From a military marching ground in the center of the city to a plot of land on the outskirts of town, New Orleans has served as a battleground since its founding three centuries ago. Fallen patriots have bled on this soil as thundering guns flashed like lightning from the gods of war. When the canon smoke cleared, American history changed forever, making New Orleans a grave marker on the face of a killing field that stretches from revolution to war.
Out of the shadow of a dream, mystics and revolutionaries refashioned their world in accordance with an idealized utopia which helped shape the soul of this glorious city. As the daughter of France, New Orleans was significantly impacted by the French Revolution, which began on July 14, 1789 when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress and prison in Paris representing royal authority. Overthrowing centuries-old absolute monarchy, a feudal assault erupted in the streets of France to fight aristocracy and hierarchy by instilling citizenship and equality. After the Revolution in 1803, French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte sold the colony of New Orleans in a contract called the Louisiana Purchase, making it a part of the United States of America.
The new principals of Enlightenment from France’s upheaval impacted many areas of the world, such as the former French colony of Saint-Domingue, a Caribbean island dominated by masters of sugar plantations who owned African-born slaves. A slave rebellion began in 1789, and during a decade of warfare, an immigration of Haitians fled to New Orleans. These émigrés created an important social and cultural imprint that has influenced the city’s food, architecture, religion, and music.
Out of the sparks of the French Revolution, a series of Napoleonic Wars opposed every European power. Political struggle made its way across the Atlantic as the War of 1812 was declared between the United States and the British Empire whose eye was on the American economic system of trade and industrialization. Land was as valuable as gold, and the Mississippi River was the watery road that flowed from New Orleans to major port cities in the heart of America. To capture New Orleans would be to control the region’s shipments of produce from landholders, farmers and ranchers throughout the Midwest. Thanks to General Andrew Jackson and his legendary militia of pirates and privateers, the Battle of New Orleans massacred the British in a swampland bloodbath just south of the city.
Half a century later, a Civil War broke out on American soil over the succession of Confederate States. New Orleans was the largest Confederate city and its capture by the Union in 1862 was a major turning point for the Civil War. The clash of blue and gray coats were bloodied in battle, but the city was spared destruction. Union forces now had control of the jewel of Mississippi, moving up the river and winning the war of freedom for the slaves.
Thereafter the ownership and nationality remained intact for New Orleans, now a part of the United States and culturally-infused by its liberated history. Out of conflict came creation. Out of demolition came the reconstruction of a courageous city. Out of atrocity, a notorious civilization survived and today still thrives.