Baton Rouge has been a very important city in Louisiana since its initial founding more than 200 years ago. Historical accounts say French-Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville was exploring the headwaters of the Mississippi River in 1699. His men sighted a cypress post colored red that established the boundary between the aboriginal Bayougoula and Homa tribes that inhabited the area. The Canadian-French explorers reported the "baton rouge" boundary marker, and the French 20 years later established a fort and military garrison on the site and named it Baton Rouge.
Deep Sea Port on Mississippi River
The primary attraction of Baton Rouge is its location along the lower Mississippi River and its access to the Gulf of Mexico. Baton Rouge is a deep water port connecting the river and gulf with better natural tropical storm protection than New Orleans.
French For Established
While still a colonial power in the New World, France built a fort roughly on the same spot as the red cypress post that d’Iberville reported some 20 years earlier. The garrisoned fort stayed under French control from 1719 until 1763, when the English took over upon settling the French and Indian War. The English would have a shorter run and were ousted by the opportunistic Spanish, who overpowered the English garrison during the Revolutionary War and controlled Baton Rouge from 1779 until 1800.
Events on the European continent put control of Baton Rouge back in France’s hands as Napoleon Bonaparte became the scourge of European monarchies. Napoleon sold Baton Rouge to the United States as part of the historic Louisiana Purchase that concluded in 1803. The sale helped to finance the French emperor’s military campaigns in Europe.
Spain again claimed Baton Rouge as its own in 1803 despite the legal transfer between France and the United States. U.S. citizens rebelled and made Baton Rouge part of the West Florida Republic in 1810, and the United States annexed the Florida territory soon after.
Baton Rouge Becomes State Capital
Baton Rouge has been the seat of government for Louisiana’s Parish County since 1811. Local residents formally established the city of Baton Rouge in 1817. As a dominant commercial port, Baton Rouge grew in importance as more communities were settled along the Mississippi River. It became the state capital in 1849 and mostly remained so afterward.