For a listing of commemorative events in New Orleans this week, click here.
As we have noted from time to time on this blog, the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain took place in the years 1812-1814, with the Treaty of Ghent, supposedly ending the hostilities, signed on December 24, 1814. In those days of very slow communication, neither army on US territory knew of the settlement when the Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815.
General Jackson encourages his troops to repel the Highlanders
1920 Painting by Edward Moran, with incorrect uniforms (no kilts were worn here)
but trying to capture the spirit of the moment
The American commander was General Andrew Jackson, later the 7th President of the U.S.. The British were led by General Edward (Ned) Pakenham (1778-1815), younger brother of the Duchess of Wellington. Although the British Parliament had approved the treaty, and it had been signed by the Prince Regent on December 30, 1814, The U.S Senate did not ratify the treaty until February 18, 1815.
Death of Pakenham, 1860
by Felix O. C. Darley
Many British troops that fought in the Peninsula had been sent to fight in North America after the Peace of 1814. But since the War with Napoleon was over, there was no need to enforce trade restriction -- or board U.S. flag vessels on the high seas to look for so-called British Navy deserters.
Andrew Jackson, 1819
by Charles Willson Peale
The battle was fought a few miles south of the New Orleans at Chalmette in a swampy area unfamiliar to the British troops, a fact which benefited the Americans. There had been some preliminary fights in previous weeks. The Americans had built some earthworks and as the British attacked, they were driven back. General Pakenham was killed along with many of his countrymen, totaling almost 300 dead and 1,300 wounded. The America casualties were 13 dead and over 50 missing or wounded. Like that of Admiral Nelson after Trafalgar, Pakenham's body was returned to England in a barrel of rum.
The Battle of New Orleans, 1839, by Eugene Louis Lami,
Louisiana State Museum
The British withdrew to the Royal Navy vessels.which attacked Fort St. Philips the next day. For over a week, they attempted to breach the fort's defenses, but eventually withdrew on January 18, ending the final battle of the war.
Some of the British troops returned to Europe in time to participate in the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, but many did not get back across the Atlantic in time.
The Treaty of Ghent made few changes from the time before the war. The declared causes of the U.S. complaints were no longer in effect; other causes, such as the desire to take land from Canada, had not been achieved. The losers were, as it seemed throughout North American history, were the Native Americans. Various attempts to establish an Indian state came to naught.
About the only lasting memories of the War of 1812, from the U.S. side, were the burning of Washington and the writing of the National Anthem the Star Spangled Banner. For this aspect of the war, click here
The British really don't remember the War of 1812 at all. But to our friends in Canada, it means a great deal. And in New Orleans this week, the battle will be re-enacted and other festivities are planned to commemorate 200th anniversary. For more information, click here.
Chalmette Memorial Battle Site
For more information on the National Park Service's Chalmette Battlefield, click here