Mississippi paddlewheeling – and the War of 1812

2014-07-25T09:19:12+00:0018 April 2013|Americas with kids, Louisiana, Travel through time|

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.

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  1. The Guy 18 April 2013 at 0207 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1327 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Lisa 18 April 2013 at 0436 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1345 - Reply

      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 at 0439 - Reply

    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 22 April 2013 at 1347 - Reply

      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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1352 - Reply

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

  5. Muza-chan 18 April 2013 at 1051 - Reply

    Interesting article 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1353 - Reply

      Thanks 🙂

  6. Salika Jay 18 April 2013 at 1440 - Reply

    Paddlewheeler ride in the Mississippi at night time looking at the New Orleans skyline would be romantic. Interesting insight.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1359 - Reply

      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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1432 - Reply

      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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1433 - Reply

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

  9. 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.


    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1527 - Reply


  10. insideJourneys 19 April 2013 at 0521 - Reply

    Paddleboats always sound so old worldly but I’d love to do it.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1537 - Reply

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

  11. Margaret 19 April 2013 at 0652 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1538 - Reply

      Interesting bit of history there.

  12. Dick Jordan 20 April 2013 at 0158 - Reply

    Nicely illustrated bit of American history.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1541 - Reply


  13. Andrea 20 April 2013 at 2121 - Reply

    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…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1542 - Reply

      Not quite the same at Disney World, I expect

  14. Christian 25 April 2013 at 2207 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2013 at 1540 - Reply

      Thanks – and yes, liked Maverick 🙂

  15. Vera Marie Badertscher 25 April 2013 at 2332 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0937 - Reply

      Next time… 🙂

  16. Ziga 30 April 2013 at 1117 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0959 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Ziga.

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