Blog category: American History

  • The Humour of President James Monroe

    The Humour of President James Monroe

    May 3, 2019

    James Monroe, president of the United States from 1817 to 1825, was hardly a barrel of laughs. His speeches and correspondence exhibit little playfulness. Yet James Monroe was said to be warm and good-natured in person, with a sense of humour that could surprise his acquaintances. Judge E.R. Watson of Charlottesville, Virginia, recalled: “I have several times seen [Monroe and James Madison] together at Montpelier, and, as it seemed to me, it was only in Mr. Madison’s society that Mr. Monroe could lay aside his usual seriousness and indulge in the humorous jest and merry laugh, as if he were young again.” Here are some quotes and anecdotes that illustrate the gentle humour of James Monroe.

    Read more

  • Snake Tales from 19th-Century America

    Snake Tales from 19th-Century America

    April 5, 2019

    As a threat to life and as a spectacle, snakes were a staple of stories about young America. Here are some examples of snake tales from the early 1800s.

    Read more

  • A Buffalo Hunt & Other Buffalo History Tidbits

    A Buffalo Hunt & Other Buffalo History Tidbits

    January 11, 2019

    One thing that early European visitors to the Great Plains commented on was the sight of vast herds of buffalo. Here is a description of a 19th-century buffalo hunt as well as some interesting facts about buffaloes.

    Read more

  • 5 People Driven to America by the Napoleonic Wars

    5 People Driven to America by the Napoleonic Wars

    November 16, 2018

    Like the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars – which raged across Europe from 1803 to 1815 – caused a number of French people to flee to America. Some regarded themselves as Frenchmen living in exile and returned to France at the first opportunity. Others stayed and became part of American society. Here are five prominent French refugees who wound up in the United States during the Napoleonic Wars.

    Read more

  • Does historical accuracy of place matter?

    Does historical accuracy of place matter?

    November 2, 2018

    Does historical accuracy of place matter? By historical accuracy of place, I mean the concept that a specific physical location – a building, a piece of ground, a geographic coordinate – that is claimed to be of historical significance actually was the site of the historical event from which the claim is derived. The question is not ‘did the historical event happen?’ The question is ‘did the historical event happen here?’ In short, does it matter if historical markers are in the wrong place?

    Read more

  • Joseph Bonaparte and the Crown of Mexico

    Joseph Bonaparte and the Crown of Mexico

    May 25, 2018

    When Joseph Bonaparte was King of Spain, he was also, by default, the ruler of Mexico, or New Spain as it was called at the time. The Mexicans didn’t like him. Did they then offer Joseph a crown when he was in exile in the United States and they were seeking independence from Spain?

    Read more

  • John Quincy Adams and the White House Billiard Table

    John Quincy Adams and the White House Billiard Table

    April 20, 2018

    John Quincy Adams was the first president to install a billiard table in the White House. This “gambling furniture” in the “President’s Palace” exposed Adams to much unfair criticism, and was used against him by supporters of Andrew Jackson in the presidential election campaign of 1828.

    Read more

  • The New Orleans Riot of 1817

    The New Orleans Riot of 1817

    March 16, 2018

    New Orleans, where Napoleon lands in Napoleon in America, was an accommodating place for his supporters in the years after 1815. French speakers constituted about three-quarters of the city’s population of some 27,000. Many of the French and Creole inhabitants were sympathetic to Napoleon. They disliked England, their opponent in the Battle of New Orleans. Something of the feeling of the time can be gathered from a riot that took place in the city over a French flag on a British ship in March of 1817.

    Read more

  • A Murder and Hanging in Louisiana in the 1820s

    A Murder and Hanging in Louisiana in the 1820s

    February 16, 2018

    In doing research for my novel Napoleon in America, I came across the following sad tale of a murder committed by a Frenchman in Louisiana in 1824. It was written by clergyman Timothy Flint, a native of North Reading, Mass., who visited Natchitoches in early 1825.

    Read more

  • Visiting Niagara Falls in the Early 19th Century

    Visiting Niagara Falls in the Early 19th Century

    January 26, 2018

    What would Niagara Falls be like without all of its tourist trappings? To get an idea, we can look at the accounts of people who visited Niagara Falls before tourism became the area’s main industry.

    Read more

  • What did Americans think of the Napoleonic exiles?

    What did Americans think of the Napoleonic exiles?

    December 8, 2017

    In writing Napoleon in America, it was easy to find French exiles in the United States in the early 1820s who could fictionally help Napoleon carry out his schemes. From Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte to scoundrels like Louis-Joseph Oudart, many Bonapartists fled to the United States after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat, to avoid persecution by the government of Louis XVIII. What was the American attitude toward the Napoleonic exiles in their midst?

