CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF BRITISH
TACTICAL FAILURE AT
THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS
CPT BOBBIE RAGSDALE
FORT BENNING, GEORGIA
11 JULY, 2012
At The Battle of New Orleans, the British Army suffered their
worst loss ever in proportion to their numbers.1 Indeed, it was
among the most decisive land battles in history, and certainly the
most significant American victory of the War of 1812. During General
Edward Pakenham’s main assault, for which major action lasted less
than 30 minutes, British casualties numbered upwards of 3,000 while
those of the American defenders totaled less than 60 – only 13
The causes for this resounding defeat were many, and the noble
defensive efforts by the Americans under the command of Major
General Andrew Jackson are not to be discounted. Nevertheless, the
failure of the British main assault at The Battle of New Orleans on
January 8th, 1815 can largely be attributed to their failure to
effectively incorporate what we now consider to be the Characteristics
of Offensive Operations: Concentration, Surprise, Tempo and
In late December, 1814, a British invasion force anchored and
disembarked several miles south of New Orleans, setting up camps
along the bayous and swamps between the east bank of the
Mississippi River and Lake Borgne. General Jackson assembled a
motley crew of pirates, farmers, Indians, militia and Army Regulars to
meet them. As additional British forces slowly arrived over the next
several weeks, they conducted several skirmishes and probing attacks
to reveal the nature of the American defenses while simultaneously
revealing to the Americans the direction and likely nature of British
Jackson, so informed, began immediate construction of
earthworks and defensive batteries along Rodriguez Canal,
approximately five miles downriver from New Orleans. By January
8th, his ramparts, five feet high and up to twenty feet thick in places,
ran the length of the open plantation ground from the river to the
cypress swamps in the east.3 Eight batteries and a forward, riverside
redoubt – designed to fire enfilade along the front of the breastworks
– defended Line Jackson, as the Rodriguez Canal defenses came to
be called.4 Across the river – a mile wide at this point – Commodore
Daniel Patterson arranged nine marine guns in four firing positions to
deliver enfilading fire into the 500-yard-deep American primary
engagement area.5 6 Additionally, Jackson deployed Choctaw Indian
scouts to screen and defend in the severely restrictive eastern
swamps where the ramparts could potentially be flanked.7
In the face of overwhelming defenses and a clearly defined
engagement area, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham, the British
ground forces commander, considered moving the attack to the west
bank, which remained relatively undefended.8 Vice Admiral Sir
Alexander Cochrane, the senior commander of the invasion force,
however, overruled him, arguing that it would take too long and that
there were not enough boats to support the move.9 Resigned,
Pakenham devised a plan for a frontal attack; he would lead the main
assault against Line Jackson while Lieutenant Colonel William
Thornton would head a smaller “surprise attack” against Patterson on
the west bank.10
Pakenham’s main assault would consist of two primary attacks:
one at Jackson’s center, composed of 2,600 soldiers from the 93rd
Highlanders and 95th Rifles to be led by Major General John Keane,
and another of equal size at Jackson’s more lightly defended left,
toward the swamps, composed of the 44th Foot, 21st Foot and 4th
Foot to be led by Major General Samuel Gibbs.11 Lieutenant Colonel
Robert Rennie would lead a smaller column of companies from the
43rd Light Infantry, 93rd, 7th Fusiliers, and West Indian Infantry along
the river to seize the forward redoubt.12 Keane was to remain
flexible, prepared to reinforce Gibbs or Rennie as necessary.13 Major
General John Lambert would command the 2,000-man reserve,
comprised of the 7th Fusiliers and 43rd Light Infantry.14 Lieutenant
Colonel Alexander Dickson would construct three artillery batteries
during the night to support their movement from the south, the
purpose of their fires being to suppress the American artillery.15 16
Unlike earlier engagements during which the British artillery
attempted to breach the American earthworks, they would make no
attempt this time.17
Knowing that a breach would be necessary, though, Pakenham
delegated the task to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Mullins and the
44th Foot, who would lead Gibbs’ column.18 Engineers would
construct ladders and fascines (bundles of cane) for 300 soldiers of
the 44th to carry; the remainder of the 44th would form a
support-by-fire position. Soldiers with fascines would lead, dropping
their bundles into the canal and then joining the support-by-fire.
