January 8, 1815 – The British March Against New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans, begun on this day in history, was the final major battle of the War of 1812. In fact, the war had already officially ended two weeks earlier with the Treaty of Ghent, but the news had not yet reached combatants in New Orleans.

At that time, the British were occupying the Florida Panhandle and attempting a westward expansion through territory in what is now the Gulfport–Biloxi Mississippi metropolitan area. Strategically, the port of New Orleans would have anchored these conquests and given the British control of the Mississippi River, severing vital commercial routes for America. The British began amassing its invasion force in the summer of 1814. The pirate Jean Lafitte warned the Americans of the attack however, and the U.S. government dispatched a frantic message to General Andrew Jackson to proceed immediately to New Orleans and defend the city.

Portrait said to be of Jean Lafitte

Portrait said to be of Jean Lafitte

General Andrew Jackson, for all his other sins, was an excellent war tactician. His outnumbered troops managed to decimate the British lines, who were hampered in large part by the swampy terrain. Within an hour after it started, the fight was ended by the surrender of the British on the battlefield. The assault on Jackson’s fortifications was a fiasco, costing the British some 2,000 casualties including three generals and seven colonels. Jackson’s ragtag outfit had fewer than 100 casualties.

Andrew Jackson in 1824, painting by Thomas Sully

Andrew Jackson in 1824, painting by Thomas Sully

Although the battle had no bearing on the outcome of the war, Jackson’s overwhelming victory guaranteed him war hero status, and convinced the Spanish to sell the disputed territory to the U.S.

The Battle of New Orleans was also the last armed engagement between the United States and Britain.

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