Monday, March 25, 2013

Benjamin Buisson and New Orleans Street Names

Pierre Benjamin Buisson (1792-1874) was a French soldier, later New Orleans newspaper editor, parish surveyor, and (much later) even a Confederate brigadier general.  He had a fascinating life, as this brief bio summarizes.

While he was a Lieutenant in Napoleon's army, he was given a battlefield promotion for valor by the Emperor himself.

After the restoration of the Bourbons, he, like several other former French officers, migrated to the New World; in his case, to New Orleans.  He gained employ variously as an architect, surveyor, and even edited a French language newspaper.  Being in New Orleans, he also managed to fight a few duels.

One of his contributions was the establishment of an artillery unit in the local militia.  He wrote a handbook on tactics for light artillery.

Anyway, while surveying Uptown New Orleans, for the Faubourg Bouligny neighborhood, he chose the names of the streets, all on a Napoleonic theme.  Napoleon Avenue was the major thoroughfare; and there was a Josephine Street.  Several streets were named after Napoleon's victories, such as Berlin, Cadiz, Austerlitz, Marengo, Jena, and others.  After all, Napoleon awarded him the Legion of Honor.  Semi-ironically, these streets were in the American district!

During World War I, Berlin Street was re-named General Pershing.  This was a bit of misapplied patriotism, since the street was named after the Napoleonic victory and not the city.

A legend has it that his grandchildren used to tease him as to why there was an absence of Waterloo Street.  It reliably pissed the old man off!

Pierre Benjamin Buisson


Bilbo said...

So, what is it with the custom of Frenchmen and streets in US cities? It was Pierre L'Enfant who laid out the street pattern in Washington, DC (which, if you've ever tried to negotiate it, seems often more likely to have been devised by the Marquis de Sade), and now Monsieur Buisson and New Orleans. Oy!

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

Very interesting history about a little mentioned figure.

TexWisGirl said...

haha. waterloo street. :)

Mike said...

I don't know if I would want to live on Napoleon Avenue.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Apparently the mayor and city council gave hime a lot more latitude than most surveyors get.

MarkD60 said...

It was a Frenchman who designed Washington DC too.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Bilbo, both L'Enfant and Buisson were trained as engineers, so they would have known of the mysteries of surveying.

Buisson was a graduate of L'Ecole Polytechnique.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I learn something new every day. I could understand him getting annoyed about Waterloo..

Insane Penguin said...

A great story!