The Battle of New Orleans
by Zachary F. Smith
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On the morning of January 1st, a thick haze obscured the sun, and all objects at the distance of a few yards, for some hours. Finally, as the clouds of fog drifted away, the American camp was fully exposed to view, but three hundred yards away. The different regiments were upon parade, and presented a fine appearance. Mounted officers rode to and fro, bands were playing, and colors floating in the air. All seemed gala, when suddenly our batteries opened. Their ranks were broken; the different corps dispersing, fled in all directions, while the utmost terror and disorder appeared to prevail.

While this consternation lasted among the infantry, their artillery remained silent; but soon recovering confidence, they answered our salute with great precision and rapidity. A heavy cannonade on both sides continued during the day, until our ammunition began to fail—our fire slackening, while that of the enemy redoubled. Landing a number of guns from their flotilla, they increased their artillery to a prodigious amount. They also directed their cannon on the opposite bank against the flank of our batteries, and soon convinced us that all endeavors to surpass them in this mode of fighting would be useless. Once more, we were obliged to retire, leaving our heavy guns to their fate. The fatigue of officers and men, it would be difficult to form a conception of. For two entire nights and days not a man had closed his eyes, except to sleep amid showers of cannon-balls. We retreated, therefore, baffled and disheartened. It must be confessed that a murmur of discontent began to be heard in the camp. The cannon and mortars of the enemy played on our men night and day, from their main position; likewise a deadly fire from eighteen pieces on the opposite bank swept the entire line of our encampment. The duty of a picket was as dangerous as to go into battle. The American sharpshooters harassed them from the time they went on duty till they were relieved; while to light fires served only as marks for the enemy's gunners. The murmurs were not of men anxious to escape from a disagreeable situation; but rather resembled the growlings of a chained animal, when he sees his adversary, but can not reach him. All were eager to bring matters to the issue of a battle, at any sacrifice.


General Carroll's division of Tennessee troops arrived about this time; also the Louisiana militia were reinforced by several companies from the more distant parishes. On the fourth of January the entire body of Kentucky militia reached New Orleans, twenty-two hundred in number, and went into camp on Prevost's plantation. The day following, seven hundred and fifty of these repaired to the lines, and went into camp in the rear, arms being furnished to but five hundred of the number. There were, at this time, nearly two thousand brave and willing men within Jackson's lines, whose services were lost to the army and to the country for the want of arms. The dangerous delay of the arrival of the troops, and with this, the failure of the arrival of the arms and munitions necessary to equip the men for service, had their beginning in the culpable negligence of the War Department at Washington, of which history has had occasion to complain. But a more immediate cause for the irreparable delay in the arrival of the stores for arming and equipping the troops is found in the conduct of the quartermaster who superintended the shipment of the same from Pittsburgh. Though he was offered a contract to ship these supplies by a steamboat, and to deliver them at New Orleans in ample time for use, for some reason he declined the offer. He then had them loaded on a flatboat and slowly floated to their destination, when there was little or no hope of their arrival in time for use. At the date of the final battle at New Orleans they were afloat somewhere near the mouth of the Ohio River, and of course did not arrive until many days after all need of them was over.

On the twenty-ninth of December, General Jackson wrote to the Secretary of War these words of protest against this failure to make provision for his army in such a crisis as the present:

I lament that I have not the means of carrying on more offensive operations. The Kentucky troops have not arrived, and my effective force at this point does not exceed three thousand men. That of the enemy must be at least double; both prisoners and deserters agreeing in the statement that seven thousand landed from their boats.

When the militia of Kentucky were called for, Governor Shelby was assured that the United States quartermaster would furnish transportation for the troops to New Orleans; but no such officer reported himself, and no relief came from Washington. The men had rendezvoused on the banks of the Ohio in waiting, and here the expedition must have ended had not Colonel Richard Taylor, of Frankfort, then quartermaster of the State militia, on his own credit, borrowed a sum sufficient to meet the immediate emergency. With this he purchased such boats as he could, some of which were unfit for the passage. Camp equippage could not be had in time, and about thirty pots and kettles were bought at Louisville, one to each company of eighty men. At the mouth of the Cumberland River they were detained eight days, with their axes and frows riving boards with which to patch up their old boats. From this point they started with half a supply of rations, to which they added as they could on the way down the Mississippi River. The men knew there was due them an advance of two months' pay when ordered out of the State. The United States quartermaster distributed this pay to the Tennessee troops who had preceded them, but withheld it from the Kentuckians. Believing that they would be furnished suitable clothing or pay, blankets, tents, arms, and munitions with reasonable promptness, they left home with little else than the one suit of clothing they wore, usually of homespun jeans. As a writer has said: "Rarely, if ever, has it been known of such a body of men leaving their homes, unprovided as they were, and risking a difficult passage of fifteen hundred miles in the crudest of barges to meet an enemy. They could have been prompted alone by a patriotic love of country and a defiance of its enemies." This contribution of Kentucky for the defense of Louisiana was made just after she had furnished over ten thousand volunteer troops in the campaigns of Harrison in the Northwest, who made up the larger part of the soldiers in that army for the two years previous, and who recently had won the great victory at the battle of the Thames. Governor Shelby tendered to the government ten thousand more Kentuckians for the army of the Southwest, if they were needed to repel the invaders.

