History of New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 and named in honor of Phillip, Duke of Orleans. Its location as the southernmost major city on the Mississippi River has ensured its commercial importance and, up until the end of the Civil War, its strategic military value. The site was selected because it included some relatively high ground and was also close to Lake Pontchartrain, providing a natural transportation link to the hinterland. The city became capital of New France in 1722.

In 1763, control of the colony passed to Spain. However, French influence, reinforced by the arrival in Louisiana of Acadian refugees from Canada, remained stronger than the Spanish. In 1801, Napoleon acquired the territory for France again, but in 1803, he disposed of the whole kit and kaboodle to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

During the War of 1812, the British sent a force to capture New Orleans, but were defeated by General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans at a site about five miles downriver from the city. The participants were unaware that the war had been ended by the Treaty of Ghent the previous month. Between then and the outbreak of the Civil War, New Orleans grew steadily and became the largest U.S. city away from the eastern seaboard. During the war, it was captured by Union forces with little resistance and was thus spared the destruction which much of the South experienced.

In the years after the Civil War, New Orleans developed a multifaceted culture, incorporating English and French speaking elements as well as black, white, and mixed race populations. The city is considered to be the birthplace of jazz, which was developed by black musicians around the turn of the century. The city's famous red light district was known as "Storyville."

By 1920, New Orleans had developed a pumping system that removed water from the city and pumped it into canals that drained into Lake Pontchartrain. This permitted a large expansion of the city's area, but unfortunately, the process resulted in surface subsidence and much of the city is now several feet below sea level. The waters of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain are kept out by a system of levees, but this protection was shown to be wanting by the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005, which resulted in the flooding of most of the city.

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