Posts tagged ‘Battle of New Orleans 1814-1815’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 8-March 14)

General Jackson Relents.

March 13

Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson statue in Washington, DC. (Photo by Debaird via wikipedia)

Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson statue in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Debaird via wikipedia)

Another sign that things are beginning to return to normal in America after two and a half years of war with Great Britain comes from Major General Andrew Jackson, finally lifts martial law in New Orleans, which he imposed in December 1814.

When Jackson took command of the defense of New Orleans in early December he confronted a panicky city where the majority of residents were French or Spanish-speakers (the United States acquired New Orleans along with the rest of the Louisiana Territory from France just 11 years earlier) who had little or no support for the American cause — just fears that the British might sack and burn the Crescent City on the Mississippi.

Some politicians publicly and privately speculated that it might be safer for all if Jackson surrendered the city to the British. Jackson fired back that if he thought the British would beat him on the battlefield, he would torch the city and fight them amid the flames.

Stating the entire city and its environs a military camp in time of war, Jackson declared martial law on December 16, 1814 — meaning several rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, including the right of habeas corpus, were suspended and military courts were try all cases. It was the first time martial law had been declared in U.S. history.

Most residents put up with the changes while the British threatened but chafed under martial law once the British were defeated and left Louisiana in lat January. Jackson, wary that the British might return, refused to lift martial law. He jailed a state senator who criticized the general’s high-handed ways in a newspaper article. Then Jackson jailed a federal judge who demanded the general from Tennessee either charge the lawmaker or release him.

Jackson also refused to end martial law when British newspapers arrived in New Orleans proclaiming the peace Treaty of Ghent had been signed on Christmas Eve.

Jackson relented and ended martial law after official word of the peace treaty arrives from Washington on March 12.

The judge whom Jackson jailed fines him $1,000 for contempt of court but does not order the general jailed because of his service in during the New Orleans campaign. Many years later, Jackson gets Congress to pass legislation refunding the fine.

For an in-depth evaluation of whether Jackson was justified in declaring martial law and what the implications were for future presidents, click here.

March 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 11-January 17, 1815)

Siege of Fort St. Philip.

January 10-17

HMS Erebus a British bomb vessel similar to the ones used against Fort Saint Philip, Louisiana after the Battle of New Orleans. (via wikipedia)

HMS Erebus a British bomb vessel similar to the ones used against Fort Saint Philip, Louisiana after the Battle of New Orleans.
(via wikipedia)

The small, rugged Fort St. Philip along a bend in the Mississippi River blocks the way for the Royal Navy, preventing a naval bombardment of the city of New Orleans. British Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane (the man who commanded the attacks on Washington and Baltimore in late summer) orders a small squadron of five ships including two bomb vessels, to reduce the fort, move up river and support the British army in an attack on New Orleans.

But more than 400 Army regulars — infantry and artillerymen — black and white Louisiana militia and about 40 sailors — are prepared for attack. All the fort’s wooden buildings, like barracks, have been dismantled as a possible fire hazard. The powder magazine is divided into several smaller magazines around the fort, all buried under several feet of earth and timber.

Starting late on January 9, the Royal Navy — anchored more than two miles downstream — begins shelling the fort. Many of the shells bury themselves in the swampy morass surrounding the fort and fail to explode. Others fall short or sail harmlessly overhead. Frequent attempts to approach the fort in longboats are driven off by the fort’s small arms. So far the shelling has killed only one man and wounded two others. No part of the fort has been severely damaged although several cannon have had their carriages damaged.

Day after day the British bombard the small fort — except for two hour meal breaks at noon and sunset. It rains constantly, turning most of the fort’s interior into a lake. The fort’s tents have been shredded by the British shelling and there is little shelter from the elements. None of the fort’s 34 guns can reach the British ships, except one, a large mortar, but it doesn’t have the right ammunition.

British attack on Fort St. Philip. (National Park Service)

British attack on Fort St. Philip.
(National Park Service)

On January 15, supply ships from New Orleans reach the fort bringing much-needed food and the proper ammunition for the mortar. By January 17, the gun crews have the big mortar all ready and finally return fire on the British. One mortar round strikes one of the bomb ships, doing unknown damage. The British bombardment stops at sunset.