It was in the midst of an unusually severe winter in Louisiana, in a season of almost daily rainfalls, when the Kentucky and part of the Tennessee troops reached their destination. They went into camp without tents or blankets or bedding of straw even, on the open and miry alluvial ground, with the temperature at times at freezing point. This destitution and consequent suffering at once enlisted the attention and sympathies of the public. The Legislature of Louisiana, in session, promptly voted six thousand dollars for relief, to which the generous citizens added by subscription ten thousand dollars more. With these funds materials were purchased. The noble women of New Orleans, almost without an exception, devoted themselves day and night to making up the materials into suitable garments and distributing them as they were most needed. In one week's time the destitute soldiers were supplied and made comfortable. These backwoodsmen, defenders of their country, did not forget till their dying day the generous and timely ministries in a time of trial, in which the women and the men of Louisiana, and especially of New Orleans, seemed to vie; nor did they cease to speak in their praise.

Again, in view of the approaching battle, Jackson, in correspondence with the Secretary of War, complains that the arms from Pittsburgh had not yet arrived, expressing grave apprehensions of the consequences. "Hardly," said he, "one third of the Kentucky troops, so long expected, are armed; and the arms they have are barely fit for use." He presages that the defeat of our armies and the dishonor of the officers commanding, and of the nation, may be consequences chargeable to the neglect of the government.

The American batteries on both sides of the river continued day and night to fire upon and harass the British. Wherever a group of the latter appeared, or an assailable object presented, the American fire was directed to disperse or destroy. This incessant cannonading exercised our gunners in the more skillful use of their pieces, annoyed the enemy in the work of his fortifications, and rendered his nights well-nigh sleepless.


Jackson's lines, five miles below the city, were along the canal, or old mill-race, on the border of the plantations of Rodrique and Chalmette. The old ditch, unused for years, had filled up in part with the washings of the earth from its sides, and grown over with grass. It was chosen because it lay at a point the shortest in distance from the river to the swamp, and thus the more easily defended. Along the upper bank of the canal a parapet was raised, with a banquet behind to stand upon, by earth brought from the rear of the line, thus raising the original embankment. The opposite side of the canal was but little raised, forming a kind of glacis.

Plank and posts from the adjacent fencing were taken to line the parapet and to prevent the earth from falling back into the canal. All this was done at intervals of relief, by the different corps, assisted by labor from the plantations near. It was not until the seventh of January that the whole extent of the breastwork was proof against the enemy's cannon.

The length of the line was less than one mile, more than half of which ran from the river to the wood, the remainder extending into the depths of the wood, taking an oblique direction to the left and terminating in the impassable swamp. The parapet was about five feet in height and from ten to twenty feet thick at the base, extending inland from the river one thousand yards. Beyond that, to the wood and swamp, where artillery could not well be employed, the breastwork was formed of a double row of logs, laid one over the other, leaving a space of two feet, which was filled with earth.

The artillery was distributed on the line as follows:

Battery 1, Captain Humphries, of the United States artillery, consisted of two twelve-pounders and a howitzer, on field carriages, and was located thirty yards from the river, outside the levee.

Battery 2, ninety yards from Battery 1; Lieutenant Norris, of the navy; one twenty-four pounder.

Battery 3, fifty yards from Battery 2; Captains Dominique and Bluche, of the Baratarians; two twenty-four pounders.

Battery 4, twenty yards from Battery 3; Captain Crawly, of the navy, one thirty-two pounder, served by part of the crew of the Carolina.

Battery 5, Colonel Perry and Lieutenant Carr, of the artillery; two six-pounders, one hundred and ninety yards from Battery 4.

Battery 6, thirty-six yards from Battery 5; Lieutenant Bertel; one brass twelve-pounder.

Battery 7, one hundred and ninety yards from Battery 6; Lieutenants Spotts and Chauveau; one eighteen-and one six-pounder.

