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Why the Louisiana Living History Foundation?
The mission of the Louisiana Living History Foundation is to create world-class recreations of historic events using local re enactors and suppliers and to facilitate participation of educational facilities throughout the state. The LLHF was conceived by a group of individuals who produced the highly acclaimed Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial closing ceremony in 2003 with the goal of encouraging ongoing historic tourism in communities that are now rather overlooked.
This goal ideally converged with upcoming commemorations in Louisiana of the War of 1812 and the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans in 2015. The Battle of New Orleans was the most significant US victory of that war, part of a month long campaign of battles and strategy that is much misunderstood. This campaign of battles took place for the most part in St. Bernard Parish, recently devastated by the disaster of Katrina and the difficulties of the BP oil spill. It is on this land that much of the early history of Louisiana played out and here that all major events of this campaign unfolded.
As Federal law does not allow battle re-creations in any National Park (in which the central battlefield lies), the Foundation needed similar ground in this historic area to facilitate a re enactment. They have been fortunate to partner with the Meraux Foundation, who possessed an ideal site in the heart of the Parish, a site that the Meraux Foundation leased to the LLHF in order to stage a spectacular re-creating of the events of 1814-15. The 62 acre Meraux Foundation tract is on the down river side of the British camp of 1815 and was part of the night battle of the 23rd December. It is a site that allows for recreation of the battlefield with ideal viewing areas for the public.
Based on that ideal venue, with the goal of becoming a permanent asset for the community, the Foundation will create an annual historical festival to be held on the site, with the grounds also available for other festivals, concerts and historical events throughout the year. The annual festival, ‘New Orleans 1815’, will be based on the highly successful ‘Mississinewa 1812’ held annually in Marion, Indiana, a five day festival which has provided a significant economic boost and tourist draw in that state.
‘New Orleans 1815’ will eventually be self-sustaining through an entrance fee for the public, vendor fees for merchants and direct sales by the Foundation. The potential for St. Bernard, where we will be commemorating the most famous battle of the War of 1812 and looking to use the facility throughout the year, could be dramatic.
The 2015 Battle of New Orleans Reenactment
There is international awareness of our upcoming event from historical societies in England, Canada, and Australia, from which there are over a hundred reenactor registrants already, the number growing daily. The fact that there were black troops on both sides during the battle, together with the involvement of Jean Lafitte’s Privateer band, lend to make this event a showcase of our diversity, with opportunities for participation from our entire community, and an event that will be of interest to national media. Already we have within the Foundation a filmmaker whose work has been seen on PBS and the History Channel. There are discussions with the History Channel about covering our event as part of their Save Our History series.
Military Reenactment – As Old as the Coliseum
Military reenactment, the act of re-creating an historic event such as a battle, has a long history of its own. Before the age of television, radio, or even newspapers, great victories and momentous events were re-staged for the masses as public spectacles. In ancient Rome, the most spectacular presentations at the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus were re creations of famous battles by land and sea in which gladiators played the winning side and actually killed criminals, and others condemned to death, who played the ‘bad guys’ or enemies of Rome.
Throughout history, particularly during the Napoleonic wars, governments staged (relatively) bloodless re creations of battles in which they were victorious. In England, Militia and Yeomanry units were used to stage re creations of the significant defeats inflicted on the French during the Peninsular War. This tradition has continued down to today in the form of the Army Pageant or, more usually these days, the Military Tattoo, a mixture of drill display and musical concert.
It is probably true to say that Living History, re-creating a time period and its social aspects, had its origin in 1839 at the height if the Gothic revival, when the Earl of Eglington staged a medieval tournament and everything surrounding it on his estate in Scotland. This early 19th century passion for things medieval even gripped New Orleans and a mock medieval tournament was staged in the city. Since then there have been various themed parties and historical events but it was not until the 1960s that Living History and Military Reenactment were brought together as we know them today.
