Hugging the Mississippi right by Old Arabi, the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery lies just five miles downriver from the French Quarter. The site, now one of the units within the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, was the location of the last major battle of the War of 1812, fought between the British and Americans from 1812 till 1815.
Visitors to the site should seek out Interpretive Park Ranger Nathan Hall who will bring the fascinating story to life, explaining the significance of this battle in a war that is often overshadowed by the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, but was no less significant in determining the course of American history. As Hall explained, the future of the Louisiana Purchase and the quintessentially American precept of Manifest Destiny (a.k.a westward expansion for those too many years removed from fifth grade American History to remember) was held in the balance in this war.
As with any battle, there were a lot of crucial "ifs." If General Andrew Jackson hadn't made a bilingual speech to New Orleans' assembled (and significantly polyglot and international) residents in Jackson Square, addressing each racial and ethnic group separately to explain why each should want to defend New Orleans against the British; if Jackson hadn't also broken the law, declaring martial law in New Orleans before the battle, and if a surprise attack hadn't delayed the British so that only four thousand American troops could defend New Orleans against twice as many British troops on January 8, 1814, New Orleans—and more importantly, control of the Mississippi River and the entire Louisiana Purchase—would have been lost to the United States.
It is a fascinating story, which comes all the more vividly to life when told on the very soil upon which the battle unfolded. The site is open Tuesday–Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm and Sunday & Monday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.