Today in French Quarter History, September 8th, 2018


Today in French Quarter History, on September 8, 1935. At 9:22 at night, lone assassin, Dr. Carl Weiss, shot and killed US Senator, Huey Long at the Capitol building in Baton Rouge. Huey Pierce Long’s bodyguards, in turn, shot and killed Weiss, riddling his body with sixty-one bullets.

A number of legends surround Long’s death. Did Weiss kill Long or was it Long’s bodyguards who shot and killed him accidentally? On the evening of September 7th, had someone else attempted to assassinate Long in the Sazerac Bar of the Rosevelt Hotel in New Orleans?

Huey Long and New Orleans

Beginning with his first failed bid to become Governor in 1924, Huey Long always preferred to stay in his suite at the Roosevelt Hotel whenever he was in New Orleans. Folklore has it that he even built Airline Highway so he could travel from the statehouse in Baton Rouge to the Roosevelt Hotel quickly.

Whatever people may think about Long and his style personally, he did a lot for the people of New Orleans. This includes building the Huey P. Long bridge, the first bridge to span the Mississippi River in the city. Long also pushed through numerous road improvement projects for New Orleans. In addition, he built the Lakefront Airport and Charity Hospital. He also established the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. Critics claim all of these improvements came about after Long, as Senator, cut a politically expedient deal with his rivals in New Orleans. Long would take care of New Orleans so long as the city political machine supported Long in his bid to consolidate power over the state.

Huey Long sends 2,500 troops to occupy New Orleans

Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley and Huey P. Long just didn’t get along. Once a Long ally, but now Long’s adversary, Walmsley won the election over Long’s candidate in the January 1934 mayoral election. Walmsley controlled the “Old Regulars” who were vehemently opposed to Long’s populist agenda. The democratic party primaries were to take place the following September. Walmsley supported one slate and Long supported the other.

Huey Long knew that he would have to win the primaries to secure total control of the entire state. He claimed that the Walmsley New Orleans political machine was overrun with corruption, graft, and shady dealings. He held “hearings” in the city and broadcasted them on WDSU. In July of 1934, Long ordered the entire Louisiana National Guard to occupy New Orleans. He claimed this was the only way to guarantee a “fair” election. Walmsley countered by deputizing 500 of his supporters. He armed them with sub-machine guns. Both sides agreed to mediation and there was no violence on election day. Long’s slate won in a landslide.

Murder in Baton Rouge

We will almost never know with certainty how Huey Long died. The widely accepted version is that Dr. Carl Weiss shot him with a pistol and that Long’s bodyguards shot and killed Weiss. However, there are many problems with this take on the story. In fact, there have been several investigations in the intervening years since Long’s death.

While officially the “murder weapon” was recovered, it disappeared for more than 50 years. In 1991, it was discovered in the estate of the man who had originally led the investigation into the assassination. Along with the pistol were two intact bullets and a spent bullet. Ballistic tests revealed that the spent bullet did not match Weiss’ pistol. Weiss’ pistol was .32 caliber, but the wife of one of the surgeons who operated on Long stated shed had been told a .38 caliber bullet had been removed from Long’s body. The official report claimed no bullet had been found.

Was Dr. Carl Weiss unarmed?

A respected colonel in the Louisiana State Police reported eyewitness accounts by his own officers that Weiss was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Furthermore, nurses who were present during Long’s surgery testified that he pointed to his lip and said, “This is where he hit me.” Later, Dr. Weiss’ son would have his father’s body exhumed from his grave. X-rays revealed a fracture in his hand that would be consistent with throwing a hard punch. Many people believe that Dr. Weiss never intended to physically harm Long, that Long verbally accosted him, and that Weiss punched Long in the face in anger. It was then that guards opened fire, accidentally hitting Huey Long.

Huey Long and the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel

New Orleans is famous for its folklore, and one story says that someone fired at Long while he was drinking at the Sazerac Bar. This supposedly occurred the night before the assassination. There is even a bullet hole in the wall at the bar. Every week, visitors to the bar ask about the bullet hole and if the bullet was meant for Huey Long. Most of the bartenders answer that they don’t know for sure, but some will say that it can’t have anything to do with Long because the Sazerac Bar opened several years after he died.

