Birds-eye view of New Orleans, 1851, by John Bachmann.
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Birds-eye view 1851
“Birds’ eye view of New-Orleans / drawn from nature on stone by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann].” The Mississippi River stands in the foreground. The view looks north to Lake Pontchartrain. Below the title: “Published by the agents A. Guerber & Co., c1851 (Printed by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann]).”
The map features an incredible amount of detail. While the majority of the map focuses on the east bank of the river, scenes on the west bank are visible. Reply/comment with the details that stand out to you!
John Bachmann, Sr., was a lithographer from Switzerland. While most of his work features views of New York City, he made a number of lithographs in other cities. Students of the Southern Rebellion refer to his drawings regularly. Anticipating conflict, Bachmann traveled to a number of possible flashpoints. He sketched those scenes, then converted them to “aerial” views.
Creating a birds-eye view
The perspective of drawings like birds-eye view 1851 dates back centuries. The idea is, the artist surveys and sketches the scene from a ground-level perspective. They then “stretch” the scene in their imagination. The artist uses that mental image to “look down” on the scene. They review the original details, adjusting the perspective.
So, to draw those riverboats, Bachmann sketched them, most likely sitting on the west bank levee. He added them to the river on the birds-eye, adjusting the angle in his mind. The paralell riverboat now appears from above.
New Orleans detail
Several things stand out to me from this litho:
Riverboats. Bachmann captures a number of ocean-going ships as well as the classic riverboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi. The Port of New Orleans bustled in the late 1840s/early 1850s.
Old Canal. The Carondelet Canal runs on the Eastern side of the lithograph, merging with Bayou St. John. The bayou then extends to the lake. The left-right body of water visible where canal joins bayou is Bayou Metairie. The city closed the Carondelet Canal in the 1920s. Norman C. Francis Parkway comes to and end in what was the swampy ground joining the bayous.
We’ll return to this drawing again for more detail!
Lytle photo of the sloop of war, USS Hartford, 1863. The Boston Navy Yard built the sloop. After a shakedown cruise, USS Hartford sailed to Asia, where it carried the US Minister to China, John Elliott Ward on various diplomatic missions.
When the Southern States rebelled against the Union, the US Navy implemented a classic, Royal Navy-style blockade on the coastlines of the rebel states. That blockade began at Virginia, curving around Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. The US Navy assigned squadrons to specific areas along the blockade lines. USS Hartford returned to the US. After refitting, she sailed to the Gulf of Mexico as flagship of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Farragut took Hartford to Ship Island in February, 1862, where he consulted with Army commanders. Plans for the attack began in earnest when Commander David Dixon Porter arrived with his squadron of mortar schooners in March.
Second Battle of New Orleans
Farragut led his squadron up the Mississippi River, making a run past Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, on the night of 24-April-1862. While the squadron got passed the forts and steamed upriver to New Orleans, Hartford was damaged by fire-rafts. Farragut’s officers accepted the city’s surrender. Major General Benjamin Butler occupied the city on 1-May-1862. So, Farragut took Hartford and the rest of his squadron up the Mississippi to Baton Rouge. He captured the city without opposition. Farragut and the Navy used Baton Rouge and New Orleans as staging areas for the various attacks on rebel positions further up the river.
This photo shows USS Hartford about a year after the Battle of New Orleans. While it’s moored at Baton Rouge, the photo shows that the damage it suffered on the night of 24-April-1862 has been repaired.
On a side note, the current USS Hartford (SSN-768) is a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. It was part of the squadron based at Point Loma, CA, when my son was a junior officer on the USS Alexandria (SSN-757).
A Facebook friend shared this TedEd video this morning. It’s clarity and frankness impressed me. This video (about five minutes long) is a great resource for classroom teachers and homeschoolers alike. If you teach History in middle school or above, add this to your lessons. This is the perfect addition to inadequate textbooks.
The Atlantic Slave Trade brought enslaved Africans to North America. One of the things folks excusing human trafficking say is, “Africans sold their own into slavery.” Yes, this is true. So, this presentation explains European involvement in the trade. African rulers sold their enemies from rival areas and tribes to the Europeans. In addition rulers profited from enslavement. It was an easy solution for refugees and prisoners of war.
New Orleans and Human Trafficking
New Orleans became a major port of entry for enslaved Africans. It wasn’t a direct part of the Atlantic Slave Trade, though. Africans died in large numbers in transit. Therefore, traffickers ran from West Africa to North America as quickly as possible. They unloaded the survivors of the passages in cities on the Atlantic coast. Additionally, they traveled to the Caribbean, Saint-Domingue or Havana. New Orleans connected the Islands to the US. As the plantation economy grew in the Deep South, slave owners in the islands moved their property to the mainland. Even though the British outlawed the slave trade in 1807, the practice continued for decades. The port of New Orleans moved many of the enslaved into the country.
