Surrender of New Orleans

Sunday, April 29, AD 2012

The largest city of the Confederacy, New Orleans also controlled all shipment from the Mississippi and into the Mississppi.  Even a cursory look at a map would indicate that New Orleans was a crucial city for the Confederacy and a crucial target for the Union.  In early 1862 the Union assembled a force to take this prize:  18,000 soldiers commanded by Major General Benjamin Butler, and a naval armada under Flag Captain David G. Farragut, 6o years old, but possessed of energy that few men in their twenties possess, and a veteran of over half a century of service in the Navy.

In Mid-March Farragut began moving his fleet into the mouth of the Mississippi.  The approach to New Orleans up the Mississippi was guarded by two Confederate forts:  Jackson on the west bank and Saint Philip on the east bank.    The Confederate defenses were aided on the river by three ironclads:  the CSS Manassas, the CSS Mississippi, and the CSS Louisiana, backed up by an improvised fleet of converted merchant vessels, gunboats and rams, none of which stood any chance against the might of the Union fleet.  If Farragut’s force was going to be stopped, it would have to be by the forts.

From April 18-April 23 the forts were bombarded by 26 mortar schooners under the command of Farragut’s foster brother Captain David Porter, with whom Farragut had an uneasy relationship.  Porter had used his influence in Washington to require Farragut to give him the chance to reduce the forts by bombardment.  Farragut was sceptical and he was right.  Although the bombardment was fierce, the forts remained in action.  On the 24th, Farragut successfully had his ships run past the forts, destroying the Confederate fleet in the process.  Almost defenseless New Orleans surrendered to the fleet after three days of negotiation on April 29.  Butler’s army took the forts bloodlessly on the 29th, aided by a mutiny of the Confederate troops at Fort Jackson.  The richest strategic prize of the War fell to the Union swiftly, and with amazingly few casualties.  Farragut was promoted to Rear Admiral for this feat, the first admiral in US history.  The Union took a large step to victory with the fall of the Crescent City.

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In Memoriam

Sunday, August 29, AD 2010

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

Many other commenters, far more versed in statistics and politics, will have plenty to say about the governmental failures in the disaster and the progress New Orleans has made in rebuilding. These are all very worthwhile, but as someone who lived in the New Orleans area before the storm, it’s not the story I think that’s most worth telling nor is it the one I’m most equipped to tell. While the government and insurance companies both reared their ugly and greedy heads in the aftermath, there’s only so much good one gets out of rehashing old arguments and injuries. I want to remember the good that God has done for me and the city from this storm.

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19 Responses to In Memoriam

  • [Saying people deserved to die on the anniversary of their deaths is one of the most unchristian things I can think of. I will not be tolerate it, other than to say a) everyone’s location comes with natural dangers b) New Orleans is so far below sea level b/c of the federal government’s levee system which made the ground sink more]

  • If I could win a trip to anywhere on earth I haven’t visited before, the first place I’d choose would be New Orleans (as long as it wasn’t during hurricane season or Mardi Gras, since I don’t really care for drunken crowds). It seems to be one of the few places left in the United States that has a genuine Old World culture.

  • [The reasons people want to live in New Orleans are expressed in the post. Again, I am not tolerating this nonsense on this issue today. Another day, perhaps, but not today. This is your first and only warning-MRD]

  • It seems to be one of the few places left in the United States that has a genuine Old World culture.

    That it does. The city itself is different from any other city in America, in a very good way.

    As far as visiting during Mardi Gras, I’m with you; I don’t think New Orleans is at it’s best in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras. However, during Mardi Gras season you can come to a parade that’s a pretty cool environment that’s not as full of drunken crowds depending on where you go.

  • As regards those who think living in New Orleans is wrong or stupid because of its location, well, is there really any place in the continental U.S. that is completely disaster free? Anyplace on the Gulf Coast or East Coast is subject to hurricanes, the West Coast has earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires, and even a volcano (Mt. St. Helens) and the Midwest and South have tornadoes and floods. I suppose anyone who lives in those places “deserves” what they get too, right?

