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Echoes of Battle

Re-enactments, tours and the restored visitor center at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve recall the Battle of New Orleans.
By Don Redman

There once was a time in this country when the two biggest national holidays were the Fourth of July and the Eighth of January. Of course we all know the significance of Independence Day, but Jan. 8th?


Above: The firing of cannons, musket drills and period campsites are among the highlights of the re-enactment. A.J. Sisco, National Park Service photo

Below: Re-enactors representing British troops during the living history weekend. National Park Service photo

British troops

It was on that date in 1815 that American troops clashed with British troops in the Battle of New Orleans in south Louisiana. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s hastily assembled army had won the day against a battle-hardened and numerically superior British force. Americans took great pride in the victory and for decades celebrated Jan. 8 as a national holiday, just like the Fourth of July.

The Battle of New Orleans, which was an exclamation point for the still-fragile Republic, was waged downriver in St. Bernard Parish at the Chalmette Battlefield, the centerpiece of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

The historic event is remembered every January with tours and living re-enactments complete with cannon fire, musket drills, period costumes and campsites. The 196th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans will be celebrated with several events beginning on Jan. 7, 2011. The celebration will also mark the grand re-opening of the visitors’ center, which was destroyed in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina.

The new center will encompass 3,500 square feet, more than twice the size of the old center. Visitors will enjoy displays, artifacts, interactive exhibits, maps and newly produced short films discussing the War of 1812, the New Orleans campaign, the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, and the effect that the American victory had on Louisiana, the United States and the world.

Slate of events

More than 100 living history experts in period dress will bring the sights and sounds of Jan. 8, 1815, to life in 2011 on Friday, Jan. 7, from 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Living history encampments, cannon and musket firings, military drills and period crafts are among the highlights. This event is free.

That night, at 7 p.m., the St. Bernard Parish government is sponsoring a re-enactment of the Dec. 23, 1814, night battle at historical de La Ronde Oaks, just down the highway from the battlefield. The site contains the ruins of what remains of the old De La Ronde plantation home, which was used by the British as their headquarters during the Battle of New Orleans. There is no fee to attend the event, but please note that there are special parking requirements (detailed below).

History returns to life from 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on Saturday with more events, including a Kids Camp that opens at 11 a.m. promising special activities, kid-sized period uniforms and clothes to try on, and period games. A special wreath-laying ceremony gets underway at 10 a.m., honoring the men who fought at the Battle of New Orleans.

As of press time, a full slate of each day’s activities was not available, but park officials said schedules will be available online prior to the event at

History by lantern light

For a unique perspective of the War of 1812, walk through British, American and civilian camps on “the night before the Battle of New Orleans.” A guided tour by lantern light will introduce you to generals planning strategy, soldiers swapping stories around their campfires, and women wondering what fate has in store for the city of New Orleans.

The Lantern Tour is set for Saturday, Jan. 8. The first tour begins at 5:45 p.m. Tours begin every 10 minutes (5:55, 6:10, etc.). The last tour begins at 7:15 p.m. Tours take about 90 minutes, including travel time to and from the battlefield.

Lantern Tour tickets are on sale now and available only by advance purchase. Tickets numbers are limited; early purchase is encouraged. No tickets will be sold after Jan. 4 or at the door. Tickets are $5 each; children under 5 are free and do not need a ticket. For more information on purchasing Lantern Tour tickets, call the park at (504) 589-2636.

Note that only vehicles with handicapped tags may park at the battlefield during the weekend events. Free off-site parking for all battlefield events and for the re-enactment at de La Ronde Oaks is at the St. Bernard Parish Government Complex, 8201 West Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette. Free shuttles run continuously between the government complex and event locations. Restrooms, a hospitality and welcome center, and tourism information is available at the government complex, as well as at the new battlefield visitors’ center on Saturday. All events are free except the Lantern Tour.

For more details, call the park at (504) 589-2636, or click on

Don Redman is associate editor of the AAA Southern Traveler magazine.

Jan/Feb 2011 Issue

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