Likewise, the ladders would follow across the fascines and, after
being placed against the breastworks, their transporters would move
aside similarly, allowing the remainder of Gibbs’ column to assault
through the breach lane into the American line. To ensure proper
tempo, no shots would be fired until they were upon the breastworks
and ready to execute the breach.19
Thornton, meanwhile, would lead a force of 1,400 men and
some light artillery across the river under darkness to seize Patterson’
s marine battery and turn it against Line Jackson before the main
assault.20 Cochrane’s sailors would dig a canal through the levee to
float barges from their camp into the river.21 It was a complicated
plan.22 Said Quartermaster William Surtees, “Nothing could exceed
the grandness of the conception.”23
Preparations for the battle did not go as planned, however.
Two days earlier, on January 6th, captured British sailors confirmed to
the Americans what previous British deserters had already been
saying: a massive attack was coming on the 8th.24 25 Worse yet, a
local planter, Pierre Denis de la Ronde, rode to the British
encampment and dined with them; assuming him to be
anti-American, British officers described their plan to him in detail.
Following their meal, he returned to Jackson and informed him
personally of the British plan.26
The night prior to the battle, as Thornton prepared to cross,
Cochrane’s canal collapsed and the barges mired.27 Struggling to
drag their barges through mud to the river, Thornton’s men were only
able to cross 450 of their number, unfortunately without artillery, and
later than expected.28 He would not take Patterson’s battery before
dawn as planned.
Soldiers and engineers toiled through the night to construct
Dickson’s batteries, but they reencountered the same problems that
they had – and should have learned from – during earlier
engagements; the Louisiana soil, muddy and wet, was not suitable
for supporting the heavy guns.29 At daybreak, Dickson reported the
batteries as “not half finished.”30
Perhaps most damning was the general ennui among British
officers that night who viewed the Americans as less than worthy
opponents.31 32 While Surtees and two other officers walked the
route over which the Army would march the next morning, not a
single other officer apparently felt this reconnaissance necessary. He
I was sadly disappointed at our not meeting
with any other commanding officers engaged in
this most necessary duty… But here all seemed
apathy and fatal security arising from our too
much despising our enemy. I did not at all feel
satisfied with what I had seen and heard and
retired to rest with a considerable degree of
despondency on my mind. … I almost felt
confident of [our] failure 33
At 0400 on the 8th, Gibbs and Keane started their movements
from the British camp to the battlefield.34 The morning was thick
with fog from the river; visibility was severely limited, to the British
advantage.35 As planned, 500 yards short of Line Jackson, their
columns split – Gibbs to the right and Keane to the left – and they
quickly lost sight of each other.36 Rennie found his position near the
levee and Lambert waited with his reserve a quarter-mile behind
Mullins, despite being ordered to do so, had not properly
identified the location of the breaching equipment the night prior.38
As such, he marched his column past the redoubt at which they were
kept, believing them to be at a forward battery.39 Upon reaching said
battery and finding an alarming lack of breach equipment, he
discovered his error. He sent 300 men back to the redoubt to retrieve
the tools while he waited.40 They recovered the equipment as quickly
as they could. Burdened by their new, heavy loads and fighting their
way upstream through the columns already assembled, though, they
struggled to return in time and in proper formation to be of use.41
At 0500, Pakenham awoke for breakfast and received the
disappointing news of Thornton’s failure.42 43 Making matters worse,
the fog, upon which Pakenham relied for obscuration during the
assault through the American engagement area, broke upon
sunrise.44 The British formations, arrayed at one-quarter and one-half
mile from Line Jackson, became fully visible to the American
defenders who were expecting them.45 46 Feeling committed to the
battle at this point, the disheartened general ordered the remainder
of Thornton’s men to Keane’s column and prepared for the losses that
Patterson’s marine guns might inflict.47 He then gave the order to
fire two rockets; Jackson himself observed their glow and correctly
remarked, “That is their signal for advance, I believe.”48
Initially in silence, the British marched, sixty abreast and four
deep, bayonets fixed.49 When they closed the distance to 500 yards,
the American line opened fire with their artillery. The British
immediately responded, training their guns on the sound of the
American guns.50 Despite suffering tremendous casualties from the
opening barrages, the columns continued to advance.51
Soon after the shooting began, the soldiers of the 44th, with
ladders and fascines, caught up with the rest of their regiment at the
forward battery.52 Moving out briskly to catch the rest of Gibbs’
column, the lead company turned down the wrong road, advancing in
the wrong direction.53 Gibbs’ quickly identified the error and sent the
order to Mullins, who righted his entire column except for the
offending lead company, which did not receive the order.54 The 44th
was now spread out into multiple, parallel columns, and was utterly
disorganized, with ladders now ahead of the fascines.55
Gibbs’ columns continued to advance, but once within 300
yards, the American sharpshooters opened fire.56 They fired their
rifles in three to four ranks, rotating such that one rank was nearly
always firing.57 58 After the first volley, volley-fire was abandoned in
favor of individual efforts, with the Americans firing and loading as
quickly as possible.59 The British were unprepared for these tactics
and the results were devastating. As reported by Quartermaster E.N.
