Last Saturday, 21 April, 2012, we landed at the New Orleans airport around noon. After checking into the hotel we went to lunch then walked in the French Quarter. I saw a French sailor, in his uniform, with the distinctive red pom-pom on his round cap. I did a double take – how could a French sailor be in New Orleans in uniform? There had to be a French ship close by. Then as we walked down the street we saw a multitude of navy men and women. As we came by the levée along the Mississippi the steamboat Natchez sailed by. As we watched it we saw some military ships in the distance.
As we kept walking we came close to a large sign indicating that this was New Orleans (NOLA) Navy Week. I had not been aware of it. My picture below shows part of a Navy ship and the sign confirms that the French Frigate Germinal was by the dock ahead.
(click on collage to enlarge)
From April 17 through 23rd, 2012, New Orleans was the inaugural city for the three-year celebration commemorating the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner. There were military vessels and tall ships carrying 3,000 sailors. The ships could be visited but it was almost 5 o’clock and too late for us to visit them. The French sailors I had seen came with the French Frigate Germinal (F735.) Her usual mission is monitoring traffic in the Northern Sea and responding to ecological emergencies. It certainly was strange for me to see all these French sailors in New Orleans.
(photos courtesy Consulate General of France in New Orleans)
Moored close by were the guided-missile frigate USS De Wert (FFG45) as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1); guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57); U.S. Coast Guard Tall Ship Eagle; HMS Montrose of the United Kingdom and HMCS St. John’s from Canada, along with the tall ships Dewaruci from Indonesia and BAE Guayas from Ecuador (a sail training ship.) Quite a flotilla! As someone who loves ships – this was eye candy.
(photos courtesy US Navy and Reuters)
I understand that the 3-year commemoration of the War of 1812 will conclude in New Orleans in January 2015, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. I frankly don’t know that much about this war as we did not study it when I was in school in France. From what I understand it was mostly a war of expansion for the United States. They were attempting to obtain Canadian and Amerindian lands. Amerindians or First Nations as they are called in Canada helped keep Canada British. Chief Tecumseh’s warriors fought along with the British regulars and Canadian volunteers and played a great role in defeating the Americans.
Meeting of British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh (Chief of the Shawnee) in 1812 by C. W. Jefferys (Canadian 1859-1951)
Unfortunately Tecumseh was killed in 1813 and the British did not include an autonomous Indian state when a peace treaty was signed in 1815. The Americans acquired a significant amount of Creek Indian land. Later, American Andrew Jackson cunningly negotiated 11 treaties with five tribes – the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Seminoles and Creeks. They slowly abandoned their lands too– which is what the American land speculators were hoping. So in a way the Amerindians – First Nations – were the big losers in this war. Andrew Jackson is considered a hero because he led a victorious battle against the British at Palmette Plantation, south of New Orleans in January 1815. Sadly, both parties did not know that the peace treaty had already been signed in Belgium two weeks earlier…. communications were slow then and they had tragic consequences.
Battle of New Orleans by Edward Percy Moran, American 1862-1935
Canada will also celebrate this War of 1812. I read online on a Canadian bicentennial celebration government document: “The war has played an important role in the creation of Canada’s military…It took the joint efforts of the English and French fighters and indigenous Canada, with British military forces to succeed in defeating the U.S. invasion…” Below is a postal stamp commemorating Major General Isaac Brock on a Guernsey stamp issued in 1996.
During the few days that we were in New Orleans as we walked by the Mississippi we saw many cargo ships as well as the picturesque steamboat Natchez going out on the river.
A ferry crosses the river every 15 minutes between New Orleans and Algiers. We did cross the river on this ferry later on (will be in a future post.)
Another ship we saw often as we walked by the Mississippi was the paddle wheeler Creole Queen. She is an authentic paddle wheeler powered by a 24 foot diameter paddle wheel.
The Creole Queen is equipped with a diesel-electric system instead of steam engine. Steamships, riverboats, paddle wheelers – all of these were used for centuries for transportation across, up and down rivers and even across the sea. Below is the PS Waverly, the last sea going paddle steamer, from Scotland. (photo courtesy Wikipedia.)
Going down the Mississippi River in these bygone days must have been fascinating. Most of these days have disappeared but we can still get a glimpse of them by going on a river cruise aboard one of these steamers. That will be for the next post…
Dixie Bayou Navigation from a sketch by Mrs. Theodore R. Davis (courtesy Harper’s Weekly, April 1863.)
Note: Blogger has been updated. I noticed that my font changes with paragraphs. If anyone knows how to keep my font consistent, please let me know. Thanks.