Orleans - The Battle That Shaped America's Destiny (2017)
All the while, Jackson was there, directing, encouraging, and inspiring his men. The Volunteers and Riflemen, most armed with .38 caliber long rifles (42 inch barrels), couldn’t miss hitting what they aimed at. Keane’s column had started to fall back under the intense musket/artillery fire, and after Keane was wounded, they fell back even faster. The British troops that reached the canal found that their footing was not nearly good enough to advance up the grade, and all the while Jackson’s men fired down on them. To the British, Jackson’s men seemed to be almost invisible; even to soldiers that survived battle during the Napoleonic Wars, this battle had become overwhelming.
On the British right, Gibbs was carried off the field, and Pakenham and his aides raced to fill the void and to take command. The troops were rallying when Pakenham was shot in the knee, and then Pakenham’s horse was killed by another shot. In the process, Pakenham had been wounded again, this time being shot in an arm. As the twice-wounded Pakenham was getting help mounting another horse, a cannon ball ripped into his groin, mangling his spine. Pakenham was taken from the field, and his last command as he lay dying was to bring up the reserves. British casualties were horrific, while Jackson’s men suffered hardly a pinprick by comparison.
By midday, Jackson received the flag of truce at the HQ house. Before he had left for the HQ house however, Jackson had walked the entire line of defense, thanking and congratulating his officers and his men. Jackson agreed to a ceasefire so the British could deal with their dead/wounded. During the last part of the battle, a British officer had waved a handkerchief on his bayonet as a flag of truce, an that British officer gave up his sword, which had been the first real sign that Jackson’s men had accomplished the impossible.
Jackson had secured the mouth of the Mississippi River for the US. Jackson’s multi-ethnic / multi-class army did what Napoleon had failed to do, which was to destroy the finest fighting force in the world. Jackson had proven to possess superior military instincts, planning, and ferocious leadership compared to his British counterparts. From the HQ house, Jackson kept the artillery going, letting the British know he was watching them as well as determined to see them leave the vicinity as soon as possible.
Sixty miles downriver, Cochrane was firing on Fort St. Philip with five warships. Cochrane fired more than 1000 rounds over 9 days but didn’t inflict any real damage on the fort. Jackson held his position at the canal, and on 19 January 1815, the British force decamped with an overnight withdrawal.
While the British had retreated from land, they remained a strong presence in the surrounding waters. Jackson was concerned that the British might go after another strategic location such as Fort Bowyer, and Jackson was right. Cochrane didn’t think the war was over since no word from London to that effect had yet reached him. Cochrane now had a much larger fleet under his command, now in excess of 60 ships, and that fleet set sail for Fort Bowyer on 27 January 1815. If nothing else, Cochrane wanted to regain lost prestige, not only for his navy, but especially for himself. On 8 February 1815, Cochrane landed 5000 men several miles from the fort. Before he ordered the onslaught, Cochrane sent an officer under a flag of truce to demand the fort’s surrender.
The commander of Fort Bowyer had no real choice but to surrender since he only had 360 men, and on 12 February 1815, Fort Bowyer surrendered. Jackson wrote Monroe of his absolute mortification of the surrender since now the British had an open route to Mobile. But on the next day, a British frigate arrived, and Cochrane received orders to stand down since the Treaty of Ghent was in effect. Cochrane was also ordered to set sail for Britain, but Jackson refused to believe Cochrane would do so until he received absolute confirmation.
Jackson didn’t start for home until early-April, but when he returned to Tennessee, it was as a national hero. Thanks to Jackson, the US would never again be invaded by a foreign power. The victory at New Orleans overshadowed the previous humiliations of the war, such as the burning of DC. The nation’s memory of the war would remain forever centered on Jackson, since he was the figure given the most credit for restoring the honor of the nation. Fort McHenry, successes on the Great Lakes, and especially New Orleans gave the US a sense of nationhood for the first time, and recognition and respect from Europe was an added bonus.
The Duke of Wellington placed the blame for the British defeat squarely on Admiral Cochrane, pointing out that the trek across Lake Borgne meant that the British troops were not connected to their supply base. Jackson’s failure to secure the river bank opposite of his position has raised questions about his battle preparations and strategies . . . no matter, since Jackson was the man of the hour that deserved all the honors and plaudits. Jackson’s decision-making and instincts before/during the battle proved to be stellar.
December 1839: Jackson decided to go to New Orleans, and he borrowed against his cotton crop to do so. Jackson left Nashville on 24 December 1839, and it took for days to travel 125 miles to the mouth of the Cumberland River, where Jackson boarded the Gallatin and headed down the Ohio River. Jackson arrived in New Orleans in the morning of 8 January 1840, and Jackson was seen by a crowd of about 30,000 cheering Americans. After the celebrations, Jackson boarded the Vicksburg and headed upriver, back to the Hermitage. Jackson died on 8 June 1845 must months after his protege, fellow Tennessean James Knox Polk, took office as the nation’s 11th President.
Addendum: Henry Clay and The Treaty of Ghent . . .