The Battle of New Orleans War of 1812

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The battle of New Orleans is of a major historical significance as it was the final confrontation that existed between the Americans and the British. The battle that started on the 8th and ended 26th of January 1815. It took place after the war of 1812. Andrew Jackson who led the Americans to this battle had not received the information in regard to the Treaty of Ghent that was signed two weeks earlier. This treaty ended the war. The Americans won and this win proved to be significant to the people of United States.

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It led to increased nationalism as it was viewed as payback for burning Washington, DC and this brought pride to the Americans.

It is evident that the British Army experienced the great loss at the Battle of New Orleans since they had the numbers and had planned for it. It involved a lot of decision making from both sides, and the reasons behind American win or British loss were many. One of the most notable aspects was the American defensive effort that was coordinated by Major General Jackson.[footnoteRef:1] However, it is also important to note that the British failure can also be attributed to ineffective incorporation of concentration, surprise, tempo and even audacity before and during the battle. [1: . Altensee, Fred, and Bowles Mark. “Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans.” (2009). 2]

Invasion by the British started in the late December of the year 1814 after they had anchored and disembarked to the south of New Orleans where they set camps along the bank of Lake Borgne and the Mississippi River. On the other hand, General Jackson had gathered a number of farmers, pirates, Indians, Army, and militia for a meeting. As more British forces continued arriving, they focused on establishing the nature of the American defenses through encounters and investigative attacks. Although this approach also had a simultaneous impact as it also revealed to the Americans on the nature of the British attack and the direction, they are likely to follow.

From the information obtained, General Jackson focused on the construction of defensive mechanisms along the Rodriguez Canal. He made sure that the mechanisms were done by the 8th of January 1815 as this was the planned day for the attack by the British. The defensive mechanisms incorporated marine guns and the addition of Indian scouts that focused on screening and defending the eastern swamps that were highly restrictive and constituted a potential place of lining defensive walls.[footnoteRef:2] In the discovery of the defensive aspects and a well-defined battle area, the British Major General Sir Edward advised for a change of plans and move the attack to the west bank that was relatively undefended. However, he was overruled by the senior commander Sir Alexander who argued that the action will take too long and they had few boats to fulfill the move. [2: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 27 ]

The setback involved the development of a new plan that involved Major general Sir Edward leading the main assault against General Jackson. On the other hand, Lieutenant Colonel William will lead a surprise attack to the west bank against Patterson. The main assault that was led by Sir Edward comprised of two attacks that focused on attacking General Jackson’s center led by General Kean and the second attack was to engage the less defended area to the left of Jackson towards the swamps and this attack was led by General Gibbs. Moreover, another smaller troop that was led by Colonel Robert Rennie to the West Indian with an aim to get hold of the forward stronghold. In addition, the plan required Kean to be flexible in the event either Gibbs or Rennie needed reinforcement similarly, General Lambert commanded the reserve men.

The night before the attack, Colonel Alexander was required to construct three artillery batteries that were to support the movement from the south by suppressing the American artillery. This was in regard to the earlier attempts to breach the reinforcements that had failed and this time they were determined not to fail again.[footnoteRef:3] Since the breach was considered necessary, it was important to construct ladders that would be used in the canals to assist in the movement and assault through to the American line. In an attempt to ensure proper speed, it was necessary to ensure silence and that there will be no firing of shots until they were ready to execute the breach. [3: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 27 ]

During the dark, it was planned that Colonel William Thornton will lead an army across the river with some light artillery to steal Patterson’s battery and use it against General Jackson before they engage in the main assault that they had planned. Likewise, a canal will be dug by Thornton’s men through the reinforcement that will enable them to float into the river from the camp.[footnoteRef:4] However, it is evident that the plans did not go as they had been anticipated. Literature indicates that two days earlier before that day for the attack, the Americans had captured British sailors who in turn confirmed that there would be an attack on the 8th of January 1815. This had already been said by some British deserters and later more of the same sentiments were confirmed by a local farmer Pierre Denis who had ridden to the British campsite and dined with them. The British officers assumed that the farmer was an anti-American and described their plan in detail.[footnoteRef:5] After the meal with the British officials, the farmer returned to General Jackson to confirm the already said plans by the deserters that he was personally told the same by the British officials. [4: . Ibid. 32] [5: . Charles E Kinzer. “The Band of Music of the First Battalion of Free Men of Color and the Siege of New Orleans, 1814-1815.” American Music 10, no. 3 (1992): 348-69. doi:10.2307/3051599. 355]

From the information obtained events unfolded that prior to the battle, Thornton’s canal collapsed and this delayed the mission with only a few of William’s men able to cross over. Although some of the men managed to pass through, unfortunately, they had no artillery and were not able to seize Patterson’s battery as planned before dawn.[footnoteRef:6] Furthermore, the construction of batteries proved to be ineffective in the muddy and wet soil as it was not suitable for the heavy guns. By day time Dickson’s men were not able to complete the construction of the batteries as planned. It is also evidenced that there was no reconnaissance that was conducted prior to the attack by the British personnel. The act may have been attributed to the view that the Americans were worthless opponents. [6: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 36]

