The Battle of New Orleans

-Sadie Evans

The battle of New Orleans was a prolonged battle which took place around New Orleans, Louisiana from December 23, 1814 to January26, 1815. It was the final major battle of the War of 1812. General Andrew Jackson commanded the American forces during the battle of New Orleans.

On December 23, 1814 the first battle took place. John Keane made a courageous decision to encamp at Lacoste's Plantation adn wait for the arrival of reinforcements. During that afternoon, after he had learned of the position of the British encampment, Jackson reportedly said, "By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil." Earlier that evening Jackson led 2,131 men in an attack from the north on to the British troops. About four miles south of the city, Jackson then pulled his forces back to the Rodriguez Canal.

The unexpected and severe attack made Keane even more cautious, he made no effort to advance on the 24th or 25th.

The Americans were given time to begin the construction of the canal into a heavily fortified earthwork. On Christmas, General Edward Pakenham arrived on the battlefield and ordered a reconnaissance-in-force on December 28, against the American earthworks protecting the advance to New Orleans.Ad General Pakenham, General Keane and Admiral Cochrane were very angry with the position that the army had been placed in. Admiral Cochrane over-ruled General Pakenham who wanted to use Chef Menreur Road as the invasion route, but Cochrabe insisted that his boats were providing everything that could be needed. The British Army would destroy and devistate the American army and allegedly said that if the Army would not do so his sailors would, believed Admiral Cochrane. On December 28, groups of British troops made probing attacks against the American earthworks.

When the British troops withdrew, the Americans began construction of artillery batteries to protect the earthworks.

In the early morning of January 8, General Edward Pakenham ordered an assault against Jackson's position. Colonel William Thornton was to cross the Mississippi River during the night with his strong brigade. Commanded by Commodore Daniel Patterson, they moved rapidly upriver and storm the batteries on the flank of the main American entrenchments and then open an enfilading fire on Jackson's line with howitzers and rockets. Then, directly against the earthworks, the vast majority of American troops, would be launched in two columns.

Preparations for the attack had foundered early, as a canal being dug by Cochrane's sailors collapsed and the dam made to divert the flow of the river into the canal failed, leaving the sailors to drag the boats of Col. Thornton's west bank assault force through deep mud and left the force starting off just before daybreak 12 hours late.

The attack began under darkness and a heavy fog, but as the British neared the main enemy line, the fog lifted, exposing them to the artillery fire. Leutanet Colonel Thomas Mullins, had forgotten the ladders and fascines needed to cross a canal and scale the earthworks, and confusion evolved in the dark and fog as the British tried to close the gap. Most of the senior officers were killed or wounded, including General Gibbs, killed leading the main attack column on the right, and Colonel Rennie leading a detachment of light companies on the left by the river.

Because of Thornton's delay in crossing the river, the 93rd Highlanders were ordered to leave Keane's assault column, advancing along the river and being able to move across the open field to join the main force on the right of the field. Rennie's men managed to attack and overrun an American advance redoubt next to the river, without reinforcements they couldn’t hold the position or successfully storm the main American line behind. Within minutes, the American 7th Infantry arrived, and fired upon the British. In the main attack on the right, the British infantrymen flung themselves to the ground, huddled in the canal, or were mowed down by musket fire or grapeshot from the Americans. A few men made it to the top of the parapet on the right, but were killed or captured. The 95th Rifles had advanced in an open skirmish order, ahead of the main assault force and were hid in the ditch below the parapet, unable to advance further without support.

The two large main assaults on the American position were repulsed. Pakenham, and General Gibbs, were fatally wounded. With most of the senior officers dead and wounded, most of the British soldiers, stood out in the open and were shot apart with grapeshot. After about 20 more minutes of bloodletting, General Lambert assumed command and eventually ordered a withdrawal.

The Mississippi River was the only British success was on the west bank. General Lambert ordered his Chief of Artillery, to assess the position. Dickson reported back that no fewer than 2,000 men would be needed to hold the position. General Lambert issued orders to withdraw after the defeat of their main army on the east bank and retreated, taking a few American prisoners and cannons with them.