Friday, February 17, 2012

The Battle of Baton Rouge - The American Revolution in Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Battlefield at Right)
It is a little known fact that one of the most important battles of the American Revolution took place not in New England or along the East Coast, but far to the west on the banks of the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Hoping to gain advantage over Great Britain, the King of Spain declared his support of the fledgling United States on May 8, 1779, and declared war on Spain's long-time rival. Two months later he extended the right to make war to his subjects in North America.

Spain then possessed what later became known as the Louisiana Purchase, which included the parts of present day Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, as well as the city of New Orleans. Spanish territory also extended up the great river to include present-day Arkansas, Missouri and other states.

Revolutionary War Cannon at Baton Rouge
Great Britain, in turn, held the colonies of East Florida and West Florida, which had not joined in the revolution against the King. West Florida then extended from the Apalachicola River on the east all the way to the Mississippi River on the west. The modern cities of Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola were included in this domain and were garrisoned by British troops.

Learning of the King's declaration, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana immediately began to prepare a campaign against the British at Baton Rouge. His name was Bernardo de Galvez and he was one of the most successful year least known generals of the American Revolution.

The British fort stood near the Pentagon Barracks (right)
Moving north from New Orleans with an army of 580 Spanish regulars, 60 local militiamen, 80 free blacks, 10 American volunteers and an irregular force of some 600 Acadians and Indians, Galvez took Fort Bute, an English post at Bayou Manchac, on September 7, 1779.  He then moved on Baton Rouge, where 550 British soldiers manned the new and strong Fort New Richmond.

Nothing remains above ground of the fort today, but it stood adjacent to the spot where the historic Pentagon Barracks were later built overlooking the river. The earthwork fortification was armed with cannon and held 400 British regulars from the 16th and 60th regiments, some militia, a few regular artillerymen and several companies from the 3rd Waldeck Regiment (Germans).

Memorial to the 1779 Battle of Baton Rouge
Galvez laid siege to the fort on September 12, 1779, moving his troops completely around its land sides and preparing siege trenches and hidden batteries. On September 21, 1779, the Patriot army opened its bombardment of Fort New Richmond. The British fired back long enough to defend the honor of their king, but then raised the white flag.

The Battle of Baton Rouge gave the Spanish control of the western end of West Florida and ended forever Great Britain's claim to the Mississippi River. Galvez went on to take Fort Charlotte at Mobile and Fort George at Pensacola in one of the most remarkable campaigns of the American Revolution. The Spanish general with his mixed army eliminated any British claim to the Gulf Coast and opened the door for the eventual United States capture and acquisition of the territory making up the modern states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

To learn more about the Battle of Baton Rouge, please visit

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eureka Springs - The per capita Wedding Capital of America

Eureka Springs, Arkansas
It often comes as a surprise visitors that the quaint Victorian town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, hosts more weddings per capita than any city in the United States.

In fact, some years more people get married in Eureka Springs than actually live there! So I thought in honor of Valentine's Day it would be enjoyable to take a look at this charming community in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

Eureka Springs has always been a special place. The first visitors came back in the late 19th century when dozens of mineral springs were found flowing from the sides of the mountains there. The town was founded in 1877 and in less than one year more than 3,000 people came to live in Eureka.

Historic Downtown of Eureka Springs
They came because of the popularity of mineral springs in those days. People believed the pure water provided cures for a variety of illnesses and the arrival of the railroad brought crowds in to enjoy the spas, hotels and other amenities of the resort community in the Ozarks.

The belief in the power of water from mineral springs diminished in the 20th century, but unlike many such places, Eureka Springs preserved its beautiful atmosphere and architecture. It stands today as one of the most beautifully preserved Victorian towns in the world. The romance of days gone by is unmistakable and the town offers beautiful historic accommodations, restaurants, shops and entertainment. Carriages roll through the streets and couples walk hand in hand along the sidewalks.

Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs
And there are weddings. More weddings than can be imagined. There is no blood test and no waiting to get married in Eureka Springs. A couple can arrive, get their license, get married and be on their honeymoon in a beautiful historic hotel, bed and breakfast or more modern accommodation in less than 90 minutes.

An array of wedding locations are available, ranging from the simple to the elegant, or one of the town's many ministers will come to you and perform a wedding at the location of your choice. An overlook on East Mountain, for example, provides a spectacular view of the valley and Victorian town and is popular for couples looking to marry surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

To learn more about Eureka Springs, please visit

For complete information on getting married in Eureka Springs, please visit

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Historic Springs of Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The landscape of the South is dotted with towns and cities named after springs. There are Hot Springs, Warm Springs, Boiling Springs, Old Town Spring, Spring Hill, Winter Springs, Mineral Springs, Sylvan Springs, Holly Springs and the list goes on and on.
One of the most beloved such communities, however, is Eureka Springs. Located high in the mountains of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs is the number one wedding location per capita in the nation. More people go there to get married each year than actually live in the town.

Crescent Spring in Eureka Springs
Known for its beautiful scenery, inns, hotels, bed & breakfast inns, resorts, restaurants and unique shopping, Eureka Springs has done a marvelous job of preserving and restoring the historic springs that give the town its name.

A surprisingly large number of natural, mineral springs flow from the mountainsides surrounding the town. These springs were considered a source of health-giving mineral waters during the 19th century. Those were the days when crowds of people flooded to Eureka Springs to soak in its spring waters in hopes of finding miracle cures for physical and neurological illnesses.

Grotto Spring in Eureka Springs
The belief in the curative power of mineral springs faded in the 20th century, but Eureka Springs preserved its historic springs and today they add greatly to the charm of the beautiful Victorian community.

Probably the best known and photographed of the springs in Basin Spring, which is the centerpiece of a charming little park in the downtown area. Crescent Spring, down the mountain from the magnificent Crescent Hotel, is covered by a restored Victorian gazebo. A stone stairway leads up the mountain to the historic hotel itself.

Nearby is Grotto Spring, which flows from a natural grotto in the mountainside. History lovers also flock to Carrie Nation Spring, a natural spring that flows from the mountain across the road from the home of Carrie Nation, the famed ax-toting liquor fighter of the Prohibition era.

To learn more about Eureka Springs, its historic springs and other points of interest, please visit

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi - Final Home of President Jefferson Davis

Beauvoir, Final Home of Jefferson Davis
One of the most beautiful landmarks of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the appropriately named Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The home survived the brutal winds and storm surge of Hurricane Katrina and his been restored to its pre-storm beauty. It faces across US 90 to Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico in the popular resort city of Biloxi.

Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi
Built in 1848, the same year as the nearby Biloxi Lighthouse, Beauvoir originally was known as Orange Grove. Satsuma Oranges then grew in profusion on the grounds, as they once did across the entire northern Gulf Coast, giving the summer home of the James Brown family its name. Brown died in 1857 and his widow later sold the home to a real estate speculator who, in turn, sold it to Mrs. Sarah Dorsey.

Bedroom of Jefferson Davis
Mrs. Dorsey renamed the home Beauvoir (French for "Beautiful View") and in 1877 invited former Confederate President Jefferson Davis to use a pavilion on the grounds as a writing retreat. Two years later she agreed to sell the entire estate to Davis for $5,000, to be paid in three payments. Mrs. Dorsey died after receiving the first payment from Davis and the Southern leader was surprised to find that she had left Beauvoir to him in her will.

It was at Beauvoir that Davis completed his monumental work, The Rise and Fall of the Conferate Government and a shorter volume, A Short History of the Confederate States of America.

Now owned by the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Beauvoir is open to the public daily and is a great place to explore the final years in the life of one of the most prominent Southerners of all time. The home features original furniture and other items that once belonged to the Davis family and the guides provide one of the best tours of a historic home that I've ever experienced.

To learn more about Beauvoir, please visit