Commander Noel Carriere was decorated for bravery in the American Revolution, a black hero in his own time, forgotten in ours. Carriere was born into slavery at English Turn in 1745 to African parents who came to New Orleans in chains. His intelligence and leadership were evident even in slavery.
As a teenager, he became a barrel maker, a lucrative, highly regarded trade. The free black militiamen who owned plantations a stone's throw away from the place where Carriere grew up taught him what it was to be a soldier and a man. He must have impressed them: they listed him as a member of the free black militia before he gained his legal freedom in 1771. He rose quickly through the ranks to become an officer. When he was barely in his teens, people began to ask him to serve as godfather to their children, a mark of esteem and trust. His frequent appearances at the baptismal font earned him the respect of Church leaders. The priests must have been struck, too, by the military honor guards that Carriere led at the weddings of the men under his command, a visible testimony to the dignity of the free black community and its leader.
Spain allied with the thirteen colonies against Britain in the American Revolution. Carriere was decorated for bravery in all three of the battles Spain fought, including the successful siege of Pensacola that freed the French fleet to sail north to Yorktown to seal the defeat of the British. Carriere fought in the war that Americans waged to secure freedom and equality. The white soldiers he fought beside were rewarded with citizenship. Tragically, that was denied Carriere and his men when New Orleans became part of the United States in 1803. That, and he, should be remembered now.