The British Plan of Attack New Orleans before the invasion British and American Commanders Warning from Jean Laffite Attack on Lafitte's base Jackson placed in command Battle of the Gunboats Jackson and the Baratarians The British Arrive The Fight in the Dark The Carolina The Grand Reconnaissance Battle of New Years Day The Main battle Weapons of the Battle re-enactments&photos What if the Americans lost? visiting the battlefield Map of Chalmette Battlefield and surrounding area List of Kentuckians and Louisianans in the battle Timeline audio
Jackson takes command
portrait of Jackson close to the time of battle
On June 14 1814, Jackson given commission of major general and appointment of military commander of the 7th Military District, hq in New Orleans. Jackson at this time was in Mobile, convinced the British would land here and march overland to New Orleans .On the same day as the Grande Terre attack, Edward Livingston, a former mayor of New York who had fled to New Orleans to escape legal trouble, organized a committee of defense .
Jackson arrived in New Orleans on Dec 1, 1814 , severely weakened by dysentery and recovering from a gunshot wound from his enemies the Denton brothers before leaving Nashville to fight the Creeks. The 47 year old, already with white hair appeared frail and gaunt. Despite this, his presence confidence inspired the inhabitants of New Orleans . Jackson, who had lost 2 brothers fighting the British in the Revolutionary War, was severly beaten himself after caputure by a British officer when he refused to clean his boots. His mother died after contracting cholera while attended the wound on a hospital ship. That war made Jackson an orphan at 13 ( his father died in a accident in 1767 ) and left him with an intense hatred for the British. Col. Arthur Hayes, who had been sent ahead reported on possible defense strategies for New Orleans. Since the small fort at the mouth of the river was too weak to fight off a British attack, Fort St. John would be the main defense against an attack up the river.
To prevent the British from using the bayous that led to the city, Jackson dispated the Louisiana militia under Major Gabriel Villere to obstruct the bayous with trees. Commander Patterson stationed five gunboats to protect Lake Borgne and Lake Ponchatrain . John Coffee was positioned with his troops in Baton Rouge to block an attack on the city from the north.He declared that he had come to protect the city and he would drive their enemies into the sea or perish in the effort. Jugeant's Choctaws and the First Battalion of Free Men of Color to guard the
Chef Menteur Road that led from New Orleans along the coast. He also sent Major Plauché's New Orleans militia companies to Forts St. John and Petites Coquilles north of the city to fend off a Lake Pontchartrain approach .Troops were also station at the old Spainsh fort near Lake Ponchatrain, in case the British should enter the lake and land there, a short distance from New Orleans. This is what the British admiral had planned to do, but lacked enough shallow draft boats to do so. As a second line of defense, Jackson prepared Fort St. Leon at English Turn.
He called on all good citizens to rally around him in this emergency and, ceasing all differences and divisions, to unite with him in the patriotic resolve to save their city from the dishonor and disaster which a presumptuous enemy threatened to inflict upon it. This address was rendered into French by Mr. Livingstone.
video on the Life and times of Andrew Jackson
defeat of the American flotilla
To begin landing troops, the British would need to destroy the American gunboats in the lake. This was a flotilla of five American gunboats with 182 men ,commanded by Thomas ap Catesby Jones. These were the same gunboats that had attacked Grande Terre. These gunboats were called 'Jeffs' in derision by the sailors, after thomas Jefferson, who had ordered them built instead of building up a real navy to save money. These were about 45 feet long, armed with 4 or 5 small cannons each with a crew of 20. the Americans also had a dispatch boat, and the tender Alligator. These were defending the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass, passes between Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartain . Starting December 12, the gunboats could see a line of white sails covering the horizon. The British fleet had arrived . Since the gunboats were reporting on the British movements, they would have to be destroyed.
Cochrane ordered an attack on the gunboats sloops and corvettes, which ran aground in the shallow lake. On December 14,numerous large barges were lowered from the larger ships .A calm left the gunboats and their 182 men open to attack by the British in 45 rowboats,each boat armed with a small cannon, carrying 980 marines and sailors. The Americans could only watch as the British rowed toward them. Anti-boarding nets were put up .The British captured the vastly outnumbered American gunboats and the Alligator in a brief but violent hand to hand battle.The Americans had 6 killed and the British 98, Jones was injured by s musket ball. Lake Borgne was now clear of American ships and the British could land their troops. Now Jackson had lost his 'eyes' on the lake and could not tell where the British would land.
On the day the American flotilla was defeated, one of the first steamboats, the Enterprise arrived in New Orleans with much needed supplies. The Enterprise was also used to bring supplies down river to Fort St. Phillip. It managed to sail past the British position without being hit. It was also used to ferry woman and children from New Orleans when invasion seemed imminent.
Jean Lafitte (L) meeting Gov Claiborne and Gen Jackson
Jackson, who needed every man, still would not release the men captured at Grande Terre or take up Lafitte on his offer .After the defeat of the gunboats, Claiborne meet with Jackson and changed his mind .Claiborne issued a proclamation on Dec 17, offering amnesty to all Baratarians if they joined the fight against the British. Jean Laffite returned to New Orleans, and arranged a meeting with Jackson through Edward Livingston at the general's headquarters at 106 Royal Street. Jackson, it was reported by the sophistication of Lafitte and found him not to be the 'hellish banditti' he imagined .Jean Laffite was sent to Barataria on Dec 22nd to watch for any invasion from the Barataria Bay route and did not see action in the battle of Jan 8.Pierre Laffite remained at Jackson's HQ to provide his knowledge of the land around New Orleans . Dominique You organized his Baratarians into three artillery units.
Praise for the Laffite brother and the Baratarians from Jackson, from
his offical report of Jan 21, 1815
Map of Jackson's defensive positions .Jackson established 3 defensive lines below New Orleans, line Montreuil, line Dupre and line Jackson. The battle was fought at line Jackson
A dynamic portrait of America's seventh president explores the life and times of the first "common man" to rise to the position of president