In 1914 it was announced that the centennial of the Battle of New Orleans would be commemorated. A 100-year-old press release records that the state intended to stage a full recreation of the campaign of 1814-15 for the centennial of the battle; sadly this was not done.
In the late 1950s Brigadier Peter Young founded the English civil war society The Sealed Knott, some of his friends in the United States picked up on this as the centennial of the US civil war was in the offing and modern re-enactment was born on both sides of the Atlantic almost simultaneously.
Today this hobby of reenacting has spread and can be found in the whole of North America, Europe, Russia, Australia and even Japan. Almost every period of human history from ancient Rome to the mid 20th century is re-created. Many communities stage annual events which range from the modest to the spectacular and are usually based around an actual historic event or site in the area, The involvement of the local community and educational institutions are key to these events and each one usually has a designated ‘school days’ when educators can bring their students to what is a full emersion lesson in history. There are also communities in which schools and JROTC present their own programs as part of the event.
The Louisiana Living History Foundation was created in part to ensure that the 200th anniversary would be commemorated, as it should with the most spectacular event staged in the continental US for the commemoration of the War of 1812. Niagara, Baltimore, North Point, Washington DC and New York all have their festivals and re-enactments planed, but none on the scale that we have planned for new Orleans. We are also creating a new annual event, New Orleans 1815, based on our new historical battlefield site which we are developing thanks to the great generosity of the Meraux Foundation and the active support of Mr. Terry Tedesco. This site will continue after the anniversary as a major historical tourism event opening areas of St. Bernard Parish to new visitors, every year we will stage a New Orleans 1815 event to continue to support interest in the battle and local history. Through the rest of the year this site will be available for other historical and non-profit groups to stage events and displays and be available to act as an outdoor set for movies in order to support this burgeoning industry in the area.
Mission Statement of the LLHF
The purpose of the LLHF is to increase public awareness of History in general and Louisiana history in particular by presenting live shows, re-creations, documentary films, websites and exhibitions, both temporary and permanent, that highlight the history of the State of Louisiana and its people and their antecedents, with particular attention being paid to the commemoration of centennial, bicentennial and tercentennial anniversaries in the State of Louisiana.
It will act as a clearinghouse for ideas, and a resource to assist communities throughout the state to research and record their own history, in co-operation with other historical groups.
This will be mainly be accomplished by planning live events using the most skilled living historians in the country and internationally together with local living historians who will be given assistance by the foundation to produce events in local communities. The foundation will assist in writing scripts, giving historical advice and booking specialist performers for the events.
The Foundation will hold a small stock of costumes and equipment for hire that will be loaned at cost to history groups but can be rented at a commercial rate to film, TV and theatrical productions to help defray the cost of their manufacture and storage.
The foundation will be particularly active in commemorating the anniversaries of historical events as living history shows that will allow residents of the state to participate in re creating their history and will take particular care to develop programs for schools and other educational entities to further this aim.
We will encourage music, literature and art programs within the schools of the area particularly of period military bands where the basic skills of musicianship can be learned, and in living history classes where students can immerse themselves in the material culture of the state as it was from its founding.
The activities of the Foundation will be recorded and from this data documentaries and pamphlets will be produced for distribution to schools, museums and other public entities to encourage their own programs of historical Education.
At all times the foundation will base its research and presentations on historical fact as we believe very strongly that it is only by fully understanding the past that a student can truly grasp the realities of the present. We will encourage international links and will place great emphasis on the exchange of culture that has taken place over the years.
We will explore the possibility of producing special exhibitions where the many important private collections in the state will have an opportunity to be seen by the public at large, and more especially record the extant items in private hands so that a fuller understanding of our material culture can be gained.
While the main focus of the foundation will be on the military aspects of the states culture which is at the moment under represented we will be taking care to include those aspects of the secular and religious life that intersect with the military.
Board of DirectorsJames J. Coleman, Jr.
Bonnie Roberts/Marvin Russell
Semmes T. Favrot
Walter F. Wolf