    Read more

  • When John Quincy Adams met Madame de Staël

    When John Quincy Adams met Madame de Staël

    November 24, 2017

    John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, met the French writer Madame de Staël in Russia in 1812, and again in France in 1815. Though Adams admired her eloquence more than her logic, he found that on the subject of Napoleon, there was “no difference of sentiment” between them.

    Read more

  • Natchitoches, Louisiana: Glimpses from History

    Natchitoches, Louisiana: Glimpses from History

    November 10, 2017

    Founded in 1714 – four years before New Orleans – the city of Natchitoches, Louisiana is the oldest permanent settlement located within the area covered by the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The settlement was named after a local Native American tribe that is part of the Caddo Confederacy. As for how to pronounce Natchitoches, though locals now say “Nakadish,” in the 19th century people said “Nakitosh.”

    Read more

  • John Quincy Adams’ Report Upon Weights and Measures

    John Quincy Adams’ Report Upon Weights and Measures

    October 13, 2017

    In 1821, after years of obsessive work (which frustrated his wife), John Quincy Adams produced a Report Upon Weights and Measures for submission to Congress. He thought it would be his most important literary accomplishment.

    Read more

  • Advice on Settling in New York in 1820

    Advice on Settling in New York in 1820

    September 15, 2017

    What was life like for a foreigner in the United States in the early 19th century? Journalist William Cobbett provides a hint in his advice to an Englishman on settling in New York in 1820.

    Read more

  • The Texas Hurricane of 1818

    The Texas Hurricane of 1818

    September 1, 2017

    In September 1818, a hurricane struck the coast of Texas. It destroyed pirate Jean Laffite’s settlement on Galveston Island and visited fresh horrors on the Bonapartists who had taken refuge there after abandoning their attempt to establish a colony beside the Trinity River. Though Spaniards had reported hurricanes along the Texas coast as early as the 16th century, the 1818 Texas hurricane was one of the first to be recorded in detail.

    Read more

  • A Summer Night in New York City in the 1800s

    A Summer Night in New York City in the 1800s

    July 28, 2017

    Do you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep in the summer? Pity the inhabitants of New York City in the summer of 1822.

    Read more

  • John Quincy Adams’ Swimming Adventures

    John Quincy Adams’ Swimming Adventures

    July 14, 2017

    From the age of 50 until two years before his death at age 80, sixth US President John Quincy Adams went swimming almost every summer in the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Despite the protests of his wife and his friends, he refused to give up swimming, even after he nearly drowned.

    Read more

  • When the Great Plains Indians Met President Monroe

    When the Great Plains Indians Met President Monroe

    May 26, 2017

    In 1821, a delegation of Great Plains Indians travelled to Washington, DC, where they met President James Monroe. The trip was organized by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and Indian agent Benjamin O’Fallon. The aim was to impress the tribal leaders with the strength and wealth of the United States, and to persuade them to keep the peace.

    Read more

  • The American Habit of Spitting Tobacco Juice

    The American Habit of Spitting Tobacco Juice

    May 12, 2017

    When Emily Hopkinson complains to Napoleon Bonaparte about the habits of young American men in Napoleon in America, she says, “If a young lady should happen to accost one of those elegant figures, it is a considerable time ere she can be answered, as the gentleman must first dispose of the mouthful of delicious juice he has been extracting from a deposit secreted in one of his cheeks.” The “deposit” to which Emily refers is chewing tobacco. Disposal of the juice involves spitting – a practice early 19th-century Americans lustily engaged in, often without benefit of a spittoon. British visitors to the United States were appalled.

    Read more

  • The Wreck of the Packet Ship Albion

    The Wreck of the Packet Ship Albion

    April 21, 2017

    The packet ship Albion, sailing from New York to Liverpool, was wrecked on the coast of Ireland on April 22, 1822. Of the 54 people on board, only 9 survived. Napoleonic General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, who appears in Napoleon in America, was among the dead. As this was the first loss suffered by a North Atlantic packet line, the disaster horrified people on both sides of the ocean. Survivors left harrowing accounts of the Albion’s final hours.

    Read more

  • A Skeleton City: Washington DC in the 1820s

    A Skeleton City: Washington DC in the 1820s

    March 31, 2017

    During the time in which Napoleon in America is set, Washington DC exhibited “more streets than houses.” Visitors commented on the dirt roads, the distance between buildings, and the generally unimpressive appearance of America’s national capital. They also noted Washington DC’s beautiful setting, its potential for grandeur, and the city’s social life, which revolved around Congressional sittings.

