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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Location: Natchitoches Parish, New Second Street and vicinity, Natchitoches.

Fort St. Jean Baptiste, which the French began to construct in 1715, was the first fortified outpost on the frontier between French Louisiana and New Spain. Its location remained internationally significant for well over a century. In 1719, the garrison, commanded by Philippe Blondel, destroyed the Spanish mission at Los Adaes, 15 miles away, which had been established in 1716. As a result, in 1721-22 the Spanish founded a presidio at Los Adaes. In 1731, the Natchez Indians, fresh from slaughtering the Fort Rosalie garrison in Natchez, attacked Fort St. Jean Baptiste. With the help of friendly Indian reinforcements, the French wiped out the attackers.

In 1737, because of recurrent floods, a new fort was built on high ground, in what is now the American Cemetery, and the old fort abandoned. The latter fort is known to have been in existence in 1769. No evidence of the forts remains above ground, however, and further archeological investigation will be required to authenticate the sites and provide additional information. The earlier site, 200 yards east of the new site, was formerly owned by the Association of Natchitoches Women for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches, and local leaders planned to reconstruct the original fort. The fort replication began in 1979 and was based upon Broutin's plans and on extensive archival research in Louisiana, Canada and France. It is now a Louisiana state park unit.


Location: Plaquemines Parish, on the left bank of the Mississippi River, opposite Triumph.

Francisco Luís Hector, Baron de Carondelet, Governor of Louisiana and West Florida, built this fort in 1795, as a part of his plan to extend Spain's dominion over the entire Mississippi Valley and to prevent the encroachment of American frontiersmen. His plan included the instigation of Indian attacks on the frontiersmen; a fleet of gunboats patrolling the Mississippi River; and a series of forts along the border area of the territory, including Fort St. Philip.

The fort figured prominently in the Civil War, along with Fort Jackson across the river, when Adm. David Farragut and his Union fleet bombarded the two forts in 1862 and then was able to seize the city of New Orleans. (Fort St. Philip has been designated as eligible for the Registry of National Historic Landmarks, relating primarily to the Civil War.) The Army did not garrison the fort after 1871, although it made repairs during World War I with a view to possible use. After the war, the Government sold the fort and it has remained in private ownership. The 1,100 acres of the former St. Philip Military Reservation stretch along the Mississippi River for 2 miles and are accessible only by boat. The site, covered with orange trees, is privately owned. Ruins of the early fort may be seen, along with some World War I buildings.


Location: St. Martin Parish, on the Bayou Teche, 1 mile east of St. Martinsville.

This park commemorates the migration of the Acadians—now called Cajuns—who first settled in the British seaboard colonies and from 1760 on eventually settled on an irregular basis in Louisiana after being exiled from Nova Scotia because of their religious beliefs. In his poem "Evangeline," Longfellow popularized the migration and the many years of hardships the Acadians faced while searching for a homeland. The people living in the immediate vicinity of the park, and in the surrounding communities, are their direct descendants and speak with an Anglo-French dialect. The museum in the park—a house once reputedly occupied by Louis Arceneaux, the "Gabriel" of Longfellow's poem—commemorates the story of Gabriel and Evangeline and Acadian history.

National Historic Landmark PRESIDIO OF LOS ADAES SITE

Location: Natchitoches Parish, just north of La. 6, about 2 miles northeast of Robeline.

Concerned by the threat of French encroachment into Spanish-claimed territory, the Spaniards in 1716 established San Miguel de Linares Mission a few miles southwest of the French settlement and fort at Natchitoches. In 1719, the mission was attacked and destroyed by a French force from Fort St. Jean Baptiste de Natchitoches, but in 1721-22 the Spanish returned and rebuilt, on an adjoining hill, the Presidio of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de los Adaes (Adais).

For the next half-century, the presidio was an important outpost and the capital of the frontier province of Texas, the seat of 13 Spanish Governors down until 1773. In the last decade of its existence, it consisted only of a hexagonal fort, defended by 6 cannons and 100 soldiers, and a village of about 40 "miserable houses constructed with stakes driven into the ground."

Long after the presidio had been abandoned, in 1806, the site's strategic importance was still recognized by the signing there of a preliminary treaty between Ens. Joseph María Gonzales and Capt. Edward Turner of the U.S. Army. Gonzales agreed to retreat to Spanish-owned Texas and to cease sending Spanish patrols across the border into the United States. This treaty led to the formal establishment, a few weeks later, of "neutral ground" between Texas and the United States by Gen. James Wilkinson and Spanish Lt. Comdr. Simon de Herrera. The two nations honored the boundary for 14 years.

Only a few unidentified mounds of earth are visible today on the attractive ridge where the presidio stood. Of the 40 acres or so encompassing the presidio, mission, and village sites, about 9 acres are in public ownership as a historical park. The National Society of the Daughters of American Colonists and the State of Louisiana have commemorated the site with markers.

NHL Designation: 06/23/86


Location: Orleans Parish, Jackson Square, New Orleans.

The site of this cathedral, facing the historic Place d'Armes, or Jackson Square, has been consecrated to the Roman Catholic Church from the earliest days of New Orleans. The stately cathedral now occupying the site honors the patron saint of Bourbon France, who was also the patron of Nouvelle Orléans. The first church on the site, a small adobe-wood structure called the Parish Church, was erected by Bienville soon after 1718, when he founded the city, but in 1723 a hurricane destroyed it. The second church, of brick and wood, served from 1727 until destroyed in the great fire of 1788, which damaged most of the city.

The present St. Louis Cathedral, built between 1789 and 1794, originally resembled other Spanish-built churches in Mexico and South America. Extensive alterations made in 1851, however, included enlargement of the building and addition of steeples and the present columned and pilastered portico. These alterations, along with two subsequent renovations, have obscured the original appearance of the church.

St. Louis Cathedral
Although extensive alterations have obscured its original appearance, St. Louis Cathedral, constructed between 1789 and 1794, exemplifies the Spanish period in the Vieux Carré. New Orleans.

Location: Natchitoches Parish, just south of Cloutierville.

This high, rocky, tree-studded hill is located adjacent to and named after a former lake called Sang pour Sang, which is now completely dry. In 1732, a group of Natchez Indians took refuge on the shores of this lake after fleeing down the Red River from Fort St. Jean Baptiste de Natchitoches. In 1731, they had besieged the fort unsuccessfully but burned a captive Frenchwoman alive in full view of the garrison. In retaliation, St. Denis, the commander of the fort, led 40 of his soldiers and 100 Indian allies against the Natchez and killed 92 warriors and 4 chiefs. The surviving Indians fled to the shores of the lake, where the Frenchmen found and annihilated them.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005