Battery 8, sixty yards from Battery 7; one brass carronade, next Carroll's and Adair's commands.

Out beyond this last piece the line formed a receding elbow, mentioned above, made unavoidable by great sinks in the soil, filled with water from the canal. Here, and beyond into the wood, the ground was so low that the troops were literally encamped in the water, walking often in mire a foot in depth, their few tents being pitched on small mounds surrounded with water or mud. Amid these discomforts, in this ague-breeding miasm, the Tennesseans, under Generals Coffee and Carroll, and the Kentuckians, under General Adair, for days endured the dangers of battle and privations of camp and campaign. As one historian who was with Jackson's army writes: "They gave an example of the rarest military virtues. Though constantly living and sleeping in the mire, these patriotic men never uttered a complaint or showed the least symptoms of impatience. It was vitally necessary to guard that quarter against an attack on our flank, and to repulse him on the edge of our breastwork, where artillery could not be employed. We had no battery on the center and left for thirteen hundred yards, the nature of the ground not admitting. The Tennesseans and Kentuckians defended this entire two thirds of our line with rifles and muskets only. As anticipated, the enemy made his main assault against these rifles and muskets, in a vain attempt to flank our army."

A view of the positions of the respective corps in Jackson's line will be of interest here. The redoubt on the river, where the right of the line rested, was guarded by a company of the Seventh United States Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Ross; the artillery was served by a detachment of the Forty-fourth United States Infantry, under Lieutenant Marant. At the extremity of the line, between Battery 1 and the river, was posted Captain Beale's company of New Orleans Rifles, thirty men strong. The Seventh United States Regiment covered the space from Batteries 1 to 3, four hundred and thirty men, commanded by Major Peire. The interval between Batteries 3 and 4 was occupied by Major Plauche's battalion of Louisiana uniformed companies, and by Major Lacoste's battalion of Louisiana men of color, the former two hundred and eighty-nine men, and the latter two hundred and eighty strong. From Batteries 4 to 5, the line was held by Major Daquin's battalion of St. Domingo men of color, one hundred and fifty in number; and next to these were placed the Forty-fourth United States Regulars, two hundred and forty men, commanded by Colonel Baker.

From this point toward the center and left, for eight hundred yards, the breastwork was manned by the troops from Tennessee, commanded by General Carroll, and the Kentuckians, under command of General Adair, supported by the men of the nearest batteries. General Carroll reported that he had over one thousand Tennesseans in his immediate command, in line of action. General Adair had, on the morning of the seventh of January, received arms for only six hundred of the Kentucky troops. He says, in a subsequent correspondence, that on the seventh, anticipating the attack of the British the following day, he went into New Orleans, and plead with the Mayor and Committee of Safety to lend him, for temporary use, several hundred stand of arms stored in the city armory and held for the defense of the city in emergency, and to put a check to any possible insurrectionary disturbance. To this the Mayor and committee finally consented, on the condition that the removal of the arms out of the city should be kept secret from the public. To this end, instead of General Adair marching in and arming his men, the city authorities had the arms, concealed in boxes, hauled out to the camp and delivered there. This was done late in the dusk of the evening, and on the night of the seventh four hundred more of the Kentuckians were thus armed and marched forward to take a position with their comrades just in the rear of the entrenchment, making one thousand Kentuckians under arms and ready for to-morrow's battle.

In council with General Jackson, General Adair had suggested that the British would most probably endeavor to break our line by throwing heavy columns against it at some chosen point; and that such was the discipline of their veterans, they might succeed in the effort without very great resistance was made. To be prepared for such a contingency, it would be well to place a strong reserve of troops centrally in the rear of the line, ready at a moment's notice to reinforce the line at the point of assault. Jackson approved this suggestion, and gave orders to General Adair to hold the Kentucky troops of his command in position for such contingency. With Colonel Slaughter's regiment of seven hundred men, and Major Reuben Harrison's battalion, three hundred and five men (the Kentuckians under arms), Adair took position just in the rear of Carroll's Tennesseans, occupying the center of the breastwork line.

By the statements of their commanders, the joint forces of the Tennesseans and Kentuckians defending the left center were about two thousand men. General Coffee's Tennesseans, five hundred in number, occupied the remainder of the line on the left, which made an elbow-curve into the wood, terminating in the swamp. Ogden's squad of cavalry and a detachment of Attakapas dragoons, about fifty men in all, were posted near the headquarters of the commander-in-chief, and these were later joined by Captain Chauvau, with thirty mounted men from the city. The Mississippi cavalry, Major Hinds in command, were held in reserve, one hundred and fifty strong, posted on Delery's plantation. Detachments of Colonel Young's Louisiana militia, in all about two hundred and fifty men, were placed on duty at intervals on the skirts of the wood, behind the line as far as Piernas' Canal. Four hundred yards in the rear a guard was posted to prevent any one going out of the camp, and a line of sentinels was extended to the wood for the same purpose.

