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Title: Eight days in New Orleans in February, 1847
Author: Pickett, Albert James
Language: English
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The following Sketches of New-Orleans originally appeared in the
Alabama Journal of Montgomery. For the purpose of presenting them to
the perusal of his friends at a distance, the author has caused them
to be embodied in the present form.

These pages were written from the recollection of only a few days
sojourn in the Crescent City. The period allowed the author of
collecting information was very limited. It is also his first essay at
descriptive and historic writing. The author fondly indulges the hope
that these things will be taken into consideration by his charitable
friends, and will cause them to cast the veil of compassion over

MAY 18TH, 1847.



On a recent excursion to the Crescent City, I collected some facts
and statistics which are respectfully submitted to the public. In
attempting a description of this magnificent emporium of commerce,
as it exists at the present day, I will briefly allude to its early
history, commencing with the great "drain" of the western world, which
is destined to bear upon its turbid bosom half the commerce of the
American Union.

Three hundred and thirty years ago the noble Mississippi rolled its
waters to its ocean home in native silence and grandeur, hitherto seen
by no European eye, when suddenly one morning HERNANDEZ DE SOTO stood
upon its banks. How awfully sublime must have been the contemplations
of that man. He had discovered it a thousand miles from its mouth, two
thousand from its source. No one had ever seen its rise,--no one its
exit into the ocean. But it was reserved for the Governor of Cuba to
find it through a wilderness, at a place and under circumstances the
most thrilling and romantic. Four years previous to this discovery,
he embarked for Florida with an outfit of a thousand men, with arms,
munitions, priests and chains. His object, the conquest of a country
teeming with wealth and splendour, like that which his former Captain
found in the conquest of Peru. He penetrated Florida, Georgia and
Alabama, finding no gold--no splendid Montezuma--nothing but savages
breathing out an innocent and monotonous existence, inhabiting a
country in a state of nature alone. After hardships the most unheard
of, disappointments the most mortifying, the proud and enterprising De
Soto threw his troops into Mauville, a large town near the confluence
of the Bigby and Alabama. Here a most disastrous battle attended him,
for although he routed the enemy in the death of thousands, he lost
all his baggage and most of his horses. His fleet then lay at the bay
of Pensacola, awaiting his arrival, and by reaching it in a few
days he could have terminated his disastrous campaign. But the proud
Castilian was not to be subdued by misfortunes and disappointments.
He determined to find just such a country as he had constantly sought.
Fired with fresh intelligence of the magnificence of the people who
lived near the "Father of Waters," we find him pursuing his expedition
in a sun-set direction in company with his jaded, reduced and
dispirited force, with a fortitude and courage which none but a
Spaniard knows. He surmounted innumerable difficulties, which both
nature and man interposed to arrest his progress; and finally, through
a dense and almost endless forest, he suddenly gratified his vision
with the majestic Mississippi. Crossing over the great river, he
toiled in the prairies and swamps of Arkansas and Missouri, until
wants and vicissitudes of the most trying character impelled his
return. Arrived once more upon its virgin banks, his lofty spirit
fell, and brooding over his fallen fortunes, a fever terminated his
existence far from home, in the American wilds!

Just before he passed from life, he caused his officers to surround
his bed, appointed Luis de Muscoso his successor in command, and bid
them an affectionate farewell. He also had his soldiers introduced by
twenties, endeavored to cheer their drooping spirits, (who were now
inconsolable at the loss of their great leader,) exhorted them to keep
together, share each other's burthens, and endeavor to reach their
native country, which he was never to see. To conceal his body from
the brutalities of the natives, it was encased in an oaken trough, and
silently plunged in the middle of the channel, at the dark and gloomy
hour of midnight, and the muddy waters washed the bones of one of the
noblest sons of Spain![A] Thus was the Adelantado of Florida the first
to behold the Mississippi river; the first to close his eyes in death
upon it, and the first to find a grave in its deep and turbid channel.

[Footnote A: See "Monette's History of the Mississippi Valley," vol.
I., from pp. 16, to 64. This learned man and eloquent writer has
given a most interesting account of De Soto's expedition. His work is
recently published, and should be extensively read by the people of
the south-west particularly.]

Muscoso and his remaining troops, now annoyed by the natives, by
hunger and disease, built some vessels, and dropped down the river,
in the hopes of reaching Cuba. And three hundred and thirty years ago
these adventurers silently floated by the spot where New Orleans now
stands! No hand had ever felled a tree,--no civilized voice had ever
echoed among the forests of that place. But nature, eternal nature,
ruled supreme. The poor fellows went out at one of the mouths of the
river, and a tremendous tornado encountered and dispersed them. But
few lived to reach home.

The several journalists of that expedition describe the Mississippi
river of that day exactly as it is at present, in respect to several
things, "a river so broad that if a man stood still on the other side,
it could not be discerned whether he was a man or not. The channel
was very deep, the current strong, the water muddy and filled with
floating trees."

A long century was added to the age of the world before the
Mississippi river was beheld again by civilized man. Col. Woods, of
the Virginia colony next saw it, and crossed it. Marquette, in 1673,
started at its source, and came down as far as the Arkansas. The
Chevalier de la Salle, some years after this, commenced near its head
and descended to the gulf, with seventeen men. Having returned to
France, he fitted out an expedition, but his vessels were unable to
find the river. He made another voyage, but could not find its mouth.
Iberville was the first voyager that ever entered this river from the
ocean, and he erected a fort at Biloxi, near Mobile, in 1697.



