Unexpected Connections

As I mentioned in my last post here, I’m working on a road romance that opens in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of New Orleans. Since my heroine is a third or fourth generation New Orleans native, I’ve been reading up on the early history of the city to get a feel for her world and how it shaped her.

By sheer luck I stumbled across a book called The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, by Lawrence N. Powell. It covers the history of the city from its founding through the Battle of New Orleans, and it’s full of lovely footnotes I’m mining for more detailed sources of what life was like when the Crescent City looked something like this:

New Orleans 1803

To my vast surprise, I discovered that the demography and culture of 19th century New Orleans were impacted, and significantly so, by a part of history I know much better–the Peninsular War. You see, much of the Francophone population of 19th century New Orleans did not in fact descend from the original settlers, but from refugees from the Haitian Revolution in 1804. At first the refugees went to Cuba and were accepted there, since France and Spain were then allies. But when Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 and put his brother Joseph on the throne, the French were no longer welcome in a Spanish possession like Cuba…so they fled to New Orleans, which had been in neutral American hands since 1803.

Who knows what other unexpected connections I’ll discover as I continue to explore New Orleans, the Natchez Trace, and the rest of 1815 America? Right now I’m just hoping to find a Louisiana cookbook from sometime close to my time period, so I’ll know what foods to make my heroine homesick for!

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