    Read more

  • The First Texas Novel

    The First Texas Novel

    March 17, 2017

    Two books vie for the honour of being the first Texas novel, and both were written by Frenchmen. One of the books has a connection with Napoleon and includes several of the characters in Napoleon in America. The other – set during the Texas Revolution – was written by a disaffected Catholic priest who played a role in the early church in the United States. Though Texas was described in non-fiction books as early as 1542, with the publication of La relación of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, it was not until 1819 that the first novel set in Texas appeared.

    Read more

  • The John Quincy Adams Portrait by Gilbert Stuart & Thomas Sully

    The John Quincy Adams Portrait by Gilbert Stuart & Thomas Sully

    March 10, 2017

    In researching John Quincy Adams for Napoleon in America, I came across a portrait in which Adams’ head was painted by Gilbert Stuart and his body by Thomas Sully. The story of how that painting came about is an interesting one, involving two of America’s great artists, the perseverance of Adams’ cousin Ward Nicholas Boylston, and the intervention of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in the United States. It also tells us something about John Quincy Adams’ dress sense.

    Read more

  • When Louisa Adams Met Joseph Bonaparte

    When Louisa Adams Met Joseph Bonaparte

    February 10, 2017

    In Napoleon in America, Louisa Adams – the English-born wife of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams – listens with interest as Elizabeth Hopkinson talks about travelling with Napoleon and his older brother Joseph to upstate New York. That vignette is set in April of 1822. In real life, Louisa Adams met Joseph Bonaparte in September of that year. Joseph was a ladies’ man who had already fathered two illegitimate children in the United States. Louisa was an elegant woman, comfortable in the courts of Europe, who liked to charm and be charmed. Here’s how the two of them got along.

    Read more

  • The Inauguration of John Quincy Adams

    The Inauguration of John Quincy Adams

    January 20, 2017

    America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was inaugurated on March 4, 1825 at the age of 57 years and 7 months. Adams, who was Secretary of State in the outgoing administration of President James Monroe, finished behind Andrew Jackson in the number of popular votes and electoral votes received in the 1824 presidential election. However, since no candidate reached the 131 electoral vote majority necessary to win, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which voted in favour of John Quincy Adams. Aware of his lack of popularity, Adams tried to heal electoral divisions in his inaugural address.

    Read more

  • The Extinct Karankawa Indians of Texas

    The Extinct Karankawa Indians of Texas

    January 6, 2017

    The Karankawa Indians lived along the Gulf of Mexico in what is today Texas. Calling them cannibals, American settlers waged a war of extermination against them.

    Read more

  • The New Year’s Day Reflections of John Quincy Adams

    The New Year’s Day Reflections of John Quincy Adams

    December 30, 2016

    Every New Year’s Day, 6th US President John Quincy Adams offered his reflections on the past year. Here is a sample of his New Year’s Day musings.

    Read more

  • Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s

    Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s

    November 25, 2016

    Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday in the United States until 1863. In the early 19th century, Thanksgiving was celebrated on a state by state basis, with each state scheduling its own holiday on dates that could range from October to January. What began as a New England tradition gradually spread to other states, although not without resistance.

    Read more

  • The Presidential Election of 1824

    The Presidential Election of 1824

    November 4, 2016

    There were five candidates in the United States presidential election of 1824, which was held to determine the successor to President James Monroe. Although there were differences among the candidates on issues such as the tariff, internal improvements and slavery, the election was also a personality contest. The outcome had to be decided by the House of Representatives.

    Read more

  • Drinking Cold Water & Other 19th-Century Causes of Death

    Drinking Cold Water & Other 19th-Century Causes of Death

    October 21, 2016

    Many people died young in the 19th century. Here’s how even drinking cold water could kill you.

    Read more

  • José Antonio Díaz de León, the Last Franciscan Missionary in Texas

    José Antonio Díaz de León, the Last Franciscan Missionary in Texas

    July 29, 2016

    Father José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in Texas, was an ardent defender of the Spanish mission system. In the 1820s, he waged a long campaign against secularization of the Texas missions. Brave and pious, Father Díaz de León came to a bloody end. Was he murdered or did he kill himself?

    Read more

  • Achille Murat, the Prince of Tallahassee

    Achille Murat, the Prince of Tallahassee

    June 24, 2016

    Napoleon’s nephew Achille Murat was one of the more eccentric Bonapartes. After growing up as the Crown Prince of Naples, he became a colourful Florida pioneer known as the “Prince of Tallahassee.” Though he claimed to be a democrat, he remained at heart an aristocrat, pining for his family’s lost throne and inherited wealth.