Iberville, the father of Louisiana, having formed a settlement at
Biloxi, by erecting a fort and leaving a garrison, proceeded up the
river, and established a town at Natchez, on that splendid bluff which
towers above the angry waters of the Mississippi. On his departure for
France, his brother, Bienville, was made Governor, and he appears to
have been anxious to procure a more eligible site for the capitol of
the province than either of those which his predecessor had selected.
Dropping down the vast current he most patiently made a thorough
examination of the banks from Natchez to the gulf, and finally
determined to make the Crescent Bend the future capitol. His judgment
was good, although the visitor frequently wonders why the city was
not placed nearer the ocean. It was, perhaps, the most elevated
spot convenient to the outlet, and was certainly nearest Lake
Pontchartrain, upon the commerce of which the founder no doubt made
reasonable calculations. But whether the settlement of New Orleans was
the result of accident, as many suppose, or of well conceived design,
it matters but little. It was selected by Bienville, and he threw
fifty able men forthwith into the forest to felling the trees, exactly
one hundred and twenty-nine years ago! In defiance of the united
opposition of Natchez and Biloxi, the Governor pushed forward his
work. It appears that in the very outset this place encountered
difficulties of various kinds, which thwarted its prosperity for
nearly a century. While only one year old, the Mississippi rising to
an unprecedented height, swept away every vestige of human innovation.
Being totally abandoned for three years, it was again settled by
Delorme, "who acting under positive instructions, removed to it the
government establishment." In the following year it contained about
one hundred houses scattered in all directions, with no regularity,
with no dyke to protect them from the rolling waves, no fort to
repel the incursions of the Indians; without the smallest luxury and
comfort, without society, without religious enjoyment, reduced by
disease and assailed by the venom of every tropical insect, did these
enterprising sons of France struggle for existence and a town. No
sooner were they left to some kind of repose than they were visited
by a dreadful tornado, which blew away their houses, destroyed their
shipping, and ruined their gardens. But New Orleans has risen above
all disasters and opposition. One of the most remarkable characters of
that day was Governor Bienville. He must have been a determined man,
with great good sense, and had the confidence of the citizens. He was
made Governor three times, and for many years exercised a salutary
influence over the destinies of Louisiana.

A few years after this period, a body of Jesuit priests and nuns
arriving from France, gave a new impetus to the town. They made a most
fortunate location, and their property greatly augmented in value. But
these pious adventurers were also to be disturbed. The Pope of Rome
not only expelled that sect from Europe, but pursued them in American
exile. Their property in New Orleans, variously estimated to be worth
now, from fifteen to thirty millions, was then confiscated and sold
for one hundred and eighty thousand dollars. These unfortunate
people still further had to satisfy the tyrannical decree to the
full measure, by leaving Louisiana! Fifty-one years elapsed from the
settlement of Orleans until it was visited by that dreadful disease,
the yellow fever, and we may ascribe that affliction, as we may do
many other entailed evils, to the English. They introduced it
by importing to Louisiana a cargo of slaves; and now these
philanthropists would be willing to see our nation exterminated, and
our throats cut, because we are pursuing a system of mild domestic
slavery, when they imposed it upon us in the most heartless and
aggravated form, by kidnapping and robbery!!! But I am digressing.

To terminate this very rapid and imperfect sketch of the history of
Orleans, I will introduce a brief summary, with the remark, however,
that the Louisianians had every impediment thrown in their way in
endeavoring to become a prosperous and happy people. They were handed
over by the French government to a chartered company, who afterwards
returned them to the government. They were then sold to Spain, and a
remorseless governor of that nation introduced a system of plunder and
oppression. Afterwards Spain ceded this country again to France, and
France sold it to the United States for fifteen millions of dollars! A
sum that startled many of our economical republicans of that day,
but which, compared to the advantages of the purchase and the revenue
since derived, was a most paltry sum. In 1778 a fire consumed nine
hundred houses. In 1785, seventy years after it was founded, the
population was only four thousand seven hundred and eighty. In 1791
the first comedians arrived from Cape Francois. In 1800 Spain receded
the province to France, and it was purchased by the United States in
1803. In 1810 the population amounted to twenty-four thousand five
hundred and fifty-two souls: Ever since the cession to the United
States the strides of the city of Orleans have been rapid, and her
march onward!



The most extraordinary man that ever lived in any age or country, was
Gen. ANDREW JACKSON. From youth to the last moments of his life,
he swayed the minds and actions of men beyond anything on record.
Buonaparte, with all his power, was at last subdued, and died at St.
Helena as harmless as a child. The venerated "Father of his country"
lost much of his popularity and influence after he retired to Mount
Vernon.[A] Nearly all the great men of whom we read, lose to some
extent their position towards the close of their lives. But Gen.
Jackson retained his influence so long as the breath remained in his
body. While retired at the Hermitage, divested of all official
power, with a weak and attenuated frame, bowed down with disease and
tottering to decay; whilst the last light was flickering in that
once refulgent lamp, did this masterly and commanding man dictate
the nomination of a President, and achieve, through his expressed
opinions, the annexation of Texas!! This is mentioned, not by way of
political boasting, but to show the powerful influence he exerted over
the destinies of this Union, even when the hand of death was upon
him! It was the efforts of this distinguished Captain which saved New
Orleans in 1814. No sooner had that devoted city become free from
that despotic and ruinous policy which had for a century crippled its
energies, no sooner had it been made a member of our family, than
the ruthless hand of fate was down upon it once more. To sack it, to
dishonor it, there were ready encamped on its outskirts eight thousand
chosen troops, who had fought under Wellington in the peninsular war;
veterans in service, and the flower of the British army.

[Footnote A: Some of the author's friends find fault with the contrast
here made in regard to the influence which Gen. Washington and Jackson
exerted over the people of the United States, and they say that I have
ranked Jackson before the "Father of his Country," for true greatness.
Now, while I agree with them that Washington was the purest and
greatest man that ever lived, I say that Jackson was the most
brilliant of the two, and exercised more influence over the people
than any other man that ever lived!]

