The U.S. Navy's rich history and heritage is highlighted through monuments, celebrations of battles and the stories of brave men and women. The Navy's cultural and ethnic diversity gives its Sailors additional opportunities to celebrate their history, and knowing the accomplishments of their predecessors, who laid the ground work for their future success, is a source of great pride for many.
One Sailor’s quest for knowledge regarding his family lineage led to the surprising discovery of a military history dating back to the 1800’s.
Lt. Lerome Snaer, assigned to Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, traced his family history back to the American Civil War with the help of a book called “We Are Who We Say We Are” by Mary Frances Berry. The book details the trials and tribulations that Maj. Louis Antoine Snaer, one of the nation’s first black commissioned officers, experienced as part of the Union Army.
“My family military history begins with 19 year old Louis Antoine Snaer who joined the First Regiment, Company B in the Union Army’s 1st Louisiana Native Guard as a Commissioned Officer (Lieutenant). In 1864, this regiment was renamed the 73rd Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored Troops,” said Lt Snaer of his great-great (great) grandfather.
Maj. Snaer, who served in the Siege of Port Hudson and the Battle at Fort Blakeley, also holds the distinction of being the only black commissioned officer to lead troops into battle on the Fort Blakely battlefield. However, he was the victim of his own success on many occasions.
“Black slaves hated him because he was a free Colored Creole who could pass for white due to his skin and eye color,” explained Lt. Snaer. “White Union soldiers hated him because they believed that free Colored Creole were “naturally unfit for leadership” positions, or to be commissioned officers.”
Maj. Snaer had to make difficult choices, withholding his own voice from participating in multiple black troop demonstrations against their treatment by white Union soldiers in order to maintain his commission as an officer. He believed that maintaining his ability to lead his men was of the upmost importance.
While serving in the 7th Fleet, Lt. Snaer has been given the opportunity to uphold traditions and defend democracy for everyone regardless of their race or culture. Maj. Snaer had to endure malnourishment, lack of shelter, clothing and physical beatings while transiting with the Union Army. Lt. Snaer, said his situation is very different today, and he is using this chance to give his family a voice and promote their legacy.
“I feel the need to speak up for the Snaer men and ensure the Snaer family is recognized throughout history and during Black History celebrations, for their generations of military service for the United States of America,” said Lt. Snaer.
His military family background has given him the drive to complete 20 years of military service,13 years as an Enlisted Service member and seven years as a Commissioned Officer, along with the motivation to continue on with his career in the Navy.
Lt. Snaer said, “I have no intentions of retiring until I reach the rank of Admiral. To my knowledge, I am the only Snaer serving on active duty and the second military officer in my family.”
Snaer’s aspirations for his family name doesn’t just stop with him. When asked about the future of upcoming generations, he noted the idea of making a second version of the book, detailing their various regions they call home.
Lt. Snaer also made a point to acknowledge his hope of continuing their “notable service to our fellow men as store keepers, musicians, athletes, lawyers, doctors, politicians, civil rights activists, and service members.”