No other state has a more varied or colorful past than Louisiana. The state has been governed under ten different flags beginning in 1541 with Hernando de Soto's claim of the region for Spain. La Salle later claimed it for Bourbon France and over the years Louisiana was at one time or another subject to the Union Jack of Great Britain, the Tricolor of Napoleon, the Lone Star flag of the Republic of West Florida and the fifteen stars and stripes of the United States. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Louisiana became an independent republic for six weeks before joining the Confederacy.
There is a rich diversity of peoples in Louisiana. They include the original Indian inhabitants, plus the descendants of a variety of settlers, among whom were the French, Spanish, English, German, Acadians, West Indians, Africans, Irish and Italians -- and now include almost every nationality on earth.
The original French colonists were soon joined by the Spanish and Acadians, and later by French aristocrats fleeing slave revolts in the West Indies or the horrors of the French Revolution. As part of Louisiana's French legacy, counties are called "parishes" and the Napoleonic Code (rather than Common Law) holds sway in the State's courtrooms.
The Louisiana plantation culture first came into being along the State's rivers and bayous in the 18th century. Planters initially used the fertile soil for indigo and tobacco, but these crops were soon replaced by cotton in north Louisiana and sugar cane in the more tropical southern part of the State. The plantation mansions of Louisiana still bear signs of efforts to make life in the new world as genteel and pleasant as possible. Many are surrounded by extensive formal gardens, and the approaches to some of the homes are lined with avenues of live oaks that have grown huge in their old age.