Mississippi paddlewheeling – and the War of 1812

Mississippi paddlewheeling

Rambling along New Orleans’ riverside one day, we come upon the Creole Queen. She is about to sail down the river. Do we want to come along? Now or never…

On the Mississippi

Of course we hop on – and are glad we did. It wouldn’t feel right to be in New Orleans without boating the mighty Mississippi in one of the iconic paddlewheelers.

On the Mississippi

As we leave New Orleans, we look back towards the Crescent City skyline. Along the way, the captain elaborates on the city’s history, landmarks along the way, passing ships (I now know a ship painted orange means she’s carrying dangerous goods), the good old days when steam ships were how one got around, and of course, Hurricane Katrina. Seven years later, much is left to mend. The devastation left in her wake is still very noticeable.

The Battle of New Orleans – and a plantation

On the Mississippi

Turns out, we have signed up for war. The War of 1812, no less.

As we disembark, we spot a small plantation, the Malus-Beauregard House. We’re at Chalmette battleground, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. This was the final Battle of the War of 1812.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear War of 1812, I think Napoleon, the Grande Armée entering Moscow, scorched-earth tactics, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in short: Europe.

This is a different War of 1812 (though Britain was involved in both) – one between Britain and the USA, seen by some as a second war of independence, and meant perhaps to settle unresolved issues from the one nearly 40 years earlier. The Americans declared war for a number of reasons. One was British trade restrictions. Thing is, the trade restrictions were in fact abolished two days before the war; only the Americans didn’t hear about it in time. News didn’t travel as fast back then. Another reason was British support of Indians who opposed American expansionism. In fact, Britain demanded an Indian state in the Midwest, from Ohio to Wisconsin. Interesting to ponder whether things would have been much different if that had come to pass…

As we all know, it didn’t. The war came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent signed in December 1814, one month before this final battle. Odd, eh? Well, a treaty isn’t worth much until it’s ratified by all parties, and the Americans did this in February 1815. There’s of course much more to say about this war than this fragmented and incomplete résumé. But this is a travel blog, after all.

On the Mississippi

Wandering around the battlefield, it’s difficult – as it always is – to imagine this green, peaceful place to have been the site of murder and carnage. Same as in Flanders; hard to visualise the pretty poppy fields soaked with blood.

Further along…

It’s a chilly, wet day, so we’re glad to return to the Creole Queen. Back at the port we see this girl:

On the Mississippi

I’d like to take a longer steam boat journey along the Mississippi and this seems to be the lady to do it with. The American Queen sails all the way to Chattanooga, Vicksburg, Paducah, Memphis, St Louis, St Paul, Pittsburgh… all kinds of exotic locales, some I’ve never even heard about. I’m picturing ladies with long, white dresses, poker games in the salon, having to duck when someone brandishes a gun, a youngish Mel Gibson…

Mississippi paddlewheeling practicals

  • In New Orleans, two paddlewheelers ply the mighty Mississippi: the Natchez and the Creole Queen. If you’re in the French Quarter, just head towards the river and you’ll see one or the other.
  • Natchez offers harbour cruises and Creole Queen goes up to the battlefield. Both do jazz/dinner cruises.
  • A battlefield trip on the Creole Queen cost USD 25/13 for adults/under 12s and lasts about 3 hours. A very inexpensive buffet meal is available on board

Disclosure: In New Orleans, we were guests of New Orleans CVB. As ever, we can write about anything we want to. Or not.

32 Responses to “Mississippi paddlewheeling – and the War of 1812”

  1. The Guy 18 April 2013 0207 #

    I really like these paddlewheel boats. I’ve only ever been on one and that was at Stone Mountain in Atlanta.

    Your information on the wars from 1812 to 1815 are fascinating. I love exploring history like this. Such a shame communication was so slow back then, so many lives could have been spared.
    The Guy recently posted..Getting A Handle On Mandal – The Town Of White Houses

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1327 #

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Lisa 18 April 2013 0436 #

    I have always wanted to sail the Mississippi on one of those paddlewheelers – seems like such a romantic way to travel on the river! The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is currently being commemorated in these parts (a number of important battles took place in the Niagara/Toronto area) as a joint celebration of 200 years of peace between the United States and Canada. It is generally believed that The War of 1812 helped define Canada as a nation and eventually led to confederation in 1867.
    Lisa recently posted..A Walk in Central Park

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1345 #

      Very interesting, Lisa. I’ve read up on the war a bit and see that the Canadian – American frontier was one of the principal war theatres as well.

