Memorial Day has just passed, it’s fitting to take a look at one of the oldest facilities in the United States for housing soldiers-Jackson Barracks, in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans on St. Claude Avenue. It’s been through a lot since 1833-hell and high water, literally. The old building could tell us some stories about all the military heroes, known and unknown, who served their country there, including some latter-day heroes who helped get New Orleanians out of harm’s way during Hurricane Katrina. You can visit the Jackson Barracks Military Museum and see military artifacts dating back 200 years. That trip is easily combined with a visit to the Chalmette Battlefield, part of the Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve, where you can see the site of the legendary Battle of New Orleans, fought January 8, 1815.
Jackson Barracks, originally known as New Orleans Barracks, was built after the War of 1812. The first militia, consisting of four infantry companies, were housed there in 1837. Built on the river, the original facility had a storehouse, four three-story guard towers, and a prison. It had its own levee, road, railroad, and trolley car tracks. Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, Robert E. Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard and J.E.B. Stuart, were all in these Barracks before the Civil War, although not all at once. After the Mexican-American War, it became the earliest Public Service Hospital for soldiers in the nation in 1849.