In less time than one can write it, the
Forty-fourth Foot was literally swept from the
face of the Earth. In the wreck and confusion
that ensued within five minutes the regiment
seemed to vanish from sight. … Every mounted
officer was down at the first fire.60
The 21st and 4th, having seen the 44th break completely and
flee in all directions, immediately stalled in the American
engagement area, dropping into ditches and tall grass to avoid the
deadly rifle fire and await orders.61 Across the field, the 95th,
followed by the 93rd, advanced while taking severe casualties, both
from rifle and artillery fire to the front and from the grapeshot and
cannon across the river.62 Finally, unable to face continued losses,
the 95th broke ranks and dove for nearby ditches. The 93rd
Highlanders remained in formation, but halted and lay down in wait of
Further west, along the river, Rennie’s column advanced quickly,
the levee protecting them alone from Patterson’s marine battery.64
As they approached their objective, the forward American redoubt, he
ordered them prone beside the levee to rest momentarily while he
assessed the situation.65 Though protected by the levee, he was still
taking casualties to the front and right. Knowing that he could not
remain in the engagement area, he ordered his men forward and they
charged the redoubt. The Americans noticed his effort and diverted
forces to repel his attack; they were not enough to stop him, though,
and he seized the redoubt, albeit losing two-thirds of his force in the
process.66 Having gained the initiative, he looked to maintain it, but
could not penetrate Line Jackson without reinforcements.67 Fixed by
rifle fire, they hunkered down and waited for support.68
Keane’s orders were to support Rennie if he seized the redoubt,
or support Gibbs if Thornton failed to route Patterson.69 Both
conditions being true, Keane was seemingly free to follow his
intuition. Immediately prior to the battle, however, having lost all
faith in Thornton’s mission and wanting to distance Keane from
Patterson’s guns, Pakenham rode to Keane and instructed him to
assist Gibbs and ignore Rennie.70 He ordered him to cross the field in
a right-oblique formation after the battle began, and so he did.71
With the 95th having already broken and taking cover in ditches,
Keane advanced with the 93rd, 100 men abreast.72 The move
attracted considerable attention and the American guns assailed his
formation; the 93rd commander was killed as they closed to within
150 yards.73 Receiving an order to halt that he issued immediately
prior to his death, the 93rd did exactly that; with his subordinate
commanders either unwilling or unable to take charge, the proud
Highlanders stalled before the ramparts, perfectly disciplined and
suffering murderous fire.74 Shortly afterward, Keane too was
wounded and removed, unconscious, from the battlefield.75 Having
taken casualties amassing over 85% of their strength, the 93rd
ultimately broke and fled.76
Gibbs, meanwhile, rallied his forces behind the remnants of the
44th and advanced again.77 The American fire did not slow, however,
and the 44th dropped their breach equipment to return fire, against
orders.78 Other regiments followed suit, and their movement slowed
all the more.79 At Gibbs’ insistence, the 21st advanced, stepping
around and over the bodies of the 44th that lay in front.80
Determined to breach with or without the ladders and fascines, a
small detachment actually reached the ramparts and, climbing upon
one another’s shoulders, entered the American lines.81 The fire was
overwhelming, though, and those that reached the breastworks were
all killed or captured immediately.82 At this, Gibbs lost all control of
his formation and the 21st broke completely, its soldiers in “full flight.