  3. budget jan 18 April 2013 0439 #

    If I ever get to New Orleans, the Mississippi (a word that always made it into oral spelling bees when I was at school), is high on my agenda. Having read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn also leaves a soft spot. I have seen programs on the abandoned and still not recitifed houses in N.O. after Katrina – very sad. While I love the name Creole Queen, I too would love a longer trip on the American Queen.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1347 #

      Me too. Paddlewheeling from New Orleans to Memphis would be cool.

  4. I’d love to go on a paddlewheeler. They definitely look like something out of the movies. And that old plantation house … what stories those rooms might tell.
    Johanna at ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle recently posted..Life’s a Beach in Esperance

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1352 #

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful to travel back to that time…

  5. Muza-chan 18 April 2013 1051 #

    Interesting article :)
    Muza-chan recently posted..Cherry blossoms and white paper lanterns at Mount Kurama, Kyoto

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1353 #

      Thanks :)

  6. Salika Jay 18 April 2013 1440 #

    Paddlewheeler ride in the Mississippi at night time looking at the New Orleans skyline would be romantic. Interesting insight.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Universal Studios Singapore

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1359 #

      I wouldn’t mind doing a jazzcruise at night.

  7. This is looks like an interesting family excursion. I’ve never been on a paddleboat despite having visited New Orleans many times.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..The Ruins of Chiang Mai’s Chedi Luang Temple

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1432 #

      Maybe next time :)

  8. I’ve only been to New Orleans once and didn’t have time to take a paddlewheeler up the river! It does harken back to Huck Finn and I think it would be fascinating. Love tours battlefields too so I can’t think of a reason to not do this! Thanks for sharing.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Warnemunde – A Baltic Beach Resort

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1433 #

      Sounds like this might be just the thing for you, then.

  9. Becca@R We There Yet Mom? 19 April 2013 0418 #

    I am so used to reading all the fascinating European history that you tell us that I was pleasantly surprised to see something from the US!! Love southern history – plantations, paddleboats, etc.

    Thanks!
    Becca@R We There Yet Mom? recently posted..Friday Daydreamin’: My Hearts in West

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1527 #

      :)

  10. insideJourneys 19 April 2013 0521 #

    Paddleboats always sound so old worldly but I’d love to do it.
    insideJourneys recently posted..The Jamaican Cherry

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1537 #

      Aren’t they? So 1800s and so charming.

  11. Margaret 19 April 2013 0652 #

    I never knew that bit about the War of 1812–that the trade restrictions had been abolished but the news wasn’t received in time. And, I would love to do a riverboat cruise sometime.
    Margaret recently posted..Why, yes, I will eat that chocolate chip cookie!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1538 #

      Interesting bit of history there.

  12. Dick Jordan 20 April 2013 0158 #

    Nicely illustrated bit of American history.
    Dick Jordan recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday: Capturing “Big Bird”

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1541 #

      Thanks.

  13. Andrea 20 April 2013 2121 #

    I love steam boats! Sadly the only chance I’ve had to ride on one was at Disney world – would love to take a voyage on the real thing…
    Andrea recently posted..Tony Garnier Urban Museum And the Etats-Unis District, Lyon

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 1542 #

      Not quite the same at Disney World, I expect

  14. Christian 25 April 2013 2207 #

    Love the vintage look of the photos. Just right. And I see you’ve seen Maverick :)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2013 1540 #

      Thanks – and yes, liked Maverick :)

  15. Vera Marie Badertscher 25 April 2013 2332 #

    I’ve visited New Orleans several times, but amazingly never took the paddleboat ride. You make it sound most enticing–especially for a history lover like me.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Best Books : A Tribute to Literary Boston

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0937 #

      Next time… :)

  16. Ziga 30 April 2013 1117 #

    Nice article…and photos as well…looks just like in movies! I am from Europe btw :)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0959 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Ziga.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

css.php