General Jackson reached Orleans under the most embarrassing
circumstances. His troops numbered only four thousand, as
undisciplined as children of the forest could be, with few arms
and but little ammunition. The population of the city was made up
principally of French, Spanish and Dutch, who knew not our laws,
who were aliens in feelings, who had never heard of Jackson, but who
looked upon his raw troops with doubt and dismay, while the splendid
numbers in the British lines over-awed and intimidated them. Among
this mixed and doubtful mass, it was the aim of the American commander
to inspire confidence and make them stand by him. In the darkest hour
of his deepest embarrassment, when mutiny and riot stalked over the
infatuated city, when much of the talent and influence of Orleans was
at that moment employed in overtures to the enemy; in that dark hour
that tortured the commander's soul, a large deputation of French
ladies implored him with tears and lamentations, to surrender the
city and save their lives and persons. When informed by his aid, Col.
Livingston, who was familiar with the French language, the nature of
their visit, this great native Captain, this commander by the creation
of his Maker, rose in his stirrups and said, in a loud voice, "Tell
them, Colonel, to rely upon me, I will protect them, defend the city,
and save it!" Jackson carried out his bold declaration, which seemed
groundless when made. No man but him had nerve enough to make, and
none to demonstrate it under such unfavorable circumstances. In
a conversation with the Duke of Wellington, not long since, that
distinguished soldier remarked to Col. King, our Ex-Minister to
France, "that taking into account the disparagement of the opposite
forces and the number slain on either side, the battle of New Orleans
was unrivalled in the annals of warfare." Only seven Americans paid
the debt of war, while the bloody field was covered with two thousand
sons of Britain!

After the defeated troops had embarked for England, and peace being
declared, the Crescent City, relieved of many of its tramels, made
the most mastodon strides to wealth and fame. Her population increased
rapidly in despite of the yellow fever, which annually swept off
thousands. As disease made fearful lanes through the ranks, the
avenues were immediately filled by fresh pioneers invited by the
inducements which her commerce held out. The population of New
Orleans in 1810 was 17,242; in 1820, 27,126; in 1830, 46,310; in 1840,
102,193; and at this time it amounts to 170,000 souls! In regard to
her population Orleans is not unlike Astor with his money. Each have
arrived at that prosperous state when it requires but a few years to
double their numbers.

When Napoleon sold Louisiana to Mr. Jefferson, the condition
of Orleans was poor indeed compared to its present imposing and
magnificent appearance. Norman, a writer, says "at that time the
public property transferred to us consisted of two large brick stores,
a government house, a military hospital, powder magazine on the
opposite side of the river, an old frame custom-house, extensive
barracks below those now remaining, five miserable redoubts, a
town-house, market-house, assembly room and prison, a cathedral and
presbytery, and a charity hospital." The Second Municipality, which
now contains a population of fifty thousand, with lofty and compact
buildings, the centre of trade and enterprise, where now towers the
conspicuous St. Charles and comfortable Verandah, was not many years
since a sugar plantation belonging to Monsieur Gravier. In 1823, the
enterprising Caldwell erected the American theatre on a portion of
this field, and was considered a madman for building in the country.
The lovers of the drama could only reach the theatre upon the gunwales
of flat-bottomed boats, but how soon was this isolated building
surrounded by wealth, beauty and fashion!



Omitting an account of the many deadly quarrels which were constantly
fermented with the Indians--of the battles of the Louisianas with the
Spanish and English--of the horrible and unparalleled murder of twelve
of the principle citizens of Orleans, by the order of O'Reilly, the
Spanish commandant, who had invited them to one of his banquets--nay,
of a thousand interesting things connected with the history of this
romantic city, which could not have been embodied in these hasty
numbers, I proceed to consider its present condition and prospects.

The bend of land which sustains all this magnificence and wealth, is
very much like that opposite Montgomery. A citizen acquainted with
our localities, may very justly imagine New Orleans to commence on
the west side of the Alabama, below Jackson's Ferry, continuing on
by Bibb's gate and terminating just below town.--Opposite old Alabama
town he may suppose the city of Lafayette to commence, then, further
on, the town of Bouligny, and then Carrollton.

The city proper is, by the river, five miles long, and will average
three-fourths of a mile wide. Then commences Lafayette, which extends
up the river two miles further, and, as they are so intimately
connected and associated, it all may be considered as one vast place,
seven miles in extent. After a succession of splendid mansions, farms,
and other houses, the whole resembling a continued village, Bouligny
and Carrollton unite with the chain of commerce. A century from this
date, Orleans, like London, will reach out her arms and encompass
within her limits every town and hamlet for miles around. As London
swallowed up Westminster, Southwark, Lambeth, and Chelsea, so will
Lafayette, Bouligny, Carrollton, and others adjacent be lost in her
future immensity. It will then all be New Orleans, the largest city on
the continent of America, and perhaps in the world.