Rennie remained in control of his seized redoubt for the time
being, but the American rifle fire prevented him or his men from
standing to see the battlefield.84 Finally, using American prisoners
as human shields, they were able to rise and observe the dire nature
of their condition.85 Indeed, they became aware that as the
attacking columns collapsed, the Americans began shifting forces to
counterattack the redoubt.86 Realizing that no reinforcements would
come, he ordered a fateful charge over the lone plank across the
canal and into the breastworks; he and many men died without ever
crossing Jackson’s line.87 The remaining force retreated as quickly as
they could, taking continued fire and casualties as they did.88
More than half of the British force on the field had fallen.
American Colonel William Butler remarked, “No officer on horseback
could be seen, and such as had escaped death or wounds were
running as fast as their legs could carry them to the rear – anywhere
to get out of the reach of those awful rifles.”89 Some soldiers, seeing
no other escape from the slaughter, hid behind their dead
companions, waiting until the battle’s end to surrender or retreat.90
Unable to remain in the rear any longer, General Pakenham rode into
the field with his aide to salvage the battle. Gibbs reported that his
men no longer obeyed him, so Pakenham took charge.91
Riding into the field amongst the routed and fleeing soldiers, he
cried, “Shame! Shame! Remember you’re British! Forward,
gentlemen, forward!”92 Inspired by their general’s presence, a
number of soldiers resumed the charge, led by Sir Edward himself; he
was then immediately shot from his horse, which was itself also
shot. Undaunted, he commandeered his aide’s horse and charged a
second time, upon which he was shot a second, and third time.
Mortally wounded, he fell and was carried from the battlefield, but
not before issuing a final order that Lambert commit the reserves. In
executing that order, however, the bugler was wounded, and the
reserves were never activated.93
A staff officer found General Gibbs and informed him of
Pakenham’s wounds, adding that Gibbs was now in command.94
Either out of frustration or in an effort to once again rally his soldiers,
Gibbs charged the ramparts himself; he and his horse were brought
down in a hail of gunfire and he died later that day.95 96
By this time, Thornton managed to finally silence Patterson’s
guns with his small detachment, but it was too late.97 The entire
British main assault was either dead, captured, surrendering or
retreating.98 British Lieutenant George Gleig recalled that “all was
confusion and dismay. Without leaders, ignorant of what was to be
done, the troops first halted and then began to retire, till finally the
retreat was changed into a flight, and they quitted the ground in
General Lambert, the lone remaining general officer, assumed
command and deployed his reserves to cover the retreat.100 The 7th
and 43rd advanced slowly, expecting a counterattack, and then took
cover in ditches to avoid becoming casualties themselves.101 102 The
strategy was unsuccessful and soon they were also in full retreat,
fleeing by squads.103 Captain John Cooke of the 43rd recalled the
disaster, saying, “Regiments were shattered, broke, dispersed – all
order was at an end.”104
In a last effort, Lambert sent a West Indian detachment
through the swamp in an attempt to flank Jackson’s left.105 They got
close to the line, but mired and those who didn’t drown were captured
by the Choctaw scouts.106
His army a shambles, Lambert returned to the British
headquarters where Cochrane ordered him to renew the attack. 107
With two-thirds of his force removed from the fight, he ignored the
Admiral and ordered Thornton’s forces to return, forfeiting their gains
on the west bank.108 109 Some Americans crossed the breastworks to
take prisoners and render aid to the wounded, but Jackson prohibited
a counterattack.110 111 The battle having begun shortly after sunrise,
the American infantry ceased fire “for lack of targets” at 0830;
artillery stopped at 1400.112
According to figures from the British Army Medical Director, the
British suffered over 850 killed and nearly 2,500 wounded during the
battle.113 Of note, the 93rd Highlanders were reduced to 132 of their
original thousand, and the 44th Foot to 134 of its original 816; of
their 31 officers, 5 remained. Other units bore similarly tragic
losses. By contrast, the Americans endured 13 killed and 39
“Surprise, Concentration, Tempo, and Audacity characterize the
offense,” according to US Army doctrine.115 Unquestionably, in the
face of their overwhelming defeat, the British main assault at New
Orleans failed to properly account for and incorporate any of these
four principles. What follows is a critical examination of their failure,
by characteristic, in order from least to most egregious.
