If Twitter was around back in 1815, the Battle of New Orleans wouldn’t have been fought. Communications being what they were back in the early 19th century, word hadn’t gotten back to General Jackson and his troops that the Brits had already signed a treaty.
Yes, if a simple tweet had told the tale in real time, the battle – and the snappy song first made famous by rockabilly crooner Johnny Horton – would never have happened.
But today, every January, volunteers in period uniforms reenact the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield, with exhibits of authentic armaments, tents, cooking utensils and historical discussions about the battle.
The Chalmette Battlefield is the site of the famouse Battle of New Orleans — Photo courtesy of Derek Bridges
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the conflict, with a slew of special events planned to commemorate the milestone bicentennial on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015.
But really any time you visit, there are things to see. After you’ve visited the famous statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square, pay a visit to the historic battle site in Chalmette, just seven miles downriver from New Orleans (You'll need to drive or take a cab.), a free attraction good for diving into a different view of New Orleans.
The Chalmette Battlefield commemorates not one but two significant wars in American history, both having major implications on our country’s history.
At this riverside battlefield on Jan. 8, 1815, General Andrew Jackson and a force of about 5,000 ragtag soldiers – including pirate Jean Lafitte, the guy you’ve been drinking to at Lafitte’s Blackshop bar on Bourbon – successfully defended New Orleans against British invasion in the final major confrontation of the War of 1812, forever ending England’s attempts to regain the colonies they’d lost in the Revolutionary War.
The "Creole Queen" steamboat glides by the Chalmette Battlefield at night — Photo courtesy of http://www.neworleansonline.com
In an ironic twist of history, the battle didn’t need to be fought. A treaty signed two weeks earlier in Belgium ended the War of 1812. Word had not yet reached Congress, the commander of the British forces, or Andrew Jackson, who emerged a hero in this city, eventually earning a statue and his very own square because of his efforts.
At the visitor center, an excellent video recounts the battle; afterwards, you can drive or walk the 1.5-mile road leading past recreated defenses extending from the Rodriguez Canal at the Mississippi River to what was then the tree line of the cypress swamp, at the northern end of the battlefield.
The United States Civil War Chalmette National Cemetery is next to the battlefield, honoring Civil War soldiers who died on both sides. It holds only two American veterans from the Battle of New Orleans, but some 14,000 Union soldiers who fell in the Civil War are buried here, including African American Buffalo Soldiers.
The cemetery sits on a tract of land that is approximately where the British artillery was located during the Battle of New Orleans. The Chalmette National Cemetery website has searchable databases, listing the soldiers who are buried at this location, both from The Union and the Confederate Army.