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Bill Thayer

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History of Louisiana

Histories and Source Documents

I started putting this part of my site online in September 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina. It's therefore still relatively new and growing, and more material is on its way. (If, mind you, you're just looking for a good summary of the early history of the state, you'll find a superlative one in the Catholic Encyclopedia.)

[image ALT: An engraving of the head of a bearded man. It is a portrait of the Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré.]

[ 2262 print pages ]

Charles Gayarré's History of Louisiana, written over a span of years from 1846 to 1864, provides in‑depth coverage of the early life of the state and territory. The author served as Louisiana's Secretary of State and was thus himself an actor in her history in the latter part of that period; he is unabashed in his support of slavery as a positive good: this adds to the work a personal dimension of some interest.

[image ALT: A map of (what would become) the eastern United States at the end of the 19c, shaded to show the Spanish portion in the west and the American portion in the east; where the two regions touch is deliberately blurry. It is the icon on this site for Arthur Preston Whitaker's book, 'The Spanish-American Frontier: 1783‑1795'.]

[ 245 print pages, 3 maps, presented in 15 webpages ]

The Spanish-American Frontier: 1783‑1795 (by Arthur Preston Whitaker), subtitled The Westward Movement and the Spanish Retreat in the Mississippi Valley, is a very clearly told yet readable account of how Spain managed to put itself in the position of losing Louisiana a few years later.

[image ALT: A flag consisting of a very wide horizontal band, about four-fifths the total height of the flag, on which are placed three fleurs de lys in a triangular pattern 2 and 1; and two thin contrasting bands, one above and one below. It is the flag of the City of New Orleans.]

[ 6/1/06: over 1300 print pages
presented in 71 webpages, 55 photos, 110 engravings, 10 maps ]

The core of this site, for the first year, was a large section on the City of New Orleans. It contains two complete books on the city's history; a largish section of source documents on its unusual water management problems; and other material on its architecture and public health.

[image ALT: A five-pointed star in the center of a rectangular field. It is the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida.]

[ 9/11/10: about 300 pages of print, 4 maps ]

West Florida — a slice of land now comprising the eight "Florida parishes" of Louisiana, plus the coastal counties of Mississippi and Alabama and about half the Florida panhandle — has long been strategically important, and it therefore has a special place in American history, from the 16c thru to the War between the States. Onsite, a book on the Republic of West Florida, with its capital at St. Francisville and its history centered in Baton Rouge and Feliciana, is joined by a number of journal articles.

[image ALT: A version of the seal of the state of Louisiana.]

[ 4/19/06:
15 articles, 4 illustrations ]

From time to time, I expect to add to the site some of the more interesting items to be found in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly — or at least only those in the public domain, of course. Among the items onsite are the Diary of Bernardo de Galvez on the Operations against Pensacola (1780‑1781), a defense of Gen. James Wilkinson, an official Mexican Report on the Texas-Louisiana boundary (1828), some excerpts from Bossu's Travels in North America (1768), and the story of General Victor Collot's arrest for espionage (1796); there are others.

[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

[ 9/21/11:
1 article, 75 pages of print ]

Other journal articles in the American History Notes section of the site are also relevant to the history of Louisiana; for now, one item especially:

The Louisiana-Texas Frontier (a diplomatic history of how the border was established during the French and Spanish colonial periods)

[image ALT: An engraving of a four-story brick building on a street corner, where part of it is cylindrically rounded. It is the Mechanics' Institute in New Orleans, and serves as the icon for 'Campbell's Memorial' on my site.]

[ 3 webpages ]

Address of Citizens of Louisiana to the People of the United States is a memorial by a committee of citizens on what they viewed as fraud in the 1872 elections for state government; it's an interesting window into the crisis that was "Reconstruction" in the South.

[image ALT: A depiction of a pelican in her piety.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is of course the central device on the Louisiana state flag. For a rather thorough discussion of the seal and its pelican, see The Emblematic Bird of Louisiana (LHQ Vol. II No. 3). For the full flag — and nine other flags from Louisiana's history — there once was a set of three pages titled "A Brief History of Louisiana Under 10 Flags", at the website of the Secretary of State of Louisiana; but like much else with the continued shrinking of the Web, the page has vanished.

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Site updated: 21 Sep 11