Battle of Fort Peter

January 13-14

Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn  (with Washington, DC afire in background)

An 1817 painting of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn (with Washington, DC afire in background)

When Admiral Cochrane sailed off to New Orleans in December, he left behind Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn (the man who suggested attacking Washington and Baltimore) to raid around Chesapeake Bay and along the southern U.S. coast to create a diversion and keep the Americans off balance.

On January 10, soldiers of the 2nd West Indian Regiment and Royal Marines under Cockburn land on Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast. They number about 1,000 men. Three days later Cockburn’s ships begin bombarding Fort Peter on the Georgia mainland near the town of St. Mary’s. The St. Mary’s River marks the boundary between British-allied Spanish Florida and the United States. Runaway American slaves flee south into Florida and Native American raiding parties attack  Georgia plantations and settlements from the largely-ungoverned Spanish colony.

Cockburn lands troops at Point Peter, attacks Fort Peter and takes it without suffering any casualties. On their way to sack St. Mary’s the British force encounters a small American force of 160 Army regulars. There’s a brief skirmish. The Americans suffer 1 killed, 4 wounded and 9 missing before withdrawing in the face of a force that outnumbers them almost 7-to-1.

Map of the St. Mary's River area by Karl Musser via Wikipedia

Map of the St. Mary’s River area by Karl Musser via Wikipedia

On January 15 the British capture St. Mary’s even though there is another small fort just outside the town. In addition to burning Fort Peter, the British capture two American gunboats and a dozen merchant vessels. Cockburn’s men occupy the area for about a week before withdrawing back to Cumberland Island. They suffer only 3 dead and 5 wounded. With no one in North America yet aware that a peace treaty has been reached in Belgium, the British begin planning a raid in force on Savannah, Georgia.

January 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 4-January 10, 1815) Part III

New Orleans: The Last Battle.
PART III of Three Parts, The Ending

(Click on all images to enlarge)

Very few of the British troops made it as far as the Americans' mud and log rampart, which was built by black slaves commandeered from area plantations. (Courtesy U.S. Army)

Very few of the British troops made it as far as the Americans’ mud and log rampart, which was built by black slaves commandeered from area plantations.
(Courtesy U.S. Army)

January 8-10
As Major General Andrew Jackson moves along the length of his defensive line congratulating and praising his men for their resounding victory over the British late in the morning of January 8, he suddenly realizes he hasn’t heard any firing from the American positions on the west side of the Mississippi River directly across from the battlefield before him.

Navy Commodore Daniel Patterson commands a battery perpendicular to Jackson’s battle line to catch the British in a crossfire as they advance on Jackson’s right (close to the river). In addition to the sailors and Lafitte pirates manning those guns, Brigadier General David Morgan has 600 men and three cannon stationed a mile or so downriver to defend Patterson’s river battery.
The night before (January 7), British Colonel William Thornton crosses the Mississippi with about 450 soldiers, sailors and marines to capture Commodore Patterson’s guns and turn them on Jackson when the main British attack begins in the morning.

Thornton’s barges get a late start (see Part II), then the Mississippi’s strong current pull his barges farther down river than planned. By the time Thornton gets his men ashore and assembled on the morning of the 9th, General Pakenham has launched the British attack on the other side of the river.

British attack on west side of Mississippi River. (National Park Service)

British attack on west side of Mississippi River.
(National Park Service)

Thornton easily routs the first line of American defenders, about 120 poorly trained Louisiana militia armed with bird-hunting guns and ammunition too big to fit in their gun barrels. A little father on, the British encounter the Louisiana militia again joined by a Kentucky militia detachment – also poorly armed and exhausted after an all-night march from U.S. headquarters. The Americans fire a few volleys but flee when three small British gunboats accompanying Thornton’s men open fire from the river. Marching farther northwest along the Mississippi, Thornton’s men encounter General Morgan’s final defensive line, a ditch with waist-high earthworks behind it. Morgan’s troops pour several volleys into the British before their right flank is turned and British sailors punch through their defenses. The Louisiana troops flee into the swamps and the Kentuckians run pell-mell for the Patterson’s river battery. Neither Morgan nor the Kentucky commander can stop the rout. The three gun crews, now out of ammunition, spike their guns, dump them in the river and retreat.

Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson (By John Wesley Jarvis)

Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson
(By John Wesley Jarvis)

Three hundred yards farther upriver, Commodore Patterson sees the Kentuckians fleeing toward him. As he orders his guns turned to meet the approaching British, he realizes he can’t fire on the enemy without hitting Americans. When the Kentucky boys won’t stop running, the outraged Navy man orders one of his gunners to fire on “those damned cowards.” Just as the young midshipman is about to fire, Patterson countermands his own order. Calming down, he realizes his position is untenable. He orders his men to spike their guns, dump the remaining gunpowder into the Mississippi and retreat to the U.S.S. Louisiana, moored about 300 yards away. Patterson then turns and stalks off cursing the British and the Kentuckians.

Across the river, Andy Jackson is also cursing the Kentuckians and sends 400 soldiers across the river to reinforce Morgan, whose force now consists mostly of Louisiana militiamen and the Kentucky officers who didn’t flee. British troops lining the east side of the river cheer when Patterson’s river battery ceases firing on them, but those guns stay silent when Thornton discovers the Americans have rendered them useless. In a little while he receives orders to withdraw back to the east side of the Mississippi. The two-pronged British attack has failed. Pakenham is dead. Two other senior commanders are gravely wounded and hundreds of redcoats lie dead before Jackson’s ramparts. The numbers vary, depending on who is doing the counting, although all sources agree the British suffered more than 2,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner. American casualties in all the fighting on both sides of the river total: 55 dead, 185 wounded and 93 missing.
Jackson assents to a British request for a temporary truce to exchange prisoners, bury the dead and care for the wounded, but Old Hickory keeps his guard up and his eyes peeled for the next move of the still dangerous British invasion force. Even though New Orleans is now safe, the British could attack Mobile or Pensacola.

 

January 9-10

While Pakenham was mounting his two-pronged land attack on either side of the Mississippi, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, the overall commander of the invasion force, decides to try sailing up the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Cochrane sends five ships, including two bomb ships like the ones he used to bombard Fort McHenry outside Baltimore five months earlier, up the river to attack a small U.S. strongpoint, Fort Saint Philip. The fort, bristling with 34 guns (more than Jackson had at Chalmette Plantation), commands the Mississippi about 80 miles south of New Orleans. If the Royal Navy can reduce the fort, it can sail up the river, outflank Jackson and bombard New Orleans – at least that’s the plan.

British attack on Fort St. Philip. (National Park Service)

British attack on Fort St. Philip.
(National Park Service)

At 3:30 p.m. on January 9 – a full day after the British defeat upriver – the Royal Navy bomb ships begin firing on the fort, which contains a little over 400 defenders—mostly Army regulars, with 50 Louisiana volunteers, 30 Free Men of Color and 40 sailors. The British are anchored out of range of all the American guns, except one, a mortar which doesn’t have the right size ammunition.
The bombardment continues all day, every day from January 10 to January 14 – with the exception of two hours every day at noon and sunset when the Royal Navy has lunch and dinner.

Battle of New Orleans 2015 commemorative stamp (U.S. Postal Service)

Battle of New Orleans 2015 commemorative stamp
(U.S. Postal Service)

EDITOR’s NOTE:
While the last big battle of the War of 1812 is concluded and negotiators in Ghent, Belgium have already agreed to a peace treaty (December 24, 1814) word of the treaty – which must be ratified by Congress and signed by President Madison – is still a month away in an era without undersea telegraph cables, railroads or fast moving steamships.
Meanwhile, the British naval blockade is still on, U.S. Navy and privateer ships are still raiding at sea, the Army is still trying to wrest control of the Upper Mississippi region from the British-Canadians and their Indian allies and the Treaty of Ghent, as well as the Constitutional resolutions of the recently ended Hartford Convention have not yet reached Washington.
So stay tuned, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 will continue here at 4GWAR until mid-March.

Je suis Charlie

January 9, 2015 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 4-January 10, 1815) Part II

New Orleans: The Last Battle

PART II of Three Parts. Day of Battle

January 7-8, 1815

Major Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, by Frederick Coffay Yohn, circa 1922. (Library of Congress)

Major Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, by Frederick Coffay Yohn, circa 1922. (Library of Congress)

The night before the British assault on Jackson’s line along the Rodriguez Canal on the northern edge of Chalmette Plantation, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham orders 1,400 of his men to row across the Mississippi River to attack Jackson’s “marine battery” on the Western bank of the river.

British Colonel William Thornton is to drive off the American troops guarding the marine battery, which can spread covering fire in front of Jackson’s defenses, seize the guns by daybreak and turn them on the Americans. Once Thornton opens fire on the Americans, Pakenham will launch his attack on the eastern side of the river.