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Today in French Quarter History, September 3rd, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, on September 3, 1814. Officers from HMS Sophie landed at Barataria Bay (40 miles below New Orleans) and offered Pirate Jean Laffite a captaincy in the Royal Navy and $30,000. The British expected Laffite to turn over his ships. They also wanted him to and provide guides to help the British capture New Orleans. The ensuing four months would change US history forever, and Jean Laffite and his pirates would become heroes of the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

HMS Sophie arrives at Barataria Bay

Around ten in the morning, Royal Navy Captain, Nicolas Lockyer, navigated HMS Sophie to Barataria Bay and Grand Terre Island. This was the headquarters of the pirates Laffite. Lockyer spotted a ship attempting to enter the bay through Barataria Pass. He ordered his crew to fire some warning shots. Those shots set into motion a fantastic sequence of events that would end with a very improbable American victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

The British meet Jean Laffite but don’t know it

After hearing the shots and seeing HMS Sophie drop anchor, Laffite had some men row him towards it in a pirogue. The British then lowered a small boat with a flag of truce and rowed to him. When the boats met, Lockyer introduced himself as the Captain of HMS Sophie and asked to be taken to Jean Laffite so he could deliver some papers. Laffite offered that he would bring them to the camp so they could meet him. A little later, Laffite dropped the ruse and admitted that he was the Jean Laffite they were looking for.

The British make their offer

Once on dry land, the British made their offer to Laffite. It is definite that they wanted to give him a captaincy in the Royal Navy and land to settle in America after the British victory. Some scholars believe that a verbal offer was also made for a cash payment of $30,000, though this has fallen into the realm of folklore. In return, Britain expected him to turn over his ships and men. They also wanted to land troops on Laffite’s island and use it as a base of operations for an attack on New Orleans. The attack would come about with the help of the Baratarians showing them the way through the bayous.

Not so fast!

Captain Lockyer had not chosen an opportune time to arrive at Barataria Bay. In the days before his arrival, Laffite found himself in the throes of a mutiny by a faction of his men. At the time, there were at least four hundred pirates on the island, and the presence of the Englishmen only made things worse. Many of the pirates wanted to hang Lockyer, and Dominque Youx reportedly wanted to take the Sophie as a prize. Though Laffite had no intention of accepting their offer, he pretended to go along with the British plan but asked for more time. He explained that he needed a fortnight to put his affairs in order. After that, he would be ready and at their service. The Sophie departed and though she was expected back two weeks later, she never returned.

Laffite warns the government and is betrayed

Jean Laffite sent all of the offer documents the British gave him to a friend, who was a member of the city legislature. His friend brought the papers to Governor Claiborne, but after a meeting with military leaders, he decided the papers were fake. Plans were already underway for an attack on the Barataria Bay stronghold under direct orders of the Secretary of the Navy. The attack went ahead as scheduled and the US Navy arrived at and destroyed the pirates’ nest on September 16th. Laffite had given orders not to fire on the American flag. Many of the pirates escaped, including the Laffites, but many pirate ships and a large amount of booty were captured. Some eighty pirates were taken prisoner and spent the next four months in jail at the Cabildo.

The pirates become heroes

During this time, the Laffites proclaimed their loyalty to the US, and Jean clandestinely contacted his attorney, Edward Livingston. Laffite wanted Livingston, who also happened to be the general’s aide de camp, to intervene on the pirates’ behalf. Livingston and Jackson had also served together in Congress and were good friends. At first, Jackson refused to consider letting the “hellish banditi” become part of his army. However, persevering, Livingston convinced Jackson to change his mind.

The Barataria Pirates entered into the service of the US military and fought with distinction at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Most scholars believe that without the Baratarians, the Battle of New Orleans would have been lost. The accepted reason is that the Baratarians were instrumental as artillerists who decimated the British troops as they marched in formation towards Line Jackson. Folklore has it that the Laffites supplied much-needed flints and that is why the battle was won. In any case, General Jackson publicly lauded the pirates as the ablest of men. President James Madison issued a public proclamation of full pardon for all of the Baratarians.

Life and death after the Battle of New Orleans

Some of the Baratarian Pirates, like Dominque Youx and Renato Beluche, gave up piracy for good. For Jean and Pierre Laffite, however, the call of adventure on the high seas was too alluring. Scholars believe that both of the brothers died at separate times in different places as a result of their piracy.

