The War of 1812 bicentennial kicked off in New Orleans during last week's "Fleet Week." On Monday, the battleships from 6 countries sailed down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico from whence they came to the sound of tolling church bells. Though the bells were mentioned in several media accounts, no one bothered to tell the story of WHY they are significant to a city once so steeped in Catholic tradition.
On the evening of January 7, 1815, New Orleans learned of a British Fleet's movement up the Mississippi, bound to capture New Orleans. Residents also knew that Colonel Andrew Jackson had raised a modest militia of 4,000 men to try and stop the mighty British at 11,000 strong.
That evening, New Orleanians gathered to pray at the Ursuline Chapel with Mother Marie Olivier de Vezin and the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Mother de Vezin had vowed that should Our Lady of Prompt Succor grant Jackson's men a victory that an annual Mass of Thanksgiving would be prayed for Our Lady.
At Mass the next morning, word arrived that Jackson had indeed been victorious. After the battle, Jackson stopped at the convent to personally thank the residents, Sister de Vizen and our Lady of Prompt Succor saying, "By the blessing of heaven, directing the valor of the troops under my command, one of the most brilliant victories in the annals of war was obtained."
On his every return to the Crescent City, Jackson always paid a visit to Ursuline Chapel and Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Perhaps when the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans is memorialized, Mother de Vezin and Our Lady of Prompt Succor will share the spotlight. I bet you Andrew Jackson would have wanted "Fleet Week" to do just that.