Way back in the fall of 1896, coach A.W. Jeardeau’s LSU football team posted a perfect 6-0 record, and it was in that pigskin campaign that LSU first adopted its nickname, Tigers.
“Tigers” seemed a logical choice since most collegiate teams in that year bore the names of ferocious animals, but the underlying reason why LSU chose Tigers dates back to the Civil War.
According to Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., PhD. and the Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865 (LSU Press, 1989), the name Louisiana Tigers evolved from a volunteer company nicknamed the Tiger Rifles, which was organized in New Orleans. This company became a part of a battalion commanded by Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat and was the only company of that battalion to wear the colorful Zouave uniform. In time, Wheat’s entire battalion was called the Tigers.
That nickname in time was applied to all of the Louisiana troops of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The tiger symbol came from the famous Washington Artillery of New Orleans. A militia unit that traces its history back to the 1830s, the Washington Artillery had a logo that featured a snarling tiger’s head. These two units first gained fame at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861. Major David French Boyd, first president of LSU after the war, had fought with the Louisiana troops in Virginia and knew the reputation of both the Tiger Rifles and Washington Artillery.
Thus when LSU football teams entered the gridiron battlefields in their fourth year of intercollegiate competition, they tagged themselves as the “Tigers.”
It was the 1955 LSU “Fourth-Quarter Ball Club” that helped the moniker “Tigers” grow into the nickname, “Fighting Tigers.”