The foundation consists of a plain inclining from the river, and when
looking from the St. Charles to the Levee, the singular spectacle is
presented of ships and boats standing raised up before you, and the
little rivulet in the street, just after a rain, running in a smart
current by you and losing itself in the swamp, as if afraid to mingle
with the "Father of Waters." As health and cleanliness are greatly
promoted by this gentle inclined plain, it is most fortunate that
Orleans is so situated. In ancient times the inhabitants were either
amphibious or lived at great sufferance from the floods. But now they
are protected by the Levee. A stranger however, upon the impulse,
would think that protection uncertain. But if he would reflect for a
moment, he would wisely determine that it requires not a very strong
dyke to pen up the surplus water during a freshet, for the main
current is confined by immense banks reaching far, far below. To
render my position more palpable, suppose the river should suddenly
dry up, Orleans would then be standing on a bluff three hundred and
sixty feet high, for that is the depth of the river opposite the
city. The foundation, a low alluvial bottom, has been much improved by
draining and filling up. No building is erected without the foundation
is made firm by piling with long logs driven down with immense force;
but very massive buildings, even with this precaution, will continue
to settle. It is said that the St. Charles is two feet lower now than
formerly. Three great streets divide the city into municipalities.
Between Canal and Esplanade, lies the first Municipality, between
Esplanade and the lowest street on the outskirts, far down the river,
lies the Third Municipality; and between Canal and Felicity, is
the Second. They are wide and beautiful streets, running perfectly
straight from the river to the farthest back limits, serving not
only as boundaries for municipal purposes, but absolutely separating
different races. The everlasting Yankees, with their shrewdness and
enterprize, inhabit the Second Municipality; the wealthy French and
Spanish fill up the First, with a large mixture of native Americans;
but the Third Municipality is entirely French and Spanish. It was
impossible for me to ascertain how many streets run through the
city, but there are many. No fault can be found of the topography of
Orleans, and it is strange that the regularity of the thorough
fares should have been so well preserved under all the changes and
vicissitudes through which she has passed. Everything is of interest
here; even the names of the streets attract the notice of the visitor;
and as he rides along, he may trace the different races who have
formed and named them. He will pass through streets which the
descendants of Spain first laid out, such as Esplanade, Ferdinand
Casacalvo, Morales, and Perdido. Again his eye will glance at French
names, such as Josephine, Bourbon, Chartres, Notre Dame, Dauphin, and
Toulouse. Then there are various streets bearing the names of all the
saints known to the Catholic devotee. In respect to names very little
of Orleans has been Americanized. Occasionally you will meet with such
names as Commerce and Canal, which doubtless sound very vulgar to the
the French. But the master street of the world is the great Levee,
usually from two to five hundred feet wide from the river to the
buildings. From this great thoroughfare all others diverge, and it
is the greatest mart of its extent in the world. While I was there,
THIRTY-SIX THOUSAND BARRELS OF FLOUR were sold in a few hours! And
while this astonishing transfer was going on, thousands of other
produce and commodities were changing hands. Many years ago it
was used as a fashionable promenade to enjoy the breezes of the
Mississippi. Commerce has changed its character entirely. Now scenes
of the most intensely exciting character are upon the Levee. The
very air howls with an eternal din and noise. Drays and wagons of
all descriptions, loaded with the produce of every clime, move on
continually in one unbroken chain. Ships from every nation, whose
masts tower aloft in a dense forest for five miles, with thirty
thousand sailors and stevedores, busily loading and unloading, stand
in your view. Steamboats, and crafts of every make and shape, from
every river which empties into the Mississippi, are here mingling in
the strife of commerce. The rough and homely produce of the far and
cold Iowa--of the distant Wisconsin--of the black and stormy Northern
Lakes, is here thrown upon the Levee in hurry and confusion mingled
and mixed with the sweets and luxuries of the sunny tropics. Here,
too, the various races of men astonish one. The Kentuckian with an
honest and ruddy face; the Yankee with his shrewd and enterprising
look; the rich planter of Mississippi; the elegant and chivalrous
Carolinian; the sensible and honest citizen from the "Old North
State;" the lively, fine-looking, and smart Georgian; the talented and
handsome Virginian; the swarthy creole sugar planter; the rough hunter
from the gorges of the Rocky Mountains--all natives of the Union--all
freemen alike--all meet upon this common ground of LIBERTY and
COMMERCE. And this picture must be carried out with the children of
_adoption_. Here is also the dark and mysterious Spaniard puffing his
cigar and sending up volumes of smoke through his black imperials; the
gay and frisky Frenchman; the sturdy Dutchman; the son of Erin, and
the cunning Jew. A trite adage says that "it takes all kinds of people
to make a world;" verily, then, the Levee is a world.



Immediately opposite the Place d'Armes, and fronting the levee, rises
in solemn grandeur, the celebrated Cathedral. It must be very old, and
was said to have been erected through the zealous munificence of Don
Andre Almonoster. Connected with the building is a story curious and
romantic, and from all I could learn no less true. When Don Andre
died, he exacted of the priesthood the positive injunction, that every
Saturday evening prayer should be offered up for his soul, and in
default thereof the property was to pass into other hands. From that
day to this, in fulfilling these extraordinary stipulations, not a
solitary omission has been made. And as you stand about sundown at
the Cathedral, you will hear the doleful bell mournfully recalling the
memory of the departed Don Andre! I was there at that hour. The dark
and frowning church towered far above me. The deep-toned bell echoed
its mournful sound until twilight began to mantle the city with her
sable curtains. I thought of Don Andre. I thought of his injunction;
I thought of his soul, and I turned from the consecrated place with
feelings the most singular and solemn.

The edifice in appearance is grand, antique and venerable. Judging
from the disregard to repairs, I should conclude it was designed for
it to remain so. Built of brick, with very thick walls and stuccoed,
it nevertheless looks black and dingy, all which assists to make it
more imposing to the stranger. A large door in the middle will let you
into the ante-chamber, and from this by a door on the right and one
on the left, you enter the immense chapel. Passing by two large marble
basins filled with holy water, where devotees sprinkle and cross
themselves upon entering; you are by the side of the "confession
boxes." There are three on each side, each about ten feet high and
eight feet square, with three apartments or stalls; the middle one for
the priest, the other two for those wishing to lay down their burden
of sins. The priest standing in the middle hears an account of the
transgressions of the one on the right through a small grated window,
while the one on the left is kneeling until his fellow-sufferer gets
through. All that can be heard is a low whispering and murmuring
throughout all the confessional boxes, where six priests are
continually officiating. When the penitent is dismissed by the holy
father, he appears to be a happier man, and on coming out of the box
immediately kneels before the altar, and another person takes his

This system of confession is often denounced; I do not pretend to
defend it, but there is much excuse for it. What Protestant is there
who in deep trouble, does not find relief in disclosing those troubles
to an old confidential person in whom he can confide, and who gives
him good advice? Are not the cases somewhat similar?

I watched and listened attentively to see or hear the settlement
between the father and sinner, but I made no discoveries and heard no
money jingle. All classes unite here in the services, and as you cast
your eye over this devout assembly, the elegant young lady may be seen
kneeling on the hard stone floor, beside the negro or mulatto. And
still further on, the well-attired gentleman prostrates himself with
the ragged beggar in worshipping the same common and universal God!
All appear to be deeply engaged, and in no church can there be found
so much profound silence, awe and veneration. The three altars are so
far distant that the fathers are seldom heard, and the worshippers are
governed in their devotions by the ringing of bells. There is nothing
very imposing in the interior, some very fine paintings representing
incidents in the Bible, hang around the walls.

In regard to the public buildings, "there is probably no city in the
United States that has so many benevolent institutions as New Orleans,
in proportion to its population. Certainly it has not an equal in
those voluntary contributions which are sometimes required to answer
the immediate calls of distress. Here assembled a mixed multitude,
composed of almost every nation and tongue, from the frozen to the
torrid zone, and whether it be the sympathy of strangers, or the
influence of the "sunny south," their purses open and their hearts
respond like those of brothers, to the demands of charity."[A]

[Footnote A: "Norman's New Orleans and Environs."]

