THE BATTLEFIELD AND ENVIRONS IN LATER YEARS
In the decades following the Battle of New Orleans the site of the January 8 encounter became a local and regional attraction for visitors. Although the property remained in private ownership and for many years lacked any form of official recognition, it nonetheless represented an important epic in American history whose significance was immediately apparent. The battle site commanded a great amount of attention, particularly as the concept of "Jackson Day"January 8became standardized in later years. Because of the early interest generated, there exist numerous first-hand accountings that provide evidence of the later appearance and condition of the battlefield property.
One of the earliest such renderings was that of Samuel Mordecai, who visited the scene on April 22, 1815, less than four months after the battle. Mordecai located the area of the British encampment by "observing a line of small spots among the clover where fires had been kindled."
Two days later Mordecai was ushered over the American part of the field by several battle participants. He noted that "the house in which Genl Jackson established headquarters... bore many marks of the enemy's balls. One remained half buried in a position wall over his bed." 
The earliest known changes in the appearance of the battleground were reported by the artist and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe during a visit in 1819. Latrobe, whose son had served as an engineer officer and had helped erect the batteries on the right of Jackson's line, noted that the river had already eroded away part of that end of the position to include that on which the advance redoubt stood. Latrobe took the occasion to prepare a significant sketch map of the right end of the line as it appeared in 1819, as well as two drawings showing relative positions of existing structures to the line.  The line, wrote Latrobe, "is now visible only as the somewhat elevated bank of a narrow canal from the Mississippi to the swamp."  Comparing Jackson's feat with that of Hannibal over the Romans, Latrobe commented that
A few years later, in 1825, a German visitor walked along the line, but was clearly more intrigued with the area mansion houses than with learning the rudiments of the battle. Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach registered his interest in the homes along the river which, he noted, were almost universally built behind a garden about 100 yards in length with an entrance walkway lined with carefully manicured laurel and China trees. Most of the homes were two-storied with galleries and piazzas.  Bernhard saw the Macarty house headquarters of Jackson as well as the British headquarters at Villeré's, which he described as "not very large and... not very much ornamented." Behind the house were two brick structures, one containing a sugar mill, the other sugar boiling apparatus. Stables and cabins for house servants stood nearby, while huts for the field slaves stood some distance away. Bernhard also remarked on the changing course of the Mississippi, which during the years since the battle had inclined to the right leaving the Villeré mansion farther back from the bank. 
Changes were less perceptible in the area of the January 8, 1815, battle some distance upstream. In 1827 Andrew Jackson briefly returned to the scene of his triumph, but his biographer described nothing of the appearance of the battlefield at the time.  One of the better descriptions of the ground was provided by Joseph H. Ingraham, who came to New Orleans in the early 1830s. Ingraham's observations were extensive but offered nonetheless a contemporary view that additionally remarked on an element of the post-battle society that had evolved near the site:
Contemporary information regarding the battlefield also came in the mid-1840s from other visitors to the scene. Often, however, the impulse was to wax patriotic rather than descriptive. One commentator, noting the dearth of any monument at the site, observed that "if there is no lofty structure of granite or marble, to perpetuate the glorious achievement, it has a holier, a more enduring memorial in the heart of every true American...."  In 1846 a British tourist reported that the levee was in process of being strengthened along the riverfront, "for the Mississippi is threatening to pour its resistless current through this battle-ground, as, in the delta of the Ganges, the Hoogly is fast sweeping away the celebrated field of Plassy." 
More substantive depiction came in the account of a militia soldier bound for the Mexican War whose regiment encamped at Chalmette. "The plain itself is a magnificent place for the marshalling of large bodies of men.... The entrenchments are still visible tho the peaceful pursuits of agriculture are fast obliterating the lines..." He reported that the British dead were located on the field where Pakenham had formed his troops for opening the assault, an act, he said, that typified "the sublimity of bravery."  A Mississippi soldier who also stopped at Chalmette enroute to Mexico in July, 1846, described his regiment's encampment on ground recently vacated by volunteers from Kentucky and Ohio:
Despite torrential rains the Mississippians remained at Chalmette for two days until severe flooding finally forced them out of their tents. On July 17 they abandoned the Chalmette site for drier quarters in New Orleans. 
Historian Alexander Walker probably offered the most specific description of the battle scene at mid-century. Jackson's line, wrote Walker in 1855,
The swamp appeared much the same as it had in 1815, still protruding in the manner which had facilitated the British approach. That stretch of the line occupied by Coffee's Tennesseans remained largely intact forty years after the battle.  The Macarty house, surrounded by pruned cedar, cypress, and orange trees, had changed little, and was still "scarred in many places with marks of the severe cannonade." 
During the Civil War the old Chalmette lands again served as an encampment area, first for Confederate, then Union, troops. One soldier, Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., of Company I, Fourteenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, observed that the battlefield, "a dead-level piece of land with ditches every few rods square," had previously been used for truck gardening.  Descriptive renderings on the grounds seem to have become scarcer later in the century as attention commonly focused on structures in the vicinity related to the battle. The Macarty house, it was noted, was "changed and modernized" by 1891.  But the most attention seems to have been lavished on the old British headquarters at Villeré's, downstream from the January 8, 1815, battleground. By 1885 the structure was in decay, its doors and window panes removed and weeds growing on its roof.  A few years later the house was described as having been built of the "choicest timber" with hand-forged nails and hinges.
A short distance from the Villeré house stood the so-called Pakenham Oak, a tree that, according to legend, sheltered the British commander before he died. Pakenham's entrails were supposedly interred at the base of the tree along with the bodies of several other officers killed in the January 8 battle. In 1886 some bones from these burials were recovered with pieces of belts identifying the remains as British officers. Five years later the tree was described as being 12 feet in diameter and "of interest outside of its mortuary significance." 
By the turn of the century visitors came to the New Orleans battlefield via electric streetcar to Jackson Barracks and then by carriage or foot along the river to the site.  There they saw an unfinished monument, the eroded embankment of Jackson's line, and the broad field across which the British advanced.  By then, however, the resources, intermixed with homes and pathways utilized by the local populace in routine daily activities, were beginning to experience the threats to their integrity which ultimately impacted them so severely at mid-century. As early as 1905 a New Orleans newspaper prophesied of the historic terrain:
Last Updated: 05-Sep-2004