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 MANEUVER CAPTAINS

CAREER COURSE

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF BRITISH

TACTICAL FAILURE AT

THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS

BY

CPT BOBBIE RAGSDALE

MANEUVER CENTER

OF EXCELLENCE

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

killed.2

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

Audacity.

BACKGROUND

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

attack.  

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

remarked:

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

 

The Battle

 

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

Gibbs.37

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.

Burroughs:

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 orders.63

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.

”83  

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

utmost disorder.”99

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

wounded.114

Analysis

“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.”

127

“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

targets.131  

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

fires.134

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

unable.151

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

Conclusion

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

 

    

   

Works Cited

 

 1. Brands, H.W. Andrew Jackson:

 His Life and Times. New York:

    Random House, 2005.

 2. Brooks, Charles.

The Siege of New Orleans. Seattle:

 University of

    Washington Press, 1961.

 3. Brown, Wilburt. The Amphibious Campaign

 for West Florida and

    Louisiana, 1814-1815.

 University, AL: University of Alabama

    Press, 1969.

 4. Buchanan, John. Jackson's Way:

Andrew Jackson and the People

    of the Western Waters.

New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,

    2001.

 5. Carter III, Samuel. Blaze of Glory:

The Fight for New Orleans,

    1814-1815.

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/

books?id=E0r5kY5CDj0C

 7. Department of the Army. Field Manual 3-0,

Operations.

    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 &

    Row, 1988.

10. Surtees, William.

Twenty-five Years in the Rifle Brigade.

    Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1833.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=vL_5Gemj3DcC

11. United States Military Academy.

  Map of The Battle of New

    Orleans.

 West Point: History Department, 2010.  

    http://www.dean.usma.edu/

departments/history/Atlases/

    1812/1812GIF/NewOrleansBattle.gif

 

 

1 Samuel Carter III, Blaze of Glory:

The Fight for New Orleans,

1814-1815

 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971), 278.

2 Ibid.

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.

9 Ibid.

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

Louisiana, 1814-1815,

 (University, AL: University of Alabama Press,

1969), 149.

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.

http://books.google.com/books?id=vL_5Gemj3DcC

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.

50Ibid., 253.

51 Ibid.

52 Brooks, 232.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid., 233.

56 Carter, 254.

57 Brown, 150.

58 Carter, 255.

59 Buchanan, 357.

60 Carter, 254.

61 Brooks 233.

62 Ibid., 234.

63 Ibid.

64 Carter, 254.

65 Brooks, 234.

66 Carter, 255.

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid.

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.

79 Ibid.

80 Carter, 255.

81 Ibid., 256.

82 Ibid.

83 Carter, 258.

84 Surtees, 376.

85 Ibid.

86 Ibid.

87 Ibid., 377.

88 Brooks, 239.

89 Carter, 256.

90 Buchanan, 361.

91 Carter, 259.

92 Ibid.

93 Ibid.

94 Carter, 260.

95 Ibid.

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.

108 Ibid.

109 Brown, 156.

110 Carter, 262.

111 Brown, 151.

112 Ibid.

113 Carter, 278.  

Actual numbers – KIA: 381, DOW: 477, WIA

(permanent):

1217, WIA

 (temporary): 1251; Total: 3,326

114 Ibid.

115 Department of the Army, Field Manual

 3-0, Operations,

(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.

147 Ibid.

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.

157 Ibid.

158 Books, 240.

159 Carter, 261.

160 Groom, 199.

161 Brooks, 240.

162 Carter, 261.

ABSTRACT

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

  What if the

Americans lost?

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