The Female Orphan Asylum is a fine building on the corner of Camp and
Prytania streets, and the visitor who has never seen any thing of the
kind will be well repaid by an examination. He will be met at the door
by one of the Sisters of Charity, (known as Nuns,) a lady about forty
years old, rather stooping, but mild and holy, dressed in black, with
a hood of the same, partly covering her head. Her dress is gathered
around her waist by a black belt made of bombazine, to which is
attached some keys and Catholic relics. She beckons you in the house,
and proceeds on before you with a gait as noiseless and nimble as a
cat. The first room you enter is the school for small girls, numbering
about fifty, who all rise simultaneously on your entrance. You then
pass into a room of fifty girls, generally from twelve to sixteen
years of age. Here they exhibit specimens of needle work, painting,
etc., all well executed. These schools are under the especial care and
management of the good sisters, and nothing can exceed the orderly,
neat and well-behaved deportment of the girls. We next visited
the kitchen; if a clean, neat, ungreased apartment can bear that
appellation. There we found the Lady Superior up to her elbows in
dough, and busily assisted by several charity girls in cooking dinner.
She was a fat, healthy looking lady, about forty years old, and looked
like she had more of the good things of this life at her command, or
rather appeared to have made better use of them than her sisters.
The dining-room is well arranged, so are the dormitories, which are
composed of four spacious rooms, very airy and commodious. Each
school has its dormitory, and every girl has a separate bed, neat and
comfortable, exactly corresponding to her size and length. Just as
the good sister (our conductress) opened the door of the chapel, she
dropped upon her knees and repeated something to herself. On opening
the door, we saw another sister "solitary and alone," kneeling, rising
and prostrating herself before the altar. She was deeply engaged in
her devotions, and never once turned her head to look at us.

Being struck with the infinite degree of trouble which the Sisters
must daily encounter in nursing and rearing over one hundred orphan
girls from a month to sixteen years of age, I alluded to it, she
replied, "That is what we are here for. We give up the allurements of
the world to devote our days exclusively in doing good, and what you
call troubles are our pleasures."

This immense building, with four school rooms, four dormitories,
dining rooms and many other apartments, are all under the management
of seven Sisters, who attend to every thing, even wash and scour
the floors, dress and teach the children. But the most interesting
apartment was that of the infants. Here we found about thirty children
about four years old, clean and well dressed and sending up their
innocent and sweet little voices in singing praises to God! It was
almost impossible to notice any difference in the sizes of this
interesting little circle. Not one of the little sweets had father
or mother alive. No one could look upon them with feelings other than
those of pity and love. Like so many young birds holding their little
heads above their nests, would these sweet little children ask us,
"Have you any candy for me?"



The stranger should never leave the Crescent City without seeing the
Mint, where money is made as if by magic. It is situated in the old
Jackson square, between Barrack and Esplanade streets. It is a fine
edifice, having a projecting centre building with two exterior
wings. The walls are strong and thick, plastered in good imitation of
granite; the length, 282 by 108 deep. This mint was commenced in 1835,
and the whole cost of building, fencing, machinery, and furniture,
was $300,000. The yard is handsomely enclosed with iron railing on a
granite basement. You enter at a fine gate, and passing through the
first court over a block wood pavement, you ascend a flight of
granite steps, and enter in a large passage where sets a pleasant old
gentleman, who requires you to register your name and residence. This
being done, he leads the visitor among the furnaces where the smelting
is performed; then in a large room where the metal is formed into bars
of various sizes by running it through powerful iron rollers. These
bars are then cut out into coins from the size of half a dime to a
doubloon, by means of a machine something like a punch, but which
moves with great regularity, and power, and despatch. The polite old
gentleman then leads you down below, and in a remote wing stands a
man solitary and alone by the side of the most splendid and beautiful
machinery which ever was made, who puts the cut pieces of coin by
twenties into a tube which fits them exactly, and the machinery stamps
them one by one, with an eagle on one side, and the Goddess of Liberty
on the other. The untiring machinery goes up and down, and stamps
according to different sizes, from eighty to one hundred and fifty to
the minute! and they are received into a beautiful silver vase
below. Before the coin is brought into this finishing room, it is
not counted, but weighed; and after it is here impressed, it is then
weighed again. In 1838, the mint coined only the amount $40,243; 1839,
$263,650; 1840, $915,600; 1841, $642,200; 1842, $1,275,750; 1843,
$4,568,000; 1844, $4,208,500; 1845, $1,473,000. The falling off during
the last year mentioned, has been owing to the state of our foreign
exchanges being against the interests of the mint.

The chief work has consisted in the new coinage of old Spanish
dollars, French, German, and English coins. The unwrought gold is
chiefly from Alabama, and is greatly on the increase. Nothing is
charged for the coinage of pure metal. The expenses are borne by the
Government, and are annually about fifty-two thousand dollars.

A large portion of the city of Orleans is watered from the large
reservoir in the upper part of the second municipality. An iron pipe
eighteen inches in diameter, is placed in the river twelve feet below
the surface, and through this, great columns of water are continually
ascending by sixty horse power force-pumps, situated in brick
buildings on Tchoupitoulas and Richard streets. The water is carried
under ground for two hundred yards further, and forced up the
reservoir alluded to, which has been made in the manner of an
artificial mound, from the sediment of the river. The reservoir is
built on the top of the mound, and is about three hundred feet square,
walled with brick and cemented, with four apartments in it, each
having about five feet live water in them. Every month or two, the
water is drawn off from two of them, and the deposit formed six inches
deep is scraped off, and the water let in again. A pavilion in the
middle of the reservoir affords a pleasant seat, and affords you a
commanding view of the immediate neighborhood. The pumps force up
2,280 gallons per minute. The cost of the works is about $1,490,000;
expenses, $17,000; revenue, $75000. The water is distributed through
cast iron pipes from sixteen to six inches in diameter, and is sold at
the rate of three dollars per head. The daily consumption is near one
million three hundred thousand gallons.

