The Battle of New Orleans

Had there been faster means of communication in those days, news of the signing of peace at Ghent, December 24, 1814, would have been received to lift the siege and avert the battle of January 8. As it was, the morning broke with the roar of cannon and the orderly advance of the British main army. Preceded by showers of Congreve rockets, the British, carrying scaling ladders, advanced with precision and arrogant slowness. The main attack was directed to the American left near the cypress swamp, where Generals Carroll, Adair, and Coffee were stationed with their 'dirty shirts,' as the British called the riflemen from Kentucky and Tennessee. Grape and canister were poured into the ranks of the oncoming redcoats, while the backwoodsmen, unabashed by either the elegance or the reputation of the veterans who had harassed Napoleon, cut great swaths in the enemy line. Standing knee-deep in mud and water, these bedraggled, tobacco-chewing mountaineers handled their 'shootin' irons' with great precision and devastating efficiency. British reserves came up to keep the line intact, but the advance was checked short of the breastwork, the British retreating from the hail of fire that crackled across the plain. Pakenham, in an attempt to rally his men, was shot from his horse and carried to the rear, mortally wounded. A second rally was effected but was completely routed, only a few valiant British meeting death at the American breastwork. By 8:30 in the morning the enemy was entirely defeated, and retreated, leaving the field covered with dead and wounded. Thirteen of Jackson's men were killed, 30 wounded, and 19 missing, as compared to the British casualties of 700 killed, 1400 wounded, and 500 missing.

The Americans kept up a ceaseless artillery fire until January 17, when the British retired to their fleet, leaving the Americans in possession. The march of the victorious defenders into the town was a triumphant procession. January 23 was declared a day of Thanksgiving, and an impressive ceremony was given in Jackson's honor in the square now bearing his name. A huge throng gathered to watch him pass under an arch, as girls tossed flowers in his path. A Te Deum was sung in the Cathedral, and in the evening the city and suburbs were 'splendidly illuminated.'

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