Lighting Lee

Lighting Lee

The White League engaged in terrorism by lighting Lee.

lighting lee - lee monument in 1916

Lighting Lee Circle

Photos of Lee Circle at night. The first, set back from the monument, is a John Tibule Mendes shot taken in 1916. The second is from New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, from 1928. Caption for the 1916 photo (via THNOC):

Poorly-exposed night view of the Lee Monument at Lee Circle in the Central Business District looking along Saint Charles Avenue towards Uptown. Streetcar tracks are visible in the foreground. The Lee Monument honors Confederate General Robert E. Lee and was dedicated on February 22, 1884. John Roy of New Orleans designed the mound and column while Alexander Doyle designed the bronze likeness of Lee that stands atop the column.

Accordingly, New Orleans Railway & Light Company provided the electric power for lighting Lee in 1916.

lighting lee - lee monument in 1928

The second photo shows the monument from a closer perspective.

Why Lee?

The purpose erecting a statue to the traitor Lee was simple: assertion of white supremacy in New Orleans. So, Confederate sympathizers terrorized the population of New Orleans from the start of the Union occupation in 1862. Unionists, mostly Irish and Germans, went to the river levees to greet the Union squadron under the command of Flag-Officer Farragut. Despite their defeat, white men shot and killed them, forcing others to retreat from the levee. Confederates held the Irish and Germans responsible for the loss of the city. During the attack, the Irish and German troops at Fort Jackson mutinied, sealing the city’s fate. Local lost-causers formed the White League, formalizing their opposition to a Union-controlled state government. Therefore, the White League was, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist organization.

So, fast forward to twenty years after the conflict. The White League pressed their control of the city. hey used Carnival organizations and social clubs to bolster the terrorist violence of their militia. The city’s demographics changed radically in the 1880s, with the influx of Sicilians into New Orleans. The Sicilians brought their own criminal element with them. The Mafia challenged the White League’s control. This required a response from the established criminals.

The monument

To emphasize the economic control the White League held, they commissioned a column of “white Georgia marble” to be placed at the center of Tivoli Circle. They topped that column with a statue of the traitor Lee. Sculptor Alexander Doyle crafted that statue. it was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1884. While the outward forms of support for the monument stated it was built to recognize the sacrifices of the Confederacy, its underlying purpose was asserting power.

The lights

The White League experimented with illuminating the monument almost immediately. The first attempts involved burning magnesium in the urns around the column. This lit up Lee Circle for miles. Of course, the magnesium burned out and had to be replaced. By the 1910s, urban electrification extended into residential areas of the city. First came the streetcars, in the 1890s, Power lines extended from the streetcar routes. With Lee, it was a matter of someone willing to pay the light bill.

Why bother with lighting? The monument stood at the Western end of the Central Business District. Tourists rarely ventured past Poydras Street. In the early part of the 20th century, most buildings in New Orleans were three or four stories. The monument towered over the neighborhood. Light it up at night, and Lee was visible for miles. That pleased the White League. It communicated to everyone their ownership and control of the city. That made the light bill worth it.

Bay to City – BOSH in the 1860s

Bay to City – BOSH in the 1860s

The Brothers of the Sacred Heart moved into Faubourg Marigny during the Civil War, Bay to City.

bay to city

Bay to City

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart (BOSH) stood at a crossroads. The Institute operated St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, since 1854. With secession of Louisiana and Mississippi, the Union Navy blockaded the Western Gulf Coast, anticipating an invasion of New Orleans. The Brothers closed St. Stanislaus to boarders.

To fully appreciate this move, consider a trip from the city to the bay. We’re not talking about an hour’s drive. In 1861, you’d load up a coach or wagon with your boy(s) and their luggage, and head about 100 miles east. That was a eight hour ride. With Farragut’s ships and gunboats, along with Butler’s 30,000 troops on Ship Island, safety was a serious concern. While families understood the concerns, they didn’t want to just give up on a BOSH education for their boys.

To the City

bay to city

Brother Athanasius Faugier, S.C.

