Battle of New Orleans: Introduction

Stop 1 of 10 in the Battle of New Orleans tour

Almost 200 years ago, on January 8, 1815, Major General Andrew Jackson and his outnumbered American defenders overwhelmed veteran British troops at the Battle of New Orleans. The battle took place five miles downriver from New Orleans in Chalmette, Louisiana, where the British hoped to take control of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Major General Sir Edward Pakenham, the brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, commanded more than 10,000 British troops and launched an offensive early in the morning of January 8th. Jackson's forces included soldiers and sailors, as well as state militia from Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. African Americans, Cherokee Indians and Jean Lafitte’s Baratarian pirates also served under Jackson. The Americans defended with deadly artillery and rifles, resulting in British casualties of more than 2,500 (about 700 dead) in contrast to 71 American casualties (about 13 dead).

Andrew Jackson praised his combined troops:

Natives of different states, acting together, for the first time in this camp; differing in habits and language, instead of viewing in these circumstances, the germ of distrust and division, you have made them the source of an honourable emulation, and from the seeds of discord itself, have reaped the fruits of an honourable union . . .

January 8 was the final in a series of four land engagements between General Jackson’s forces and British forces, led by Major General Edward Pakenham. Andrew Jackson defended the city against these seasoned troops who had fought the French under the Duke of Wellington.

General Jackson described the battle as fierce and deadly:

Early on the morning of the 8th, the enemy having been actively employed the two preceding days, in making preparations for a storm, advanced in two strong columns on my right and left. They were received however with a firmness which it seems they little expected, and which defeated all their hopes. My men, undisturbed by their approach, which indeed they long anxiously wished for, opened upon them a fire, so deliberate and certain, as rendered their scaling ladders and fascines, as well as their more direct implements of warfare, perfectly useless. For upwards of an hour it was continued with a briskness of which there have been but few instances, perhaps, in any country. In justice to the enemy, it must be said, they withstood it as long as could be expected, from the most determined bravery. At length, however, when all prospect of success became hopeless, they fled in confusion from the field, leaving it covered with their dead and wounded. Their loss was immense.

The decisive battle took place early in the morning of January 8, 1815. Ironically, the battle occurred after the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814, but well before the treaty was ratified by the United States. Article 11 stated that the treaty “shall be binding on both parties” only after both sides ratified the treaty and “the ratifications mutually exchanged.” Furthermore, the official news of the peace treaty did not reach New Orleans until March 1815.

Among the British officers killed in the Battle were Major General Pakenham and General Samuel Gibbs. The Battle of New Orleans was a resounding victory for the Americans because the British had intended to capture New Orleans and control the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The National Park Service is entrusted with the care of the Chalmette Battlefield, which is part of Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve. This mobile tour has been created by the University of New Orleans and the Louisiana State Museum, and it focuses on locations in the French Quarter relating to the battle, either through legend or fact.

To learn more about the Chalmette Battlefield, visit the National Park Service Chalmette Battlefield/The Battle of New Orleans website, which includes a link to the American troop rosters and muster lists for the New Orleans campaign.
http://www.nps.gov/jela/historyculture/places-chalmette-battlefield.htm

Images

Depiction of the death of British General Packenham

Depiction of the death of British General Packenham

Created by Francisco Scacki between 1815 and 1820. Library of Congress View File Details Page

1815 Battle Map

1815 Battle Map

The battle took place downriver from New Orleans on the Chalmette Plantation. Troop alignments are depicted on this map, which dates from circa 1820-40. Library of Congress View File Details Page

Scene After the Battle of New Orleans

Scene After the Battle of New Orleans

William Croome and Henry Bricher, woodcut. Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

"Protector and Defender of Beauty and Booty"

"Protector and Defender of Beauty and Booty"

This portrait of Andrew Jackson, engraved by C. G. Childs during the presidential election of 1828, recalls his victory at the Battle of New Orleans. Library of Congress View File Details Page

Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, Goupil & Cie, 1904, Rotogravure

Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, Goupil & Cie, 1904, Rotogravure

Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum, Gift of Gilbert Fortier III and Alcee J. A. Fortier View File Details Page

"Death of Pakenham," Engraving, circa 1860

"Death of Pakenham," Engraving, circa 1860

Woodcut engraving depicting the mortal wounding of British General Pakenham on January 8, 1815. Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

"Place d'Armes," 1803, Future SIte of Jackson Square

"Place d'Armes," 1803, Future SIte of Jackson Square

Familiar landmarks missing include: 2nd floor of the Presbytere, completed in 1813; the Pontalba Buildings, constructed between 1849 and1851; and the Andrew Jackson monument, dedicated on February 9, 1856. Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

Jackson Square, 1938

Jackson Square, 1938

H.S. Williams' depression-era, aerial photograph of Jackson Square shows cars parked in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Presbytere and the Pontalba Apartments. Today the streets on three sides of Jackson Square - Chartres, St. Peter and St. Ann - are open only to pedestrian traffic; Decatur Street alone remains open to automobiles. Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

1965 Commemorative Stamp, 150th Anniversary

1965 Commemorative Stamp, 150th Anniversary

Issued on January 8 for sesquicentennial. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Mary Ann Wegmann, Louisiana State Museum, and University of New Orleans History Department, “Battle of New Orleans: Introduction,” New Orleans Historical, accessed May 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/508.

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