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Today in French Quarter History, August 30th, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, on August 30, 1956, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened to traffic. The Causeway is the longest bridge over continuous water in the world. In today’s post, we’ll explore, not so much the bridge, but Lake Pontchartrain’s connection to the French Quarter. If it weren’t for the lake, New Orleans and the French Quarter would never have come into existence.

How did Lake Pontchartrain get its name?

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, found the mouth of the Mississippi River on March 2, 1699. Shortly thereafter, with the help of Indian guides, he began an exploration of the territory upriver. When they reached the brackish lake Okwata, d’Iberville changed its name to honor his chief proponent, the French Minister of the Marine, the Comte de Pontchartrain. He also named an adjoining, smaller body of fresh water, Lake Maurepas, after Ponchartrain’s son.

An important portage or path

D’Iberville’s guides also pointed out that the area that came to be New Orleans would be a good place to settle because of a “portage.” A portage is a path used to connect two waterways. The Indians used the portage to travel back and forth easily between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi. The portage was about a mile long and ran from the river to Bayou St. John. After carrying their canoes along the path and arriving at the Bayou, the Indians would paddle about three miles to reach Lake Pontchartrain. While the portage provided a “back door” from New Orleans to the Gulf Coast, it also provided a “back door” to Louisiana’s interior.

It would take almost 20 years to establish New Orleans at the place the guides originally pointed out. This would be accomplished by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, in 1718. Jean Le Moyne was d’Iberville’s much younger brother who had accompanied him on his journey of discovery in 1699. In 1701, at age 21, d’Iberville named him commandant of the Louisiana territory.

Trading with the Gulf Coast and French Canada

It was important to the crown to establish a connection point between holdings in Canada and along the Gulf Coast. The king also wanted to develop the lower Mississippi itself as both a trade waterway and a defense against British encroachment. Establishing a city at present-day New Orleans near Lake Pontchartrain seemed to be a logical choice.

Serious French settlement along the Mississippi would require a reliable method of supply. Fortunately, bringing in supplies through the lake from the Gulf Coast was a much shorter route than attempting to travel up the Mississippi River from its mouth. The Indians knew this long before the French arrived. The distance from the river to the Gulf Coast via Bayou St. John saved approximately 75 miles of travel.

From portage to canal

The portage route to the lake was such an important supply chain that first the French, and later the Spanish, would develop it further. It became an actual road (Bayou Road) under the French, but the Spanish took another approach altogether. They built the Carondelet Canal. The canal ran in a straight line directly from Bayou St. John to the back of the French Quarter. Boats arriving from the lake would take the canal right to town! By the 1820s, seventy to eighty vessels were making the trip each day.

The Americans and the New Basin Canal

After the Americans acquired Louisiana in 1803, there was a great rivalry between the Creoles of the French Quarter and the Americans who settled across Canal Street. This rivalry extended to the boats arriving on Lake Pontchartrain. The Americans dug a new canal, dubbed the New Basin Canal, and the Carondelet came to be called the Old Basin Canal. Commercially, the New Basin Canal was even more successful than the Old Basin Canal. However, the importance of the lake/portage/canal routes would wane. Soon, the golden age of steamboats would replace them.

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Today in French Quarter History, August 25th, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, we celebrate the life of author, Truman Capote, who passed away in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984. Though he was born in Touro Infirmary in the Garden District, Capote spent much of his early life in the French Quarter. His first, rather unhappy, home here was within the Hotel Monteleone, which today offers a suite bearing his name.

Truman Capote’s early life in the French Quarter

Most of what we know of Capote’s early life in the French Quarter comes from his own recorded recollections. His mother was a beauty queen who gave birth to him when she was 17. Capote has told of being locked in alone in the family apartment at the Monteleone by his uncaring mother while she went out on the town. He also related how, at age 5, he got separated from his mother at a Mardi Gras parade. Capote ended up spending the night inside the police station and his mother retrieved him the next morning.

Capote moves to Alabama and befriends Harper Lee

The same year, Capote was sent to Alabama to live with his mother’s relatives. There, he became close friends with “the girl next door,” Harper Lee. Her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, features a character based on Capote, and his first novel features a character based on Lee. Before Mockingbird was published in 1960, Lee accompanied Capote to Kansas as his assistant researcher. The two were working on an article that would later expand into Capote’s signature “non-fiction novel,” In Cold Blood. In 1965, Lee edited the final draft of the book. Although Capote did not credit her for the writing, he dedicated the book to her. Lee and Capote remained close friends for life.

