Tag: 1814

Jackson Defeated the British at New Orleans

Peace and the Treaty of Ghent

Fifteen days after the Treaty of Ghent between Britain and the USA was signed, but not ratified (Christmas Eve, 1814), Major General Andrew Jackson defeated the British decisively at New Orleans. Neither the British force, nor Jackson’s Americans had received news of the peace yet. Some erroneously argue that the war was over when the Battle of New Orleans occurred, but the peace agreement did not officially go into effect until it was ratified by each government and received by troops in the field. Of course in the early 19th century, diplomatic issues had to travel by ship across the Atlantic between Europe and North America. This process took between 45 and 90 depending on the sea conditions. The news of the Treaty of Ghent actually made a fast trip across the Atlantic, but not before the actions around New Orleans played out.

Furthermore, some have argued that the Battle of New Orleans meant nothing, because it happened after the Treaty of Ghent. However, the British disputed the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and there is no evidence that they viewed the ownership or the occupation of New Orleans as being covered by the Treaty of Ghent. Therefore, the Battle of New Orleans did establish American control of New Orleans and would no longer disputed by the British after the War of 1812. Had the British taken New Orleans and held it or turned it over to the Spanish, they could have conceivably still contested American ownership.

Fights on Land and Water

Although the final engagement happened on 8 January, 1815, the fighting around New Orleans had been going on since 14 December 1814, starting with a Royal Marine victory over US gunboats guarding the entrance to New Orleans on Lake Borgne. On 23 December, Jackson failed to dislodge the British at their quarters on the Villeré Plantation. Jackson fell back and occupied the approach to New Orleans at the Rodriguez Canal on the Chalmette Plantation. On 28 December, the British probed the line in force, but were repelled. On 1 January 1815, the British attempted to dislodge Jackson with artillery, but the duel ended with the American artillery victorious, probably because they had more ammunition. The Americans had more ammunition due to Jackson’s temporary alliance with the Baratarian pirates, including Jean Lafitte, who hated the British more than the Americans.

Final Battle of New Orleans

Finally, on 8 January, the British executed a frontal assault on the American positions which failed miserably, including the loss of the British Commander, Major General Edward Pakenham. Pakenham was the Duke of Wellington’s Brother-in-Law and hero of the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of Britain’s best generals, but the British were too sure that the Americans would fold under the sustained assault of seasoned combat veterans from Europe. The historical record is filled full of the opinions of British senior officers with a dismal view of American fighting prowess and leadership. ( I have explored this topic in a longer format, here) However, they had not bargained on the pure cussedness and determination of Old Hickory. Jackson defeated the British in the one of the largest battles and arguably the worst defeat of the British in the War of 1812. The British and the Americans continued to fight in the area in early 1815, not hearing of the peace until 12 February 1815.

Andrew Jackson Defeated the British Motorcycle Ride

Start at Chalmette Battlefield in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park on the site of the 8 January battle and make your way to Louisiana State Route 23, running southeast to the tip of the delta, following the Mississippi River. This will give you a good feel for this unique area and a great view of the USA’s grand old river. New Orleans has always had a rough and ready reputation, so be prepared for detours and some deserted areas. As always, be aware of your surroundings when riding through this area.

The Treaty of Ghent has been exhaustively explored in a brilliant book, The Peace of Christmas Eve that I highly recomend.

 

Blucher Defeats Napoleon at Battle of Laon 9-10 March 1814

Map Credit:By Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon on the run

After defeat in Russia in 1812, Napoleon was being chased by the European Allies across central Europe and into France by early 1814. The Prussian and Russian forces were led by the Prussian Marshal Blucher and were threatening Paris by early 1814. Napoleon was fighting for his very survival.

After several battles on the trot, some won, some lost, Blucher occupied the town of Laon. Laon was strategically important because it was a major communications crossroads near Paris. Holding Laon would give Blucher the logistical base to attack into Paris. Napoleon obviously felt it could not remain held by the enemy. Laon was also a tactical stronghold due to its placement on a plateau with steep slopes for defense.

The Battle of Laon

On the first day of the battle (9th), both sides fought skirmishes for the small towns around Laon. Both sides missed opportunities for exploitation, but the sun set on the Allies holding the town. On the second day (10th), Napoleon decided to try the ploy that had worked at Craonne a few days earlier. Napoleon sent Marshal Auguste Marmont to deliver the flank attack. Blucher saw what was happening and threw a decisive counter-attack at Marmont and nearly annihilated his forces were it not for an exceptional defense by a small number of the Old Guard. The battle continued, but Napoleon could not dislodge Blucher from Laon and decided to retire.

The loss at the Battle of Laon was not the end of Napoleon in France, but Blucher and the Allies were tightening the ring around Paris and the Battle of Laon would provide an important link.

Battle of Laon Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the wooded circular route on the “D” roads south of Laon. If you are looking for more rides in the area, try the Battle of Neuve Chapelle ride to the north of the Battle of Laon.

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