Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:28 PM
Today, April 30, is a momentous day in Louisiana and United States history.
It was on this day in 1803 that the United States officially purchased Louisiana from Napoleon’s France. It was also on this day in 1812 that Louisiana was admitted to the Union as the 18th state.
The Louisiana Purchase added many of the Southern, Midwestern and Western states to the United States. President Thomas Jefferson saw a bargain, and snapped it up, when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte offered to sell Louisiana for just 50 million Francs ($11,750,000) and cancellation of debts amounting to 18 million Francs ($3,250,000) for a total of $15 million. The deal encompassed 828,000 square miles of territory, which included all or parts of 15 future states and two Canadian provinces. That was a cost of just 4 cents an acre.
The admission of Louisiana to the Union on April 30, 1812, was also of critical military importance for the U.S. Just two month’s later, on June 18, Congress declared war on the British Empire. That was the beginning of the War of 1812, the last battle of which was the Battle of New Orleans, which was actually a three-month campaign that stretched from December 1814 to March 1815. The main battle was fought Jan. 8, 1815, at Chalmette, just south of New Orleans.
The British claimed the Louisiana Purchase was illegal and wanted to seize control of the Mississippi River and detach Louisiana from the U.S. and make it part of their empire. An American army under Gen. Andrew Jackson, including the Louisiana state militia, was able to stop the British invasion and save the state and territory for the U.S.
While a peace treaty had already been signed in Europe, that fact was unknown in America at the time of the battle and it might have been very difficult, and costly, to actually dislodge a successful British army from New Orleans if it had won the campaign.
We are in the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of New Orleans, and the Louisiana bicentennial commission set up to plan observance of the event is planning many special celebrations to mark it this year and in 2015. For more information on the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial, check out the website at www.battleofneworleans2015.com.
In spite of the historic importance of this day in our history, Louisiana Day is not listed as an official state holiday in Louisiana Revised Statutes 1:55 for official state holidays for 2014. At one time Louisiana Day was observed and celebrated in the state, either by custom or law, but it now appears to be all but forgotten.
The fact is we need to have at least one day of the year when we celebrate the history, heritage and cultures of our beautiful and magnificent state — Louisiana. Hopefully, in the future, the Legislature will correct this oversight.