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America needs to get over it. We can’t control everything. We can’t control the storms… Russel Honore

Hurricanes do not strike specific places. A storm may do horrific damage to New Orleans or Galveston but that same storm may well have struck elsewhere before and will likely continue its path of devastation until all of its energy is dissipated. The 1856 hurricane cleaned off a sandbar called Last Island in Louisiana and this is principally what it is known for but the same storm devastated the sugar fields of Southern Louisiana, inundated New Orleans, destroyed  the town of Abbeville and caused at least three steamers to be lost at sea – how many smaller communities, smaller ships and other casualties there were we shall never know.  As for the idea that this was an early omen of Katrina or the first storm to strike Louisiana or the harbinger of global warming well those ideas simply can not be sustained with the known facts. Dixon has done a wonderful job of organizing and reciting the contemporary accounts of the storm and the book is probably the best nonfiction account in print.

Last days of Last Island : the hurricane of 1856, Louisiana’s first great storm  Bill Dixon  Lafayette : University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2009  Softcover. xii, 290 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG


The 1856 summer season was like so many that had come before — uneventful, idyllic. The South’s newest and most popular watering spot was a microcosm of Louisiana‘s antebellum economic and social structure. More than four hundred vacationers — wealthy sugar planters, powerful politicians, their families, friends, and servants — had come to the island to escape the hot August sun. The waters of the Gulf were cool, its breezes fresh. Life was Good.


On the horizon, however, a massive cloud formation was about to tell a much different story. On that fateful day, August 10, 1856, a devastating Category Four hurricane destroyed Last Island. The chaos and confusion that initially reigned gave way in time to a generation of Civil War and Reconstruction. After more than one hundred and fifty years — and the devastation of Katrina — the story remains layered with myths. Last Days of Last Island removes that shroud and presents the first comprehensive account of the hurricane of 1856, “Louisiana’s first great storm.”



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