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.
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.
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