“Concentration is the massing of overwhelming effects of
combat power to achieve a single purpose.”116 If Pakenham’s
purpose was to penetrate Jackson’s defenses to seize New Orleans,
he seemingly made no effort to concentrate his fires to achieve it.
While his infantry was organized into three, mutually supporting
columns, with Gibbs apparently as his decisive effort, his artillery was
not designed to set conditions for success at his decisive point
(Jackson’s left). Rather, they were spread out and ordered to conduct
counter-battery fire against the American guns, which were
distributed across Line Jackson, instead of concentrating them at a
single point.117 Worse still, while small-arms fire proved to be
among the most casualty-producing American weapons, Dickson’s
batteries were ordered not to fire until they could hear the musketry,
inexplicably forfeiting the standoff that they could have achieved by
prepping the defensive works with indirect fire before the assault.118
Some failures were just a matter of poor planning. When
Keane crossed the field to Gibbs, Dickson was unexpectedly forced to
silence his guns while the column crossed his sector of fire.119
Despite having occupied the territory to the south since December,
the batteries were still not complete by the start of the battle.120
Doctrine is clear that commanders must “integrate Fires with
Maneuver throughout offensive operations,” but Pakenham failed to
successfully incorporate Fires into his plan and he sacrificed
Concentration as a result. 121
“In the offense, commanders achieve surprise by attacking the
enemy at a time or place he does not expect or in a manner for which
he is unprepared.”122 It is not unreasonable to declare that Surprise
was impossible by the morning of January 8th, as the British quite
clearly attacked at both the time and place the Americans expected,
and in a manner for which they spent a month preparing. Having
conducted several probing attacks in the weeks prior, they made their
presence, tactics and likely avenue of approach apparent. Despite
this inexorable truth, no serious attempt was made to develop a new
plan of attack.123 Making matters worse, the British deserters and
prisoners, as well as local planter de la Ronde, each informed Jackson
of the British plan in varying degrees of detail, removing all doubt.124
125 Even their signal to advance (rocket fire) was clear and
unmistakable to all.126 Historian Wilburt Brown encapsulates the
situation nicely when he remarks, “There was no hope of a surprise.”
“Controlling or altering Tempo is necessary to retain the
initiative.”128 While Pakenham planned to control the Tempo of the
fight, his subordinate commanders were unable to execute his plan.
In order to ensure rapid execution of the breach operation, the
infantry was ordered not to fire – and thus, not to stop advancing –
until they reached the canal.129 Under the severe conditions,
however, British discipline was pushed to the limit, and the 44th
dropped their breaching equipment to return fire, losing initiative.130
Their hesitation in the enemy’s engagement area made them easy
Commanders must use Tempo to “prevent defenders from
massing effects against the friendly decisive operation.”132 So easy
were the British targets that nearly every advancing column broke and
fled during the assault, in part due to the defenders’ ability to isolate
and mass effects on individual units as they approached the canal.
Even the retreat lacked Tempo; the reserve advanced slowly,
expecting a counterattack, likely costing more lives than if they had
seized initiative in their covering mission.133 Ultimately, they
themselves also broke under the relentless and massed American
The most critical disaster of Tempo was the failure to exploit
Rennie’s seizure of the Americans’ outworks at the riverside redoubt.
Rennie’s column had finally seized the initiative for the British forces,
but Pakenham ordered away their only reinforcements. “Commanders
never permit the enemy to recover from the shock of the initial
assault,” but he had done exactly that.135 Despite his noble efforts,
Rennie was unable to continue the assault alone. By failing to
maintain Tempo, the Americans were allowed to successfully
counterattack, and the British were driven from their lone foothold
into the American defenses.136
Some of the failure regarding Tempo, though, can be attributed
to British military culture. Traditionally, the British Army of the age
was not conducive to individual initiative; rather, it was a culture of
top-down leadership. This was apparent throughout the battle: the
95th froze directly in front of the American defenses when their
commander was killed;137 the 21st and 4th took cover and waited for
orders when they became confused during their initial assault;138
even the retreat took longer than necessary as soldiers were unclear
of what to do without being expressly told.139 Given their culture as
it was, in the face of the relentless loss of their officers, it was near
impossible for the British to maintain Tempo.
