Tag: War of 1812

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.

 

British and Kentucky Riflemen Battle of Frenchtown 22 Jan 1813

Since its shameful fall in August 1812 with scarcely a shot fired in defense, the Americans wanted Detroit back. So embarrassed by it, a winter campaign was conceived to win it back. William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, was selected to take back the area and further the American goals in the War of 1812. Harrison’s second in command was General James Winchester. The two split their forces to move on Detroit.

On 18 January 1813, Winchester’s lead elements entered Frenchtown (near modern day Monroe, Michigan) and took it in a short battle with a handful of British Regulars and a couple of hundred of local Indians. The American soldiers were militia that had recently been recruited in Kentucky and marched north with severe privation. The Kentuckians found great stores of food and gorged themselves for several days. Unfortunately, their officers had not ordered them to fortify the area for a counter-attack.

Battle of Frenchtown

A mixed force of British, under Colonel Henry Procter, and Shawnee, under Chief Tecumseh, counter-attacked on 22 January 1813. There followed a fierce battle that would go down as one of the biggest ground battles in the War of 1812. The British and Indians attacked across the American front. The American right flank was enveloped and surrendered, including Winchester. The left flank, however was holding well along a fence in the west of the area. The Kentuckians there were not surprised to see a British truce party arrive, but they were surprised to hear that it was the Kentuckian’s surrender they were after. Winchester had sent word that they should give up. The Kentuckians did surrender, but only with the assurance that the captured would be protected from the Indians.

The British then quickly unoccupied the area of operations for they feared that Harrison’s column would soon descend on Frenchtown. They left the prisoners with Tecumseh’s force. Some, but not all, of the Kentucky prisoners left with the Indians were massacred. The remainder were taken to Detroit for ransom. The Raisin River Massacre became a rallying point for remainder of the war in the old northwest. The event had a solidifying effect on the frontiersman for the war that was not there previously. Future Kentucky units rushed north yelling, “Remember the Raisin!” The area was re-captured by Kentucky cavalry units in September 1813.

Trivia; Although born in Ohio, George Armstrong Custer lived in Monroe as a boy and married a local girl. No doubt, young Custer would have heard the story of the massacre in his local school.

Battle of Frenchtown Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Raisin River Battlefield National Park. Then go from the Raisin River Battlefield Visitor’s Center and follow the Raisin River out to Raisinville, Dundee and back to Monroe to the Sterling State Park.

Jackson Defeats British at Battle of New Orleans 8 January 1815

The Battle of New Orleans

Fifteen days after the Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve 1814, but before it had taken effect, General Andrew Jackson decisively defeated the British at New Orleans. Neither the British, nor the Americans had received news of the peace treaty which had the provision that it would take effect as soon as news was received in the field. 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. Also, throughout this period, Creek and Seminole Indian forces led by British Royal Marine Major Edward Nicolls had been patrolling the West Florida and Alabama gulf region. Jackson dispatched Major Uriah Blue to keep the Nicolls / Indian flank secure while he focused on where the British would land. 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 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. Knowing where the British were likely to strike now, Jackson heavily fortified the Rodriquez canal and tied it into the adjacent swamp to block the British advance on New Orleans. Jackson also had allied Indians, namely the Choctaw, who picked off British sentries mercilously.

Finally, on 8 January, the British executed a frontal assault on the American positions which failed miserably, including the loss of the British commander, Pakenham, the brother-in-law to the Duke of Wellington. The British courage could not have been questioned, but their judgement in conducting a full frontal assault against a hevily prepared position could have been. Even though Jackson’s force was pieced together from militia, regulars, pirates, and Indians, it was a formidable force on such a ground. Jackson had delivered the heaviest defeat of the Brits in the War of 1812. The British and the Americans continued the fight in the gulf coast area, not hearing of the peace until 12 February 1815.

Motorcycle Ride

Start at Chalmette, near 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. New Orleans is a bit rougher these days, so be prepared for detours and some deserted areas. As always, be aware of your surroundings when riding through this area.

And the obligatory Johnny Horton reference

Lake Erie Loop

I had not seen this before, so mind the April 2008 date of this, but Motorcycle Classics has an article about the Lake Erie Loop. I did a Lake Erie loop as part of a bigger ride from Chicago to Vermont and back. The shores of Lake Erie are a treasure trove for the War of 1812 sites from Michigan to Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York and Ontario. Well worth a read and the loop tour is well worth it too, although I wouldn’t want to speed through it. I like stopping and looking at stuff too much.
Here’s a Google map of War of 1812 battle sites around Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Champlain.

Canadian Guide Dog Motorcycle Ride 11 September 2016

This sounds fun, but watch out before you drop the kickstand.

The Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind are hosting the Canadian Guide Dog Motorcycle Ride on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, 4120 Rideau Valley Drive North, Manotick, ON K4M 1B2, Canada to Iroquois, Ontario (that’s Canada, eh?)

The 28th annual event is organized in conjunction with the Ottawa River Riders and the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers.

If you’re riding up that way, why not stop by for a spell? You could always tie it in with a Battlefield Biker ride to the War of 1812’s Crysler’s Farm Battlefield just up Highway 2.

Image Credit: By Benson Lossing (The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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