ED.NOTE: The following article and pictures are from Tammy Markland who was good enough to write about her experiences in New Orleans. Thank you.
Many people believe that the last great battle of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain was unnecessary, since the treaty ending the war was signed in late 1814, but the war was not over. The treaty was headed to Parliament to be ratified at the same time the British army was attempting to make it way up the Mississippi River through New Orleans. The resounding American victory at the Battle of New Orleans soon became a symbol of a new idea: American democracy triumphing over the old European ideas of aristocracy and entitlement. General Andrew Jackson’s hastily assembled army of a few regulars, volunteer militia, freed men, and privateers had won the day against a battle-hardened and numerically superior British force. Americans took great pride in the victory and for decades celebrated January 8 as a national holiday, just like the Fourth of July.
On January 8th and 9th , I had the opportunity to travel with the 1st Regiment of the East Tennessee Militia to the Chalmette Battlefield in Louisiana for the 201st anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. In 2015, I decided to join my husband and participate in living history events. This was my first trip outside the area and to a large event; needless to say, I was very excited.
I had never stayed in a historically accurate period camp. I enjoyed putting up the tent even though it was VERY windy and raining. It was amazing to me that a few little wooden poles could hold up such a heavy canvas tent. We stayed warm and dry in our home away from home despite the cold (40s) and rainy night on Friday. The grass was really interesting; it was like a sponge, so on Saturday, after the rain on Friday night, the paths through camp became a mess. Luckily, the park supplied us with straw to lay out.
Friday morning, there was a parade and opening ceremony in the park. I must say that when I heard the men yelling to get a weapon and get in parade formation at the edge of camp because the General was coming, I didn’t fully understand what all the ruckus was about. They were scrambling around looking for their weapons and making sure they were in full dress. Then, I saw Andrew Jackson coming down the street; Grant Hardin makes an impressive Andrew Jackson. He was accompanied by his soldiers, the Regular U.S. Army. As he passed, the other groups started to fall in line, the Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi militia, the Navy and Marine Corps, Baratarian privateers and Choctaw Indians. I was immediately taken back in time and felt a part of history!
After the opening ceremony and flag raising, the park hosted 2,400 school age students from the New Orleans area. We demonstrated weaving on the inkle loom, children’s toys of the period, and had a weapons display. Ronnie Lail had a great time playing the Graces game with the children. I think all 2,400 children had their picture made in Bobby Hamm’s coyote hat, including my own son, Zac, who accompanied us for his first ever living history event. I don’t know who had more fun, the children or Ronnie and Bobby.
For the most part, we ate our meals elsewhere, but on Friday, we cooked lunch. Red beans and rice, roasted chicken, and bread. The beans and rice were cooked on an open fire in the camp. The men dug a fire pit. I must say that I was very impressed that Chad Bogart and some of the other men were able to start a fire with a magnifying glass and the sun. It was just like being on “Survivor”!
Throughout the two- day event, our men and even Jane Doan were part of the six- pounder cannon crew that was responsible for firing the canon every hour. It was awesome to watch them fire one of the cannons that was part of history! This cannon was one of the twelve artillery pieces actually used in the battle. During the Battle of New Orleans 201 years ago, on the east bank, General Jackson and four thousand troops with twelve artillery pieces grouped into eight batteries stood behind the same earthen parapet. Called Line Jackson, the entrenchment faced the open fields of nearby plantations as it stretched one thousand yards from the river along the Rodriguez Canal and then five hundred more into the Cypress Swamp. What an awesome experience this was for everyone involved including the spectators!!
There were also musket firing demonstrations in which our men participated in throughout the two- day event.
Friday night, fifteen of us went to the French Quarter in New Orleans with the intention of being in the Battle of New Orleans parade, but unbeknownst to us, the parade time has been pushed back. Instead, we explored the sites, streets, and shops in the French Quarter. Since we were anticipating being in the parade, we went to New Orleans in full period dress. I must say that I did not feel out of place at all. In fact, I felt like a celebrity because people were pointing and taking our picture. We visited Jackson Square, the Joan of Arc statue, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. At one time the blacksmith shop was the smuggling base for the Pirate Jean Lafitte. Now, it is the oldest bar in the USA. It has been in existence since 1772.
On Saturday, our regiment was responsible for raising and lowering the flag. This was an honor and major undertaking that required the active participation of all our men. As the flag was raised, my thoughts were on how proud I was to be reliving history and the remembering the sacrifices made on those grounds 201 years ago: 13 Americans dies, 30 were wounded, and 19 were captured or missing. That evening when our men took down the flag, all I could think of was “catch”! The wind was blowing, the flag was huge and as it was lowed, our men had to be sure they caught the flag so it never touched the ground. I was amazed that they could hold onto that flag and manage to fold it in the wind. Great job, guys!
Since there were not as many visitors to the park on Saturday, I got to explore the grounds. I went to the Visitor’s Center at Chalmette and watched a film and examined the exhibits. There was a map of the site that included troop movements from the Battle of New Orleans as well as outdoor exhibits. The Chalmette Monument, the battlefield’s 100-foot-high obelisk was open for us. It honors the troops of the Battle of New Orleans. We got to climb the 122 interior steps to the top where there is a viewing platform. The stairs are narrow and there is little room to pass other climbers or to turn around, but the view from the top is amazing! I also got to tour the Malus-Beauregard House located on the Chalmette Battlefield grounds on the Mississippi River. This plantation looking house was never used as a plantation. The house, built in 1830 is named for René Beauregard, its last owner, the son of the Civil War Confederate General, P. G. T. Beauregard.
On Saturday night, several members of our group went to a screening of the film, Battle of New Orleans: 2015 Bicentennial Anniversary documentary.
This trip was an experience I will never forget. I got to relive an important part of our history and spend some time with some amazing people.