States, but the various former Confederate States of America did provide such assistance to veterans and their widows.
  3. ^ a b "Nash, Christopher Columbus". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  4. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, in its article on Nash, uses these sources: Milton Dunn, Christopher Columbus Nash (1925), Mabel Fletcher Harrison and Lavinia McGuire McNeely, Grant Parish, Louisiana: A History (1969), and Manie White Johnson, "The Colfax Riot of April, 1873," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XIII (1930).
  5. ^ a b "American Cemetery". ruscahouse.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ James K. Hogue ;;The Battle of Colfax: Paramilitarism and Counterrevolution in Louisiana, June 2006, p. 21
  7. ^ Adolph Reed, Jr., "The battle of Liberty Monument - New Orleans, Louisiana white supremacist statue", The Progressive, June 1993, accessed 18 May 2010