The country was young in 1812, but Louisiana had already been around for a while. Although we achieved statehood only on April 30, 1812, we had been a colony under France from 1699-1763 and Spain from 1763-1803. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, of course, Louisiana became an American possession. Although it was rough going at first, with the Louisiana Catholic French and Spanish Creole culture colliding with the Americans, we all pulled together when the country went to war. In many ways, America gained its identity as a nation during the War of 1812. Certainly, that’s when our “song” was written– what later became our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
This week, we get to relive those events of 200 years ago, when the very young United States of America went to war with England in the War of 1812. Louisiana played a part in the war, of course, and NOLA Navy Week is kicking off the commemoration of the war this week, from April 17 through April 23. Similar celebrations will take place in Norfolk, New York, Cleveland, Boston and Baltimore, but we get the honor of beginning and ending the celebration. In 2015, on the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans, there’ll be another celebration. And that’s only appropriate, because the British were out to get us here in 1812, and we stood our ground at the Battle of New Orleans, Battle of Lake Borgne, and another assault in Algiers and later at Fort St. Philip in lower Placquemines Parish before the British finally gave up.
On April 17, Class A Tall Ships from around the world will make their way up the Mississippi River, and can be seen between Erato Street and the Upper Poland Avenue wharf. U.S. Navy warships, frigates and tall ships from France, Canada and Britain will be greeted loudly with a 21-gun salutes from the former Navy pier located in Algiers, by the Washington Artillery. It’s going to be an amazing sight, and the public can tour the vessels during afternoons. See http://nolanavyweek.com/.for a schedule of the ships’ arrivals and tour times, and other events.
There’ll be National Park Service exhibits at the Chalmette battlefield, a military drill demonstration in Jackson Square, and war-related exhibits at the Cabildo in the Louisiana State Museum. Since it wouldn’t be a party in New Orleans without food, on Thursday, April 19, there’s also going to be a Louisiana Seafood Cookoff at Woldenberg Park, where Louisiana chefs get to do battle with chefs from the visiting chefs and armed services.
On Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, the Navy and Marine Corps’ Blue Angels will soar in the skies as they perform several air shows over the Lake Pontchartrain, with other performances by Air National Guard aircraft, Navy, and local Coast Guard.
So, from the rocket’s red glare, to the bombs bursting in air, it’s going to be quite a show here in New Orleans. In the air and on the seas, we’ll get to see it all.