Museums and Memorials
USS Constellation, anchored in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (courtesy Flickr user sherseydc)
This video presents the background for the concept of a “slave ship museum.” In Baltimore, the USS Constellation museum recognizes the ship’s past as a slaver. So, the impact of human trafficking isn’t the main focus. Is New Orleans the right place for such a museum? Check out the video and share your thoughts.
Milneburg, Alexander Milne’s port on Lake Pontchartrain.
‘Winter in the South’ – Article from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, December 1858. Woodcut engraving ‘The Light-House-Lake Pontchartrain’. (h/t Pontchartrain.net)
Milneburg – Port village on Lake Pontchartrain
A short drive or bus ride from downtown out to the campus of the University of New Orleans brings you back to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Milneburg. The area is all commercial-use now, but it began as port area, then resort, then an important part of the city’s contribution to the war effort in the 1940s.
The area at Elysian Fields and the Lakefront was swampland when the French established New Orleans near the Mississippi River. The Spanish colonial government, seeing little value in the land, sold it to a Scottish businessman, Alexander Milne. Milne came to New Orleans in 1776, where he started a brick making business. That business became quite profitable after the great fires of 1788 and 1794, when the Spanish ordered the city be rebuilt with brick structures, rather than the wooden ones built by the French. Milne worked to develop his lakefront property, particularly on the eastern side of the city. By 1830, he had encouraged a group of businessmen to form the Pontchartrain Rail-Road Company, which built a five-mile right-of-way, connecting Faubourg Marigny with Milneburg.
Bypassing the Mississippi River
Fishing camps along the lake in Milneburg, 1923 (photo: public domain)
Milne constructed a small port on the lakefront, building a pier which extended out into the lake far enough that ocean-going ships could dock there, and their cargo could be taken by rail to the city. The path from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, to the Rigolets Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain and finally to Milneburg, was attractive to ship captains, since it was faster than coming up to New Orleans from the mouth of the river. To improve safety at the port, the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse was constructed in 1834.
Theresa Gallagher and her husband, Conrad Freese, at Milneburg, New Orleans c. 1880 – 1890 (Photo: public domain)
Milneburg was the terminus of the Pontchartrain Railroad. The trains ran down what is now Elysian Fields Avenue, to the company’s station at Elysian Fields and Chartres, in the Marigny. The Pontchartrain Railroad operated for over a century.
Quarella’s Restaurant, Mlineburg, 1914 (photo: public domain)
Commercial use of Milneburg boomed during the antebellum years, and continued through the Civil War. The U.S. Navy so totally dominated the Confederate forces in 1862 that New Orleans surrendered without a land battle. Milneburg’s use as a commercial port waned in the late 1800s, but the area continued to be a popular day trip from the city. Saloons, clubs, and restaurants popped up in Milneburg as early as the 1840s. By the 1900s, the area was a network of fishing camps, resorts, and restaurants.
Milneburg also became known for its music. In his biography of Edward “Kid” Ory, Creole Trombone, John McCusker writes of Ory’s memories of busking for tips in Milneburg. Ory and his band would come into the city from LaPlace, and would head out to Milneburg during the day, going from fishing camp to fishing camp, playing for tips. Perhaps it was Ory and his band that influenced a number of Italian-American boys like Sharkey Bonano, who lived in Milneburg to play Jazz. Either way, Jazz stayed in Milneburg even after Ory’s band became well-known and played paying gigs uptown and in Storyville. Younger musicians would ride the “Smokey Mary” (as the Pontchartrain Rail-Road was known locally) out to the resort area, hang out, and play.
Milneburg in 1921 (photo: public domain)
Food and music kept Milneburg popular long after its usefulness as a port had diminished. The railroad continued passenger operations until 1932. When land reclamation projects around Bayou St. John and Spanish Fort pushed Pontchartrain Beach further back from the the lake shore, Harry Batt persuaded the city and the WPA to build bath houses and a beach area at Milneburg. He re-opened Pontchartrain Beach at the end of Elysian Fields in 1939.
NAS New Orleans, Pontchartrain Beach, and Camp Leroy Johnson, 1947. (Photo: courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Milneburg at war
World War II changed the character of Milneburg and the overall lakefront dramatically. The War Department appropriate the land on either side of the amusement park. Naval Air Station New Orleans opened on the western side of Pontchartrain Beach. On the other side, the Army built Camp Leroy Johnson, a supply depot. The aircraft manufacturer, Consolidated Vultee, built an aircraft factory at the end of Franklin Avenue. Consolidated built PBY seaplanes there. The assembly line ended at the lake. The planes rolled right out into the lake for testing.
