New Orleans - Before the Civil War

New Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of the city is situated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Because it was built on a great turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent City. New Orleans, with a population of 496,938 (1990 census), is the largest city in Louisiana and one of the principal cities of the South. It was established on the high ground nearest the mouth of the Mississippi, which is 177 km (110 mi) downstream. Elevations range from 3.65 m (12 ft) above sea level to 2 m (6.5 ft) below; as a result, an ingenious system of water pumps, drainage canals, and levees has been built to protect the city from flooding.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for the regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it was transferred to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with the entire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by Napoleon I to the United States. It was the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815) in the War of 1812. During the Civil War the city was besieged by Union ships under Adm. David Farragut; it fell on Apr. 25, 1862.

And that's what it say's in the books, a bit more, but nothing else of interest. This is too bad, New Orleans , as a city, has a wide and diverse history that reads as if it were a utopian society built to survive the troubles of the future. New Orleans is a place where Africans, Indians and European settlers shared their cultures and intermingled. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for producing a durable culture in a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from its inception and continues to distinguish the city today.

Like the early American settlements along Massachusetts Bay and Chesapeake Bay, New Orleans served as a distinctive cultural gateway to North America, where peoples from Europe and Africa initially intertwined their lives and customs with those of the native inhabitants of the New World. The resulting way of life differed dramatically from the culture than was spawned in the English colonies of North America. New Orleans Creole population (those with ancestry rooted in the city's colonial era) ensured not only that English was not the prevailing language but also that Protestantism was scorned, public education unheralded, and democratic government untried. Isolation helped to nourish the differences.

From its founding in 1718 until the early nineteenth century, New Orleans remained far removed from the patterns of living in early Massachusetts or Virginia. Established a century after those seminal Anglo-Saxon places, it remained for the next hundred years an outpost for the French and Spanish until Napoleon sold it to the United States with the rest of the Louisiana purchase in 1803.

Even though steamboats and sailing ships connected French Louisiana to the rest of the country, New Orleans guarded its own way of life. True, it became Dixie's chief cotton and slave market, but it always remained a strange place in the American South. American newcomers from the South as well as the North recoiled when they encountered the prevailing French language of the city, its dominant Catholicism, its bawdy sensual delights, or its proud free black and slave inhabitants; In short, its deeply rooted Creole population and their peculiar traditions. Rapid influxes of non-southern population compounded the peculiarity of its Creole past. Until the mid-nineteenth century, a greater number of migrants arrived in the boomtown from northern states such as New York and Pennsylvania than from the Old South. And to complicate its social makeup further, more foreign immigrants than Americans came to take up residence in the city almost to the beginning of the twentieth century.

The largest waves of immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. In certain neighborhoods, their descendants' dialects would make visitors feel like they were back in Brooklyn or Chicago. From 1820 to 1870, the Irish and Germans made New Orleans one of the main immigration ports in the nation, second only to New York, but ahead of Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. New Orleans also was the first city in America to