    Read more

  • Stephen F. Austin, the Founder of Anglo-American Texas

    Stephen F. Austin, the Founder of Anglo-American Texas

    June 17, 2016

    Stephen F. Austin led the Anglo-American colonization of Texas, paving the way for the state’s independence from Mexico, although this was not something he initially wanted.

    Read more

  • Presidio Commander Francisco García

    Presidio Commander Francisco García

    June 3, 2016

    Captain Francisco García was the military commander of Presidio La Bahía (present-day Goliad, Texas) from 1821 to 1823. In 1821, American filibuster James Long captured La Bahía while García and his men slept.

    Read more

  • Texas Pioneer Josiah Hughes Bell

    Texas Pioneer Josiah Hughes Bell

    April 8, 2016

    Josiah Hughes Bell, the founder of East and West Columbia, Texas, was one of Stephen F. Austin’s original colonists and Austin’s trusted friend.

    Read more

  • The Charmingly Deceptive Baron de Bastrop

    The Charmingly Deceptive Baron de Bastrop

    March 11, 2016

    Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, was a prominent resident of Texas in the early 19th century. Charismatic and enterprising, Bastrop brought some pioneers into northern Louisiana and encouraged the Anglo-American colonization of Texas when it was part of Mexico. He also lied about his past and left a trail of litigation involving questionable land titles that lasted for over 20 years after his death.

    Read more

  • Last Words of Famous People

    Last Words of Famous People

    February 19, 2016

    Though not as well-known as Napoleon’s last words, here are the reported last words uttered by some other famous historical figures, including Louis XVIII, John Quincy Adams, the Duke of Wellington, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

    Read more

  • Valentine’s Day in Early 19th-Century America

    Valentine’s Day in Early 19th-Century America

    February 12, 2016

    Here’s how St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the United States in the early 19th century, as gleaned from newspapers of the time.

    Read more

  • Texas Priest Francisco Maynes

    Texas Priest Francisco Maynes

    February 5, 2016

    Francisco Maynes was a Spanish-born Catholic priest and occasional military chaplain who served in Texas in the early 19th century under Spanish, and then Mexican, rule. Maynes proved successful in petitioning the San Antonio town council for land that belonged to the former Spanish missions, thus establishing a precedent for local clergymen to become land speculators.

    Read more

  • Texas Revolutionary José Francisco Ruiz

    Texas Revolutionary José Francisco Ruiz

    January 22, 2016

    José Francisco Ruiz was a Mexican soldier who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain and later supported Texas’s struggle for independence from Mexico. He is most noted for being one of only two native-born Texans to sign the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence, even though he was “horrified” by the idea.

    Read more

  • Texas Governor José Félix Trespalacios

    Texas Governor José Félix Trespalacios

    January 8, 2016

    José Félix Trespalacios, an insurgent who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain, became the first governor of Texas in newly-independent Mexico in 1822. He established the first Texas bank, negotiated an agreement with the Cherokees, supported Stephen Austin’s colony, and introduced the first printing press to Texas.

    Read more

  • Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (Duwali) and his Tragic Quest for Land

    Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (Duwali) and his Tragic Quest for Land

    December 18, 2015

    Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (1756-1839), also known as Duwali or Di’Wali, led his tribe into Texas, where he repeatedly tried to secure land for them.

    Read more

  • Caddo Indian Chief Dehahuit

    Caddo Indian Chief Dehahuit

    December 4, 2015

    Dehahuit was the great chief of the Caddo Indians who lived in what is now southwest Arkansas, western Louisiana and eastern Texas in the early 19th century. As his tribes were positioned on the disputed border between Spanish-held Mexico and the United States, Dehahuit became a shrewd diplomat, skilful at playing the Spaniards and the Americans off against one another.

    Read more

  • Indian Interpreter Gaspard Philibert

    Indian Interpreter Gaspard Philibert

    November 27, 2015

    Gaspard Philibert, Napoleon’s Indian interpreter in Napoleon in America, appears in the historical record thanks to Dr. John Sibley, a Massachusetts-born physician who moved to Louisiana in 1802, the year before Napoleon sold the territory to the United States. Sibley settled in Natchitoches, where he worked initially as a surgeon on contract with the Department of War to care for the new US troops stationed in the area. In 1805, Sibley was commissioned as the Indian Agent for Orleans Territory and the region south of the Arkansas River. Sibley’s job was to keep the Indians at peace among themselves and with the white settlers in Louisiana. He hired Philibert to interpret for him.