After the war, the Navy moved the air station down to Belle Chasse. They returned the Lakefront base to the Orleans Levee Board. The OLB leased it to LSU. The school opened Louisiana State University in New Orleans, now UNO. The Army gave back the western section of Camp Leroy Johnson to the OLB. The board developed that parcel into what is now the Lake Oaks subdivision. The Consolidated Vultee aircraft plant on Franklin Avenue became an American Standard factory. The Army also gave the eastern portion of Camp Leroy Johnson back to the state. That area became the University of New Orleans “East Campus.” That parcel is now home to the UNO Lakefront Arena and the Privateer Park baseball stadium. The Department of Defense retained the eastern section of the Army base. It’s now home to the Army and Navy Reserve centers, and the local FBI headquarters.
Milneburg the port was long gone by the end of the 19th Century. Milneburg the resort vanished by World War II. Pontchartrain Beach closed in 1983, so now all that’s left of the original town is the lighthouse. Well, that and “Milneburg Joys.”
1841 New Orleans color engraving. “New Orleans. – Taken from the Opposite Side a Short Distance above the Middle or Picayune Ferry.”
1841 New Orleans – The nation’s second city
I spent Sunday researching Krauss stuff, and came across an engraving that was used by an author writing about the Jewish community in New Orleans. It was a lovely scene of 1841 New Orleans, drawn from across the river in Algiers. Since some of the buildings on the other side of the river are fuzzy, I put the article up on the “Ain’t There No More” group on Facebook. It’s a great group of folks, who like to help out. I received a great response. My friend Carlos “Froggy” May came right back with a link to the Commons. It was a link to a color engraving of a similar scene.
So, it turns out that the black and white sketch I found was drawn by someone named A. Mondelli. Then the sketch was then turned into a color engraving by William J. Bennet, and published by Henry I. Megarey of New York.
Here’s Froggy’s entry in the Commons for this engraving:
View looking from Algiers (probably about where Mardi Gras World is now) looking across the Mississippi River. On river are a variety of sailing ships, steam ships, row-boats, and a flatboat. Across the river is the skyline of the “American Quarter” of New Orleans, with the dome of the first St. Charles Hotel prominent just left of center. The French Quarter to the right is mostly obscured by ships, but the towers of St. Louis Cathedral can be recognized behind ships’ rigging near the right edge. In the foreground along the river batture are seen, left to right: two men in top-hats and prosperous outfits of the time with a dog; a small group of African Americans (likely slaves), both men and women, working taking soil from the river edge and putting it in wheel-barrows (presumably building up the high-water levee a short distance inland); two white men in working garb seated on a log with barrels; two large metal anchors; and two men moving a small sailboat which is tied to a post on the bature (presumably either about to put it back in the water or almost finished dragging it on land).
The original sketch
the original A. Mondelli sketch
Here’s the original sketch. While the color engraving keeps the spirit of the orginal, I love that Mr. Bennett did not simply colorize the sketch. He let a bit of time lapse. Notice that the flatboat in the river is now past the domed building on the east bank. The artist stands a bit to the left, which reveals the robust shipping traffic along the river at this time.
New Orleans before the Civil War
This scene depicts typical river traffic from the antebellum period. Most coastal and trans-Atlantic ships still used wind power. We start to see larger steam-powered ships in the 1840s. New Orleans at this time was a bustling port, tying the South to Baltimore and New York City, as well as Havana and Europe. Ocean-going ships docked at New Orleans, then steamboats took the cargo from Europe into the center of the United States. The need to transfer cargo, first to riverboats, later to trains, was critical, and it’s why the Union took seriously the capture of the city at the beginning of the Civil War.
I’m sure others end up down these oooh-shiny rabbit holes as well. I started out looking at a bill of lading for bales of cotton and end up reading about a Jewish cotton factor who was a leader in the community. Any connection to the city’s Jewish community naturally leads me back to looking for connections to the Krauss family, for my book on their department store. One thing to another to another and I’m through the looking glass.
The New Orleans Riverfront, antebellum
Not that I’m complaining, mind you, this is a lovely little engraving. The illustrator is on the west bank of the river, looking back at the city. The spires are a bit indistinct. The one on the left could be St. Patrick’s. The number of churches visible indicates this is a view that is uptown from Canal Street. I’ll edit this post after I put it up on the ATNM group, to see if anyone can make more sense of those church spires than I.
The traffic on the river is a typical mix. on the left, heading downriver, is a small schooner. In the middle of the river (and the engraving) is a flatboat. He appears to be going upriver, but it’s more likely that the boat is trying to simply cross the river. The current would make it difficult for such a craft to travel far upriver, so the man on the tiller is likely trying to make his way from one side to the other. The main ship in the scene is a two-masted brig. This is a typical sort of ship you would see making coastal runs along the Gulf Coast, to Havana, and possibly up to Baltimore or New York. On the right side, we see several vessels at anchor on the west bank.