I did an informal talk on Zoom yesterday, sharing some images from Antebellum to Reconstruction in New Orleans. Had a fun chat!
Video Here. (MP4 file)
Southern Rebellion Irish – talking about the Irish socially in Antebellum New Orleans
Southern Rebellion Irish
While a number of Irish families in New Orleans rose to the upper levels of society by the Southern Rebellion, those in the city who wanted to maintain an economy based on enslaved African labor did not accept newer Irish immigrants as equals. They didn’t mind the Irish taking jobs they didn’t want to do, in the army, doing labor such as working to build the New Canal, and working on the riverfront. By 1860, the Know-Nothings (yes, that was a real party and political movement) pushed immigrants away to the point where the Irish felt strong Unionist sentiments.
The Irish immigrants felt the resentment of the WASPs in the United States antebellum most in the Army. WASP officers commanding units during the Mexican War treated immigrants horribly. This led to a large desertion. Hundreds of Irish soldiers crossing the Rio Grande river joining the Mexican Army. The book, The Rogue’s March: John Riley and the St. Patrick’s Battalion, 1846-48, details the history of the “St. Patrick’s Battalion” of the Mexican Army in 1847-48. While life in the Army improved overall by the Southern Rebellion, the rebels still treated the Irish on their side poorly.
Not just the Irish
As the Irish community in New Orleans grew from downtown, along the riverfront to further uptown, German immigrants settled in the same area. What we call the “Irish Channel” was home to a large German community. These Germans were mostly Rheinlanders and Bavarians, who were Catholic, like the Irish. They formed the core of the “Redemptorist” parish, worshipping at St. Mary’s Assumption Church on Constance and Josephine Streets. So, by the time of the Southern Rebellion, both the Irish and German communities were more supportive of the Union than the Confederacy.
Defending the City
So, these immigrants lost their jobs with the closure of the Port of New Orleans in 1861. To provide their families, they joined the rebel army. While many were sent off to fight in Tennessee and Virginia, others stayed behind, to defend Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, down the river from the city. At the time of Farragut’s capture of New Orleans in April, 1862, Fort Jackson’s defenders included three battalions: one Irish, one German, and one made up largely of men from the white planter class. It should come as no surprise that two of those three units mutinied and walked out of the fort, making it easier for Farragut to come up the river and Butler to bring his occupying army behind the ships. For more reading on this, check out Mutiny at Fort Jackson: The Untold Story of the Fall of New Orleans, by Michael D. Pierson.
Reading on the Irish.
If this topic interests you, you definitely want to get Dr. Laura Kelly’s book, The Irish In New Orleans.
Closing time severely restricted New Orleans businesses.
Closing Time 1864
Last week, during the CFP National Championship game, some guy on Da Twittah complained that the game was too long. He said folks at the game wouldn’t get out until after closing time in New Orleans.
The Twitterati of New Orleans, bless their hearts, dragged the guy mercilessily. After all, “closing time” is pretty much a foreign concept here. The tweeter lacked understanding of how things work in New Orleans.
We-never-close was not always business as usual in New Orleans. Establishments closed at midnight, prior to the Southern Rebellion. The Union Army restricted many public places, ordering them to close at 9pm.
Nine o’clock in New Orleans! The horror! The rebellion came to an abrupt halt, when the Union Army occupied the city in May, 1862. New Orleans chafed under occupation in many ways. Still, life in the city improved significantly when the port re-opened. Two years into the occupation, restauranteurs and hoteliers desired a later closing time. They wrote to the Acting Mayor, Army Captain Stephen Holt, with their request.
Petition to Acting Mayor Holt
New Orleans July 14, 1864
To Capt S. Holt, Acting Mayor
We, the undersigned Subscribers, Citizens and Proprietors of Hotels, Restaurants, and drinking houses, most respectfully ask your honor to remove the order requiring us to close our business places at 9 o’clock.
We ask to have the time of closing extended, as usual until 12 o’clock.
Places of Amusement not closing until after 11 o’clock, we think in justice to us we should have the old time custom.