But the plan goes awry almost immediately. The narrow canal the British have been digging for nearly a week through the bayous connecting the Mississippi to Lake Borgne, collapses in places. That forces the British sailors and marines to push and drag their heavy barges through the mud. What is supposed to take two hours takes eight. By the time Thornton is supposed to push off, only a few boats have been delivered, so he sets out with just 340 soldiers, 50 sailors and 50 marines – about 1,000 less than planned.

On the Western bank, Commodore Daniel Patterson, the U.S. Navy commander sees the British preparations and sends an aide to Jackson, warning that the main British strike may come on the lightly defended west side of the river. Guarding the approach to Paterson’s battery is a thin line of some 400 Louisiana and Kentucky militia — poorly trained and even more poorly armed.
Jackson sends the aide back to Patterson and Morgan, saying they are wrong and the main attack will come against him. Jackson adds that he has no troops to spare and the colonel and commodore must make do with the men they have.

The battlefield at Chalmette Plantation. (History Dept., U.S. Military Academy)

The battlefield at Chalmette Plantation.
(History Dept., U.S. Military Academy)

Jackson’s approximately 4,000 troops include two understrength regular Army regiments – the 7th and 44th Infantry – Tennessee and Kentucky militia, Lafitte’s pirates, Choctaw Indians, a company of New Orleans riflemen, three small battalions of New Orleans Creole gentlemen and merchants – including one consisting of Free Men of Color – some U.S. Navy men and about 50 U.S. Marines. A mile behind them is a second, reserve line consisting of some Kentucky and Louisiana militia, about 100 Mississippi Dragoons and other small cavalry units.

At 4 a.m., Brigadier John Adair leads about 1,000 Kentucky militia into the front line to support the repulse of any British breakthroughs.
Meanwhile the British attack is falling behind schedule as a regiment that is supposed to be carrying the scaling ladders needed to breach Jackson’s mud and log rampart is slow getting into place at the head of the main attack column. Not wanting to delay any longer, Pakenham orders the attack to begin.

U.S. outposts are startled by the British rocket, signaling the attack. The Americans flee to a redoubt built just below the rampart near the Mississippi River but the British charge overwhelms them after hand-to-hand fighting. Those who can, flee over the rampart but when the British pursue, they are cut down by a storm of cannon, rifle and musket fire from the nearest American battery and the marine battery across the river. Next, a West Indian regiment carrying ladders fails to advance in the face of the American gunfire.

On the British right, the regiment assigned to carry the scaling ladders and fascines (rough bundles of brush and wood to fill in the ditch in front of the rampart) is still at the rear. The morning fog dissipates and the entire British force is not visible to the Americans.

Then the Americans open up with cannon balls, grape shot (like really big buckshot) and canister (similar to grapeshot but consisting of scrap metal and nails. The disciplined British troops march on, ironically toward the part of Jackson’s line with the biggest concentration of defenders. Hundreds of British soldiers fall dead and wounded under the withering fire from 200 yards away.
Dozens of British officers fell and soon the attack began to falter. The 44th Regiment – the ones with the ladders and fascines – finally show up with Pakenham leading them. He is soon shot in the arm and his horse shot from under him. Pakenham mounts another horse and tries to rally his faltering men.

A fanciful rendering of  Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, by painter Edward Percy Moran in 1910.

A fanciful rendering of Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, by painter Edward Percy Moran in 1910.

The British rally when a Scottish Regiment, the 93rd Highlanders, comes running to support the main attack. But more American volleys slow them down and kill their colonel. Pakenham orders the reserves committed but the bugler is shot before he can sound and waved his hat to cheer the highlanders. But another American volley of grape shot strikes Pakenham and killed his horse. The British commander dies a short time later. Two other general officers are killed or wounded. Leaderless, the British attack breaks up.

About 200 British soldiers make it to the rampart and some even climb the parapet but are quickly shot or captured. Within half an hour of the battle’s start, it is over. The field is littered with dead and wounded redcoats. Three generals, seven colonels, 75 other officers and nearly 2,000 soldiers have fallen, according to Jackson biographer Robert V. Remini.

By contrast, the Americans lose only 13 killed and about 50 wounded on the east side of the Mississippi. Losses are higher on the little-known battle on the west side of the river.

