Two hundred years ago, about 5 miles south of New Orleans on Chalmette soil, the future of the United States was determined as American troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson prevented Gen. Edward Pakenham and his British Army from invading and seizing New Orleans in the final major battle of the War of 1812.
Fifteen hundred living history volunteers and re-enactors will descend on Chalmette Battlefield next week to bring the tales of the battle to life as the Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve marks the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans.
Festivities for the 200th anniversary will take place Jan. 8-10 at the Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette. Admission is free. Parking is available at the St. Bernard Parish government complex, 8201 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, where shuttle buses will run continuously to and from the battlefield during the following hours: Jan. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Jan. 9 from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Jan. 10 from 9:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The bicentennial schedule will be full of traditional favorites such as living-history camps, cannon and musket firings, and military drills, as well as something new, according to Kristy Wallisch, park ranger.
“New this year is the Battle of New Orleans University, which will allow visitors to experience throughout the weekend the traditions of 1815 with demonstrations of period crafts and skills, hands-on workshops, historic games, music, dance and speakers,” Wallisch said. “Hundreds of demonstrators, speakers and performers and living-history re-enactors will share their knowledge and skills within the battlefield military camps on both American and British sides.”
On Jan. 8, commemoration day, activities will begin at 9 a.m. with the presentation of wreaths near the Chalmette Monument in honor of those who fought in the Battle of New Orleans, a tradition upheld each year since the Centennial Commemoration in 1915. Presentations and musical performances will continue until 5 p.m.
On Jan. 9 and 10, a plethora of activities will take place both on site at the Chalmette Battlefield and at other locations throughout the parish. Volunteers in British, American and civilian camps will share their stories and explain the importance of the battle in American history. At the battlefield there will be the firing of cannons and muskets, and cooking, basket weaving and duck carving demonstrations, as well as presentations of traditional games, dancing and music of the period.
On Jan. 10, guest speakers will be stationed at various locations around the battlefield, and there will be appearances by several authors, including Nunez Community College history professor and boat builder Ron Chapman, who will be available from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the visitors center to chat about his book, “The Battle of New Orleans: But for a Piece of Wood” which describes how the British underestimated the currents of the Mississippi River and how that affected the battle’s outcome.
Off-site activities associated with the bicentennial will include the third annual Battle of New Orleans Historical Symposium on Jan. 9 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and Jan. 10 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Nunez Community College, 3710 Paris Road in Chalmette, as well as The Living History Foundation’s Five Battles of the Campaign for New Orleans set for Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 10 at 10 a.m., noon and 4 p.m.; and Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. at the Living History Foundation Historical Park on Patricia Street behind the Chalmette Wal-Mart. Admission to these off-site events on Friday is free, but a $10 donation will be accepted on Jan. 10 and 11 for those ages 13 and older. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. Shuttle buses also will be available to and from the government complex for these events.
The events at the Chalmette Battlefield will wrap up on Jan. 10 at 3:30 p.m. with closing ceremonies that will include a re-enactment of the Jan. 23, 1815, victory celebration honoring Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, followed by a final cannon firing and concert from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. featuring a grand farewell to the bicentennial’s celebration of unity with music by the U.S. Marine Corps Band and closing remarks.
For information about the event, call (504) 281-0510 or visit nps.gov/jela.
Battle of New Orleans volunteers needed
Organizers of the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans set for Jan. 8-10 at Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette, are looking for volunteers for the event.
Positions include information desk and visitor center sales assistants, bus stop and boat dock greeters, cleanup crew members and demonstration assistants.
For information, contact Aleutia Scott at (504) 689-3690 ext. 10 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Battle of New Orleans commemorative T-shirts
The St. Bernard Office of Tourism and the St. Bernard Tourist Commission will be selling official commemorative T-shirts and caps in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.
The shirts will be available with short or long sleeves and can be purchased at the visitors center on the Chalmette Battlefield grounds, 8606 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette. Short-sleeve shirts sell for $20, long-sleeve shirts cost $22, and caps are $20.
For information, call Wanda Alcon at (504) 451-3694.
Battle of New Orleans bicentennial artwork
The St. Bernard Tourist Commission recently unveiled its official artwork for the celebration of the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. The piece, created by artist Terrance Osborne, depicts the Reconnaissance-in-Force Battle of Dec. 28, 1814, which took place in what is now known as Chalmette.
The view of the battle in the artwork is from the deck of the SS Louisiana, which was anchored in the Mississippi River. In the distance, the battle between U.S. forces and the British army is raging.
There are 500 prints available in the following categories: numbered and signed prints, $150; and unsigned numbered prints, $75.
Prints are being sold by the Tourist Commission and can be purchased by calling the Visitor Center at (504) 278-4242 or Wanda Alcon at (504) 451-3694.
Holiday free ride home program
The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office’s free Holiday Ride Home runs through Friday, Jan. 2. The program allows residents who have had too much to drink during the holiday season the opportunity to call the Sheriff’s Office at (504) 271-2501 to receive a free ride home from a deputy, no questions asked.
A sheriff’s deputy will pick you up and take you to your home in St. Bernard or, if you live out of the parish, you can be taken to a sheriff’s substation where you can make arrangements to be picked up.
Kim Gritter writes about people, places and events in St. Bernard Parish. She can be reached at email@example.com.