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Ignace de Lino de Chalmette

Ignace de Lino de Chalmette served as the chief engineer of the Louisiana colony and owner of the Chalmette Plantation.

Ignace de Lino de Chalmette

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Battle of New Orleans. Carter, Dennis Malone (artist)

The St. Bernard Parish city of Chalmette is named after Ignace Martin de Lino de Chalmette, the owner of a plantation that predated the town and upon whose property the 1815 Battle of New Orleans was fought. The Chalmette plantation was burned during the fight between British forces and American troops under the command of Gen. Andrew Jackson. The family had evacuated prior to the warfare, but so devastating was the loss that Chalmette himself died from stress afterward.

Chalmette was born August 23, 1755, in New Orleans, the son of Louis Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (the first Chalmette to establish himself in Louisiana, Louis died in 1755, the year of his son’s birth) and Magdelaine Marguerite Broutin, daughter of Ignace François Broutin, royal engineer in the colony and commandant of the Natchez post in Mississippi, and granddaughter of the well-known real-estate developer Baroness Micaela Leonarda Almonester de Pontalba. The surname is derived from chalmette, the French word for pasture land or fallow land, particularly that found in mountainous areas.

Ignace Chalmette was a wealthy and respected citizen, a man of the most distinguished ancestry, whose wife was the daughter of the Marquis de Vaugine. Chalmette’s great-grandfather was René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière, a French-Canadian poet who was granted a seigneury in New France in 1672, becoming chief councilor of the Sovereign Council of New France two years later (a post King Louis XIV of France granted him for life). In 1678 de Lotbinière married Marie Madeleine Lambert du Mont in Québec City. His sister married Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, governor-general of New France from 1703 to 1725, making de Lotbinière the uncle of the last governor-general of New France, Pierre François de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal.

René-Louis’s mother was Élisabeth d’Amours de Clignancourt, whose father was chief councilor to King Henri IV of France at the Grand Châtelet, Paris. In 1651, at the age of ten, René-Louis arrived with his parents in New France and was educated there at the Jesuit’s College in Québec City (founded in 1635 under Samuel de Champlain).

Ignace, who bore the same given name as his grandfather, became guardian of the young Bernard de Marigny, the French-Creole nobleman who went on to serve as president of the Louisiana Senate in the 1820s. According to historian Grace King, Chalmette would repeat to the young spendthrift Bernard, “Get education—a man without education is only half a man.” It was Bernard’s father who persuaded Chalmette to purchase a plantation downriver from the city, “presumably the very plantation upon which the battle was fought,” according to King in her 1921 book Creole Families of New Orleans.

King described Ignace Martin de Lino de Chalmette as an “easy-tempered, pleasure-loving sugar planter” who was a great shot, winning a silver trophy for a shooting contest in 1812.

Despite his impeccable pedigree and wealth, the battle fought on his plantation’s land may have ultimately cost Chalmette his very life. As the British approached, Chalmette and his family were forced to quickly abandon their mansion, leaving little time to move their belongings to safety. The family’s slaves hastened through Jackson’s military lines carrying whatever they could of the family’s treasures—only a small fraction, however, of the home’s grandiose furnishings.

Chalmette found refuge in a small house on Bourbon Street, between Conti and Bienville. On February 2, less than a month after the battle, he rode down to his deserted home, only to find that it had been torched. At fifty-nine years old, he felt he was too old to repair his shattered fortunes and found his loss was simply irreparable. About a week later, on February 10, 1815, Chalmette died and was laid to rest in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

In 1817 Chalmette’s heirs sold the battle-scarred plantation to brothers Hilaire and Louis St. Amand, wealthy freemen of color. In 1832 Alexander Baron bought one of the westernmost of the St. Amand tracts, and in 1833 he had a residence in the French-Creole style constructed on the property for his mother-in-law, Madeleine Pannetier (widow of Guillaume Malus). A succession of owners who used the property as a country retreat followed, including Rene Toutant Beauregard, eldest son of Confederate Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard. The extant Malus-Beauregard Home on the battleground site is now a unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park maintained by the National Park Service, which acquired the land in 1933.