Summers in New Orleans

Capote would always return to New Orleans for holidays and most summers for a month or two. Over the summers, he frequently accompanied his father who was a purser on a steamboat on the New Orleans-St. Louis run. Later in life, Capote reminisced that he tap danced for passengers to the accompaniment of the great Louis Armstrong. He claimed that Satchmo gave him a boater hat and that he collected tips after each dance. Some believe this reminiscence was a figment of his famous imagination.

Capote completes his first novel at age 23

In 1945, Capote moved to New Orleans to live on his own. He took up residence in an apartment at 811 Royal Street in the French Quarter. It was here that he worked on his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms that was published in 1948 when he was just 23 years old. The novel was semi-autobiographical and debuted at number nine on the New York Times bestseller list. It is the story of a troubled, slightly effeminate, 13-year-old boy whose mother passes away and who is then sent from New Orleans to live with his father in Alabama. The novel dealt with coming of age and homosexuality and would launch Capote’s career. After its publication, Somerset Maugham claimed Capote, “was the hope of modern literature.”

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Today in French Quarter History, August 22nd, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, August 22nd, 1787. James Wilkinson began the “Spanish Conspiracy” when he signed a document in New Orleans. In it, he pledged his allegiance to the Spanish Crown and renounced his American citizenship. Wilkinson coded his subsequent documents for Spain using Spanish Cipher 13. This would morph into Wilkinson’s code name, Agent 13.

James Wilkinson Today in French Quarter History

James Wilkinson and Benedict Arnold

James Wilkinson enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777. The man who signed him up was Benedict Arnold, of all people. Ten years later Wilkinson would betray his country too. Does it take a traitor to know a traitor?

James Wilkinson and the “Spanish Conspiracy”

Wilkinson made his first appearance in New Orleans in 1787 when he met with Spanish Lousiana Governor, Esteban Rodriguez Miro. This was the beginning of the Spanish Conspiracy. The Spanish controlled navigation on the Mississippi River and charged American river men high tariffs. Wilkinson managed to persuade Miro to give Kentucky a trading monopoly on the river. However, Miro wanted something in exchange. Fearing that Kentucky would become part of the United States, he expected Wilkinson to work towards having Kentucky become a Spanish territory. Using Spanish Cipher 13, Wilkinson heavily encoded important information that he passed onto the Spaniards. Spain paid him handsomely for this. Although he failed to turn over Kentucky, his escapades as Agent 13 were far from over.

America’s Highest Ranking Military Officer

Wilkinson rose in the ranks of the US army and became its highest ranking military officer. President Jefferson chose him, together with Charles Claiborne, to officially receive the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Claiborne became governor of the Territory of Orleans, including New Orleans. Wilkinson became the military governor for the rest of the Louisiana Territory. All the while, Wilkinson strove to continue his work for Spain as a spy in exchange for payment from the Crown. He committed one of his most despicable acts during this time. He made Spain aware of the true intention of the Lewis and Clark expedition. That was to find a waterway from the US to the Pacific Ocean to encourage US westward expansion, which is what Spain feared most.

James Wilkinson and Aaron Burr

Does it take a traitor to know a traitor? Well, if it does, Wilkinson and Burr were made for each other. In this case, Wilkinson would betray both Spain and the United Staes. The duo met in 1804 and then corresponded about the “Burr Conspiracy.” This affair called for Burr and Wilkinson to seize New Orleans and afterward, establish their own personal kingdom! Their kingdom was to extend throughout the Southwestern United States and into parts of Mexico.

Wilkinson Chickens Out

Fortunately for the US, Wilkinson would soon show his true colors in 1806. He was worried about being found out, so he betrayed Burr to President Jefferson. In February 1807, government agents captured Burr near Natchez and brought to Virginia to stand trial for treason. Although Wilkinson was present and testified against Burr, he was acquitted. In 1811, Wilkinson was court-martialed for his role in the Burr Conspiracy. He was exonerated too.

Major General, the War of 1812

During the War of 1812, the army promoted Wilkinson to Major General. After successfully occupying Mobile in Spanish West Florida, he took command of the St. Lawrence River theatre. There, he failed miserably twice so the army relieved him of duty. Although his court-martial acquitted him, the army discharged him in June of 1815. The following year, he published a book in an effort to clear his name.