“Audacity is a simple plan of action, boldly executed.”140
Pakenham’s failure of audacity is two-fold and polar. First, the plan
was complicated.141 Second, “boldly” is not the same as “brashly;”
attacking through an enemy’s engagement area is not the same as
being wisely audacious. Rather, it is foolish. In other words, his
plan was simultaneously less than simple and more than bold.
The British main assault involved no less than ten moving
pieces, not including Thornton’s forces on the west bank.142 Last
minute changes further complicated matters.143 From interrupting
Dickson’s indirect fire plan to leaving Rennie unexpectedly without
support, changes desynchronized efforts across the battlefield.144 145
Moreover, the nature of the plan led to general confusion and
complication, even without changes. The 44th split when lead
elements marched in the wrong direction, and again when they
missed the breaching equipment.146 Ladders and fascines flipped
positions, yielding the initial breach plan unfeasible.147 Captain
Cooke marched his column in the wrong direction entirely, being
unclear of where he fit into the battle and following only the sound of
gunfire through the smoke and mist.148 The plan, seemingly sound
on paper, could not withstand the complications of reality.
More importantly, though, was the overall aim of Pakenham’s
plan to assault through the Americans’ clearly defined engagement
area, seemingly justified by hubristic nationalism alone. As Surtees
observed, no commanders reconnoitered the route from camp or took
preparatory measures the night before the battle, secure in their
confidence of perceived American weaknesses.149 The assembled
Americans were fighting together for the first time while the British
were veterans and professionals.150 During planning, Admiral
Cochrane rejected his generals’ reservations about the attack; so
poor was his opinion of the American defenders that he claimed his
2,000 sailors would take the city themselves, should the army be
Doctrine goes on to say, “Army forces dictate the terms of
combat and avoid fighting the enemy on his terms.”152 Officers are
taught not to attack through an enemy’s engagement area if at all
possible. If ultimately necessary, extraordinary measures must be
taken to mitigate the enemy’s ability to deliver his planned effects
into that engagement area. Pakenham took some measures toward
mitigation, but each ultimately fell through: the attack was to begin
at night, but was delayed until daytime; fog was to obscure the
battlefield, but it lifted at sunrise; Thornton was to silence the
enfilading fires and turn Patterson’s guns before the assault, but he
was late; Dickson’s batteries were to silence the American guns, but
they weren’t finished in time.153 154 Knowing of these setbacks, and
in spite of the fact that he could have postponed the battle,
Pakenham ordered the attack to continue anyway.155 As a result, the
British formations suffered catastrophic losses throughout the
extremely short battle.
Across the entire battlefield, the Americans inflicted murderous
wounds on the British columns. A 32 lb gun, packed with musket
balls, destroyed the center of one column in a single shot.156
Riflemen engaged out to 400 yards with accuracy, while the British,
powerless to stop it, continued their disciplined advances.157 So
horrendous was the display that American officers became emotional
at the sight, looking away as their riflemen fired through tears.158
Colonel Butler remarked to General Jackson, “Magnificent, isn’t it,
General?” “Magnificent,” he replied, “But is it war?”159
When the battle was all but over, Pakenham rode into the field
reminding those retreating that they were, in fact, British, as though
that fact alone should enable them to overcome the inferior
Americans’ relentless fires.160 Felled shortly thereafter while leading
his men to the canal, Pakenham caught notice of Jackson’s aide who
remarked, “That British officer certainly acted the hero at the last.”
Upon reflection, Jackson answered, “When our intellect fails us, we
have to become heroes.”161
The Battle of New Orleans will forever remain one of the most
lopsided battles in the history of warfare. While many circumstances
must align any time an event of this significance occurs, the British
leadership certainly did not take appropriate measures to prevent it.
Central to their failure was the inability to properly account for and
incorporate the timeless ideals that US Army doctrine currently refers
to as the Characteristics of the Offense, namely Concentration,
Surprise, Tempo, and Audacity – especially Audacity.
