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The Battle of New Orleans

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The battle of New Orleans took place on 8th January 1815. The battle was the greatest final battle of the war of 1812(Howell 1886). In this battle, the United States’ side won against the British. This battle is the greatest American land victory of a war. This paper will discuss the circumstances that led to this battle, its proceeding and how it finally ended.

The war started in 1812; and still continued in 1814. The parties to war were the Great Britain and the U.S. At this point the British decides to take the Americans from a three-front. The first part of the British attack involved attacking the main cities along the Atlantic Ocean coast. They were Baltimore, Maryland; Savannah, Georgia; Washington, Washington D.C; and South Carolina. August, 1814 the British soldiers attacked Washington, DC setting main buildings of the U.S government on fire and were immensely successful because the American military soldiers expected the attack to be in Baltimore hence not defending Washington well.

The American forces successfully defended Baltimore from the British September 1814 attack. The second part of the British plan was to come into New York State; by crossing Lake Champlain from Canada with the aim of isolating New England states. This plan failed because the Americans successfully drove off the British forces back to Canada on the 31st August 1814. The last plan was to overpower the port city of New Orleans, Louisiana with the aim to stop commerce in the southern states and territories west of the River Mississippi and by December, 1814 the British flotilla was set to progress on New Orleans (Remini 1999).

The U.S reserves were nearly penniless; the president needed additional troops for the war. Men were not registering in the military; the war was taking a toll on the US. President Madison needed an army of sixty thousand soldiers but only had half the number. American General Andrew Jackson also called Old Hickory arrived in New Orleans on December 1, 1814 and identified strategic locations that needed to be defended and set about strengthening defenses. He recruited the Louisiana militia, African Americans, Creoles, French and Spanish heritage local frontiersmen, local Choctaw Indians and accepted help of pirates under the command of Jean Laffit. On December 12, the British fleet, with their leader, Sir Alex Cochrane accompanied by a number exceeding eight thousand soldiers and several sailors aboard surged forward. They sailed further in the Gulf of Mexico; they approached Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain. Other leaders that accompanied Sir Alex on this side were; Sir Edward Pakenham, John Lambert and John Keane.

On the opposing side, the Americans prevented the access to these lakes, under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, John Coffee, William Carroll and Jean Lafitte.  December 14 Royal marines under Captain Nicholas Lockayer and over 1000 British sailors attacked Catesby force, capturing Catesby’s vessels in an engagement called Battle of Lake Borgne.6 Americans died, 35 wounded and 86 captured while 77 British sailors wounded and 17 killed. December 23,2500 volunteers from Vennesse also called “dirty shirts” by the British arrived. The Americans gained psychological victory over the British by a surprise attack in the night ordered by Old Hickory. The Americans then began to construct artillery batteries to protect their earth works, they installed eight batteries (32-pound guns, three 12-pounders, one 18-pounder, three 24-pounders, one 6 inch howitzer). Men went to man 24-pounders and two 12-pounders west bank of the Mississippi from the grounded warship Louisiana by Jackson (Remini 1999).

Both parties were ready for war on Christmas day 1814, but the first attack was on January 1, 1815 when the British fired cannons on the American defenses. They exchanged fire; after three hours of battle, the British retreated. The Americans earthworks damaged during this attack where many guns destroyed including a 24-pounder, a12 pounder and the 32-pounder.

On 8th January 1815, the British troops were on the battle ground and commanding general Pakenham ordered two attacks on the American defenses. The main attack was directly against the earthworks manned by the majority of American troops. They launched in two columns along the swamp line led by Major General Samuel Gibbs and along the river led by Kaene. When the attacks began it was dark, and there was heavy fog.

Thomas Mullins had forgotten the ladders and fascines to be used for crossing the canal and to scale the Americans earthworks causing confusion for the British in the dark. This caused many of them to be killed including Colonel Rennie who was leading the detachment of light companies of the 43rd, 93rd and 7th left of the river and General Gibbs who was leading the main attack column on the right comprising the 21st, 5th,4th, and the 44th West India Regiments. It was evident that the British was losing the war, having lost 291, 2,042 casualties, 1267 wounded while 484 were either captured or missing (Smith 2010). The Americans had only 13 dead, 71 casualties, 39 wounded while 19 were missing. This prompted the British General Lambert to order the withdrawal of his army. This marked the victory for the Americans. Later, a messenger came from Europe with a message that the American and British representatives signed a peace agreement in Belgium on 24th December 1814. However, this message delayed since there was no quick means of communication. This marked the end of the New Orleans war.

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