Thursday, January 8, 2015


8 January 2015: Well, friends, it has finally come: the last major event of the War of 1812 and the celebration of the bicentennial. I am sure you all know I am talking about the Battle of New Orleans, right? Yeah, I am sure! OK so here's what you need to know. And I am not going to give you history of the War of 1812 - for that you will want to read my book, "...our flag was still there" available on Amazon and from the National Maritime Historical Society ( (Neat how I worked in that plug, eh?)

artist's fanciful rendition of the heroic Jackson
Battle of New Orleans

The actual "Battle of New Orleans" was fought 8 January 1815, but the fighting began on 23 December 1814 when the British began their final incursion into U.S. territory. They landed by boat through Lake Borgne, defeated Lt. Thomas Ap Catsby Jones in his gun boats, put there simply to observe and report. Unfortunately, when the British showed up in their ships and gunboats, the wind died and without oars or a breeze, Jones could not get away and so was forced to fight. He did, obviously lost, but delayed the British approach sufficiently for the defensive lines to be improved around the City. As a matter of interest, the "Ap" above is Welch for "son of" and is not a typo!

The British then moved up swamps (They call them "bayous" down there; it's a much nicer sounding name than "swamp") and set up their base on an abandoned plantation from which they would march onto the city. Andrew, Jackson, in attendance since November, had different ideas, of course.

He wanted to fight well south of the city, so he marched his troops to within 1 mile of the British camp and there established his lines. A bombardment commenced on 31 December and included both artillery and naval guns from 2 American ships. Skirmishers from Jackson's force added to the general mayhem. General Pakenham, the British general in charge and well known for his brilliance in battle, determined it might be prudent to await the arrival of his reinforcements from the fleet still in the Lake and off the mouth of the Mississippi River; he expected some 6,000 more troops would make his attack more meaningful! With that in mind, he ordered his men back to their camp. Jackson ordered his men to increase their defenses, build more earthen redoubts, and re-locate artillery. His line now stretched for 1 mile, held 8 artillery pieces, and was supported at one end by 2 naval guns removed from the American ship.

Some of his men fought from behind cotton bales, provided by the citizenry to aid Jackson's efforts. The soldiers were members of the Seventh Infantry Regimen, one of the 5 oldest regiments in the U.S. Army. Their insignia, which has seen more action than any other American Infantry unit, features a cotton bale and they are called the "cottonbalers."

Pakenham attacked at dawn 8 January; he had originally hoped to attack at night, but confusion in orders and bad weather delayed him and under a blanket of fog, he quietly moved his men into position within about 500 yards of Jackson's line. Then the fog lifted. The surprise on both sides was complete, but Jackson's men, especially his sharpshooters, opened fire on the 5,000 red coated British Regulars in front of them, cutting them to pieces. As the advance drew closer, and in rigid formation, the musket men opened up, further decimating the approaching Red Coats. Grape shot (Lead balls in a canvas bag fired from canon. The bag breaks open and the result is akin to a load of really heavy buckshot.) added to the carnage and the best that England had to offer was cut to ribbons, including General Pakenham, who was, according to eyewitness accounts, "cut asunder by a canon ball." The whole thing was over inside of 30 minutes, the British suffering some 1,500 dead and 500 taken prisoner. And Jackson was credited with saving New Orleans.

Of course, the irony was that the war was over; the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on Christmas Eve, but had yet to arrive in the America. So while the Battle was a huge win for the United States, if had absolutely NO effect on the outcome of the war.

But it did provide fodder for a tuneful rendition which we all knew from the late '50's sung by Johnny Horton, entitled "The Battle of New Orleans" " 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip..."

                     Fair Winds,           
                            Old Salt

PS: Andrew Jackson was the only U.S. President to serve in BOTH the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812! He was president 1829-1837.

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