Tag: British Army

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.

 

Patriots Take Dorchester Heights Over Boston 4-5 March 1776

British Boston in the Revolutionary War

In early 1776, the American colonists were trying hard to limit the area in which British forces, based in Boston, could operate. As long as the British could retreat to the safety of Boston and its harbor, General George Washington would not be able to control the eastern end of Massachusetts. From Boston, British General Howe could re-supply from the sea and conduct operations with Boston as a base. In fact, Howe had taken nearby Bunker Hill (albeit with heavy losses) and was planning more of these types of operations in early March 1776.

Henry Knox and the Guns of Fort Ticonderoga

Washington knew bold, unexpected and decisive action was needed to disrupt Howe’s plans. In Late 1775, Washington had dispatched Artillery Colonel Henry Knox to Fort Ticonderoga, a British garrison captured by the Green Mountain Boys with Benedict Arnold tagging along, to bring the impressive array of artillery to Boston as soon as possible. Washington had probably expected it in late Spring, but the big man Knox drove his oxen and men hard over the lakes, rivers and frozen terrain of New England to get the 44 guns, 14 mortars and one howitzer to the outskirts of Boston by early February 1776. Knowing good fortune when he saw it, Washington wanted to take aggressive action immediately. Washington wanted to conduct a daring cross Charles River attack from Cambridge, but his council of war thought it too risky. Washington’s leaders agreed on the decisive action, but wanted to do it without significant risks to their small and largely untested militias. The compromise was to take aggressive action on Dorchester Heights which overlook Boston from the southeast.

Taking Dorchester Heights

On the 2nd and 3rd of March 1776, the Patriots fired the Knox artillery on the British in Boston and the Brits returned the favor. Washington had prepared a river crossing unit to the west of Boston to provide relief, if Howe tried to break out and disrupt the Dorchester Heights plan, although it seemed as if he had no idea what was going on. Whilst the artillery dueled, heavy, but transportable, fortifications were being fabricated down the hill. On the night of 4 March 1776, General Artemas Ward’s forces used an old ploy of Washington’s and put straw on the wheels of his wagons’ wheels to move quietly and began occupying Dorchester Heights from neighboring Roxbury. With a mammoth effort and 300 ox carts of material moved up the hill, the rebels had constructed 4 works on the heights and the flanks. By daylight on the 5 March, General Howe awoke to incomplete, but substantial works on the southeastern hills overlooking the harbor and the city. Howe was reported as saying, “The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.”

The British Admiral Molyneaux Shulddown informed Howe that he could not maintain his ships in the harbor with such a threat. In the following days, Howe planned a quick counter-attack, but bad weather or a bout of under confidence or both made him quit Boston. By 17 March, in agreement with Washington not to destroy Boston if allowed to leave unmolested, the British had left Boston on ships for Halifax, Nova Scotia. They would be back, but for now Boston was in the Patriots hands and the radicals of the American colonies had a lot to crow about.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try Massachusetts state route 3A (MA-SR-3A) from Dorchester Heights down to Plymouth where the colony began.

© 2018 Battlefield Biker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