The Battle of New Orleans
"Affair Below New Orleans"
The South in 1814: Background to the Battle of New Orleans
Andrew Jackson's Southern Defense
Cochrane's Campaign: The British Approach New Orleans
The December Defense: Andrew Jackson Arrives at New Orleans
The British Arrive at New Orleans
Night Before the Battle
Massacre at New Orleans
The Attack at the Villere Plantation
On the swampy grounds of the
Villere Plantation, hundreds of weary British soldiers are huddled around
campfires trying to keep warm. The past two days have been exhausting
for this advance party under the command of Major General John Keane and
Colonel William Thornton. They have had to row themselves, along with
tons of guns and equipment, thirty miles from their camp on Pine Island,
and up the sluggish Bayou Bienvenu. In addition to this, numerous relays
occur in dragging the provisions to camp across two miles of nearly impassable
swamps and thick cypress forests.
To the left of the British, the Mississippi is covered in a thick evening
fog. It is so thick that the British patrols do not see the American schooner
Carolina before it is too late and it sends roundshot flying into
the camp. Keane and Thornton are taken completely by surprise, but they
scramble to get the men into fighting order. Jumping from the schooner,
Jacksons men storm the riverbank and push toward the camp.
For nearly an hour, the British regulars struggle fiercely with Jacksons
impromptu brigade of regulars, militia and dozens Choctaw warriors. The
sides are equally matched with about 2000 men, but Jackson finds that
he wont be able to maintain order long among his militia who are
facing seasoned British soldiers. His begins to falter and he pulls back.
As he is withdrawing, the British in pursuit are distracted by another
attack on their left flank.
Using local planters as guides, General John Coffee has slipped through the woods and around to the British far-right. His Tennessee riflemen dismount their horses and descend on Thorntons men. This British line is broken, but the experienced soldiers shield their officers and meet the riflemen head-on in small groups.
A close pitched battle in the dark ensues, as knives, swords, fists and gun butts are used to inflict damage. British captain George Gleig later remembered that, many a sword which till tonight had not drunk blood, became in a few minutes crimson enough. Finally, Thornton has managed to form up a line and drive Coffees men back into the woods where they retire to meet up with Jackson.
The Americans withdraw leaving 45 British dead and another 170 wounded.
Jacksons men dont fare much better, but the attack has consequences
that would eventually work in favour of the Americans. The intensity of
Jacksons raid leads John Keane to believe that he had been attacked
by a force more than twice that of his own.
In a decision that would prove
costly for the British, the apprehensive Keane decides he will not advance
immediately on New Orleans. Instead, he will concentrate on getting more
troops and equipment ashore, and hope General Pakenhams reinforcements
will arrive soon.