July 4, 2008 | New Orleans

by Errol Laborde

* July 4th was on a Thursday in 1776 so it would have been a busy day for fishermen who were preparing to bring their catches to the markets in Catholic New Orleans for the next day's meatless Friday.

*Louisiana's Spanish governor, Luis de Unzaga, was secretly helping the American cause by arranging for five tons of gun powder to be shipped up the Mississippi, under the flag of Spain, to help colonial forces ward off British efforts to capture Fort Pitt.

*Unzaga was awaiting word from the Spain, to whom he had written 12 days earlier asking to be relieved of his command because of failing health and eyesight. The Spanish government would not hear of it but did transfer him to Caracas, Venezuela and made him governor general there.

*A rule issued by the Cabildo, the seat of government, under Unzaga demanded that all devices used for measurement when selling goods had to be inspected and marked annually. If a measuring device was found to be fraudulent, the offender's goods were donated to Charity Hospital.

*There were no speeches given by the mayor of New Orleans because New Orleans did not have mayors until the beginning of American rule in 1803.

*Residents of the remote Canary Islands which are controlled by Spain, were being dispersed by the Spanish government in spots along the isolated Louisiana gulf coast partially to help provide defense. One large settlement would be along Bayou Barataria. The area would eventually be named after the patron saint of Bernardo de Galvez who succeeded Unzaga as governor. It would be called St. Bernard parish and the settlers would be known as Islenos.

*On a plot of land northwest if the city stood an oak tree. The tree would one day be named after John McDonogh, who eventually purchased the land. Later, the property would become New Orleans' City Park, the site of many future Fourth of July Celebrations. The oak's age is estimated to be approximately 800 years. In 1776 it was already around 568 years old.

*An armed British boat, the West Florida had been patrolling the Mississippi Sound since January and thus gave the British control of the lower Mississippi and the lakes. The boat would become a source of contention between the British and the Spanish government that controlled New Orleans. The West Florida was yet another reason why Spain would become a supporter of the revolution that erupted in July 1776.

Reprinted with permission of the author.