    Read more

  • Fanny Fern on Marriage in the 19th Century

    Fanny Fern on Marriage in the 19th Century

    November 20, 2015

    Sara Payson Willis Parton, writing under the pen name of Fanny Fern, was the first female newspaper columnist in the United States and one of the most highly paid authors of her time. She satirized marriage and other aspects of life in the mid-19th century.

    Read more

  • Frontier Colonel James B. Many

    Frontier Colonel James B. Many

    November 6, 2015

    Colonel James B. Many spent most of his career on America’s western frontier. His life was typical of that of many frontier officers during the first half of the 19th century: protecting settlers, dealing with Indians, guarding against foreign intrusions, and charting a vast territory in which transportation and communications were difficult, all the while making do with few resources from Washington.

    Read more

  • Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French Soldier, American Teacher

    Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French Soldier, American Teacher

    October 30, 2015

    Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye was a Bonapartist who, after 30 years in the French army, wound up scraping a living in the United States after 1815. He taught languages and wrote grammar texts in Philadelphia.

    Read more

  • Texas Entrepreneur Ben Milam

    Texas Entrepreneur Ben Milam

    October 23, 2015

    Ben Milam is known for his role in the Texas Revolution, particularly the capture of San Antonio in 1835. His earlier adventures in Texas are even more interesting.

    Read more

  • John C. Calhoun: War Hawk

    John C. Calhoun: War Hawk

    October 2, 2015

    John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina planter and politician who never doubted the necessity of slavery, has often been judged harshly. TIME put him on the list of the worst vice presidents in America’s history. Calhoun’s career was long, complex and accomplished. He was a vigorous promoter of states’ rights, a strong advocate for the South, and an effective US war secretary.

    Read more

  • James Monroe and Napoleon

    James Monroe and Napoleon

    September 25, 2015

    President James Monroe met Napoleon when he was in France to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He later became alarmed at Napoleon’s “overweaning ambition.”

    Read more

  • Jim Bowie Before the “Gaudy Legend”

    Jim Bowie Before the “Gaudy Legend”

    August 7, 2015

    Before Jim Bowie became one of the most mythologized figures in American history, he was a con artist. One of his partners in crime was the pirate Jean Laffite.

    Read more

  • Napoleon & New Orleans in 1821

    Napoleon & New Orleans in 1821

    July 24, 2015

    The New Orleans in which Napoleon lands in Napoleon in America was fertile ground for Bonapartists. In 1821 New Orleans was the nation’s fifth-largest city (after New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston), with a population of approximately 27,000. French speakers accounted for some three-quarters of that total. About 1,500 of these were actual French citizens, fresh from Europe. Another 10,000 or so were refugees from Saint-Domingue who had arrived in 1809 and 1810. The remainder were other Creoles, American-born descendants of the Europeans. But the predominantly French character of New Orleans was changing.

    Read more

  • General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert: Soldier, Lothario, Filibuster

    General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert: Soldier, Lothario, Filibuster

    July 17, 2015

    Jean Joseph Amable Humbert was a French Revolutionary general who led a failed invasion of Ireland, romanced Napoleon’s sister, fought in the Battle of New Orleans, and tried to invade Mexico.

    Read more

  • Louis-Joseph Oudart, a Downright Scoundrel

    Louis-Joseph Oudart, a Downright Scoundrel

    July 10, 2015

    Louis-Joseph Oudart (Houdard) was a Napoleonic soldier who disgraced himself during the Bourbon Restoration. He then joined the Champ d’Asile, a Bonapartist invasion of Texas.

    Read more

  • Celebrating July 4th in Early 19th-Century New Orleans

    Celebrating July 4th in Early 19th-Century New Orleans

    July 3, 2015

    On July 4, 1821, in Napoleon in America, Mr. Renault puts on a balloon and fireworks display to honour Napoleon’s presence in New Orleans, and to celebrate “the liberty of our country.” Such a display took place – or at least was planned – for Independence Day in New Orleans in 1821.

    Read more

  • George Schumph and the Death of Pierre Laffite

    George Schumph and the Death of Pierre Laffite

    April 17, 2015

    George Schumph, who meets with Napoleon in Charleston in Napoleon in America, is one of those shadowy historical figures about whom little is known. A native of Quebec, he is remembered in the historical record because of his association with the New Orleans-based pirates, Pierre and Jean Laffite. Thanks in part to Schumph’s testimony, we have the details of Pierre Laffite’s death.