New Orleans Entertainment
The list contains an interesting cross-section of New Orleans businesses. It’s not just drinking houses. The number of hotels indicates that the port brought in visitors to the city, in spite of the conflict.
It’s unclear if the acting mayor agreed to the extension.
If you’d like to learn/share more about New Orleans in the 1860s, check out our Facebook page on the subject.
Streetcar Ticket for the St. Charles Line
Streetcar Ticket from 1868
Riders paid for their fare in the 1860s by purchasing a streetcar ticket. This was the style of the ticket for the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR) in 1868. While the NO&CRR continued operations through the Southern Rebellion, only one new company the New Orleans City RR Company (NOCRR) operated streetcars during the rebellion years. Streetcar expansion took off in 1866.
The company operated the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, from 1835 to 1902. In addition to St. Charles, the company operated the Poydras-Magazine, Jackson, and Napoleon lines. The NO&CRR absorbed other operating companies throughout the 1870s to the end of the 19th Century.
Streetcar electrification in New Orleans began in the 1890s. The NO&CRR survived until 1902. The remaining operating companies merged into the New Orleans Railway Company at that time. That company re-organized into the New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) in 1905. That consolidated entity became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1922.
Mule car operation
When the NO&CRR began operations in 1835, St. Charles used steam engines. The smoke and noise generated complaints up and down the line. So, the line was converted to mule-driven operation in the 1850s. The company followed the NOCRR in the 1860s, operating “bobtail” cars from the Johnson Car Company, up to electrification.
Streetcar protests 1862-1867
Streetcars in New Orleans were segregated until 1958. When Louisiana seceded from the union in 1861, many of the white men went off to war. Their jobs around town still had to be done. So, employers hired free men of color. The lines ran “star” cars, which permitted African-Americans to ride, but all other cars were whites-only. Black men experienced difficulty in getting to work. While employers complained to the transit companies, the operators weren’t very responsive. More “star” cars were needed.
The dynamics changed when the Union Army occupied New Orleans in May, 1862. African-Americans protested segregated operation from then until 1867. Hilary McLaughlin-Stonham details those protests in her article, Race and Protest in New Orleans: Streetcar Integration in the Nineteenth Century. It’s worth a read.
Two short-form pieces this week on NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
We hope you enjoyed our conversations with Derby Gisclair over the last two weeks. Back to short-form this week, with our pick from Today in New Orleans History and some thoughts on Chalmette National Cemetery.
The Industrial Canal
Our pick from NewOrleansPast dot com this week is 6-June-1918. That’s when construction of the Industrial Canal began.As a refresher, there were three connections that ran from the city to the lake over time:
- The Carondelet Canal, 1795, which ran from just above the French Quarter, out to what is now Mid-City, and the start of Bayou St. John. This canal fixed the “Old Portage” problem.
- The Pontchartrain Railroad, which ran from Port Milneburg to Faubourg Marigny. The railroad was a straight run, along what eventually became Elysian Fields Avenue. Heavier ships would come into Lake Pontchartrain from the Gulf of Mexico and would dock at the pier at Milneburg. The railroad carried goods and people from the pier to the station at the river.
- The New Basin Canal. Completed in 1838, the New Canal connected the “American Sector” to the lake. The canal began at S. Rampart Street. It ran out to Lake Pontchartrain at West End. A small portion of the canal remains at West End.
So, these three connected the city up to the start of the 20th Century. By 1910, though, the canals lacked the depth to service larger ships. In 1914, the state authorized the Port of New Orleans to build a new canal. The canal began in the Ninth Ward, just past Poland Avenue. It runs straight from there, out to the lake.
Chalmette National Cemetery
I saw an article about a monument to United States Colored Troops (USCT) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. When I shared that article on NOLA History Guy’s Facebook page, I mentioned that we should have such a USCT monument, probably out at Chalmette National Cemetery. Thousands of USCT soldiers rest in that cemetery. I got some racist feedback on this, from folks who clearly were unaware of the cemetery’s origins. Here’s a quick run-down.