The last land battle ever fought on American soil between the United States and a foreign enemy took place on January 8, 1815 in Chalmette just outside of New Orleans on a site now known as The Chalmette Battlefield. The Battle of New Orleans, which actually occurred nearly two weeks after the treaty was signed that ended the War of 1812, was significant in a number of ways. For one, it gave a much-needed boost to sagging American morale at the end of one of the most disastrous wars in American history. It also kept the British from capturing New Orleans. Had that happened, it would have given England greater leverage in negotiating the still-evolving peace terms of the Treaty of Ghent. And it made a national hero out of Andrew Jackson.
Commanding a ragtag army of backwoods sharpshooters, free men of color, swashbuckling buccaneers and other non-professional soldiers, many of whom volunteered at the last minute, the victorious Jackson went on to become the seventh president of the United States and one of the greatest chief executives in American history.
In the battle the British lost several thousand of their crack troops, including their commanding officer, General Edward Pakenham. The Americans suffered only about a dozen casualties.
At the site today is a monument built in the style of an ancient Egyptian obelisk and a large open field, on which markers show the approximate locations of the American and British positions. A ring road circles the battlefield, with convenient pull-offs where signs describe the various aspects of the battle. The Malus-Beauregard House, an antebellum plantation, also stands on the grounds.
The battlefield is a unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Adjoining the battlefield is Chalmette National Cemetery where the remains of American soldiers from the War of 1812 to the present are buried.
Each year, the battle is reenacted on the closest weekend to the anniversary date. Volunteers dress up in period costumes, representing the opposing armies with the British side in red uniforms with three-cornered hats and the American side in the garb worn by the volunteer militiamen who opposed them. The British re-enactors are “armed” with replicas of the period’s muskets and bayonets and the Americans with the famed Kentucky long-rifles and cannon, which they used to fire on the invading force with deadly accuracy from behind their makeshift breastworks consisting of dozens of cotton bales.