    Read more

  • Louisa Adams, First Foreign-Born First Lady

    Louisa Adams, First Foreign-Born First Lady

    February 27, 2015

    Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, was the first foreign-born First Lady of the United States. A native of London, she had Continental polish and charm from many years spent in Europe. In 1815, Louisa Adams made a dangerous journey to join her husband in Paris, in which she encountered the effects of the Napoleonic Wars firsthand.

    Read more

  • Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American Nephew

    Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American Nephew

    February 20, 2015

    Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte was the son of Napoleon’s youngest brother Jérôme and Baltimore socialite Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson. As Napoleon had broken up his parents’ marriage before Jerome was even born, Napoleon never acknowledged the boy as a Bonaparte. Despite Betsy’s best efforts to raise her son as a European of rank and fortune, Jerome preferred life in the United States.

    Read more

  • Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American Sister-in-Law

    Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American Sister-in-Law

    February 13, 2015

    Baltimore belle Elizabeth Patterson became an international celebrity when she married Napoleon’s youngest brother Jérôme Bonaparte. When Napoleon convinced Jérôme to abandon her, Betsy (as she was known) became America’s most famous single mother.

    Read more

  • Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s Artistic Niece

    Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s Artistic Niece

    January 16, 2015

    Charlotte Bonaparte – the daughter of Napoleon’s brother Joseph – was intelligent and cultivated, with a romantic temperament. Known for her talent as an artist, Charlotte lived with her father in the United States for three years, where she drew and painted a number of landscapes. In Europe, she studied with Jacques-Louis David and with Louis-Léopold Robert, who killed himself when his passion for her was not requited. She herself died in sad circumstances at a relatively young age.

    Read more

  • Napoleon’s Policeman, Pierre-François Réal

    Napoleon’s Policeman, Pierre-François Réal

    December 26, 2014

    Pierre-François Réal was an ardent French Revolutionist who helped Napoleon seize power and then served in key police positions throughout Napoleon’s reign. After Napoleon’s fall, Réal found exile in the United States. He built a “cup and saucer” house in Cape Vincent, New York, and may have sought to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena.

    Read more

  • Simon Bernard, Napoleon’s General in the US Army

    Simon Bernard, Napoleon’s General in the US Army

    October 17, 2014

    In an illustration of Napoleon’s “career open to all talents,” Simon Bernard rose from modest origins to become an engineering general in the Grande Armée. After Napoleon’s 1815 defeat, Bernard spent 15 years as a military engineer in the United States Army, where he had a huge impact on America’s coastal defences and roads and canals. Later in his career, Bernard served as France’s Minister of War.

    Read more

  • Napoleonic General Henri Lallemand: Improving the US Artillery

    Napoleonic General Henri Lallemand: Improving the US Artillery

    October 10, 2014

    Though overshadowed by his hotheaded older brother Charles, Henri Lallemand was a skilled Napoleonic officer whose influence on artillery practice was felt in the United States, which is where he sought exile after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat. Henri did not accompany Charles to the Champ d’Asile in Texas, but was keenly involved in planning and equipping the ill-fated expedition. His much younger wife Henriette was the niece of America’s richest man, Stephen Girard.

    Read more

  • Stephen Girard, America’s Napoleon of Commerce

    Stephen Girard, America’s Napoleon of Commerce

    October 3, 2014

    Stephen Girard was a French-born, Philadelphia-based merchant, banker, land speculator and philanthropist who became one of the richest Americans of all time. The leading business titan of his day, he personally saved the US government from financial collapse during the War of 1812. Girard was a friend of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, who dined with him regularly. One of Napoleon’s generals, Henri Lallemand, married Girard’s niece, Henriette.

    Read more

  • Charles Jared Ingersoll, A Dinner-Party Delight

    Charles Jared Ingersoll, A Dinner-Party Delight

    September 26, 2014

    Charles Jared Ingersoll was a prominent 19th century Philadelphia lawyer, member of Congress and writer. A good friend of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, Ingersoll was known for his lively conversation, his admiration for his country, and his eccentric dress.

    Read more

  • Joseph Hopkinson, Joseph Bonaparte’s Great Friend

    Joseph Hopkinson, Joseph Bonaparte’s Great Friend

    September 12, 2014

    A 19th century lawyer, musician, writer, politician and judge, Joseph Hopkinson was one of Joseph Bonaparte’s closest friends and neighbours in the United States. He also composed America’s unofficial national anthem. Hopkinson’s wife Emily was a sharp wit with a talent for art and writing. The Hopkinsons moved in America’s highest political and social circles and ran a lively Philadelphia literary salon. John Quincy Adams and his wife were very fond of their daughter, Elizabeth Borden Hopkinson.