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Today in French Quarter History, James Wilkinson

Today in French Quarter History, August 17th, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, August, 17th, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald appeared in a 30-minute interview on WDSU Radio. William K. Stuckey interviewed Oswald on his Saturday evening program, Latin Listening Post.

Perhaps, we will never know with certainty all the facts about John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination. However, one thing is certain. Much of what happened before and after the assassination centered around New Orleans. Oswald was born here on October 18, 1939.

 Fair Play for Cuba Committee

Lee Harvey Oswald was the New Orleans secretary of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He had been passing out “Hands off Cuba” pamphlets in New Orleans for months. He had the pamphlets printed locally, on Girod St. In addition, the Warren Commission produced evidence dating back to June. It showed Oswald had been distributing his pamphlets on Dumaine St. That was where the aircraft carrier, USS Wasp, was docked while visiting the city.

Lee Harvey Oswald arrested

On August 16th, the police arrested Oswald for disturbing the peace. This occurred after he fought with anti-Castro demonstrators in front of the World Trade Mart. The property will soon be the new Four Seasons Hotel and is located at the foot of Canal St. The judge convicted him on the same day.

William K. Stuckey had been following Cuba since Castro’s takeover. He tracked Oswald down to interview him. Oswald would reappear four days later for another interview on WDSU Radio. The second interview included representatives of the Cuban refugee population in New Orleans. Both of these interviews are available online.

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Today in French Quarter History, Lee Harvey Oswald

Today in French Quarter History, August 14th, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, we remember the life of Admiral David Farragut. He passed away on August 14, 1870. Though he was interred in New York in the Bronx, he had strong ties to New Orleans and the South. It was under his command that the US Navy captured New Orleans on April 25, 1862.

Coming to New Orleans as a boy

David Farragut was born James Farragut near Knoxville, Tennessee in 1801. His father, George Farragut, had served in the Revolutionary War as a naval lieutenant. In 1805, George received an offer to work in the US Port of New Orleans and accepted. His family followed him to Louisiana shortly thereafter. At the age of four, young James took his first voyage to his new home on the banks of the Mississippi River. Together with his mother and siblings, they traveled downriver by flatboat, a journey that lasted three months.

Sunstroke and Yellow Fever

In the late spring of 1808, David’s mother, Elizabeth began to care for the father of David Porter, who would later become a Commodore in the US Navy and captain of the USS Constitution and USS Enterprise. David Porter Sr. had befriended George Farragut during the Revolutionary War when they served together in the navy. In New Orleans, Porter Sr. had suffered a sunstroke and Elizabeth and George took him into their home to try to nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, on June 22, Porter Sr. passed away, and incredibly, Elizabeth died the very same day from Yellow Fever.

From something horrible comes something good

George Farragut realized he would not be able to raise his young children as a widower, and he resolved to send them to relatives. Before this occurred, David Porter Jr. arrived in New Orleans to thank George for all he had done to try to save his father. Upon meeting young James, he immediately offered to adopt him and raise him as his own son. George and James wholeheartedly agreed.

David Farragut, like father, like son

In 1809, David Porter moved to Washington, DC, and of course, he brought young James with him. James met the Secretary of the Navy and expressed his desire to become a midshipman. The secretary told him he would have to wait until he turned ten, however, the paperwork arrived six months before his tenth birthday. Porter set out to sea and James accompanied him. In honor of his adoptive father, James changed his name to David although he would always be called by his middle name, Glasgow, by friends and family.

With the coming of the War of 1812, young David joined his adoptive father when he assumed command of the USS Essex. They voyaged around Cape Horn and were the first US warship to sail in the Pacific in search of British ships. During one sea battle, the Essex captured a British vessel. David, now age 12, was put in command of bringing the capture back to base in Valparaiso, Chile. Later, the Essex would be captured after a fierce battle in which 58 members of the crew perished. Young David was aboard the Essex during the battle, and he “impressed” his father with how well he handled himself under such extreme pressure.

Capturing New Orleans

Following the War of 1812, Farragut remained on duty in the Navy until he passed away at age 60. By that time, he won the honor of becoming the country’s first full admiral. But what about the capture of New Orleans during the Civil War?

