The organization of the white and free black militias of Louisiana was based
on Cuba's Reglamento para las Milicias de Infanteria y Dragones de la Isla
de Cuba ... , regulations compiled by General Alexandro O'Reilly in 1769.
This codification obligated all physically capable men between the ages of
fifteen and forty-five to serve. The reorganization plan converted several
existing and almost all new militia companies from urban to provincial or
disciplined units.l Although Louisiana's white and free black militias were
officially classified as urban until 29 March 1796,2 they functioned in practice
as disciplined units because of the colony's frontier character and purpose
as a defensive bulwark for New Spain.
In Louisiana, as in other Spanish American colonies, colonial adminis-
trators were torn between their distrust of the free black man's capacity to
command and the need to enhance morale and loyalty among libre troops.
They partially resolved this dilemma by adopting the solution used by other
officials: a dual system of command. Led by free black noncommissioned
officers, first and second lieutenants, captains, and commanders, the free
colored militia companies were supervised by white advisers who formed
part of the plana mayor (headquarter command and staff group).3 Dur-
ing the 1780s Louisiana created the post of Garzon de Pardos y Morenos
Libres and promoted the white first sergeant Juan Bautista Mentzinger to
fill this post at the grade of second lieutenant.4 Mentzinger was the only
person to hold this position; in the 1790S reorganization of the free black
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