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The Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812

The former General Andrew Jackson was one of the heroic men able to defeat the United Kingdom in what was one of the worst attacks in British history, propelling him to the Oval Office for his fame and glory. During the process of ratifying the Treaty of Ghent, which would allow the United States and Great Britain to declare peace and give back territory to each country, the fight in the US was still raging; however, one of the final battles of in the War of 1812, and Napoleon’s escape to Elba would push the British to declare peace and discontinue the impressment--capturing American sailors and transferring them to British warships.

In the year preceding the Battle of New Orleans, the British had completely raided and literally torched the White House until what remained was the structure. All of the hard work on the Oval Office had turned to ashes; the failed effort by the shabby American militia had allowed the British to torch the capital. Until the Battle of Baltimore, British victory seemed certain; however, they were repelled by Army and Navy officers Samuel Smith, John Stricker, and George Armistead.

In 1815, life was still looking grim for the United States, and the war outlook was at an all-time low. After the failed attempt by the Americans to defend Lake Borgne, the British had a considerable chance to take New Orleans and reconquer their former colonies. On the contrary, the battle had delayed the time it would take for the British to attack Andrew Jackson’s force, resulting in a more prepared army with better trenches and artillery placement.

Along with the British being bogged down in the skirmish, General Keane, the commander at that time, made decisions that would ultimately set back the invasion. After squashing the American militia of thirty men and capturing the Villeré Plantation, Keane made a crucial decision to stop and camp out at Lacoste’s Plantation. This not only allowed General Jackson’s men to build defensive barriers, but his temporary position also allowed the Villeré’s son to escape the plantation and deliver the news, prompting Jackson to ambush the base camp. This rattled the British morale, as Keane believed that the army in New Orleans would be easy to defeat. According to Wikipedia, Jackson did anything he could to halt the progress toward the city of New Orleans. From surprise attacks to ordering the men to build fortifications for days (December 23-31), the General was desperate to rid the British of US soil, stating, “By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil.”

The leaders of the invasion, Admiral Cochrane, General Pakenham, and Keane decided to launch a bombardment on New Year’s Day, January 1st. Previously, the British Army had attacked the earthworks with artillery, knocking out a few of the cannons stationed in the Jackson Line, the defense line for the Americans. Instead, Pakenham decided to attack when the rest of the troops would land in New Orleans. What Pakenham did not realize was that the left side of the United States’ embankment had been destroyed.

The all-out assault was carried out on January 8, 1815, eight miles south of the city of New Orleans. General Pakenham had split the army into two assaults; Pakenham had sent Colonel William Thornton to capture the 700 men guarding the American cannons, while Pakenham and the rest of his men would lead the main battle toward the fortifications. In total, Pakenham sent 10,000 troops to attack Jackson’s line of only 5,500 men.

The British attack was one of the worst military embarrassments for King George and the rest of the Parliament back in London. The main force was mowed down as if a machine gun had decimated the ranks, row by row. According to the University of Chicago, the British lost their chief commander General Pakenham from a grapeshot wound, while Keane was shot twice and wounded in action. Because Thornton's army was stuck in mud, their arrival was much too late for support. In total, the British lost more than 386 men, with more than 2000 men captured or wounded in action. The Americans, on the other hand, won a decisive victory with only 55 killed and about 280 men missing or wounded. Stated from World Book Online, the rest of the British force was commanded by General John Lambert, who ordered the main force, and later, Thornton’s force to return back to the east Mississippi River.

The next assault was a siege Fort St. Philip, which deemed inconclusive for the British. Finally, the British attempted to attack the undefended Mobile, Alabama, however, on belated news of the Treaty of Ghent, the British were forced to return back to London ports.

With the war over, Jackson became a national hero for his efforts of commanding the victorious American army. His ability to destroy the experienced British army showed that America was a force to be reckoned with; the United States was not a rag-tag army that could give up easily, but a world force that would not be defeated. Not only did the war humiliate King George III, it also forced the British to end the impressment of the original 13 colonies.



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