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Indiana University Bloomington


New Orleans 1815

Battle of New Orleans
Battle of New Orleans
Great news : defeat of the British at New Orleans.
Great news : defeat of the British at New Orleans. (Feb. 8, 1815.)

Battle of New Orleans

Though the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814, it still required ratification by the U. S. government. And of course, news of the treaty took weeks to reach North America and filter out to the various theaters of conflict.

In the meantime, British forces in the Gulf of Mexico moved to attack New Orleans. The city did not have particular strategic importance, but the British capture of a major port city would seize significant stores and supplies, be a distraction to the U.S. war effort, and provide a useful bargaining chip in the ongoing peace negotiations.

British and American forces fought several times in the weeks leading up to the Battle of New Orleans. During this time, Major General Andrew Jackson led the construction of a series of defensive lines protecting the city. Because the Royal Navy did not have enough vessels to move soldiers efficiently in the complicated rivers and swamps of the area, British forces were restricted in where they could approach the city.

On January 8, 1815, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham planned a four-prong attack on New Orleans. Three prongs would attack various points on Jackson’s line of defense, and the fourth prong would travel up the Mississippi River to take over the American artillery guns and turn them against the city. Naval support continued to be a problem, however, and though the British force led by Colonel William Thornton was able to take control of the artillery, they arrived too late. By the time the Royal Navy delivered Thornton’s troops, the battle was already lost.

The defeat was one of the worst suffered by the British in any war, and the losses were dramatically lopsided-- nearly 2,300 British dead to only thirteen American casualties. Almost immediately, the Battle of New Orleans entered into American national mythology as the place where plucky U. S. militia defeated the soldiers who had conquered Napoleon.