General Sir Edward Pakenham, while nobly intentioned, seemed
to falsely believe that superior training, discipline and breeding alone
could bring an Army to victory in spite of overwhelming adversity. He
gave his life in support of his plan. Indeed, his last words are
perhaps the most telling indication of the battle’s outcome in his
mind: “Lost for the lack of courage.”162
1. Brands, H.W. Andrew Jackson:
His Life and Times. New York:
Random House, 2005.
2. Brooks, Charles.
The Siege of New Orleans. Seattle:
Washington Press, 1961.
3. Brown, Wilburt. The Amphibious Campaign
for West Florida and
University, AL: University of Alabama
4. Buchanan, John. Jackson's Way:
Andrew Jackson and the People
of the Western Waters.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
5. Carter III, Samuel. Blaze of Glory:
The Fight for New Orleans,
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971.
6. Cooke, John. A Narrative of Events in
the South of France, and of
the Attack on New Orleans, in 1814 and 1815.
London: T. W.
Boone, 1835. http://books.google.com/
7. Department of the Army. Field Manual 3-0,
Washington: GPO, June 2001.
8. Groom, Winston. Patriotic Fire:
Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite
at the Battle of New Orleans.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
9. Remini, Robert. The Life of Andrew Jackson.
New York: Harper &
10. Surtees, William.
Twenty-five Years in the Rifle Brigade.
Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1833.
11. United States Military Academy.
Map of The Battle of New
West Point: History Department, 2010.
1 Samuel Carter III, Blaze of Glory:
The Fight for New Orleans,
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971), 278.
3 Robert Remini,
The Life of Andrew Jackson,
(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 100.
4 Charles Brooks,
The Siege of New Orleans,
(Seattle: University of
Washington Press, 1961), 214.
5 Ibid., 216.
6 Carter, 252.
7 Remini, 100.
8 Carter, 232.
10 Ibid., 241.
11 Winston Groom,
Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at
the Battle of New Orleans,
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 182.
12 Groom, 182.
13 Carter, 241.
14 Brooks, 229
15 Carter, 244.
16 Wilburt Brown,
The Amphibious Campaign for West Florida and
(University, AL: University of Alabama Press,
17 Brooks, 212.
18 Carter, 240.
19 Brooks, 220.
20 Carter, 244.
21 Ibid., 233.
22 Groom, 183.
23 William Surtees,
Twenty-five Years in the Rifle Brigade,
(Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1833), 369.
24 Carter, 239.
25 Brown, 143.
26 Carter, 243.
27 Ibid., 245.
28 Ibid., 250.
29 Ibid., 244.
30 John Buchanan, Jackson's Way:
Andrew Jackson and the People of
the Western Waters,
(New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001), 356.
31 Carter, 244.
32 Brooks, 224.
33 Surtees, 372-73.
34 Carter, 249.
35 Brown, 151.
36 Carter, 249.
37 Brooks, 229.
38 Brooks, 221.
39 Carter, 242, 250.
40 Brooks, 228.
41 Carter, 251.
42 Ibid., 250-51.
43 Brooks, 227.
44 Groom, 191.
45 Brooks, 231.
46 Brown, 149.
47 Brooks, 231.
48 Carter, 251-52
49 Ibid., 251, 253.
52 Brooks, 232.
55 Ibid., 233.
56 Carter, 254.
57 Brown, 150.
58 Carter, 255.
59 Buchanan, 357.
60 Carter, 254.
61 Brooks 233.
62 Ibid., 234.
64 Carter, 254.
65 Brooks, 234.
66 Carter, 255.
69 Brooks, 236.
70 Brown, 148.
71 Groom, 190.
72 Carter, 258.
73 Buchanan, 359.
74 Groom, 198.
75 Carter, 258.
76 Ibid., 260.
77 Brooks, 234.
78 Ibid., 235.
80 Carter, 255.
81 Ibid., 256.
83 Carter, 258.
84 Surtees, 376.
87 Ibid., 377.
88 Brooks, 239.
89 Carter, 256.
90 Buchanan, 361.
91 Carter, 259.
94 Carter, 260.
96 Brooks, 241.
97 Ibid., 243.
98 Ibid., 244.
99 H.W. Brands,
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times, (New York:
Random House, 2005), 441.