  • If a location requires carefully engineered public works to survive, it is reasonable to ask if resettlement should be undertaken. You might begin by asking underwriters on which portions of the territory of greater New Orleans (absent public subsidies and state compulsion) would residential and commercial development incorporate uninsurable risks.

  • Only a very small part of New Orleans proper is below sea level, most of it not.

    A priest I know was on the verge of being kicked out (“asked to leave”) of Notre Dame Seminary for the 3rd and last time. They also had their guns on 2 other men as well. Katrina hit and they were all sent to another seminary. At this new seminary, they excelled, just as they had in minor seminary. Our diocese has at least 3 fine young men as holy priests of God, possibly only due to the effects of Katrina.

  • Art Deco:

    Those questions are in fact being asked and since the footprint of New Orleans appears to be smaller, shrinking in from some of the riskier places is still being attempted (they tried to prevent resettlement immediately after the storm, but were blocked by political pressures). However, New Orleans developers are taking pains to try to take the higher land and put it to more efficient uses in order to reduce some of the risks.

    That said, the abandonment of the entire city is neither practical nor desirable.

  • Elaine,

    I disagree.

    If you live 9 feet below sea level, then deal with the consequences and don’t blame the government for a decision you consciously made.

    Your logic holds no water, pun intended.

  • If New Orleans needs the federal government to keep the city viable and to operate daily, then there is no practical nor desirable reason to continue throwing money away in the bayou.

  • There is a reason there is a national flood insurance program. There is really no “safe” area from flooding. The recent floods in Milwaukee occurred in the highest elevated neighborhoods. WRT Katrina specifically, tidal surge inundated communities over 100 miles inland. Perhaps prudence would dictate making a nature preserve from the coast line of the Gulf to 100 miles inland. More seriously, in some respects, New Orleans is better prepared for events that typically cause flooding because it has an extensive non-gravity water removal system. It wasn’t just New Orleans’s system that failed: every other system along the Gulf failed, most failing because they didn’t have a system to begin with.

    You hear the garbage with New Orleans that you hear after every natural disaster. When the Missouri and Mississippi had massive flooding a decade ago, smart people said, people should build along rivers. When earthquakes hit California, people say you shouldn’t live where there are earthquakes. When tornadoes hit the Midwest, people say you shouldn’t live in tornado alley. This is one of those areas where you can sound awful intelligent until it comes down to actually proposing a solution. There are all sorts of hazards in the world, some more easily mitigated than others.

  • Good points M.Z.

    I think it would be better if there were in fact a nature preserve from the coast and people lived further inland. Obviously for economic reasons, people tend to live near coasts.

    Another major point of consideration that has economic impacts has to do with dams and levies and other man-made mechanisms that are put into place for practical economic reasons and flood-protection measures. These things increase the pace of coastal erosion in what ever direction the water is being directed and such mega-disasters exacerbate this problem; in short, Katrina put this activity on fast-forward.

    There are estimates that New Orleans will be off shore in 85 years (2095) as coastal erosions continue. This is the result of what has been going on for some 300 years in terms of coastal erosion. The coastline will pass the city and New Orleans literally will be a fish bowl.

    There is great difficulty in letting go of a city with significant history and this should not be dismissed as arbritrary concerns; it is human to have such attachment.

    I am not sure what to do in this situation. But given that New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, if the predictions are accurated, and will be sitting by itself off the coast, surrounded virtually on all sides by water, I am not sure building 50-to-100 feet tall levees are going to protect the city or are worth the investment.

    The solution that is more economically viable, hospitable to life, and practical is obviously moving. But this is no easy task nor is it simply said.

  • When tornadoes hit the Midwest, people say you shouldn’t live in tornado alley.

    The most tornado prone metropolis in the United States is Oklahoma City, which typically has about one a year.
    The implications of most such tornados are the loss of some mobile homes and the roof on some garages.

