So I drove out to New Orleans, working my way to the Chalmette Battlefield in order to hear a talk about the REAL Jean Lafitte (don't worry, that will be another post later... maybe later this morning if my tummy continues to feel like this). I have driven into New Orleans several times and, in fact, have been to the Chalmette Battlefield once upon a time. I just had napped during that drive. So Saturday was a good experience (since I direct visitors how to get there).
First, I got to ponder the intersections of different transportation routes, as the draw bridge was, well, drawn.
I would have enjoyed sitting and waiting and pondering a little better if nature hadn't been calling so loudly. All I was really thinking was, "I hope that boat hurries up so I can find a restroom soon!"
When the draw bridge finally dropped and we got moving, traffic crossed the street... which delivered us into the Lower Ninth Ward. Doh! No stopping for me! The battlefield was only a few more miles away (yes, close to the Lower Ninth Ward), so I was able to refrain from wetting myself.
Now, for the million-dollar question: what is the Chalmette Battlefield?! Gold star for you if can correctly answer what war it was a part of. Hint: A General Jackson served there. Another Hint: His first name was not Stonewall. That's right! The Battle of New Orleans from the War of 1812!
Do you like how the National Park Service has to specifically say that on their signs? They couldn't fit "no, Stonewall did not fight here... wrong war," on the sign, though that would have alleviated some questions rangers get in the Visitor Center.
The new Visitor Center is quite nice, it tells the story of the Battle of New Orleans. Alright. Another Gold Star if you can list five facts about the War if 1812. Saying that it was fought in 1812 does not count. But you could get some extra credit if you sing that song. Unfortunately, many Americans do not know why the War of 1812 is significant. I have encountered more French folk who have a better understanding of American history than Americans. One of the park rangers told me a quote from a guy in history (of which I will poorly paraphrase): think of the Revolutionary War as this nation's conception and the War of 1812 as this nation's birth. In fact, until the American Civil War, January 8th was the second biggest holiday in this nation after July 4th.
The Battle of New Orleans provides many interesting nuances about American history. One of those nuances was the diverse fighting force under General [Andrew] Jackson. Several languages would have been heard along his lines. Heck. Even the Choctaw served under him (I wonder if they'd been so willing to do so if they knew what his policies on natives would be while he was President).
He acknowledged the diversity, however, and sang its praises. We are America. We are the United States. And the Battle of New Orleans became one event that helped define us as a baby nation. The war is interesting to think of in light of how we try to define ourselves later with the outbreak of the American Civil War (Stonewall fought in THAT one, guys).
I explored the site. Their national cemetery has over 16,000 graves, many from the Civil War (only a handful from the War of 1812).
The landscape prompted thought, for no matter where you go, the view includes refineries and plants in the horizon.
That is why the park service does what it does, protection and perservation of the special places that tell the American story, "for the enjoyment of future generations."
Indeed. After I completed my tour, I got to go on a walk about Jean Lafitte and learned about why the park was named for him. The stories are sometimes chilling but I will have to share another time. He did fight for Jackson (Andrew, not Stonewall), so the question is posed "Pirate or Patriot?" But there is much more to it.
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