The Battle of New Orleans began on Jan. 8, 1815. This year, Chalmette Battlefield (nps.gov/jela) will hold anniversary festivities from Fri., Jan. 6-Sun., Jan. 8. Living history experts dressed as civilians and troops will tell stores, fire cannons and muskets and explain the event’s importance. Presenters will share slices of everyday life in 1815 with hands-on activities, games and period music. It is all free. Kristi Wallisch, Public Information Officer for Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, shares more.
How challenging is it to stage re-enactments? The battlefield doesn’t actually host a (battle) re-enactment … since federal law prohibits such activities on the sacred ground where troops fought and died. What we do instead is everything but the battle: preparations like military drills, cannon practice, musket firing, campfire cooking, etc.
What’s the age range of the audiences? On Friday, we’re expecting members of the public plus about 2,000 students … on Saturday we generally have about 2,500-3,000 visitors of all ages. Kids definitely love the event, since so many experiences are hands-on, and they’re often surprisingly good at quickly picking up the skills that kids in 1815 would have had.
What have you personally learned about the Battle of New Orleans? The way total strangers – and even some enemies – came together in a common cause. Can you imagine yourself as a Louisiana volunteer, standing at the rampart as the British advanced and trusting that the Baratarian pirate next to you was going to do his duty? And yet they did trust each other and work together.
What’s your favorite part of the festivities? I love those “step back in time” moments: standing at a campfire, smelling the wood smoke and listening to one of the living history re-enactors talk to the kids, telling them about the hundreds of miles he marched to get here from Tennessee, how his wife wove the cloth for his coat and how he misses his own kids.