  • I think a state law requiring the purchase of flood insurance by property owners (much as a purchase of car insurance is required) would permit the formation of viable actuarial pools. Application of underwriting standards could then limit development in selected areas.

    You would need to have a state fund to indemnify property owners whose land ceased to be utile for residential or commercial development.

  • If you live 9 feet below sea level, then deal with the consequences and don’t blame the government for a decision you consciously made.

    The federal government is in control of the levee systems. Their decisions (building the MR-GO canal and refusing to redirect the mississippi to effect the natural replenishment of the wetlands) exacerbated the situation. No one blames the government for Katrina and the placement of the city but the feds (and this both parties) with the Army Corps of Engineers in particular have made poor decisions by putting immediate economic interests ahead of long-term environmental considerations. Critiquing the feds is entirely appropriate.


    You raise good points. The wetlands have to be replenished. Unfortunately, wetlands protection is an issue that’s not glamorous to Democrats and repugnant to Republicans. Nevertheless, the wisest course of action to to protect the city from these storms by improving the wetland barriers that diminish storms before they ever reach the city. This is not an easy thing to do, but it’s long past time for someone to start considering how to do it.

  • Shutting New Orleans down isn’t sensible, if for no other reason than it’s a huge port through which billions of dollars worth of commerce passes, especially for the country’s midsection. It would take billions to upgrade one of the nearby Gulf ports
    (Mobile? Biloxi?) to take the traffic.

    Leaving aside the fact that it’s New Orleans, for pete’s sake. Yeah, I’m sentimental, but there’s something to be said for sentiment on occasion. 🙂

  • I don’t disagree with you Dale. I wasn’t advocating for shutting down New Orleans. There may be other reasonable solutions that did not occur to me. What struck me as the solution that is “more economically viable, hospitable to life, and practical,” need not be the course of action that is taken. I was simply saying that giving up on the city met these criterion better than any other solution I could think of, not that it was better.

    New Orleans is a great city with a rich cultural history and it would be a terrible thing for us lose it. I support trying to salvage the city in any way possible but only if we sincerely face the facts that are serious challenges that will have to be met — and as we can see from certain comments, people from other places in the U.S. might not be too excited about picking up the tab.

  • Eric:

    Oh, I wasn’t responding to you–for one, I heartily agree on the wetlands issue. The maps showing how much of Louisiana is being lost to the Gulf are sobering.

    Actually, I was disagreeing with brother Tito, and wanted to point out the economic importance of the city, and the lack of an alternative.

  • Not shutting the city down, but not (after a transitional period) subsidizing its maintenance either.

    If the civil engineering permits, one might devolve responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the subregional levee system on an elective authority. The authority would be empowered to set tolls and make flat assessments on personal income. Conjoined to underwriting standards, this would place on local residents the full cost of real estate development in that part of the world and move the area closer to some sort of social optimum.

True Audacity

Tuesday, December 9, AD 2008

New Catholic Congressman

President-Elect Obama used the word audacity a lot in his rise to the presidency but how much audacity does it take to be a liberal state senator, representing a liberal district, in a liberal state? True audacity is going against the odds and against the consensus on pundits. That is exactly what Joseph Cao did in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Cao is a devout Catholic Republican Vietnamese immigrant in an overwhelmingly African American and Democrat congressional district. Although his opponent is undoubtably corrupt politician facing serious indictments, he was still not given a chance at winning. Unfortunately, voters, especially it seems African American voters, often overlook these flaws in the name of some sort of racial solidarity. Nevertheless, Cao won! Let’s pray that he can help rebuild the wonderful city of New Orleans and provide true opportunity for its amazing people. Cao, like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, is already getting attention from Republican leadership as the future of the party.

After Katrina My HometownAlthough Cao probably hasn’t even had a chance to organize his staff, yesterday I heard Al Sharpton say that he would be working to “fix” this situation. Seems for Sharpton and his ilk working with a person who cares about the district and its people is trumped by partisan and racial politics.

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