So, the BOSH contacted the Archbishop of New Orleans, Jean-Marie Odin, about setting up a presence in the city. Odin agreed, and connected Brother Athanasius Faugier, S.C, of St. Stanislaus, with Father Anthony Durier, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Faubourg Marigny. Fr. Durier helped the Brothers set up shop in the Marigny. This made a lot of sense. Brothers from France worked with a French archbishop to open a school in a very-French neighborhood. Fr. Durier loaned a house to the BOSH. They renovated that house to accommodate twenty-five boarders. They then rented a house on Union Street (now Touro Street) and opened the school. The school was about six blocks away from the boarding house. The 1883 Robinson Atlas segment above shows Annunciation Church in block 492.

bay to city

Fr. Anthony Durier

This arrangement continued through the end of the rebellion. The BOSH packed up and returned to the Bay. It wasn’t long, though, that Archbishop Odin invited the institute to establish a permanent presence in New Orleans. The BOSH purchased the house at Chartres and Barracks Streets in 1869, and St. Aloysius opens.

Thanks to the faculty members of Brother Martin High School, who assembled much of this information for their Day of Experience, “Exploring the Origins of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans.”

St. Aloysius memories for Martin Madness

St. Aloysius memories for Martin Madness

Looking back at St. Aloysius memories for Martin Madness 2024.

st. aloysius memories

St. Aloysius Memories

St. Aloysius memories

ad for St. Aloysius in the Daily Picayune, 24-August-1881

For Day Two of the “Martin Madness 2024” campaign at Brother Martin High School, please enjoy some memories from the Daily Picayune newspaper. Two advertisements for St. Aloysius entice families to come to the school. The first appeared on 24-August-1881. The school opened in the French Quarter, at Chartres and Barracks Streets, in 1869. The Brothers of the Sacred Heart (BOSH) were solidly established at that location by this time,

At top is a watercolor illustration of the original St. Aloysius from 1869. The Spanish built this house for their army during the colonial period. It changed hands from the Spanish to the French just before the Louisiana Purchase. Much of the property owned by the colonial governments passed to the Catholic Church just before the Americans took ownership of the city. Archbishop Odin, recognizing the quality work of the BOSH, invited the Institute to open a permanent school in the city. He sold them this house. The illustration is the “plan book” made to document the sale.

Esplanade and N. Rampart

St. Aloysius memories

ad in the Daily Picayune, 24-August-1892

 

The BOSH outgrew the French Quarter location. They acquired the mansion at the corner of Esplanade Ave. and N. Rampart Streets in 1892. This ad, from 24-August-1892, isn’t much different than the earlier one, with the exception of the location change.

st. aloysius memories

St. Aloysius, 1892

Here’s the original school at that corner.

The Hat

If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, go! If you have, you heard me mention throwing money into the hat to support the school. While it was meant as a metaphorical hat (you have a credit card/venmo/etc), i really do have a hat. I’ll be at the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Blvd., tomorrow morning, for Day Three of Martin Madness. Listen to the pod. Think back on your memories of the school, as a student, parent, faculty member. Stop by, say hi, and toss some cash in the hat!

Podcast 42 – Martin Madness

Podcast 42 – Martin Madness

Brother Martin High School’s spring fundraising campaign is “Martin Madness”

martin madness

Martin Madness

Sharing some history, reflections, and thoughts on the influence of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, from the Civil War to the present.


Here’s the PDF

Go support Brother Martin High!

Street names change over time

Street names change over time

It’s no surprise that street names in New Orleans change over time.

street names

Street tiles for General Pershing Street, renamed from Berlin Street. (Infrogmation photo)

The changing of street names.

City government changes street names for a number of reasons. Here are some examples, using the Robinson Atlas of 1883. Let’s start with the French Quarter.

Custom House to Iberville

street names

Custom House Street, 1883

The first street after Canal Street, inside the French Quarter, was originally named “Custom House.” It was later changed to Iberville Street. While we associate both LeMoyne brothers with the founding of New Orleans, Bienville had the greater role. Iberville’s contributions weren’t initially considered significant enough to earn a street.

Calle del Arsenal

street names

Calle Del Arsenal (Infrogmation photo)

The street was originally named for the Ursuline nuns. When the Spanish took over, streets received names in their language. Spanish troops were quartered on the lower side of the city, hence Barracks and Arsenal. Calle del Arsenal reverted to Ursuline after New Orleans was sold to the United States in 1803.

Hospital to Governor Nicholls

street names

Hospital Street, 1883

In the Lower Quarter, Hospital changed to Governor Nicholls, in honor of Francis T. Nicholls, governor of Louisiana from 1888-1892. The city changed the street after he passed in 1912.