In the morning of January 8th, the British army started their movements as planned not aware of the setbacks they already were experiencing. The morning was filled with fog from the river and this affected visibility a great deal, however, it was to the advantage of the British army. Nearing General Jackson’s reinforcements, the two troops split Gibbs moving to the right and General Keane moving to the left as agreed.[footnoteRef:7] In the morning fog, they quickly lost sight of each other as they parted to their respective positions. Following the formation agreed upon, Rennie was at his position near the wall and Lambert with the reserve army waited at some convenient distance behind General Gibbs. [7: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 36 ]

On the other hand, Mullins a lieutenant delegated by Sir Edward to lead Gibbs column had not yet discovered the location of the breaching equipment at night and this affected their timing as they marched past the fort where they were kept determined that the equipment was kept in a battery in front. To their shock, the equipment was not in the said battery and this involved taking a much longer time to prepare. It involved recovering the equipment as soon as they could fighting the way upstream with the heavy load through the columns that were already in place and be ready to be back information.

Major General Edward awoke with disappointing information in regard to Thornton’s failure and even worse the fog that the British army depended on to obscure themselves from being noticed by the Americans was fast clearing up upon sunrise. This made them become visible to the American soldiers who were expecting them.[footnoteRef:8] The setback involves changes in the plan that were unexpected where the remainder of Thornton’s men was ordered to shift to Keane’s column. On the issue of the signal to advance, the American line opened fire in which the British army responded. Despite the rising number of causalities on the British army they continued to advance and on an attempt to catch up with the rest of the column the lead company made a wrong turn and on realizing the mistake they were already spread into multiple columns already disorganized.[footnoteRef:9] As they continued to advance the American shooters opened fire with rotating ranks that at every moment there was shooting. The British were not prepared for such coordination and this was a devastating moment on their miscalculations. [8: . Altensee, Fred, and Bowles Mark. “Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans.” (2009). 10] [9: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 37]

The other men in the lower ranks who saw this started to flee in all directions dropping into ditches and tall grass to avoid the fire awaiting orders, however, men in the higher ranks advanced and led to server casualties from both artillery and shooting from the American soldiers. This move did not last long as later they broke ranks and hid in the near ditches to await orders.[footnoteRef:10] On the other end, Rennie’s column advanced quickly with the protection from the wall from Patterson’s battery and on reaching the American stronghold rested to assess the situation. Rennie’s tactic to seize the stronghold worked as the Americans were not enough to stop him, although gained it, he was determined to maintain it but was unable to penetrate General Jackson’s line without reinforcement. [10: . Charles E Kinzer. “The Band of Music of the First Battalion of Free Men of Color and the Siege of New Orleans, 1814-1815.” American Music 10, no. 3 (1992): 348-69. doi:10.2307/3051599. 356]

From the previous plan Kean was to support Rennie in the event, he seized the stronghold or support Gibbs if the route to Patterson was not secured by Thornton. In regard to the events, it was evident that both situations were true and this left Keane to decide on his own. Although before engaging any decision Sir Edward had already lost faith in Thornton’s mission and wanted to distance Keane from Patterson’s guns led to the decision of Keane to assist Gibbs. This move led to the death of the commander and later Kean was wounded and removed from the battlefield unconscious.[footnoteRef:11] Meanwhile, Gibbs reassembled the remaining army and advanced again determined to breach the line although they lost the breach equipment as they engaged the Americans. On reaching the wall they climbed upon each other’s shoulders and entered the American lines though the fire was overwhelming and those who reached were either killed or captured immediately. The condition led to Gibbs losing control of his formation completely. [11: Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 38]

Even though Rennie had control over the seized stronghold, the rifle fire could not allow his troop to see the battlefield. In order to view the situation, they used American prisoners as human shields and become aware that the attacking columns had fallen and Americans were shifting their forces to counterattack. Realizing no reinforcement will come he ordered a fateful command that led to his death and many men without crossing General Jackson’s line.[footnoteRef:12] The force that remained retreated and run as fast as they could taking fire and causalities as the Americans continued to fire. More than half of the British force that was on the battlefield had fallen. [12: . Altensee, Fred, and Bowles Mark. “Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans.” (2009). 4]

