Battle of New Orleans bicentennial spurs large-scale re-enactment

Fri Jan 9, 2015 4:19pm EST
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By Jonathan Kaminsky

CHALMETTE, La. (Reuters) - Huddled around a Louisiana campfire on Thursday, a man dressed in the rumpled clothes of an American militia member from the 1815 Battle of New Orleans put in historical perspective the frigid night he had spent in a nearby tent.

Alabama farmer David Latham was among 1,500 people gathered in the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette to re-enact and commemorate the bicentennial of the final battle of the War of 1812, when American forces led by Andrew Jackson routed the British.

"What we go through is nothing compared to what they went through," said Latham, who is representing a member of the Tennessee Militia who defended the Americans' left flank and picked off British opponents with his rifle.

"They were cold, hungry. They hadn't eaten."

Beginning Friday evening, the participants, some of whom have traveled thousands of miles to join in the event, will recreate the five clashes that comprise the Battle of New Orleans, which some historians say was key in making the British honor the terms of a peace treaty signed in late 1814.

"If the British had won, we may not be in America right now," said Martin Sutton of the Louisiana Living History Foundation, which helped organize the event. "We may be part of the British colonies still."

In the course of the three days of re-enactments, 18 cannons will fire across a recreated "Line Jackson," a protective wall of wood and dirt the Americans built in a single night.

All told, the battle left more than 2,000 British and fewer than 30 Americans dead, wounded or missing.   Continued...

Re-enactors of the Battle of New Orleans march back to their camp from the re-created battlefield on the 200th anniversary of the battle in Chalmette, Louisiana January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Kaminsky