The city of New Orleans is more abundantly blessed, according to its
extent, with good markets than any city on the continent. They may be
found in all directions, affording a great abundance of the best that
the whole Mississippi valley and the far western plains of Texas can

The great attraction to visitors is the celebrated FRENCH MARKET.
The French, English, Spanish, Dutch, Swiss and Italian languages are
employed here in trading, buying, and selling, and a kind of mongrel
mixture and jumble of each and all is spoken by the lower class in the
market. It lies on the Levee, admirably situated, and extends a long
ways. All is hurry, jostling and confusion; the very drums of your
ears ache with the eternal jargon--with the cursing, swearing,
whooping, hollowing, cavilling, laughing, crying, cheating and
stealing, which are all in full blast. The screams of parrots, the
music of birds, the barking of dogs, the cries of oystermen, the
screams of children, the Dutch girl's organ, the French negro humming
a piece of the last opera--all are going it, increasing the novelty of
this novel place. The people engaged in building the tower of Babel,
whose language was confounded and confused for their presumptuous
undertaking, never made a worse jargon or inflicted a greater blow
upon harmonious sounds, than is to be found here. While looking around
at the various commodities exposed for sale, I saw scores of opossums,
coons, crawfish, eels, minks, and frogs, brought there to satiate the
fancy appetite of the French. But what was my astonishment on seeing
a basket of five fat _puppies_ about six weeks old, which the owner
informed me were for French gentlemen to eat! In charity for the
Frenchman's taste, I have sometimes thought the vender of these little
barkers was palming a quiz upon me. I hope so.

This is an unrivalled market. Every fish that swims in the Gulf, every
bird that flies in the air, or swims upon the wave, every quadruped
that scours the plains or skulks in dens, which are usually eaten
by men, can be had in great abundance. All kinds of grain and roots
raised in the up country, all the luxuries of the tropics, are here.
The elk of the Osage river, the buffalo of the Yellowstone, venison of
Louisiana, and the bear of Mississippi, fill the list, and contribute
in pandering to the appetites of luxurious citizens.



I cannot undertake to describe the numerous public buildings which
adorn the city of Orleans. I will merely observe that the stranger
would be much entertained and instructed by visiting the Gas Works,
the Chapel of the Ursulines, St. Patrick's Church, the Cypress Grove
Cemetery, and other beautiful resting places of the dead; the Charity
Hospital, the Maison de Sante, the Marine Hospital, the Municipal
Hall, the Workhouses in the First and Second Municipalities, the
City Prisons, the City Hall, the Orleans Cotton Press, the Commercial
Exchange, the Merchants' Exchange, the Medical College, and many
others too numerous to mention.

A very great object of attraction at night is the Orleans Theatre, the
most conveniently arranged building, perhaps in America. With a
very commodious and elevated pit, with grated boxes on the sides
for persons desiring to be private, two tiers of boxes and one of
galleries above, the whole is so admirably arranged as to allow
spectators every privilege of seeing and hearing. The pieces performed
at this novel theatre are generally well selected operas, and
although the acting is in the French language, yet the pantomime is
so excellent and the costume so much to the life, that it requires but
little practice on the part of the Alabamian to unravel the plot
and become intensely engaged. Every kind of instrument necessary
in producing sweet and harmonious sounds, is to be found in the
orchestra, and the music is alternately melodious and grand. The
dress circle surpasses all others for the beauty and fashion which
it contains. It literally glows with diamonds and sparkling eyes!! In
front are seated ladies most magnificently dressed, from all parts of
the south and west, and among them sat the beautiful daughter of the
hero of Mexico! As the child of the captor of Monterey, she was the
object of attraction throughout the dress circle, and doubtless was
loved by all for the noble deeds of her brave and patriotic father.
On the sides of the circle are beauties still more richly attired, if
possible, but darker and more effeminate than the former, but
pretty and sweet beyond all description. They are the daughters of

No theatre in the world can be better patronised. Every night it is
crowded with fashionable audiences. For weeks together seats at an
extravagant price are engaged far ahead. In going away from this
little world of gaiety and amusement, the visitor may justly conclude
that Frenchmen never get old! Here are men portly in appearance and
elegant in manners, whose heads are "silvered o'er with many winters,"
apparently sixty and seventy years of age, entering into the merits of
the play with spirits as gay and ardent as the young man of twenty. At
the conclusion of a fine act, they will rise upon their feet and
shout with rapture and delight, "bravo! bravo!! bravissimo!!! c'est

I shall continue to speak more frequently of the French and Spanish
population than of the native Americans, because, being the more novel
and strange, they are the most interesting. They have a great many
singular customs and attractive amusements. Among others, "Mardi-Gras,
or Shrove Tuesday," when the religious holidays are at an end, is
of some interest. I saw this ceremony under unfavorable auspices. It
rained the whole day, and the procession did not exceed an hundred,
who constantly appeared in small detachments, some riding on
horseback, others in open wagons and cabs, but many on foot; all
masked and most fantastically and even ridiculously dressed. I presume
the eminently pious portion of the Catholics do not engage in this
celebration, unless giving it a more serious and respectable turn,
for it struck me as I witnessed it as composed of persons of a low
and vulgar character. Every Mardi-Gras man has his pockets filled
with flour, and as he passes the well-dressed stranger, who excited
by curiosity gets near, throws handfuls upon him, to the amusement
of those bystanders who fortunately escape. One wagon in particular
contained eight hideous-looking objects, dressed in bear, panther and
buffalo skins, with horns of various descriptions on. Among them was
his Satanic Majesty, with the same old cloven feet, lashing tail, and
black skin. Those on foot fared badly, for scores of boys would follow
them up, and pelt them with sticks and mud, and in one instance I saw
a fellow stripped of his old woman's habiliments and mask, who looked
stupid and ridiculous to the laughing boys and spectators.

