I n January 1776, Thomas Paine published his Common Sense pamphlet rallying American colonies to part with their British king. Thirty-three-year-old Constitutional Convention delegate, Thomas Jefferson, attorney and planter, drafted the words for the Declaration of Independence. Several months passed
and on July 4, delegates to the Second Continental Congress signed Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War began. Their goal was
a new republic, a nation in which citizens would elect representatives to manage
the government.

Military records of LaBranche. (Courtesy of the Fortier Family Book)

(Courtesy of the Fortier Family Book)

     The German Coast settlement in the Lower Mississippi Valley of the Louisiana Territory was not immediately affected when the Second Constitutional Convention representatives adopted the Declaration of Independence announcing to the world that British colonies in North America were separating themselves from England to become a new nation. But, less than three decades later with the Louisiana Purchase, it eventually would become a major player in the deal because America coveted the Louisiana Territory in order to control the Mississippi River and to take advantage of its prime agricultural resources. Thomas Jefferson believed the economy of America depended upon farms rather than factories where farmers would trade their products for manufactured goods. And Spain, happy to see England in trouble, began secretly shipping supplies from New Orleans to aid the Americans and become their ally during the American Revolution.

Bernardo de Galvez. (Sketch by Janis Blair)

     Bernardo de Galvez, distinguished Spanish soldier sent by Spain to govern Louisiana in 1777, was widowed and married Félicie (de St. Maxent) Destrehan as his second wife. Galvez aided the Americans in the American Revolution. Although originally neutral in the American Revolution, Spain declared war against Great Britain in 1779. Louisiana’s Governor Galvez, assisted mainly by German Coast militia, launched a successful campaign against the British which is recognized as one of the most significant campaigns in American history. The militia was led by Don Jose’ Pontalba and members included German Coast residents Pierre Trépagnier and Alexander LaBranche. This was the only American Revolution battle fought outside the original thirteen colonies. It was so successful, in part, because of the help of German Coast residents. Galvez left Louisiana in 1785 and died the next year.

     Because of that successful campaign, Britain was not allowed to gain a foothold in the Lower Mississippi Valley, thereby paving the way for future American occupation. Galvez is often remembered as one of Louisiana’s most popular governors. He emerged from the American Revolution as Spain’s greatest military hero of that era.

     After the Anglo-Spanish war, one of the most prosperous and peaceful periods followed. Spain allowed American immigration in Louisiana, even Protestants. This was a major policy change because all colonists were required to be Catholic, under both French and Spanish rule.

Military records of LaBranche. (Courtesy of the Fortier Family Book)

 

Old Spanish Trail

     Legend holds that early Indians and Mexicans traversed through St. Charles Parish on the west bank enroute to points east along what might have been part of an earlier portion of the Old Spanish Trail. The trail was used by vaqueros (cowboys) to drive over nine thousand head of longhorn cattle to New Orleans. This beef was used to feed the Spanish soldiers during the American Revolution. Today Highway 90 in St. Charles Parish parallels the route of part of the Old Spanish Trail.

 

 

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Home of the M. O. LaBranche. La Branche Plantation. The German Zweig family surname was Gallicized to LaBranche. Octave was the son of Alexandre LaBranche. He was a member of Captain Trudeau’s Troop of Horse and a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans. Octave served as speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1827 to 1829. The LaBranche family and Fr. Paret enjoyed a warm relationship. The LaBranche’s owned several plantations. The house pictured was located in the present St. Rose area.

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Copyright © This text is copyright material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.