NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — As we venture into the 2022 hurricane season cautiously, we remember a storm that happened at a time of war. A very unique letter at The Historic New Orleans Collection is an account of the Hurricane of 1812, written by French consul Louis Tousard to a friend. The letter could have been Tousard’s last.
Cecilia Hock is an interpreter at The Historic New Orleans Collection and says the year 1812, “was the pinnacle of a bunch of horrors. There were three slave uprisings. There were a number of earthquakes that began along the New Madrid Fault line that begin in the previous December that caused levee breaches here in New Orleans. The war had just started. The city is starting to protect itself against that and then this hurricane.”
In August of 1812, Louisiana was about two months into the War of 1812 with Britain. However, it was to endure the might of the hurricane that hit at nightfall.
Hock translates Tousard’s letter, saying, “the waters of the lake and the waters of the river married and churned. There were over ten feet of water that killed animals and men. It destroyed houses. The final words of his description of the storm are if it had lasted two hours longer, there would be nobody to tell you of it.”
The Hurricane of 1812, was believed to be a category four hurricane, where over a hundred people perished.
“As a historian, I find reading these old documents fascinating. It puts you there. His letter, in particular, puts you there because he’s describing it naturally for his friend,” says Hock.
The American Meteorological Society believes the 1812 Hurricane moved on land slightly southeast of New Orleans, with winds over a hundred miles per hour.
“It gives me the chills. I’m glad I wasn’t here. At this time, you couldn’t get in a car and drive away. You couldn’t get on a train, you couldn’t get on an airplane. You just had to ride it out and pray,” says Cecilia Hock.