The Battle of New Orleans - Chalmette, Louisiana
Copyright 2015 by Dale Cox
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Last Updated: January 8, 2015
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The Battle of New Orleans
Interactive exhibits help visitors to
the battlefield learn the story of
the Battle of New Orleans. The
park is in Chalmette, Louisiana.
National Park Service Photo.
BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS
Chalmette, Louisiana
The Battle of New Orleans
American cannon and the restored Line Jackson
on the field where the Battle of New Orleans was
fought in Chalmette, Louisiana.
National Park Service Photo
Victory on the 8th of January
The Battle of New Orleans was a dramatic
American victory of the War of 1812. Fought
before news of a peace treaty could reach the
United States, this battle saved New Orleans
and eventually propelled Andrew Jackson to
the White House.

The site of the Battle of New Orleans is now
preserved as the Chalmette Battlefield unit of
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. It is
located in Chalmette, Louisiana, just south of
New Orleans.

The battle was the climactic moment, but not
the end, of the British campaign on the Gulf
Coast. The effort to open a new front in the
War of 1812 had started in May 1814 when
the British arrived at the mouth of Florida's
Apalachicola River (please see
Fort Gadsden
and
Nicolls' Outpost).

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines then
occupied the Spanish city of Pensacola,
Florida, and tried to capture
Fort Bowyer at
the entrance to Mobile Bay. The attack on Fort
Bowyer was defeated by the fort's small
garrison and Major General Andrew Jackson
then marched on Pensacola and forced the
British to withdraw.

The main objective of the Gulf Campaign,
however, was the capture of New Orleans.
Possession of the city would give the British
control of the Mississippi River and an open
avenue for the invasion of the American
frontier.

With the fight against Napoleon temporarily
over, thousands of British troops became
available to join the war in America. Along
with troops from the eastern seaboard and a
fleet under Admiral Alexander Cochrane, they
arrived in the northern Gulf of Mexico in the
fall of 1814. Command of the land force was
entrusted to Lieutenant General Sir Edward
Pakenham.

The American forces, commanded by
General Jackson, knew that an attack was
coming but initially were confused as to
where it would strike. Jackson finally decided
that New Orleans would be the target and
proceeded to the city, where he spent much
of early December strengthening its
defenses.

Complicating plans for both sides was the
fact that New Orleans is surrounded by miles
of swamps, bayous, lakes and wetlands. The
British tried to enlist the acknowledged
masters of the bayous, the pirates/privateers
Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre Lafitte.

The Baratarians, as the Lafittes and their
crews were known, were largely of French
heritage and had no love for the British. They
volunteered instead to help Jackson defend
New Orleans.

The first attack finally came on December 14,
1814, when British barges and longboats
attacked a small squadron of U.S. gunboats
on Lake Borgne. The Americans fought with
remarkable courage, but were defeated. The
British gained control of the lake and several
important water approaches to New Orleans.

Now in command of Lake Borgne, the British
established a beachhead at the mouth of
Bayou Bienvenu, which with its attached
canals struck the Mississippi River seven
miles below the city.

British infantry and artillery moved up the
bayou and Villere's Canal on the morning of
December 20, 1814. By the end of the day
nearly 2,000 were in place at the Villere
Plantation on the banks of the Mississippi
River. Their movement had gone undetected
by American scouts.

General John Keane was in command of the
advance and had he immediately marched
up the road into New Orleans, he likely would
have taken the city. His landing and advance
came as a surprise to Jackson.

Instead, Keane occupied the Villere
Plantation, allowed his troops to rest, and
established defensive positions.

Learning of the British appearance, Andrew
Jackson began rushing his troops into
position south of New Orleans. Assembling
a strike force of regular troops, U.S. Marines,
Tennessee volunteers, artillery, dragoons,
riflemen and a corps of free men of color, the
American general prepared to strike.

Jackson launched a stunning night attack on
December 23, 1814. Leading a strike force of
2,287 men, he hit the British camps from two
directions. The USS
Carolina and two
supporting gunboats blasted the British from
the river while the troops struck Keane's
2,610 men by land.

The night battle of the 23rd sent shock waves
through the British army, which advanced
courageously to meet the attack. By the time
Keane ordered a withdrawal at 11 p.m., 46
British soldiers had been killed, 167 were
wounded and 64 taken prisoner. Jackson
lost 24 dead, 115 wounded and 74 missing
in action (most taken prisoner).

The attack caused the British to move with
even more caution which, in turn, gave the
Americans time to prepare a fortified line
behind the Rodriguez Canal. Here, at what
was dubbed "Camp Jackson," the U.S.
forces erected ramparts, firing positions,
artillery batteries and other defenses along a
line that stretched from the Mississippi River
to a dense swamp.

The British, now led by Pakenham in person,
conducted a reconnaissance in force on
December 28, 1814. They ran into heavy
cannon, musket and rifle fire from Jackson's
ramparts. The British general pulled his
forces back and began fortifying a line about
1 1/2 miles south of the American position.

