Civil War Tours Wins International Travel Award

New Orleans was more than just captured during the American Civil War.

ILLUSTRATION BY TONY HEALEY

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.

 

In the midst of months of shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one local tourism company received welcome good news. Civil War Tours of New Orleans, an owner-operator tour company headquartered in New Orleans, was awarded a 2020 Travelers’ Choice designation for historical/heritage tours by TripAdvisor.

The award is based on a full year of TripAdvisor reviews and places Civil War Tours of New Orleans in the top 10% of tourism and hospitality businesses worldwide. Over the past five years, Civil War Tours of New Orleans has received 130 total reviews, and 123 ranked the company as “Excellent.”

“After six years of hard work, we have succeeded in bringing to life the unique history that vibrant

Louisiana holds,” said Nic Clark, owner of the company. “Civil War Tours of New Orleans looks forward to continuing our mission, educating the public and eagerly anticipating the new paths we will take in the coming future. One tour at a time, we create a sense of pride and curiosity to foster learning about Louisiana’s history during the Civil War.”

Clark, who worked as a Louisiana State Park ranger before starting his company in 2014, has been interested in the American Civil War since he was a child visiting in family in Chattanooga, Tenn. Growing up in St. Louis, he wasn’t immersed in southern culture and the history of the war, so he sought it out through books and academia. Of the more than 300 books in his personal Civil War library, he still treasures his first book on the subject, “The Golden Book of the Civil War.”

When Clark was on a train in England at the age of 18, he asked himself what he would do if money were no object. Having long dreamed of New Orleans and the Mississippi River that connects his childhood home to his desired home, he decided to make every career decision from that point forward focused on attaining his dream of running his own tour company in New Orleans. Clark lived and worked in Shreveport, Natchitoches and Lafayette before finally settling in New Orleans and starting his award-winning company.

“I never gave up. From 2003 to 2014, every job I had, every place I worked and lived, was to get me here doing what I want to do,” said Clark. “My DNA has always attracted me to Louisiana history and culture. There’s a lot of cultural exchange happening between St. Louis and New Orleans, connected by the Mississippi. I tell people I washed down the river.”

Clark’s passion for telling the story of New Orleans’ role during the American Civil War is clear. He offers walking tours of the French Quarter and driving tours of the Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery. He also works throughout Louisiana to provide special tours with American Cruise Lines and recently contracted to write a complete travel guide to Civil War sites in Louisiana. According to Clark, there are more than 600 sites of battles and skirmishes in Louisiana that took place from 1862 to 1865. His tours of New Orleans focus on the less obvious aspects of the Civil War.

“A war is so much more than just a battlefield. Even for soldiers, the actual battles were a small aspect of what it meant to be a soldier. Consider the economic importance of New Orleans with banking, cargo on the river, tariffs on imported goods, and big sources of revenue for the federal budget,” said Clark. “I’m not trying to sway people one way or the other and I’m not trying to be a professor, but a lot of my reviews say this is the tour to take if you want to learn about history.”

I asked Clark how the removal of Confederate monuments and the growing awareness of anti-racism in the country have impacted the content of his tours. He said because his tours focus on the years of the war, and not Reconstruction and the period following, the monuments were never stops on his tours. He stops at the corner of Royal and Chartres streets, the site of the former St. Louis Hotel, to discuss the slave exchanges in the city and how enslaved people were treated, and how they served in both the Union and Confederate armies.

Looking toward the future, Clark says he is working to develop self-guided tours using GPS technology so people can socially distance and still participate and creating content for tours throughout Louisiana’s historic Civil War sites.