But while quitting a description of this poor celebration, once so
large and interesting, I must not fail to notice the grandest sight
my eyes ever beheld. I was standing on the gallery of the Verandah; in
front of me rose up high in the air the imposing and magnificent St.
Charles. On its granite gallery stood crowds of the finest race of
men upon the globe--below, the streets were full, all looking at the
Carnival. For four stories high, every window was full of beauty and
fashion. Never had the remark so often made to me before, been so
entirely convincing, that New Orleans contained more handsome ladies
and fine looking men than any city in the Union. Every thing in front
of the St. Charles is rich and inviting. The men all free and easy
and elegantly apparelled, with forms cast in Nature's best mould;
the ladies all gay, cheerful and beautiful; the cabs and coaches all
elegant, with the most dazzling caparisons covering the noble horses.
The eminent merchant, the learned jurist, the respectable planter, the
dashing young fellow, the officer of the army, all congregate before
the St. Charles, the best house in the world!



Of the various delightful rides in the environs of the city, none
affords so much interest as the route to Carrollton. You reach that
place on a railroad, commencing in the upper part of the second
municipality, and running a third of the way through the suburbs of
Lafayette, the remainder passing over a wide and lovely plain, with
the Mississippi river on your left, and the deep and dismal swamp on
your right. It is impossible to conceive a more interesting level than
this, for as far as the eye can reach, objects of both nature and art
are most agreeably presented. The road first passes a splendid
country seat, resembling in appearance our imperfect ideas of a French
chateau, surrounded with shrubbery of the greenest shade, with orange
trees covered with buds and blossoms whose fragrance embalms the air,
and burthened with golden globes which richly glitter in the sun. And
next you see spread out upon this beautiful plain, heads of cattle and
sheep grazing upon the soft green sward, which none but the alluvial
bottoms of the noble Mississippi can afford in such inviting
varieties. Further on, you enter a pecan grove, resembling some of
the oaks in our forests, but every tree alike--all of the same
size--bearing aloft the nutricious nuts which make them so celebrated.
The road passes by many handsome seats and villas, the style of which
at once indicates the taste and wealth of the inmates.

While enjoying this interesting ride, my mind suddenly fell back upon
Orleans, and was at once wrapt in thoughts of futurity. An hundred
years hence, where now browze those innocent cattle in undisturbed
silence--where now grow the green grass, "the vine and the
fig-tree,"--will then be occupied by churches, towers, hotels, and
theatres! What place is this? It is a part of New Orleans the queen
city of America.

Carrollton is a small place, but contains some fine residences; and
there is a large public garden, tastefully laid out, belonging to
the railroad company. The sale of wood seems to be the principal
employment of the inhabitants. Rafts containing one hundred large logs
about fifty feet long, almost entirely of ash, pinned together, are
floated down from all parts of the world above Orleans, from as high
up as Missouri. While winding their way through the torturous currents
of the river, these raftsmen may be considered the most independent
set of people that navigate the great watery thoroughfare. All boats
and crafts avoid them and they have nothing to fear. A small hut of
the most temporary character, made of boards, and sometimes the bottom
of an old yawl turned up, is all the covering these amphibious and
nondescript watermen have. Upon landing, the raft is sold to the
proprietor of the wood yard. A log at a time is hauled upon the levee
by large chains attached to a stationary windlass. It is then sawed
into blocks four feet long, bolted up and put in cords which are
sold for four dollars. At one of the wood yards, thirty hands were
employed, and they sold $15,000 worth of wood per year.

I must ask pardon for so often recurring to Mr. Calhoun's great
"inland sea." It is to me the most interesting of all objects. I sat
upon the levee at Carrollton. I saw it in all its might and majesty,
nothing interposing to intercept the view. I thought of the countless
number of rills, of the many creeks, of the numerous lakes, and of the
untold rivers, rising in different regions and latitudes thousands
of miles apart, combining every variety of minerals known to the
continent--here passing by me, confined in one vast and deep channel,
lashing its banks with violence, and pressing onward and onward its
mighty waters to the briney sea! I cannot say, "to its ocean home,"
for it has none. It finds no resting place in the Gulf like other
rivers, but the sea groans and gives way to its immensity, and we find
its discoloured current far within the tropics! The reader of this
number being well acquainted with the low, marshy, dismal character of
the several mouths of the Mississippi, will doubtless be surprised at
being informed that there is a mountain there near four hundred feet
high! He has only to reflect that the river from Natchez to the Balize
is usually from three to four hundred feet deep; across the bar there
is only eighteen feet water; beyond the bar, just in the ocean, the
Gulf is unfathomable. So, then, the river in going into the sea, has
to pass over a mountain, which it is strange has not been washed
away, for the river, as before observed, is not arrested in its onward
course by the ocean to much extent.

The levee at Carrollton is considerably higher than the plain upon
which reposes the town. This great work that has occupied the labor,
time, and enterprize of Louisiana for years, appears to afford a
permanent and durable protection from the floods of the river.
It commences at Fort Plaquemines, and extends to Baton Rouge, the
distance of one hundred and sixty-three miles, on the east side of
the river; on the west side it extends as high up as Arkansas. It will
average four feet high and fifteen feet wide, and follows the river in
its winding course. A visitor, seeing no ditch from which the earth
is taken to erect this artificial dyke, is at first at a loss to
know where soil was obtained to make it. On the margin of the river a
continual deposit is forming called "batture;" this is drawn back from
the river and makes the levee. It soon becomes soil, and has given
rise to much litigation, for ownership is exercised over it when
formed. The levee has not given way in a long time, to do any
extensive damage. Near this place, in 1816, the river rising to an
unprecedented height, broke through and inundated much of Orleans; but
governor Claiborne had a vessel sunk in the crevasse, which stopped



When the sun sheds his last rays behind the hills of peaceful Alabama,
then it is that the farmer whistles a note over his last furrow, and
thanks himself that the toils of day are nearly over; then the hunter
checks his horse, blows his last horn and turns for home; then the
lazy angler rises from the green bank, strings his silvery fish, winds
up his lines and quits the quiet stream; then the children cease
to "gambol o'er the plain," and night soon shrouds all objects in
darkness and repose.