100 Carter, 260.
101 Remini, 102.
102 Brooks, 245.
103 Brooks, 247.
104 John Cooke,
A Narrative of Events in the South of France, and of
the Attack on New Orleans
, in 1814 and 1815, (London: T. W. Boone,
1835), 235. http://books.google.com/books?id=E0r5kY5CDj0C
105 Carter, 260.
106 Remini, 103.
107 Carter, 261.
109 Brown, 156.
110 Carter, 262.
111 Brown, 151.
113 Carter, 278.
Actual numbers – KIA: 381, DOW: 477, WIA
(temporary): 1251; Total: 3,326
115 Department of the Army, Field Manual
(Washington: GPO, June) 2001, 7-4.
116 Ibid., 7-5.
117 Brown, 149.
118 Ibid., 148.
119 Groom, 195.
120 Buchanan, 356.
121 Department of the Army, 7-27.
122 Ibid., 7-4.
123 Carter, 232.
124 Ibid, 243.
125 Brown, 143.
126 Carter, 252.
127 Brown, 143.
128 Department of the Army, 7-6.
129 Brooks, 221.
130 Ibid., 235.
131 Remini, 101.
132 Department of the Army, 7-6.
133 Remini, 102.
134 Brooks, 247.
135 Department of the Army, 7-6.
136 Surtees, 377.
137 Groom, 198.
138 Brooks, 233.
139 Brands, 441.
140 Department of the Army, 7-6.
141 Groom, 183.
142 Rennie’s column,
the 93rd and 95th under Keane, the 44th, 21st,
and 4th under Gibbs,
the 7th and 43rd under Lambert, the West Indian
detachment, and Dickson’s batteries.
143 Ibid., 190.
144 Groom, 195.
145 Brown, 148.
146 Brooks, 232-33.
148 Cooke, 230-35.
149 Surtees, 372-73.
150 Groom, 193.
151 Carter, 157.
152 Department of the Army, 4-10 to 4-11.
153 Carter, 151.
154 Brooks, 227.
155 Carter, 251.
156 Brown, 149.
158 Books, 240.
159 Carter, 261.
160 Groom, 199.
161 Brooks, 240.
162 Carter, 261.
The Battle of New Orleans, one of the most decisive land
battles in history, was indisputably the most significant American
victory of the War of 1812. On the battlefields of Chalmette
plantation, just south of the city, the British Army suffered their
worst loss ever in proportion to their numbers. In less than 30
minutes, British casualties in the main assault numbered upwards of
3,000 while those of the American defenders totaled less than 60 –
only 13 killed.
The Americans constructed a staunch earthwork defense, but
their ill-equipped and motley crew of Indians, pirates, and
farmer-militia should not have challenged the better trained, armed
and seasoned British veterans that they faced. A close analysis of
British tactics, both during and immediately prior to the main assault
on January 8th, 1815, through the lens of current U.S. Army Doctrine,
demonstrates a complete failure to incorporate what we now consider
to be the Characteristics of Offensive Operations: Concentration,
Surprise, Tempo and Audacity.
The Army’s keystone operations manual, FM 3-0, explains that
Doctrine is “a common language and … understanding of how Army
forces conduct operations.” While modern Doctrine is focused on
providing a framework for today’s military professionals in a
contemporary operating environment, it is “rooted in time-tested
Principles” and is “adaptable to changing technologies, threats, and
missions.” As such, what we today call the Characteristics of
Offensive Operations are, in fact, timeless principles that accurately
reflect necessities for offensive success throughout the history of
warfare. Failure to account for any one principle can lead to defeat,
but neglect for all for makes it a near certainty.
The British made a poor effort to Concentrate their effects on a
decisive point on the battlefield. Their actions prior to the battle
made Surprise essentially impossible. Incessant stalling in the
American engagement area gave the British no control over the
tempo of the fight. The greatest failure, though, was the improper
use of Audacity, defined as “a simple plan of action, boldly executed;
” the exceptionally complicated British plan was impossible to
execute boldly without being simultaneously reckless.
This paper attempts to justify each of these claims through
analysis of the evidence and close reading of U.S. Army Doctrine on
Offensive Operations. The intended purpose is that current and
future military professionals understand the British failure, how their
inadequacies apply even today, and how to apply Doctrine – which
inhabits an academic world of theoretical warfare – to real-world
situations across time.