The death of Major Gen. Pakenham.

The death of Major Gen. Pakenham.

Tomorrow — New Orleans: The Ending

(Please click on all photos to enlarge the image)

January 7, 2015 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 4-January 10, 1815) Part I

New Orleans: The Last Battle.

PART I of Three Parts. Prelude to Battle

Major General Andrew Jackson

Major General Andrew Jackson

December 28-January 1

Enraged and embarrassed by their failed December 28 attack on Andrew Jackson’s defensive line along the Rodriguez Canal, the British are making plans for one final grand battle to take New Orleans (only 9 miles away) and crush the Americans’ will to continue fighting. Apparently, they don’t know much about the lean, hawk-faced major general from Tennessee.

When worried New Orleans politicians ask Jackson what he would do if the British broke through his lines, he snarled that if the hair on his head knew his plans he  would cut it off.  To an aide he confides he would retreat, set fire to the city and fight the enemy “amidst the surrounding flames.”

While the British take days to bring up more men and heavy guns for the final assault, Jackson is using the time to strengthen the mud and log rampart facing Chalmette plantation where the British are camped. The “canal,” really a dry ditch runs nearly a mile from the Mississippi River on his army’s right to woods and cypress swamps on its left.

Jackson also sets up eight gun batteries along his line with a total of 14 guns, ranging from a 6-inch howitzer to a Navy 32-pounder. The batteries are manned by U.S. Army artillery men, Navy gunners, U.S. Marines, Creole volunteers – many of them veterans of Napoleon’s Grande Armée – and seasoned gunners from Jean Lafitte’s pirate/privateer crews.

Jackson’s defense line curls around like a fish hook once it hits the swamps – to avoid being flanked by the British. While this work goes on, Choctaw Indians and Tennessee sharpshooters sneak out at dusk to raid British outposts, killing or capturing luckless sentries and stripping them of their weapons and ammunition.

Jackson has also sent 400 men, mostly from the Louisiana militia, to defend a small battery of cannons on the West side of the Mississippi aimed at the area in front of the rampart to catch any advancing British troops in a cross-fire with the guns on the rampart. Later, Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson, the American naval commander at New Orleans, sends two more guns from the U.S.S. Louisiana to the marine battery to pepper the British camp with harassing fire.

Meanwhile, the British have brought up 30 heavy naval guns from their fleet anchored off Lake Borgne in the Gulf of Mexico, rowing them across the lake and then dragging them though the bayous to the British camp.

Under cover of night on December 31, the British begin setting up the heavy guns in three fortified positions. American sentries hear the British soldiers and sailors digging out on the dark but can’t see what they’re doing. A fog at dawn January 1, 1815, obscures the British strong points just 300 yards from the American defenses.

At the urging of local gentry, Jackson calls off work on the defenses for New Year’s Day and a grand review of all units in full uniform starts up. The British hiding in their fortified artillery batteries can hear fiddle music, drums and bugles coming from the American lines. Visitors from New Orleans have come to see friends and relatives among the American defenders and to witness the review.

Then at about 10 a.m. the fog lifts and the British guns open up, sowing confusion among the troops and panic among the civilian spectators. Jackson and his staff are finishing breakfast at headquarters in the Macarty plantation house when British shells nearly demolish the building. Jackson and company manage to escape unharmed, then restore order and get the American guns firing.

For nearly two hours the American and British blast away at each other. The Americans have fewer, less powerful guns but the gunners and the riflemen protecting them surprise the British with their accuracy. In their haste to take the Americans by the surprise when the fog lifted, the British gunners got the range wrong. Most shells sail over the American lines, striking civilians who have taken refuge farther back. The British cannon balls that do hit the American line sink harmlessly into the mud rampart. The American fire is more telling and five British guns are disabled and most of the gun crews killed or wounded by “Yankee” riflemen. By 3 p.m. the British cease firing and abandon their positions. They abandon the remaining cannon under heavy sniper fire. Surprisingly, the Americans make no effort to seize or spike (make useless) the British cannon. The king’ forces lose 44 dead and 55 wounded to the American gunners. The American losses are far less, 11 dead, 23 wounded – most of them civilians. Major General Edward Pakenham, the British commander, calls off a planned attack since the American rampart is relatively unscathed although three U.S. guns have been damaged and two ammunition wagon was struck and blown up.

