Bill Capo / Eyewitness News WWL
NEW ORLEANS - Work is already underway at the historic Cabildo to prepare for a special celebration in January to mark the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans.
"Well, this is going to be the keystone exhibition for the country about the Battle of New Orleans," said state museums executive director Mark Tullos.
The exhibit will contain artifacts and descriptions of General Andrew Jackson leading American troops to victory against a far superior British force.
"This was the most important battle, I believe, in our country's history," said Tullos. "We would not be a free nation if we had lost the Battle of New Orleans."
The first thing you see is a large cannon that sits at the Cabildo entrance, a naval cannon from the Spanish Colonial era that was used at the Battle of New Orleans.
Now the State Museum maintenance crew is building a special new carriage designed to look just like that used to carry a three ton cannon capable of firing long distances
"This is a very powerful cannon," said Science & Technology Curator Polly Rolman-Smith. "It would have been the kind used in the back lines of the defenses."
The cannon was given to the state museum system in 1908. It's been sitting in front of the Cabildo, pointing towards Jackson Square for more than a century. Recently the maintenance department decided to look inside, guess what they found? They couldn't believe it, there was a cannon ball at least 150 years old, down the muzzle.
"You could see the part, like part of the sphere of the cannonball down there," said Maintenance Director Wade Levy. "I thought oh my God, I couldn't believe it was a cannonball."
They found an 18-pound cannonball inside it. It was split in half, but the cannon was also used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War, which made cannonballs this way, then welded them.
"So you find them often split in half like this cannonball," said Rolman-Smith. "We also found several shells, and pieces of iron, things that would have been used as shrapnel."
"I couldn't believe it was there for all those years, and then now we're finally discovering it," said Levy.
"It was loaded for a century," said Tullos. "Well this is New Orleans."
The Battle of New Orleans bicentennial exhibition is a $100,000 project, so they are seeking donations like the $10,000 given by the Baldwin Haspel law firm to build the carriage for the cannon. For more information, call the State Museum Foundation at 558-0493, or visit their website at www.thelmf.org.