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The War of 1812 (1809-1815)

New Orleans

Treaty of Ghent (December 1814)

New Orleans, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

After repairing the damage to his fleet from the Battle of Baltimore, in late 1814, British Admiral Thomas Cochrane was finally ready for an attack on New Orleans. For the US, Andrew Jackson, already a hero of campaigns against the Creek Indians, was placed in command of southern forces. Jackson commanded a ragtag group of soldiers, who were neither particularly experienced nor organized. Also among his charge were two regiments of black volunteers from the New Orleans area.

After Robert Ross's death in the invasion of Baltimore, Major General Edward Packenham was put in command of the British ground forces in the New Orleans invasion. It would take him some time to arrive from Britain, and as a result, poor leadership and inadequate preparation plagued the British ground forces.

While the British prepared their invasion, Jackson was busy finishing up a campaign against the Creek Indians in the South, as he was also hoping to take Spain's city of Pensacola in Florida. Furthermore, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nicholls of Britain was engaged in some minor maneuvers in Florida, probably as a diversion. Jackson was so obsessed with Florida that he allowed Nicholls movements with a tiny force to distract him from preparing for the massive attack on New Orleans. Instead of marching his men to New Orleans right away, Jackson remained in the Pensacola area, sending his men on all kinds of wasteful operations. Even when he was directly ordered by his superiors to march his troops to New Orleans, he still dallied in Pensacola for quite a while, convinced that Britain had secret designs on Florida. Finally, on November 12, 1814, Jackson, having been completely fooled by British misdirection, realized it was time to march his men to New Orleans.

Jackson set up his men and his fleet in what he believed would allow him to challenge the British amphibious landing. Jackson miscalculated, however, and Cochrane decided to press through the small American fleet on Lake Borgne, in order to land the redcoats so they would have a route to New Orleans along a path Jackson had not defended. The US fleet on Lake Borgne stood no chance, and was immediately wiped out. Jackson quickly moved the US troops to New Orleans.

Cochrane, though, had trouble finding good landing ground, a process that took into December of 1814. Once landed, the British attempted an initial surprise attack; Jackson's men repelled them, and Cochrane fell back to wait for General Packenham and plan a full assault. Packenham arrived on Christmas Day, a day after the signig of the Treaty of Ghent. Meanwhile, Jackson's army busied itself building earthwork defenses, largely using local slave labor "volunteered" by their masters.

On January 8, 1815, Packenham ordered an attack at 6:00 AM. Expecting another Bladensburg, the British forces made a frontal assault on Jackson's ragtag army. Under Jackson, the American forces didn't run, and the British army was soundly defeated.

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