British And American Forces Clash In New Orleans

Today on January 8, 1815, British and American forces clash at the Battle of New Orleans, even though the war was technically over.

The Battle of New Orleans was the last noteworthy military engagement of the War of 1812. The conflict pitted America against Britain for control over territory in North America. It was a relatively minor war and is considered to be a proxy theatre to the greater Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Earlier on December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States agreed to peace terms with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium. While this effectively ended the conflict, news in those days still traveled slowly, and word had not yet reached North America.

On January 8, 1815, the British advanced on the city of New Orleans after destroying the American Fleet at Lake Borgne. Fear and panic were rampant among the local citizens as the enemy approached the city. The American commander (and future president), Andrew Jackson, hastily prepared to defend New Orleans against the far superior British Army. Jackson assembled less than 5,000 soldiers consisting of the local militia, frontier soldiers, slaves and Indian allies. On the other hand, the British forces consisted of 7,500 well-trained infantry and artillery units. The experienced Sir Edward Pakenham commanded them. The Redcoats launched the first two frontal assaults against the defenses but were repelled.

The British casualties quickly tallied up to more than 2,000. To make matters worse, General Pakenham was shot and killed early in the battle. They eventually retreated after the fortifications proved too difficult to break through. The Americans only lost around a dozen men, making it one of the most lopsided victories of the war. While the Battle of New Orleans had no real bearing on the outcome of the war, it did serve as a moment of national pride for the Americans. It also elevated Jackson as a national hero, helping him to win the Presidential Election in 1829.

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