I was remiss earlier this week to mention an important historical anniversary--8 January 1814 was the Battle of New Orleans. For a nineteenth-century historian this is a disgraceful oversight. I thank my friend Spencer Johnson for the reminder.
For those who might have forgotten your early American history, I will offer a brief summary. The Battle of New Orleans actually took place after the War of 1812 had ended. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on the preceding Christmas Eve. But communications were obviously slower in those days.
On 15 December 1814, the British army under General Packenham, landed and moved to take New Orleans. Americans forces there were commanded by General Andrew Jackson, who led a rather motley crew of army regulars, sailors, pirates, Creoles, free blacks, and Tennessee and Kentucky volunteers.
After several smaller skirmishes, Packenham launched a full assault on 8 January 1815. The British numbered 5300 elite troops. But Jackson and his irregulars were waiting behind strong earthwork fortifications at Rodriguez Canal. When the British troops appeared out of the morning fog, American rifles, muskets, and artillery inflicted tremendous damage and casualties on the enemy. Twice the British regrouped and attacked. Packenham himself was killed in the battle. In two hours, the British suffered 291 killed, 1262 wounded, and 484 captured or missing. The American losses were 13 killed, 39 wounded, and 19 missing.
While the Battle of New Orleans did not effect the peace, it gave the Americans something to cheer about after a war with few highlights. And it made Old Hickory a national hero, vaulting him into the presidency thirteen years later.