The British moved cannon into position at
their new line and prepared for battle. The
whole time they were within view of the U.S.
lines across the battlefield.
Chalmette Monument
The beautiful monument stands
near the Mississippi River on the
scene of the Battle of New
Orleans.
National Park Service Photo.
Pakenham opened an artillery exchange with
Jackson on January 1, 1815, but his gunners
got the worst of the battle. The British had
used barrels of sugar as makeshift defenses
for their cannon. When American shot and
shell struck these casks, however, sugar
showered over the guns causing a gummy
mess.

By the evening of January 7, Jackson had
3,867 men in his front line. Included were
U.S. Army regulars, U.S. Marines, Louisiana
militia (including two units of free men of
color), Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen,
regular artillerymen, Baratarians and 62
Choctaw warriors. Another 666 men were in
close reserve and 997 were stationed on the
opposite bank of the river. The total strength
of Jackson's army on the field was 5,530
men.

The British army in position opposite him
had grown to include 10, 084 men, roughly
twice the size of Jackson's force.

The main attack, or what is generally known
today as the Battle of New Orleans, came on
the morning of January 8, 1815. Heavy fog
covered the battlefield when Pakenham
ordered his troops forward. They were fired
on by Jackson's advance pickets and soon
the entire American line erupted in flame.

The volleys of musket and rifle fire were well
directed and Jackson's cannon showered
the Redcoats with canister (projectiles that
exploded into hundreds of smaller balls
when fired). One by one the British attacking
columns were cut to pieces.

Some of the attackers did reach the U.S. line
only to find that the unit with the ladders
needed to scale the American fortifications
was still far to the rear. General Pakenham
was mortally wounded as were scores of
other British generals and high ranking
officers. The attacks failed and General John
Lambert, now in command, called an end to
further assaults.

British casualties in the battle came to an
estimated 858 killed or mortally wounded,
2,468 wounded. Jackson's total loss was 7
killed and 12 wounded. The disparity is
shocking.

Many of the British soldiers had fallen face
down on the ground to avoid death when they
realized the attacks were doomed to fail.
General Jackson later compared the sight of
them rising to the Biblical Resurrection.

While Jackson saw Resurrection, others saw
pending doom that day. The Creek Prophet
Josiah Francis and the Seminole chiefs
Cappachimico and Hopoi Micco were the
leaders of a delegation of American Indians
carried to New Orleans by the British. They
expected to see the triumph of allies, but
instead saw a disaster even greater than the
Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Andrew Jackson had achieved one of the
greatest military victories in American history.
The 8th of January became a major holiday
in the United States and continued to be
celebrated until the time of the Civil War.

The British soon began to withdraw. New
Orleans remained unconquered and sailors
of the U.S. Navy celebrated side by side with
sailors of Jean Lafitte's Baratarian pirate
ships. U.S. soldiers celebrated alongside the
men of Louisiana units made up of free men
of color. Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen
celebrated with Choctaw warriors and
wealthy French businessmen.

The Battle of New Orleans was dramatic last
display of defiance to the British Empire.
Other battles would follow, including a final
confrontation on
Florida's St. Mary's River in
February, but Jackson's victory was the
exclamation point to the War of 1812.

The Chalmette Battlefield is now preserved
as a unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical
Park. The park is located at 8606 West St.
Bernard Highway, Chalmette, Louisiana.
Admission is free.

The battlefield and adjoining Chalmette
National Cemetery are open Tuesday -
Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Closed
Sunday and Monday). Chalmette Battlefield is
also open 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Memorial
Day and Veterans Day. Admission is free.

Please click here to visit the official park
website for more information.

You can also reach the battlefield on the
paddlewheeler
Creole Queen. She departs
New Orleans for the battlefield daily. Current
prices are $27 for adults, $14 for children
ages 6-14. Kids 5 and under ride for free.

Please click here for more information on the
Creole Queen's Chalmette Battlefield cruise.
Understanding the Battle
Tourists listen as a National
Park Service employee explains
the Battle of New Orleans on the
battlefield in Chalmette
National Park Service Photo
Jackson Square
The Cathedral of St. Louis was a
landmark of New Orleans at the
time of the battle. Dedicated on
Christmas Eve, 1794, it frames
the Jackson statue.
PHoto by Brian Mabelitini
Pierre Maspero's Exchange
The defenses of New Orleans
were planned in this elegant old
structure.
Photo by Brian Mabelitini
Hero of New Orleans
An equestrian statue of Andrew
Jackson is a major landmark in
New Orleans. Victory propelled
him to the White House.
Photo by Brian Mabelitini
Photos courtesy of Brian Mabelitini and the National Park Service
Swamps and Bayous
The bayou country south of New
Orleans was the domain of Jean
Lafitte, his brother Pierre Lafitte,
and their Baratarian pirates.
National Park Service Photo
Hear Johnny Horton sing "The Battle of New Orleans"
War of 1812 & the Battle of New Orleans
Fight a round with an alligator?
Johnny Horton scored a major hit
with his ballad, "The Battle of
New Orleans." It included the
fanciful claim that Jackson's men
used alligators after their cannon
melted.
National Park Service Photo
War of 1812 in the South