Battle of New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815, and was the final major battle
of the War of 1812. American forces under General Andrew Jackson decisively defeated
an invading British army intent on seizing New Orleans and America's western lands. The
Treaty of Ghent had been signed on December 24, 1814, but news of the peace would not
reach New Orleans until February.
By December 12, 1814, a large British fleet, under the command of Sir Alexander Cochrane,
with more than 10,000 soldiers and sailors aboard had anchored off the eastern Louisiana
coast at Lake Borgne. Protecting the entrance to the lake were five American gunboats.
On December 14, British sailors in rowing boats, each boat armed with a small cannon,
captured the vastly outnumbered gunboats in a brief but violent battle. Now free to navigate
Lake Borgne, thousands of British soldiers, under the command of General John Keane,
were rowed to an encampment on Pea Island, about 30 miles from New Orleans.
On the morning of December 23, a vanguard of 1,500 to 2,000 British soldiers, reached the
east bank of the Mississippi River, less than ten miles south of New Orleans. Later that
day, when news of the British position reached Jackson at New Orleans he reportedly said,
"Gentlemen, the British are below us, we fight them tonight." Jackson quickly sent about
2,000 of his troops from New Orleans to a position immediately north of the British to block
them from making any further advances toward the city. Jackson, because he needed time
to get his artillery into position, decided to immediately attack the British.
On the night of December 23, Jackson personally led a three-pronged attack on the British
camp which lasted until early morning. After capturing some equipment and supplies, the
Americans withdrew to New Orleans suffering a reported 24 killed, 115 wounded and 74
missing or captured, while the British claimed their losses as 46 killed, 167 wounded, and
64 missing or captured.
This stalled the British advance long enough for the Americans to bring in their heavy artillery
and establish earthworks along a portion of the east bank of the Mississippi River. On
Christmas Day, General Edward Pakenham arrived on the battlefield and ordered a
reconnaissance-in-force against the American earthworks protecting the roads to New
Orleans. On December 28, groups of British troops made probing attacks against the
When the British troops withdrew, the Americans began construction of artillery batteries
to protect the earthworks which were then christened “Line Jackson”. The Americans
installed eight batteries, which included one 32-pound gun, three 24-pounders, one
18-pounder, three 12-pounders, three 6-pounders and a 6-inch howitzer. Jackson also sent
a detachment of men to the west bank of the Mississippi to man two 24-pounders and two
12-pounders from the grounded warship Louisiana.
The main British army arrived on New Year's Day, and attacked the earthworks using their
artillery. An exchange of artillery fire began that lasted for three hours. Several of the
American guns were destroyed or knocked out, including the 32-pounder, a 24-pounder
and a 12-pounder, and some damage was done to the earthworks. While the Americans
held their ground, the British guns ran out of ammunition, which led Pakenham to cancel
the attack. Pakenham decided to wait for his entire force of over 8,000 men to assemble
before launching his attack.
Battle of January 8
In the early morning of January 8, Pakenham ordered a two pronged assault against
Jackson's position: a small force on the west bank of the Mississippi and the main
one directly against the earthworks which were manned by the vast majority of American
The attack began under a heavy fog, but as the British neared the main enemy line, the
fog suddenly lifted, exposing them to withering artillery fire. The British tried to close the
gap, but discovered that the ladders needed to cross a canal and scale the earthworks
had been forgotten; it did not matter because the soldiers did not reach the canal. Most
of the senior officers were killed or wounded, and the British infantry could do nothing but
stand in the open and be mown down by a combination of musket fire and grapeshot from
There were two large, direct assaults on the American position which were repulsed.
Pakenham was fatally wounded, while on horseback, by grapeshot fired from the earthworks.
General John Lambert assumed command and ordered a withdrawal.
The only British success was on the west bank of the Mississippi River, where a 700-man
detachment attacked and overwhelmed the American line. But when they saw the defeat
and withdrawal of their main army on the east bank, they decided to withdraw also, taking
a few American prisoners and cannons with them.
At the end of the day, the British had 2,037 casualties: 291 dead (including three senior
generals), 1,262 wounded and 484 captured or missing. The Americans had 71
casualties: 13 dead, 39 wounded and 19 missing.
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