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 10th 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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