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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Chalmette Battlefield (June 4)

We had originally planned on going to the National Historic Park of New Orleans Jazz, but we really didn't want to battle traffic to get to the French Quarter again...and also it seems to be temporarily relocated and we didn't want to go to that other location, either. But we knew that the kids were looking forward to earning their first Junior Ranger badge of the trip, so we came up with a new plan and went to the Chalmette Battlefield instead!

Here's Phoebe wandering around with a big bag of "brrr...brrrr..." ice in the hotel room while we were finalizing our plans and packing up in the morning (the ice was destined for the cooler, obviously):

We arrived right as they opened (before the visitor's center had even opened its doors, actually) and were right ready to go when they finally unlocked things.

Here are some interesting pictures of the trees that someone took while we were waiting (the camera was passed around a bit, so...who knows who actually took these pictures):

We also went out on the levees that snake along the bank of the Mississippi River (because they were there...and we weren't quite sure what they were):

Unfortunately, we found the levees to be dry.

We also found a salt marsh caterpillar bustling along the levee. He was so cute and fluffy. Everyone immediately wanted to touch him, but I made them hold off until I identified it and looked it up to see whether it was a variety of stinging caterpillars (because those make us cry), but evidently they are typically harmless (unless you're particularly sensitive to caterpillar hairs...or...if you, you know, eat it, or something).

Here are a bunch of pictures of us really appreciating this caterpillar...

Benjamin really wanted to keep it as a pet (I said no because I'm pretty sure collecting bugs from national parks is frowned upon, but also because—pragmatically speaking—we were hurtling across the continent to a desert and I wasn't sure that a salt marsh caterpillar would thrive on such a journey...though evidently their host plants are normal, nationally prevalent plants (like dandelions and clover) and they've been spotted all over the place (except not Utah), so perhaps it would have done just fine).

Phoebe wanted to touch it...

...and was thrilled to pieces to be allowed to do so.

She's also holding a leaf because she likes to play a game where she stuffs leaves into people's mouths:

She was feeling sad about having to get back into the car this morning (little did she know the plans we had in store for her the next three weeks of her life) and was still upset when we arrived, so Rachel let her shove some leaves in her mouth to cheer her up and it really did the trick!

It's just so funny. Clearly.

Anyway, here's Alexander taking a turn with this little caterpillar:


Onto the purpose of this trip—to learn about the Chalmette Battlefield! 

Chalmette was the site of the January 8, 1815 battle during the War of 1812. The National Parks Service informs us that "Many people believe that this last great battle of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain was unnecessary, since the treaty ending the war was signed in late 1814, but the war was not over. The resounding American victory at the Battle of New Orleans soon became a symbol of a new idea: American democracy triumphing over the old European ideas of aristocracy and entitlement. General Andrew Jackson's hastily assembled army had won the day against a battle-hardened and numerically superior British force. Americans took great pride in the victory and for decades celebrated January 8 as a national holiday, just like the Fourth of July."

I'm going to be honest, I...tend to get a little bored at battlefields...and found the history of the pirate Jean Lafitte to be much more interesting (perhaps because we'd just watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in Florida). But I digress...

Grandpa helping Alexander and Zoë with a Junior Ranger activity

The kids worked on their Junior Ranger booklets for quite some time (probably more than an hour). The booklets were pretty intense, I'm not going to lie (which feels a little unfair because earning the badge online looks way easier). But we learned about the cannons—how most of them were painted blue (army?) but one cannon was red (navy?). 


The kids taught Phoebe to yell down the barrel (?) of the cannon, and she really enjoyed that.


Here is Phoebe visiting with a little dragonfly (you can see it hovering right by her arm):


It darted towards her, which made her squeal, partly in terror, partly in glee (you can still see it hovering nearby if you look at her dress):


And here she is coming to tell me that she had picked up some sort of bug. I love that "bug" is one of her first words. She really, really likes bugs!


Here's the monument to the battle, which was originally finished in 1908, but which was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Evidently it was repaired by 2013 and reopened to the public, but it didn't seem very open to us. We didn't even know to attempt to climb the monument!


And here is the Malus-Beauregard House, constructed in the 1830s (after the War of 1812 had ended, obviously). We liked that the house seemed to be 50% porches. There was a row of balconies on the front and a matching row on the back, with a skinny little house in the middle (and I'm not really sure what I mean by "skinny little house" because this technically qualifies as a mansion).


Here's a shot of one of the green storm doors:


Behind these are evidently elegant french doors (though we didn't get to see those). 

Inside the visitor's center we explored some exhibits and finished hunting for the answers in our Junior Ranger packets. We always appreciate a good interactive exhibit; here we are lifting cannon balls:









And here are the kids getting sworn in as official Junior Rangers:


After this we loaded back into our vehicles and headed off an 8.5 hour drive to San Antonio! It was so interesting to drive through (technically over) all the swamplands. I couldn't stop thinking about how we (and I'm using this term loosely to mean humans in the form of engineers and construction workers and so forth) managed to build such an intricate series of bridges! How did people even travel in this area before the bridges were built? By boat, I suppose...

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