We have talked a bit in the last blog post about the various ties New Orleans had to regional, national, and international communities, and today we will explore how those ties influenced the trajectory of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the city.
But as part of Louisiana, New Orleans had but no choice to secede - despite the fact that it voted overwhelmingly for Constitutional Unionist candidate John Bell of Tennessee.
Leeds Foundry was symbolic of the antebellum industry found in New Orleans. Today it is the home of the Preservation Resource Center. It was to make two gunboats, the Mississippi and the Louisiana, but only partially finished the Louisiana before it was done. Confederate naval authorities towed the unfinished vessel to the site of Forts Jackson and St. Philip where it was of limited value during the naval battle that decided the military fate of New Orleans. We can discuss this action best while looking at an aerial view of where the action took place.
The diary of Julia LeGrand covers this tumultuous time in New Orleans history. How does this woman feel about events as she sees them unfold? Interestingly, I met a graduate student this weekend at a conference who wrote a master's thesis on Julia LeGrand's experience, which you can find here.
Benjamin Butler was unpopular for a lot of reasons. He was a mediocre general. But he as a pretty good administrator, he was politically powerful, and he was lucky. His successor, Nathaniel P. Banks was similar in many regards, but was from a different political party and decidedly not lucky. Had he been a military genius, perhaps he could have been President of the United States. We'll talk about both of these men in the context of New Orleans and especially the remarkable social movements that began on account of the war.
Lastly, some great images of Civil War Era New Orleans from Dr. Glen Cangelosi on his site about the Washington Artillery.