Farragut commanded the navy that made its way up the Mississippi to New Orleans. They arrived before the army, and Farragut sent word to the mayor ordering him to replace all Confederate flags with US flags. The mayor refused. Unknown to Farragut, marines from the USS Pocahontas went ashore and replaced the Confederate flag at the US mint. Before departing, they warned the citizenry that anyone trying to remove the US flag would be fired upon.

William Mumford and some other residents removed the flag and the Pocahontas fired. Their shot hit the mint, and a piece of brick struck Mumford. Nevertheless, Mumford attempted to drag the flag to the mayor. It was reduced to a stub by the mob and today is on display inside the mint. Mumford was later hanged at the mint for treason when General William F. Butler assumed command of the city.

Following the capture of New Orleans, Farragut continued with his task to subdue what remained of the Confederate forces. In 1864, at the Battle of Mobile Bay, while under heavy fire, Farragut maneuvered his ships through fields of “torpedoes.” Torpedoes were the precursor of modern-day underwater mines. It was during this battle that Farragut ordered, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

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Today in French Quarter History, August 13, 2018

Today in French Quarter History, we explore the life of Daniel Clark. He passed away on August 13, 1813, and was interred in St. Louis Cemetery Number One. He was one of the most interesting figures in French Quarter history starting with his arrival in 1786. He made his home at 823 Royal Street in the Quarter, and the building still stands today.

US Vice Consul for New Orleans

Daniel Clark was born in Ireland but lived in Pennsylvania with his family. His uncle, who lived in Mississippi, suggested that he should move to New Orleans to go into business here. In his first year, Clark recorded 46 notarized business transactions. That was double all of the notarized transactions in the city the prior year. By 1790 he was entrenched as a businessman. By the mid-1790s, he became the unofficial Vice Consul of the United States. Clark had a big effect on politics in first Spanish, and later, American Louisiana.

Correspondence with President Jefferson about Spanish Louisiana

His rise seems to have begun when he answered a letter, dated June 24, 1798, from President Thomas Jefferson to Philip Nolan. Philip  was an Irish New Orleanian and a friend of Clark. Since Nolan was traveling, Clark answered the president’s letter on February 12, 1799. Jefferson longed to purchase a mustang for use as a saddle horse. Nolan had already brought at least a thousand mustangs into Spanish Louisiana from New Mexico. Jefferson was also very curious about the general state of affairs of Spanish Louisiana and New Mexico. The correspondence would continue throughout the period of the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson felt he could rely on Clark for important geographical and military intelligence.

The Americans’ right to navigate on the Mississippi River

Clark was in Paris in 1800 with Robert Livingston when Spain gave Louisiana back to France. The right of navigation on the Mississippi by Americans was always a grave concern for the US Government. Clark had previously successfully negotiated with the Spanish government to allow for free navigation by the rivermen of Kentucky. Livingston and Clark discussed the matter with the new French Captain General to no avail. Clark realized dealing with Napoleon’s generals would be much more difficult than dealing with the Spanish governor had been.

Clark’s plan to seize New Orleans for the US Government

Upon returning to New Orleans, Clark ventured to Natchez to meet Charles Claiborne, the governor of the Mississippi Territory. Clark wanted Claiborne to order General James Wilkinson to march on New Orleans before the arrival of Napoleon’s army. Clark’s plan was to seize the city for the Americans. Claiborne would have nothing of it. Clark wrote to then Secretary of State, James Madison about his plan to seize New Orleans. There was no way for Clark to know that James Monroe had already been dispatched to Paris. Monroe would succeed in purchasing Louisiana from the French!

Clark’s duel with Governor Claiborne

After the purchase, Clark was the first Delegate from the Territory of Orleans to Congress. Perhaps the memory of Claiborne’s refusal of Clark’s idea to seize New Orleans spurred Clark on to disparage Claiborne on the floor of the House in 1807. Claiborne took offense, and it all ended up with the two of them participating in a duel on Clark’s plantation, present day Houmas House. Clark seriously wounded Claiborne and the duel spelled the beginning of the end of Clark’s political career.

Another interesting aspect of Daniel Clark was his involvement in the Aaron Burr affair, but we’ll leave that for another installment of Today in French Quarter History! Did you enjoy reading about Daniel Clark in Today in French Quarter history? If so, won’t you please share this post on Social Media? If you are interested in taking the best French Quarter HIstory tour in New Orleans, please visit our Home Page for more information. Happy touring!

Today in French Quarter History