New Orleans, Battle of

views updated May 23 2018


On the morning of 8 January 1815, a sea of red coats rushed toward the American lines defending New Orleans. Within a few short hours the extent of General Andrew Jackson's victory over the British was clear. Americans sustained a mere 6 casualties with an additional 7 wounded. The British troops under the command of Sir Edward Michael Pakenham suffered upwards of 2,500 deaths and injuries, with Pakenham among the dead. The victory was the greatest in the nation's brief history and sparked a rampant nationalism that helped to erase the rather pathetic American military record during the War of 1812. The battle also launched Andrew Jackson to overnight stardom. Known as a rough-and-tumble Indian fighter, the

general suddenly became the people's hero. Most historians agree that the gates of New Orleans led Jackson directly to the White House. His popularity was second only to George Washington's.

The actual "battle" of New Orleans was in reality the final assault in a larger campaign. The British had arrived secretly via a bayou leading from Lake Borgne and positioned themselves just miles below the city. Jackson engaged in a risky night attack on 23 December, and the two armies exchanged considerable cannon fire on New Year's Day. The 8 January battle was the last attempt to break through Jackson's line, which ran from the edge of the Mississippi River on the west to an impenetrable cypress swamp on the east. Pakenham knew that the advance guard had chosen a horrible logistical position with absolutely no possibility to engage in a flanking maneuver, but nevertheless attempted to carry the day through sheer force of numbers. Hurling against Jackson's ragtag army thousands of Britain's famed Peninsular veterans, the men who had defeated Napoleon, Pakenham hoped that a well-coordinated attack under the cover of a dense fog would carry his troops to victory. American cannon under the direction of Jean Lafitte's notorious pirate "banditti" proved the British general wrong.

The soldiers on both sides of the engagement were awestruck at the level of carnage. A largely militia army had soundly defeated Europe's greatest fighting force. Many Americans, including Jackson, viewed the victory as a sign of Providence and an acknowledgment that freemen fighting in defense of liberty were equal to the armies of monarchs and despots.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the battle is that it occurred after the Ghent peace negotiations had been signed on Christmas Eve 1814. The war did not officially end until the U.S. Senate and British Parliament ratified the agreement in February, however; thus, the battle did occur during the official war. In many respects the history of the War of 1812 would have been quite different had the New Orleans victory never occurred. The battle certainly allowed America to hold its head high even though the nation's capital had been burned in August 1814. Moreover, though historians disagree on this point, there is some argument to be made that had the British taken New Orleans they would have kept it. They had never been terribly pleased with the Louisiana Purchase and officers for an entire civil government were on board their warships.

See alsoGhent, Treaty of; Jackson, Andrew; War of 1812 .


Pickles, Tim. New Orleans 1815: Andrew Jackson Crushes the British. Oxford: Osprey, 1993.

Reilly, Robin. The British at the Gates: The New Orleans Campaign in the War of 1812. New York: Putnam, 1974.

Remini, Robert V. The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America's First Military Victory. New York: Viking, 1999.

Matthew Warshauer

New Orleans, Battle of

views updated May 14 2018


NEW ORLEANS, BATTLE OF (8 January 1815). The United States declared war on Great Britain in June

1812, but the contest did not threaten Louisiana until 1814, when Napoleon Bonaparte's abdication freed England to concentrate on the American war. In the autumn of 1814 a British fleet of more than fifty vessels, carrying 7,500 soldiers under Sir Edward Packenham, appeared in the Gulf of Mexico and prepared to attack New Orleans, the key to the entire Mississippi Valley. Gen. Andrew Jackson, who commanded the American army in the Southwest, reached New Orleans on 1 December 1814 to begin preparing the city's defenses.

The superior British navy defeated the small American fleet on Lake Borgne, southwest of the Mississippi River's mouth; landed troops on its border; and marched them across the swamps to the river's banks, a few miles below New Orleans. Jackson had assembled more than 6,000 troops, mainly Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana militia, with a few regulars. After a few preliminary skirmishes, the British attempted to overrun the American position with a full-scale offensive on the morning of 8 January 1815. The American defense held firm. The British were completely repulsed, losing more than 2,000 men, of whom 289 were killed, including Packenham and most of the other higher officers. The Americans lost only seventy-one men, of whom thirteen were killed.

The British soon retired to their ships and departed. New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley were saved from invasion. Coming two weeks after the peace treaty was signed that ended the war, the battle had no effect upon the peace terms; but it did bolster the political fortunes of Andrew Jackson, the "hero of New Orleans."


Brooks, Charles B. The Siege of New Orleans. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1961.

Brown, Wilburt S. The Amphibious Campaign for West Florida and Louisiana, 1814–1815. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1969.

Remini, Robert V. Life of Andrew Jackson. New York: Perennial Classics, [1988] 2001.

Tregle, Joseph George. Louisiana in the Age of Jackson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

WalterPrichard/a. r.

See alsoGhent, Treaty of ; Mexico, Gulf of ; Mississippi River ; New Orleans ; War of 1812 .

New Orleans, Battle of

views updated Jun 27 2018

New Orleans, Battle of (1815).This encounter concluded the War of 1812 against the British. Approximately 5,300 British regulars under Maj. Gen. Sir Edward Pakenham, accompanied by naval forces under Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane, attacked New Orleans to relieve American military pressure on Canada and improve Great Britain's position in peace negotiations. Major Gen. Andrew Jackson opposed them with a force of about 4,700 drawn from the U.S. Army, the free colored population of New Orleans, the militias of Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee, and the pirates of Barataria.

Three lesser engagements preceded the battle. On 23 December 1814, Jackson attempted to drive the British off, and on 28 December and New Year's Day, Pakenham probed Jackson's defenses with a reconnaissance in force and an artillery attack. On 8 January 1815, Pakenham assaulted Jackson's line on the east bank of the Mississippi, making a secondary attack on his position on the west bank. The latter succeeded, but the main attack failed as Jackson's artillery fired grapeshot and canister shot into the advancing British line. British losses amounted to 2,400 casualties and prisoners; the Americans lost about 70 men.

Since the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed on 24 December 1814, the battle's impact was symbolic, but nevertheless significant. It reinforced the legend of the volunteer American citizen‐soldier, made Jackson a national hero, and contributed eventually to his election as president in 1828.
[See also Army, U.S.: 1783–1865; Militia and National Guard.]


Charles B. Brooks , The Siege of New Orleans, 1961.
Wilburt S. Brown , The Amphibious Campaign for West Florida and Louisiana, 1814–1815: A Critical Review of Strategy and Tactics at New Orleans, 1969.

J. C. A. Stagg

New Orleans, battle of

views updated Jun 27 2018

New Orleans, battle of, 1815. This battle was unusual in taking place after the War of 1812 was over. This conflict with the United States over disputes about maritime searches was a most unwelcome distraction to Britain during its struggle against Napoleonic France. Peace negotiations began at Ghent in the autumn of 1814, but an expedition against New Orleans had already been planned, partly to humiliate the Americans, partly in the hope of prize money. There was no element of surprise, the troops were soon bogged down in swamps, and the defence was conducted by Andrew Jackson, later president of the USA. The main assault on 8 January 1815 failed. British dead included the army commander Sir Edward Pakenham and, with wounded, totalled 3,000. News arrived the following month that peace had been signed in December 1814.

J. A. Cannon

New Orleans, Battle of

views updated May 18 2018

New Orleans, Battle of (January 5, 1815) Last engagement in the War of 1812. It took place two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed because news of the treaty had not reached New Orleans. The Americans under General Andrew Jackson won the battle with only 71 killed, while the British lost 2500 lives.

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