HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS

NEW ORLEANS HISTORY:
PART TWO

 

Following the Battle of New Orleans, during the War of 1812, the city was placed under siege once again.. this time by the Protestant Americans who came south to enjoy the new, French-speaking city. New Orleans was already considered the most important city in the south and the Americans were determined to enjoy it. They came in huge numbers and ended up offending the sensibilities of the Creole families of the Vieux Carre, who promptly slammed shut the wrought-iron gates of the Quarter.
After the Louisiana Purchase, altercations between the Catholic Creoles and the Protestant Americans became so frequent that a strip of land between the French Quarter and the American Sector was designated as a “neutral ground”. This literally was an act of Congress in 1807 and the strip later became known as Canal Street.

In 1812, the steamboat NEW ORLEANS arrived in port and ushered in a new age for the city, and a new period of prosperity. The aristocrats of the city filled their lavish mansions with the finest Persian rugs, crystal chandeliers, and the best French wines that money could buy.
However, luxuries aside, New Orleans was not a place for the weak. Located below sea level, in a hot and humid climate, it was a place of oppressive humidity from June to October and was infested with mosquitoes. The city was often hit with terrible cholera and tropical illness epidemics and was labeled a “damp grave” for those foolish enough to live there.
And that’s not to mention the hurricanes, thunderstorms from the Gulf of Mexico, and the frequent floods. The spring flooding was usually pour about two feet of muddy water and debris into the city, not to mention snakes and rats. New levees were constructed each time the devastation would hit the city but each time, the damage was horrible.
In 1832, New Orleans was savaged by a cholera epidemic and in addition, between 1817 and 1860, there were 23 outbreaks of Yellow Fever. This wicked disease was spread by mosquitoes, which bred in household cisterns. The most serious epidemic of yellow fever hit the city in 1853, sending thousands to higher ground in surrounding cities like Natchez and Mobile. Over 8,000 people died before the cool months of Fall arrived.

THE CIVIL WAR IN NEW ORLEANS

In 1860, New Orleans had the largest cotton market in the world and was, by far, the wealthiest city in America. It had been an American city for just over 50 years before it found itself at war. On February 4, 1861 Senator Judah P. Benjamin announced to Congress that Louisiana had seceded from the Union. The state would stand alone for three entire months until it joined the Confederate States of America. When the war began, it would be General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and his regiment of Louisiana men who would open fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.
The war in New Orleans came early and the city spent the greatest amount of the war under Union control, despite being located so far into the enemy territory of the Confederacy.
In April of 1862, a fleet of 24 ships, under command of David G. Farragut, was ordered to sail up river and seize New Orleans. The Confederate defenders did everything they could to stop him. To reach the city, Farragut’s ships had to get past Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip.
Commander David Dixon Porter, Farragut’s younger foster brother, came up with a reckless plan. They would send a collection of small sailing vessels, each bearing a huge mortar, into the harbor and anchor them below the forts so that they could pound the defenses in advance of the fleet. They tried this but after six days of battering, the forts remained standing. Farragut decided on an even more daring scheme..... under the cover of night, they would run past the forts, smash the barricades and steam into New Orleans.
At two o’clock in the morning, Farragut’s warships started past the forts. The forts opened fire and the lead ship was hit 42 times. It caught fire but they managed to quench the flames and start forward again. It was a test of sheer will, but the four flagships somehow made it past the forts.
As they approached New Orleans, a makeshift Confederate squadron of 8 ships sailed out to meet them. Farragut sank all but 2 of them and the city surrendered without a shot.

After the surrender, Lincoln named Benjamin F. Butler the military governor of occupied New Orleans. Butler saw no need to be gentle in his position and his methods earned him both admiration and scorn on both sides. He hanged a man suspected of desecrating the American flag, closed a secessionist newspaper and confiscated the property of anyone who would not swear allegiance to the Union.
The women of New Orleans insulted Butler’s men in the streets, calling them names and screeching at them. When a woman in the French Quarter opened her window and emptied the contents of a chamber pot over Admiral David Farragut’s head, Butler issued General Order Number 28. It simply stated that any woman who insulted a member of the United States Army would be treated from that point as a prostitute, in the midst of plying her trade.
Needless to say, the men and women of the south were outraged and called Butler everything from “unchivalrous” to “Beast”. Butler refused to back down and the harassment of his men stopped and no woman was ever arrested.

Butler also tore apart two other old New Orleans institutions... a historical landmark and the institution of slavery.
The statue of Andrew Jackson had been standing in the city’s Jackson Square for six years when the Union troops arrived, honoring the fact that Old Hickory had saved the city from the British in 1815. Butler order these words carved into the pedestal, calculated to enrage the citizens of New Orleans: “The Union must and shall be preserved.”
Butler also quickly turned the friction between masters and slaves to the Union’s advantage. He declared the plantation owners to be disloyal to the Union and he confiscated their property, in this case, their slaves, and set them free. The freed blacks left the plantations and fled behind Union lines. “I was always a friend of southern rights, “ Butler said, “but an enemy of southern wrongs”.

Congress re-admitted Louisiana to the Union in June of 1868. The period from the end of Reconstruction to the depression of the 1890’s was marked by social and political upheaval, a failing cotton market and the loss of the major ports. It would not be until World War I before New Orleans would again be considered a major shipping port.

THE KINGFISH

In 1929, the Great Depression hit America, spelling catastrophe for many New Orleans banks and businesses. Following close behind the disaster came the voice of change for the desperate times. A former patent medicine salesman from northern Louisiana named Huey P. Long suddenly appeared on the scene and made a bid for the position of governor of the state. Long (who would later be nicknamed “The Kingfish”) promised to break that hold that big business had on the wealth of the state and see it re-distributed back among the people. In a state where nearly 12 percent of the population was on federal aid, Long’s promises found an eager audience!
From the day that Long won office as the railroad commissioner at age 25, he set out to break the back of Standard Oil, the Rockefeller-owned driller who was one of the largest in the state. Long was a revolutionary and the people at it up.
After Long was elected governor in 1928, the state legislature in Baton Rouge came under his control. He used his power to revenge himself on the New Orleans politicians and newspapers who had opposed him. After serving as governor, he ran for and won a seat in the US Senate. Before leaving for Washington, he fired the legally elected lieutenant governor and replaced him with two designated successors, thus continuing to control the state from Washington. He even convened 11 special sessions of the state legislature, which passed every bill that he proposed. Long was out of control.... but his reign was quickly coming to an end.

On September 8, 1935, Huey Long was murdered by a Baton Rouge doctor named Dr. Carl Weiss. The doctor’s motive has never been clear and been much debated, although some have stated that he was blackmailed by Long. The stories go that the Kingfish planned to reveal that the doctor’s wife, who came from a prominent St. Landry Parish family, had black blood.
However, the family of Dr. Weiss, who was killed during the assassination attempt, still maintain that he was not the killer at all. They say that he was killed in the crossfire of an assassination by the bodyguards of Huey Long himself!

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE NEXT SECTION OF NEW ORLEANS' DARK HISTORY!
THE PEOPLE OF NEW ORLEANS....
THE FRENCH CREOLE - THE CAJUNS - MARDI GRAS - PIRATES - CASKET GIRLS AND PROSTITUTES -
THE MOB IN NEW ORLEANS

COPYRIGHT 2000 BY TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.