Battlefield reopens to commemorate Battle of New Orleans

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Chalmette Battlefield park will reopen for the first time since Hurricane Katrina left it under water. Saturday marks the 191st anniversary of the famous battle, when Andrew Jackson turned back British forces seeking to seize the port of New Orleans at the close of the War of 1812. Commemorations have been held at the site since the late 1800s, but this year's event is different because Chalmette, where the battlefield is located, was devastated in the hurricane.

"We're surrounded by flooded houses, refrigerators still on rooftops," Strain said. "This is a distraction for us. It's one day I don't have to worry about whether my insurance company got all my paperwork, whether they're going to fix the levees."

The event will also be a much-needed source of inspiration, he said.

"The battle represents the people who have made New Orleans what it is, what they started. We need to remember what sacrifices they made," Strain said.

Only half of the usual 150 volunteers and re-enactors will be back this weekend. Many have not made it home, and many have lost their equipment _ muskets, uniforms, hats, lanterns, drums.

Strain's home had five feet of water but his re-enactment equipment was on the second floor.

The battlefield is one of six sites that make up Jean Lafitte National Historial Park and Preserve. Katrina wiped out the site's visitors center and public restrooms, and there is still no water or electricity.

The Malus-Beauregard House, built almost 20 years after the battle, was among the structures not seriously damaged, because of its marble floors and plaster walls, said park ranger Kristy Wallisch.

The commemoration is usually a three-day event attracting 5,000 to 10,000 visitors, including school groups, but this year will be a scaled-down version held on Saturday only.

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