Not so with Orleans. Over her massive buildings and pretty streets,
the veil of night is cast in vain! Anon a soft and yellow light issues
from a thousand lamps, and tells that untiring man is still abroad.
Has the merchant pored over his books the whole day, he at this happy
hour sups his tea, and thinks in anticipation of Monsieur Malet's
delightful party. Has the lawyer attended upon the courts and given
audience to clients, he now forms plans for this night's amusement.
Has the laborious editor written "copy" by the long hour until
exhausted and fatigued, he now kicks the exchange papers under the
table, throws aside his pen, and recals with delight the Orleans
Theatre and the sweet music of Norma. Has the gay matron visited and
shopped, and shopped and visited for the last eight hours, she now
once more attires herself for the splendid "route" of Mad. Solon. Has
the creole maiden danced and sung, and slept and read, and lounged in
flowing dishabille, she now rises from her delicious ottoman and for
the St. Louis masquerade, once more adorns her lovely form. Has the
good and pious man toiled all day in honorable trade in behalf of his
virtuous wife and smiling children, he now sits around his evening
meal, blesses his Maker for "all the good HE gives," and catches with
joy the sound of the deep-toned bell, calling him to the worship of
his God. Thus may all tastes and dispositions find accommodation by
"Orleans at night."

The cabs and coaches moving in all directions, with lights attached,
resemble at a distance so many 'ignuis fatuis,' or jack o' the
lanterns. They never stop, but go the whole night; for the gay and
dissipated, surfeited with one amusement, seek another, and it is not
uncommon for the same person to have made the entire rounds of the
public amusements in one night. Stepping out of the theatre at eleven
o'clock, they are escorted by the eager cabmen proposing to convey
them to the Quarteroon Ball, the St. Louis Masquerade, and many other
places. By the way, these cabs are most delightful inventions, easy
to get in, fine to ride in. To prevent cheating on the part of the
driver, the police have arranged the fare, so that the visitor pays
one dollar per hour, as long as he rides. The city is supplied with
one thousand cabs and coaches for public hire. There are fifteen
hundred milk and market wagons. The quantity of milk consumed at the
St. Charles Hotel alone, is eighty gallons per day!

Four thousand drays are constantly moving with merchandise of all
kinds. They are drawn by large mules driven in tandem style, and
although these useful animals are apparently well fed, they are
certainly most unmercifully laden and cruelly beaten. I should suppose
that twelve thousand mules are engaged in the commerce of Orleans one
way and another. What a mart for Kentucky!

When the reader reflects that this immense city is assisted by twenty
thousand miles of river navigation, extending into all parts of the
western country, which is a world of itself, added to the commerce
which it enjoys through the lakes and the great gulf, he will not be
surprised in casting his eye over the following items: Number of ships
which arrived in 1846, 743; barks, 377; brigs 447; schooners,
518; flatboats, 2670; arrivals of steamboats, 2763. There are 550
steamboats employed in the river navigation. The value of produce
exported was $72,000,000; of imports, $35,000,000. Number of lawyers,
300; physicians, 200; commission merchants, 560.

This statement proves the commerce of Orleans to be very great, but
it must be borne in mind that it is constantly on the increase, and no
calculations can be made upon it in future, as to where it will stop.
Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, are all yearly increasing in population and
produce; the latter of which must find a market here. Then I may add
the product of another world not hitherto contributing, the whole
western part of the valley, from the extreme north-western base of
the Rocky Mountains, far, far down to the mouth of the Rio Grande,
embracing the whole of Texas, all the Santa Fé territory, and the vast
regions now inhabited by the Cherokees, Foxes, Creeks, Osages, and
other tribes, who roam in "wilds immeasurably spread."

"The country tributary to Orleans" so Norman says, "contains nearly
as many square miles and more tillable ground than all of continental
Europe, and if peopled as densely as England, would sustain a
population of five hundred millions." He is hardly large enough in his
conceptions. Who can tell the future size of the Crescent City?
None but HIM who numbers the sands on the sea shore, and notices the
sparrows as they fall!

On the twenty-second of February, the hearts of the patriotic
Louisianians were made glad by the roar of cannon and the waving of
flags. The vessels for miles were hung with beautiful banners of every
civilized nation and clime, unfolding their rich colors to the ocean
breeze. When I saw the sons of Spain, and France, England and Russia,
thus doing homage to the memory of WASHINGTON, the greatest and best
man that ever lived, I felt a spirit of gratitude towards those noble
nations, mingled with pride and satisfaction for the glory of my own
country. The military of Orleans formed upon Canal street and marched
through the First Municipality down the Bayou road, and halted upon
a beautiful green. For some cause the "native" Americans did not turn
out. There were two Spanish, two German, one Swiss, and four French
companies upon parade. Should I attempt to describe the splendid
evolutions of these incomparable troops, and the noble bearing of
their skilful and accomplished officers, I would utterly fail to
do justice. Presently along their lines appeared upon a "snow white
steed," GOVERNOR JOHNSON, an elegant man about forty-five years old,
six feet high, straight and majestic, with florid complexion and
sandy hair. He was accompanied by his Aids all in the most expensive
uniform. After reviewing the troops marquees and tents were pitched,
and vast collation tables covered the ground. And while mirth and
hilarity universally prevailed, at that very moment twenty thousand
infuriated Mexicans were pressing upon the plains of Buena Vista,
preparing to immolate the army of the brave TAYLOR!

And now, kind and indulgent reader, I will no longer obtrude upon your
patience; these sketches are at an end. If they have afforded you any
amusement, I am compensated.



[Transcriber's Note: The spellings of the original document have been
retained, with the following exceptions: on page 18, "by draining and
fillling up" was corrected to "by draining and filling up"; on page
19, "Everything thing is" was corrected to "Everything is" and "move
on continuualy in" to "move on continually in"; on page 34, "navigate
the great watery thouroughfare" was corrected to "navigate the great
watery thoroughfare"; and on page 37, "Has the laborions editor" was
corrected to "Has the laborious editor" and 'attires herself for the
splended "route"' to 'attires herself for the splendid "route"'.]

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