    Read more

  • Nicholas Biddle, Proud American

    Nicholas Biddle, Proud American

    September 5, 2014

    Nicholas Biddle, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, politician, man of letters, gentleman farmer and the president of the Second Bank of the United States. As a young man, he encountered Napoleon in person, leaving us vignettes of Napoleon reviewing his troops and of the Emperor’s coronation. Biddle came to ruin in the 1830s Bank War with President Andrew Jackson.

    Read more

  • Henry Clay: A Perfect Original

    Henry Clay: A Perfect Original

    August 29, 2014

    Henry Clay served as Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than anyone else in the 1800s, and was named one of the greatest senators in US history by a committee chaired by John F. Kennedy. Though he never held the country’s highest office, he had as much impact on the United States as most presidents of his era.

    Read more

  • Charles & Delia Stewart: An Ill-Assorted Match

    Charles & Delia Stewart: An Ill-Assorted Match

    August 22, 2014

    Commodore Charles Stewart and his wife Delia were neighbours of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte in Bordentown, NJ. Stewart was a national hero – the commander of the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) during the War of 1812. Delia was the belle of Boston, with a talent for spending other people’s money. They had one of the worst marriages in early 19th-century America.

    Read more

  • Achille & Joseph Archambault: Napoleon’s Grooms on St. Helena

    Achille & Joseph Archambault: Napoleon’s Grooms on St. Helena

    August 8, 2014

    Achille and Joseph Archambault joined the imperial household around 1805 and remained with Napoleon when he went into exile. Achille was known for his fast and furious driving. Joseph wound up in the United States, where he ran a hotel in Pennsylvania and became a cavalry major during the American Civil War.

    Read more

  • Joseph Bonaparte’s Secretary, Louis Mailliard

    Joseph Bonaparte’s Secretary, Louis Mailliard

    August 1, 2014

    When Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, arrived in the United States in August 1815, he was accompanied by four people, including his secretary Louis Mailliard. Mailliard served Joseph faithfully for 36 years and became his closest confidant. In 1817 Joseph sent Mailliard on a hunt for buried treasure in Europe.

    Read more

  • Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, a 19th-Century Knight-Errant

    Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, a 19th-Century Knight-Errant

    July 25, 2014

    Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, France’s ambassador to the United States from 1816 to 1822, was a staunch royalist with a heart of gold. A counter-revolutionary who was exiled by Napoleon, he became a doctor, a farmer, a diplomat and a politician who was generous to his opponents. His wife was a noted watercolourist who left many sketches of early 19th century America.

    Read more

  • John Quincy Adams and Napoleon

    John Quincy Adams and Napoleon

    July 18, 2014

    As an American diplomat in Europe during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, John Quincy Adams had ample opportunity to observe the effects of Napoleon’s military adventures. Though critical of Napoleon and pleased to see the end of his rule, Adams developed a sneaking admiration for the French Emperor, especially compared to the hereditary rulers of Europe.

    Read more

  • Joseph Bonaparte: From King of Spain to New Jersey

    Joseph Bonaparte: From King of Spain to New Jersey

    July 4, 2014

    Joseph Bonaparte was in many respects the opposite of his younger brother Napoleon. Amiable and obliging, Joseph was fond of literature, gardening and entertaining. He was perfectly happy to spend his days pottering about his estate. Napoleon, however, had grander plans for his brother, most notably the Spanish throne. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, Joseph fled to the United States, where he is credited with bringing European culture to the locals.

    Read more

  • Narcisse & Antonia Rigaud: Survivors of the Champ d’Asile

    Narcisse & Antonia Rigaud: Survivors of the Champ d’Asile

    June 27, 2014

    Narcisse-Périclès Rigaud and his sister Antonia were the children of General Antoine Rigaud, one of Napoleon’s officers. They joined their father in the 1818 Bonapartist attempt to form an armed colony in Texas called the Champ d’Asile (Field of Asylum).

    Read more

  • General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes: Unhappy in Alabama

    General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes: Unhappy in Alabama

    June 20, 2014

    Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes was a loyal and gifted Napoleonic cavalry commander. Sentenced to death after Napoleon’s 1815 abdication, Lefebvre-Desnouettes fled to the United States, where he settled on the Vine and Olive colony in Alabama. Despite his wealth, he was miserable and longed to return to France. He finally received permission to do so, only to meet a tragic end on the journey home.

