Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First American Revolution

It didn't happen in the English-speaking colonies; but in New Orleans.

During the eighteenth century, the French established settlements in the Mississippi valley, including present-day New Orleans, Natchez, Biloxi, Mobile, and Natichotches. However, unlike their successful colonies in Canada and Haiti, French Louisiana was undersettled, the focus of some dubious financial ventures, and had problems with the local Indians.  Let's face it: the climate was so unlike what Europeans were used to!  To them, it sucked! The Indian troubles stood out in high relief with the massacre of the settlers at Fort Rosalie, near present-day Natchez.

New Orleans had about 7000 colonists who were a rough and scruffy lot but strangely loyal to France despite consistent neglect.  Some did a lot of smuggling.  Also, a lot of Acadian settlers were dispossessed from Nova Scotia by the British and they settled in Louisiana.  These were the ancestors of the present-day Cajuns (and moi!) 

In the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1762, France ceded the colony of Louisiana to Spain.  In turn, Spain joined France's side in the Seven Years'  (This was called the French and Indian War in U.S. history.)  As part of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the war, France had to give up its holdings in North America, meaning Canada.  That's what happens when you lose.  They had just given New Orleans and Louisiana away to Spain just the year before through that secret treaty.  Things moved slowly, and nobody told the Louisiana colonists anything about this until the Spanish governor Don Antonio de Ulloa arrived in 1766.  Taa-daa!

Ulloa did not hit it off with the colonists very well at all.  He didn't speak French.  He lived outside of the city. After a few months of disagreements, approximately 600 New Orleans citizens mounted the first New World revolution against a European government.  Among those involved were the original French settlers, the Acadians (French-speaking immigrants from Canada), and German immigrants who had settled along the Mississippi River. By November 1, Don Antonio Ulloa had occuped a Spanish ship for safety and later escaped to Cuba. His three aides were taken prisoner by the rebels.

The Louisianans petitioned King Louis XV to reconsider his having ceded Louisiana to Spain, but that worthless twit did nothing. [In my opinion, the French Revolution occurred thirty years too late.]

Ulloa passed from the scene. He was a naval officer and a scientist. He is credited with having discovered the element platinum. He was also an astronomer who had one of the craters of the moon is named after him. He was honored on a postage stamp many years later, and he had a ship named after him.

His Majesty Carlos III of Spain was seriously ticked off by this deed of his new subjects and tried to make an example out of them.  He sent an army of approximately 2,600 hired goons (mercenaries) to New Orleans to re-take the city.  The army was led by Don Alexander O’Reilly, an Irishman in the service of Spain. He later earned the nickname “Bloody O’Reilly” after he sent all of the leaders of the revolutionaries before the firing squad.  The bastard.

Louisiana remained in Spanish hands until it was receded to France in 1802.  France then turned around and sold the works to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.  Tom Jefferson picked up a winner.

In 1815 the Louisianans fought with American troops at the Battle of New Orleans.

This was a paradox, in a way: the most one-sided American victory was won over an entirely English-speaking army by an American army that mostly did not speak English.


Anonymous said...


Svejk said...

You seem less than even-handed about this history. But history is, after all, always to foster a particular point of view.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Well, I had ancestor that were involved in this revolution. They died as Frenchmen, unwilling to submit to Spanish rule.