Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

William Smith to his wife, 1862 (courtesy Howard-Tilton Library)

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

I’m sure most of you know that, in addition to my history books, I write fiction. I’ve written two YA novels and an Urban Fantasy story.

One of my longer-term fiction projects is a novel set in Civil War New Orleans. So, I regularly save primary sources from the period, to get a better feel for the period.

New Orleans during the Civil War fascinates me, because the city was taken out of the action/fighting early, in April, 1862. As the war raged, the city went back to being a busy port, albeit for the Union. While access to the city from the north was a challenge, waterborne commerce resumed when US Navy lifted its blockade. Therefore, goods and people came back to the city. Intrigue and excitement came with them!

From the North to Ship Island to Baton Rouge

Since I’m more interested in the “feel” of the time and the tactics of the regiments, I haven’t looked into the Smiths at all. He’s clearly in a Union regiment, since he talks about Ship Island. Ship Island, in Mississippi Sound, was the staging area for Butler’s troops. They moved up from the swamps near Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, then into New Orleans. Eight months later, this regiment fought in the area around Baton Rouge.

There are numerous stories and legends about Benjamin “Beast” Butler in New Orleans. Most of them are inaccurate, being part of the “Lost Cause” mythos. So many schools taught the Lost Cause as fact over the last 150 years, folks in the South have it backwards. While Butler is important to the story, I see him as the least interesting. Accounts like Smith’s letter here make far better stories. Since they’re part of the written record, as opposed to tall tales passed down, they’re more valid.

Source for this letter

This letter is available from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.