    Read more

  • Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

    Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

    June 13, 2014

    Marie Laveau was a 19th-century New Orleans Voodoo queen whose life is shrouded in legend. Her magic relied in part on trickery.

    Read more

  • Napoleon’s View of Slavery & Slavery in New Orleans

    Napoleon’s View of Slavery & Slavery in New Orleans

    June 6, 2014

    While Napoleon condemned the slave trade, he had no strong opposition to slavery. This makes it interesting to imagine how he might have reacted to the slavery he encounters in New Orleans and the other places he visits in my novel Napoleon in America.

    Read more

  • Pirate Consorts: Marie and Catherine Villard

    Pirate Consorts: Marie and Catherine Villard

    May 30, 2014

    Sisters Marie and Catherine (Catiche) Villard were the mistresses of the New Orleans-based pirate brothers Pierre and Jean Laffite. Pierre had at least seven children with Marie. There’s a sad coda to their story, involving descendants who tried to pass for white.

    Read more

  • Josephine Lauret: Namesake of a New Orleans Street

    Josephine Lauret: Namesake of a New Orleans Street

    May 23, 2014

    Though not much is known about her life, Napoleon in America character Josephine Lauret has a New Orleans street named after her. Quite a lot is known about her parents and grandparents, providing glimpses into the French-Spanish-American dynamic in late 18th-century Louisiana.

    Read more

  • General Charles Lallemand: Invader of Texas

    General Charles Lallemand: Invader of Texas

    May 16, 2014

    Charles Lallemand was a soldier, adventurer and conman who had a distinguished career as a Napoleonic officer. He was a member of Napoleon’s inner circle in the days following the Emperor’s 1815 abdication. Under a French death sentence and unwilling to settle for a quiet life, Lallemand turned to Texas filibustering, Spanish insurgency and a Greek ship-building fiasco before eventually becoming governor of Corsica.

    Read more

  • Vincent Nolte: Reminiscences of an Extraordinary Businessman

    Vincent Nolte: Reminiscences of an Extraordinary Businessman

    May 9, 2014

    A 19th century businessman with an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, Vincent Nolte had a long career on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a merchant, financier, caricaturist, medallion maker and writer. He made and lost more than one fortune, encountered Napoleon, Andrew Jackson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Queen Victoria and other luminaries, and left a highly entertaining book recounting his adventures.

    Read more

  • François Guillemin: Spying and Scandal in 19th-Century New Orleans

    François Guillemin: Spying and Scandal in 19th-Century New Orleans

    May 2, 2014

    François Guillemin was the French consul in New Orleans during the time in which Napoleon in America is set. As part of his job consisted of spying on Napoleon’s followers, Guillemin has his hands full in the book when Napoleon himself arrives in the city. In real life, much of what we know about Guillemin is thanks to his encounters with two other well-known figures: Alexis de Tocqueville and Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba.

    Read more

  • Félix Formento and Medicine in 19th-Century New Orleans

    Félix Formento and Medicine in 19th-Century New Orleans

    April 25, 2014

    An Italian immigrant who served in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Félix Formento became a prominent medical practitioner in 19th century New Orleans. He fathered a son who similarly became a doctor and worked for a Napoleon on the battlefield. Formento also holds the distinction of being the Napoleon in America character who lived the longest non-fictional life.

    Read more

  • Nicolas Girod and the History of Napoleon House in New Orleans

    Nicolas Girod and the History of Napoleon House in New Orleans

    April 18, 2014

    Napoleon in America was inspired by the story that Nicolas Girod built or furbished Napoleon House in New Orleans as a residence for Napoleon, and organized a group of pirates to rescue the former Emperor from exile on St. Helena. Though unsubstantiated, this tale first appeared in print in the late 19th century, was commonly recounted in the press in the early 20th century, and remains popular today.

    Read more

  • What happened to the Bonapartists in America? The story of Louis Lauret

    What happened to the Bonapartists in America? The story of Louis Lauret

    April 11, 2014

    One of hundreds of Bonapartists who went to the United States after Napoleon’s final defeat, Captain Louis Lauret ended up defrauded, disillusioned and probably wistful for the days of glory with his Emperor.

    Read more

  • Jean Laffite: Mexican Gulf Pirate and Privateer

    Jean Laffite: Mexican Gulf Pirate and Privateer

    April 4, 2014

    Jean Laffite could have been a model for Pirates of the Caribbean. Variously called the “gentleman pirate,” “the terror of the Gulf” and “the Hero of New Orleans,” his life is shrouded in myth. Here is some of what’s known about him.

    Read more

We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.

Napoleon Bonaparte