The Naval War of 1812

- Chapter Section Navigation
The Cruise of the U.S. Fleet under Commodore John Rogers
Independent Frigate Actions of the United States in the War of 1812
Battle on the Lakes
War on the Chesapeake Bay
The Battle of New Orleans
The Peace of Ghent and the Future of the U.S. Navy
Documents


The Battle of New Orleans

The initial goal of the British attack on New Orleans was to relieve Canada from military pressure. By the time the campaign began, however, the main objective had become, in the words of the British, to "deprive the back settlements of America of their communication with the sea" and "to occupy some important and valuable possessions, by the restoration of which the conditions of peace might be improved...."

Battle of New Orleans. Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy. Naval Institute Press.
The British invasion forces sailed from Jamaica and moved westward across the Gulf Coast during the latter months of 1814, with the city of New Orleans as their goal. Defending the city was Major General Andrew Jackson.
Major General Andrew Jackson defended New Orleans in the War of 1812.
Along with free black refugees from Santo Domingo, Jackson augmented his forces with Baratarian pirates under the leadership of Jean Lafitte. Although he had referred to the pirates as "hellish Banditti," he needed their manpower and armaments and was greatly assisted by their knowledge of the terrain.

The British proceeded toward New Orleans, planning to attack from the east via Lake Borgne. As the British forces headed to the mouth of the lake, they found their way blockaded by an American naval force under the command of Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones and his force of 185 men and five gunboats. Jones had been instructed and armed as a lookout, but on December 14, the small American contingent faced a British force of forty-five boats and twelve hundred men.
Battle on Lake Borgne. From the collections of The Mariners' Museum.
In the end, the British were victorious. Approximately forty Americans were killed or wounded and Jones, his ships, and his men were captured. Although this was a defeat for the Americans, the battle delayed the British attack on New Orleans, giving the city additional time to prepare for the onslaught.

From Lake Borgne, the British marched to a plantation a mere eight miles south of New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Commanding the American forces, Andrew Jackson marched eighteen hundred men to within a mile of the British camp. Along with his troops, Jackson was supported by two ships, the Carolina (fourteen guns) and the Louisiana (twenty-two guns). On the evening of December 23, the Carolina began to fire on the British encampment while American troops attacked.

After the battle, Jackson was able to pull his troops back and build a series of earthworks between the British forces and New Orleans while the Carolina and the Louisiana continued to bombard British positions.
Battle on Lake Borgne. From the collections of The Mariners' Museum.
On December 27, the Carolina caught fire after being hit by a heavy barrage of heated ordinance or "hot shot." The British tried to advance against the American troops on December 28, but they were thwarted by heavy fire from both the American troops and the Louisiana.

The Battle of New Orleans culminated on January 8, 1815, with the launch of a major British offensive on the city. The British experienced a disastrous defeat, including the death of Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham and the loss of approximately two thousand men. Only seventy men were lost on the American side. Although the Treaty of Ghent was already on its way to being signed by Congress, the Battle of New Orleans served to boost American morale and create the popular belief that the United States had won the war.

Continue to:
The Peace of Ghent and the Future of the U.S. Navy

Copyright © 2000 The Mariners' Museum. All Rights Reserved.