Battle of New Orleans by Dennis M. Carter 1856.

Battle of New Orleans by Dennis M. Carter 1856.

January 2

American spirits rise with the arrival of more than 1,500 volunteers from Kentucky. But the reinforcements are in tatters after marching through rain, mud and cold from Natchez in Mississippi Territory. Also, about two thirds of them have no guns.

The citizens of New Orleans and surrounding Louisiana parishes raise $16,100 to clothe the frozen Kentuckians, making pants, shirts, coats and waist coats for their protectors. The 550 Kentuckians that do have weapons are sent to bolster Jackson’s right flank, where the ditch and rampart reach the cypress swamps. This is also where the Tennesseans and Choctaws have been raising cain with the British at night. The Indians alone have killed or wounded 50 men.

January 6

British spirits lift when reinforcements arrive in camp. Two regiments totaling 1,700 men boost the British invasion force – soldiers, sailors and Marines – to between 7,000 and 8,000. Most accounts put Jackson’s forces at somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

With these added troops, Pakenham decides to launch a two-pronged attack on Jackson from both sides of the river on January 8, 1815.

Tomorrow — New Orleans: Day of Battle

 

 

 

 

January 5, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (December 28, 1814-January 3, 1815)

General Packenham’s Decision.

Major General Sir Edward Pakenham (Courtesy National Park Service)

Major General Sir Edward Pakenham
(Courtesy National Park Service)

December 28

Three days after arriving in the swamps of Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta, British Major General Sir Edward Pakenham contemplates the mess his army is in.

When Pakenham arrives with 3,000 fresh troops at the British camp on Christmas Day, he is greeted with cheers and celebratory gunfire. But Pakenham also finds an army suffering from the winter cold and rains, in a soggy area with no tents between the river and a cypress swamp.

The Americans had surprised the British in their camp the night of the 23rd, killing, wounding and capturing more than 200 redcoats, before they were driven back to the American lines. The camp is continuously shelled by two American ships anchored in the Mississippi across from the British camp. Snipers pick off British sentries, even at night when European military conventions and civility call for a nocturnal cessation of hostilities.

Pakenham calls a meeting of his officers, complains about the location of the camp and, without naming names, chides them for not advancing on New Orleans on the 23rd instead of halting for the night and leaving themselves open to surprise attack. The two-day delay since that attack gives U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson much needed time to build up the defenses around New Orleans and organize his largely amateur army.

Pakenham wants to pull out and attack the city from a different point on the Chef Menteur Road (which was lightly guarded, although Pakenham didn’t know that.) But Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, the nominal commander of the entire army-navy operation, chides Pakenham, saying there is nothing wrong with the Army’s location.

“If the army shrinks from the attack here, I will bring up my sailors and marines from the fleet. We will storm the American lines and march into the city. Then the soldiers can bring up the baggage,” Cochrane says, in jab at Pakenham, according to noted historian Robert V. Remini, in his The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory.

Detail from a 1910 painting of  Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans (Library of Congress)

Detail from a 1910 painting of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans
(Library of Congress)

Not one to back down, Pakenham decides to move on the Americans’ defensive line from his current position. He orders cannon placed on the riverbank to eliminate the two U.S. Navy ships. After one, the U.S.S. Carolina is set afire by heated British cannonballs and blows up, the second, the U.S.S. Louisiana, remains a threat even when driven farther upriver toward New Orleans by British cannon fire.

The Louisiana’s guns as well as those on the nearly mile-long U.S. defensive line paralleling the Rodriguez Canal– a dry ditch that runs into the Mississippi – will catch any attackers in a deadly crossfire.

On the evening of the 27th, the British, formed into two brigades, drive off the American advance guard and march as far as Chalmette plantation – less than a mile from Andrew Jackson’s lines along the Rodriguez canal. The next morning, Pakenham orders his troops to advance. They get within 600 yards of the American defenses, when Jackson orders his men to open fire. Among the cannoneers are Jean Lafitte’s Baratarian pirates and sailors from the sunken U.S.S. Carolina. American cannon, musket and riflefire start to take a toll. The British reply with their own artillery as well as Congreve rockets. But Pakenham orders a general retreat. The Americans lose just 17 killed and wounded in this battle. The British, an estimated 152 killed, wounded or captured. The latest clash may be over, but the Battle of New Orleans is not.

December 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm 1 comment


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