Following the intensity of the situation, some soldiers opted to hide behind their dead companions to avoid slaughter to wait for surrender or retreat after the end of the battle. However, Major General Edward was unable to be at the rear any longer and decided to ride into the battlefield to re-claim the battle. His presence inspired some of the soldiers although he was later shot and mortally wounded. Despite giving the last command for Lambert to commit the reserves, the messenger was wounded before delivering the message and they were never commissioned. General Gibbs on receiving the information that Sir Edward was wounded and he was in command, he commanded his men to continue with the attack but later in the day died.[footnoteRef:13] At this time Thornton had been able to overcome Patterson’s guns but was too late as most of the British soldiers were dead, captured, surrendering or retreating. General Lambert being the remaining general officer tried to advance but his strategy was unsuccessful leading to a full retreat. Returning to the British headquarters Cochrane, the Commander-In-Chief of British forces in North America, ordered him to renew the attack however with the loss experienced ignored the Admiral and ordered a return of Thornton’s forces. [13: . Joseph F Stoltz. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014). 38]

The battle of New Orleans was underestimated by the British officials, on the other hand, the Americans focused on the mockery on their military and ultimate insults in regard to the burning of president’s house in Washington, DC. In regard to the United States Army code, engaging surprise, concentration, pace, and courage were the main key to success. This indicates the reason that leads to the failure of the British assault at New Orleans as they did not take into account the four doctrines. The following discussion is an analysis of the characteristics that lead to the British failure on the assault leading to victory on the American that is significant even today.

In regard to the first doctrine that focuses on concentration, it was evident that Major General Edwards’s plans never utilized this principle. Since the plan was to penetrate General Jackson’s defenses in order to seize New Orleans, instead of dividing his troops into three he would have concentrated their artillery at a single point to achieve it. Moreover, the failure was also escalated by poor planning that was evidenced as the batteries were not yet ready despite being in the area for a considerable period of time. Integration of fires with maneuver is one of the major concern of the rules throughout any operations that are offensive however in this case that was not considered by Major General Sir Edward.

Secondly, the principles engage an element of surprise in the event of attacking an enemy at a place or time that is not expected and a manner that the enemy is unprepared. Assessing the battle of New Orleans, it is evident that this code was not achieved during this battle by the British army. The attacks as revealed by the events took place in areas and the exact time that the Americans expected. In addition, the Americans also were able to predict the manner in which the attacks were to take place for which took the British a month to prepare. The British army plans were able to be detected prior to the attack as they conducted a number of probing attacks weeks before the attack that made their tactics, presence, and way of approach deceptive.[footnoteRef:14] Worsening the situation even after realizing that new developments had been made by the American soldiers, they did not engage in any serious changes on their plans of the attack to regain the aspect of surprise. On the American side, doubt was further removed by the reports they received from the British deserters and prisoners and more confirmation from the farmer. [14: . Smith, McCarty Kathelene. “The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory.” The Southeastern Librarian 65, no. 3 (2017): 11. 3]

Furthermore, it is important for any attack to ensure that the pace is controlled as it ensures that the advantage is retained. Although Major General Edward had a plan to control the pace of the attack, the subordinate commanders did not execute the attack according to plan. This is experienced when there was a need for rapid execution but orders restricted fire though continued to advance to the canal. This exposed them to severe conditions that led to the loss of breaching equipment subsequently loss of initiative. The delay in engaging the enemy exposed then as it made them become easy targets and hence increased casualties. Another major fail in the execution of pace was evident when Rennie seized the stronghold for British forces, despite the efforts made Edward decommissioned the only reinforcement that Rennie had.

Lastly, audacity focuses on the confidence involved in the execution of the plan and in the event of last minute changes proves that Sir Edward lacked the courage as this complicates the situation further. Starting with the interruption Dickson’s indirect fire then unexpected withdrawal of Rennie’s support led to uncoordinated efforts in the battlefield. However, there was already a general complication and confusion even before introducing the changes. More importantly, no reconnaissance was conducted by the British on the area and route to determine any challenges and take measures before the battle day.[footnoteRef:15] This indicated their perception of the American soldiers that they were weak and underestimated them leading to their failure. [15: . Smith, McCarty Kathelene. “The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory.” The Southeastern Librarian 65, no. 3 (2017): 11. 14]

From the information obtained it is evident that the Battle of New Orleans will remain significant to both the British and the American in different ways in the history of warfare. Focusing on the battle, the British leadership failed to take appropriate measures during the assault to increase their winning chances as they had the number but instead underestimated their enemy in consideration of the previous events. They never believed that superior training, discipline, and education will lead to victory despite overwhelming harsh conditions. On the contrary, the Americans utilized every aspect of the United States doctrine that enabled them to win the battle.


  1. Altensee, Fred, and Mark Bowles. “Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans.” (2009).
  2. Kinzer, Charles E. “The Band of Music of the First Battalion of Free Men of Color and the Siege of New Orleans, 1814-1815.” American Music 10, no. 3 (1992): 348-69. doi:10.2307/3051599.
  3. Smith, Kathelene McCarty. “The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory.” The Southeastern Librarian 65, no. 3 (2017): 11.
  4. Stoltz, Joseph F. “The Gulf Theater 1813–1815: The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.”(2014).
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