Outside the French Quarter

Tulane Avenue from Common Street

street names

Common Street, from Claiborne to Broad, 1883

Common Street, above Elk Place, changed to Tulane Avenue in 1884, in honor of philanthropist and namesake of Tulane University, Paul Tulane. Several street name changes took place around this time. In addition to the creation of Tulane Avenue, Delord Street (which ended at Tivoli Circle) changed to Howard Avenue.

Adams to Lee to Toussaint

street names

segment of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Lakeview

Before electric streetcars, transit to the West End and Spanish Fort recreational areas along Lake Pontchartrain was accomplished via steam trains. West End converted first, in 1898. The Spanish Fort train closed, but returned in 1911 as an electrified streetcar line. Both streetcar lines ran out to the lakefront on West End Boulevard. Spanish Fort turned on Adams Street (named after Presidents John and John Quincy Adams). With the increased significance of the street after 1911, the city renamed Adams for Robert E. Lee.

The city renamed the street a second time, in 2022. Perfectly normal course of action. So, is it revisionist? No. Would it be revisionist to say Robert E. Lee had a significant impact on the history of New Orleans? Yes, because, in his entire life, he only spent about thirty-six hours here.

Tivoli to Lee to Harmony

street names

Lee Circle, 1883

The roundabout on Naiads Street, now St. Charles Avenue, at Delord Street (now Howard Avenue). The city originally named it, “Tivoli Circle.” In terms of city ordinances, that name remained until 2022. From Wikipedia:

On July 31, 1877, “Lee Place” within “Tivoli Circle” was authorized by Ordinance A.S. 4064[4][5] Although the traffic circle is commonly referred to as “Lee Circle”, this ordinance makes clear that the “enclosure” containing the statue is to be known as “Lee Place”, while the traffic circle itself continues to be known as “Tivoli Circle”. This ordinance contains no reference to the name “Lee Circle”.

While the monument and park honored Lee, the roundabout never changed from Tivoli Circle. This demonstrates common usage colliding with legal names. So, since the Lee statue stood at the center of the park, the entire area became, “Lee Circle.”

In 2022, the City Council formally re-named Tivoli Circle, Harmony Circle.

street names

Harmony Circle via Google Maps

Was this “revisionist history?” No. Street names changed all the time. Would it be revisionist history to argue that Lee wasn’t on the losing side of the Southern Rebellion? Yes.

Washington Artillery Cenotaph

Washington Artillery Cenotaph

Metairie Cemetery is the site of the Washington Artillery Cenotaph.

washington artillery cenotaph

Washington Artillery Cenotaph

George Mugnier photo (courtesy NOPL) of the Washington Artillery Cenotaph in Metairie Cemetery. A “cenotaph” is an empty tomb. They serve as monuments to people buried elsewhere. So, the United States Army formed the Washington Artillery (WA) in 1838. It is now the 141st Field Artillery Regiment. The unit is attached to the Louisiana National Guard. In 1861, the government of Louisiana took control of the unit. It was a battalion at the time. WA fought as part of the main rebel force. WA re-organized in the 1870s.

The Monument

The Washington Artillery Association raised funds for a monument to the battalion in 1879. The unit consisted of four companies at the time. Additionally, a fought with the Army of Tennessee. So, the association accepted proposals from various architects, They chose the design submitted by Charles A. Orleans. Orleans proposal included a sculpture by Alexander Doyle. Doyle imagined a figure of an artillery private, holding a “sponge.” The sponge was fixed to a ramrod. Gunners used them to clean out a just-fired gun. So, the cenotaph’s price tag was $10,000. Donations ranging from $25 to $250 came in to cover the costs.

While the unit fought for twenty years in the Union Army, the monument honors the rebel years. The roll of the dead listed members of the unit killed during that period. The battle honors initially engraved on the cenotaph began with Bull Run. Mexican War honors were not listed. The  list of engagements shows just how active and effective the unit was.

Dedication

The Association dedicated the cenotaph on February 23, 1880. A thousand people came out to honor the unit. The unit and its veterans association updated the cenotaph, expanding the battle honors as the battalion returned to active duty with the Army. The 141st hold a memorial annually at the cenotaph, as part of the unit’s heritage and traditions.