The New International Encyclopædia/New Orleans, Battle of

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NEW ORLEANS, Battle of. The last battle of the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, fought at Chalmette, near New Orleans, La., January 8, 1815. On December 10, 1814, a British fleet of more than fifty sail with about 7000 troops on board arrived off the eastern coast of Louisiana and came to anchor near the entrance to Lake Borgne. Twelve days later a division of the troops, by the aid of treacherous Spanish fishermen, made its way up Bayou Bienvenu, and on the afternoon of the 23d reached the right bank of the Mississippi, some miles below New Orleans. A few hours later the Americans, who for some weeks had, under the leadership of Major-Gen. Andrew Jackson, been preparing to resist the invasion, made a night attack upon the division and inflicted considerable loss, but did not succeed in overwhelming it. Next morning General Jackson fell back behind an old disused millrace that stretched across the strip of solid ground from the river to a cypress swamp, and there threw up a breastwork. This breastwork was composed chiefly of earth, and not of cotton bales, as was once believed; as a matter of fact, 277 bales were originally used in the embrasures of some of the batteries and in building a magazine. On New Year's Day Major-Gen. Sir Edward Pakenham, who had now arrived with reënforcements and taken command of the English, attempted to batter down the American lines by a cannonade; but this attempt failed, and he then decided to try an assault. The plan he adopted was for Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton to cross the river and storm an American battery on the right bank; while on the left bank two columns were to assault the American main position. The assault was made on the morning of January 8, 1815. On the left bank the British attacked with spirit, but were met with such a heavy cannonade and with such a storm of bullets from the rifles of the American troops, mainly backwoodsmen from Tennessee and Kentucky, that in less than half an hour about 2500 men, including Major-Generals Pakenham, Gibbs, and Keane, were shot down, and the assault failed. The American loss in this main engagement was but eight killed and thirteen wounded. On the right bank Thornton was successful, but, owing to the defeat of the main army, was unable to follow up his advantage. Ten days later the British retreated to their ships. Although the battle was fought after the Treaty of Ghent (q.v.) had been signed, it had results of importance. It was, says the historian Schouler, the only battle of the war that made an impression on Europe, and it served also to help quicken the yet feeble sense of American nationality. By giving a sunset glow of success to an otherwise somewhat inglorious war, it greatly strengthened the position of the Administration and hastened the “deathbed scene of the Federalist Party.” Most important of all, it made General Jackson, who had displayed military talents of a high order, the idol of the American people and was an important factor in causing his subsequent elevation to the Presidency. Consult: Latour, Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15 (Philadelphia, 1816); Walker, Jackson and New Orleans (New York, 1856); Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson (ib., 1860); James, Military Occurrences (London, 1818); Cook, Narrative of Events in the South of France and of the Attack on New Orleans in 1814-15 (ib., 1834); and Gleig, Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans (Am. ed., Philadelphia, 1821 and 1833).