The First Chalmette Monument was the Grand Army of the Republic monument.
First Chalmette Monument
Photo of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Monument, by George François Mugnier. Undated photo, likely from the 1880s. This monument stands in the Chalmette National Cemetery, on the end closest to the river. The Latin inscription translates to, “While they are silent, they shout.” Locals referred to it as the “First Chalmette Monument.” The 1907 obelisk claimed the title “Chalmette Monument” upon its completion.
Chalmette National Cemetery
New Orleanians buried Enslaved Americans, along with troops fighting on both sides of the Southern Rebellion, as early as 1861, in Chalmette. So, in 1864, the Union Army formalized this burial ground. They designated 17.5 acres of land from the “back” of the Chalmette battlefield as a National Cemetery. Locals know this area as the “British side” of the battlefield. The British advanced to this location on 8-January-1815. Of the approximately 15,000 people buried in the cemetery, over 6,500 are unidentified. Additionally, most of these are United States Colored Troops (USCT), whose graves are marked only by numbered headstones. While most of the burials here date to the Southern Rebellion, four veterans of the 1815 battle rest here.
Grand Army of the Republic
The Grand Army of the Republic was a Union Army and Navy veterans organization, founded in 1866, at Springfield, Illinois. The organization claimed membership of 410,000 by the 1890s. Union veterans established local chapters, known as “posts” across the country, including many cities in the former rebel states. The GAR post in New Orleans funded and erected the monument in Chalmette Cemetery in 1874. It stands on the river side of the cemetery, because that side was the main entrance for years. So, over time, the levee system along the Mississippi River grew, swallowing up River Road near the cemetery.
The National Park Service took over management of both the battlefield and cemetery in 1933. They moved the entrance from the river side to the St. Bernard Highway (LA 46) side. Visitors now enter the cemetery from St. Bernard Highway, circle around the GAR monument at the other end, and exit back to the highway.
Chalmette Monument 1930s is a photo from a WPA-sponsored arts program.
Chalmette Monument 1930s
Photo of the monument at Chalmette National Battlefield commemorating the Battle of New Orleans, on 8-January-1815. The obelisk, 100 feet in height, looks over the battlefield, which is one of the five sites of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
Building the Obelisk
The Chalmette Monument 1930s originated in 1840. New Orleans marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the battle in 1840. The battlefield was essentially a sugarcane field in 1840. So, city leaders formed the Jackson Monument Association. They purchased the battlefield site. The association also acquired state funding. Part of the preservation plans included a large-scale monument. Members of the association gathered at the battlefield. They laid the cornerstone of the obelisk.
Construction of the obelisk moved slowly. While Jackson’s death in 1845 sparked interest in the project, the turmoil leading up to the Southern Rebellion stalled the project. So, the actual rebellion completely stalled the project.
The Southern Rebellion itself renewed interest in the battlefield site. While the site was privately held during the Union occupation, the US Army seized a portion of the land. They built a cemetery for both Union and rebel soldiers. Most of the early burials in the cemetery were United States Colored Troops. Rebels buried there were, over time, re-interred to other local cemeteries.
After the rebellion, the cemetery continued as a burial site for military personnel. The cemetery helped renew interest in preserving the overall battlefield site. The federal government designated the battlefield a National Historical Park in 1907. Federal ownership accelerated work on the monument.
The monument and the city
While there are much higher monuments around the US, the Chalmette Monument 1930s offers an incredible view of the battlefield. Chalmette is only about five miles from the city. So, that’s about the length of Canal Street.
Chalmette Battlefield was a long-standing destination for eighth-grade class field trips, as those students studied Louisiana History.
Chalmette Monument 1930s photo was shot by photographer Erol Barkemeyer. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) sponsored a number of arts and historic preservation projects in the late 1930s. So, these programs helped employ people across the nation during the Great Depression. Additionally, WPA programs contributed much to the citys infrastructure. The photo is part of the State Library of Louisiana’s WPA collection.