The above details show that there were of Jackson's army on the left bank of the river, on active duty, about forty-six hundred men; yet on the battle-line of the eighth of January there were less than four thousand to engage the enemy. The remainder were in reserve, or on guard duty at various points.

From official reports and historical statements derived from British sources, there were present and in the corps of the British army of assault, on the morning of the eighth of January, about eleven thousand men, fully eight thousand of whom were in the attacking columns and reserve on the left bank of the river, the flower of the English army.


It was not yet daybreak on the morning of the eighth of January when an American outpost came hastily in, with the intelligence that the enemy was in motion and advancing in great force. In brief time, as the day began to dawn, the light discovered to our men what seemed the entire British army in moving columns, occupying two thirds of the space from the wood to the river. Obedient to the commands of their officers, who gallantly led in front of their men, the massive columns of the enemy moved up with measured and steady tread. Suddenly a Congreve rocket, set off at a point nearest the wood, blazed its way across the British front in the direction of the river. This was the signal for attack. Immediately the first shot from the American line was fired from the twelve-pounder of Battery 6. This was answered by three cheers from the enemy, who quickly formed in close column of more than two hundred men in front and many lines deep. These advanced in good order in the direction of Batteries 7 and 8, and to the left of these. It was now evident that the main assault would be made upon that part of the breastwork occupied by Carroll's Tennesseans, with the intent to break the line here and flank Jackson's army on the right.

As soon in the morning as word came that the British were in motion for an advance, General Adair formed his Kentuckians in two lines in close order, and marched them to within fifty paces of the breastwork, in the rear of Carroll's command. The day had dawned, and the fog slowly lifted. There was no longer doubt of the point of main assault, as the enemy's heaviest columns moved forward in Carroll's front. The lines of the Kentucky troops were at once moved up in order of close column to the Tennesseans, deepening the ranks to five or six men for several hundred yards. Batteries 6, 7, and 8 opened upon the enemy when within four or five hundred yards, killing and wounding many, but causing no disorder in his ranks nor check to his advance. As he approached in range, the terrible fire of rifles and musketry opened upon him from the Tennessee and Kentucky infantry, each line firing and falling back to reload, giving place to the next line to advance and fire.

The British attack was supported by a heavy artillery fire, while a cloud of rockets continued to fall in showers throughout the contest. The assaulting columns did little execution with small arms, as they came up relying more on the use of the bayonet in case of effecting a breach in our line. Some of them carried fascines and ladders in expectation of crossing the ditch and scaling the parapet. But all in vain. The musketry and rifles of the Tennessee and Kentucky militia, joining with the fire of the artillery, mowed down whole files of men, and so decimated their ranks as to throw them into a panic of disorder and force a retreat. This first disastrous repulse was within twenty-five minutes after the opening of the battle. Writers present who have undertaken to describe the scene at the time say that the constant rolling fire of cannon and musketry resembled the rattling peals of thunder following the lightning flashes in a furious electric storm. An English officer present mentions the phenomenon, that though the flashes of the guns were plainly visible in front, the firing seemed to be from the wood and swamp a mile or two away on the left. They did not hear the sound from the front, but only the echoes from the direction named, as though the battle raged out there.

The defeated column, forced to fall back broken and disordered, was finally rallied by the heroic efforts of the officers, reinforced with fresh troops, and led to a second attempt at assault; but the carnage and destruction were as great as in the first attempt, while almost no impression was made upon the defensive line of the Americans. The British were again compelled to retreat in disorder, leaving great numbers of their comrades dead or wounded on the ground, or prisoners to the Americans. The hope of victory had now become a forlorn one to the British. They were broken in numbers, broken in order and discipline, and broken in prestige. Yet the brave officers, led by their commanders-in-chief, determined not to give up the contest without a last desperate effort. A part of the troops had dispersed and retreated to shelter among the bushes on their right; the rest retired to the ditch where they were first perceived in the morning, about five hundred yards in our front. In vain did the officers call upon the men to rally and form again for another advance, striking some with the flat of their swords, and appealing to them by every incentive. They felt that it was almost certain destruction to venture again into the storm of fire that awaited them, and were insensible to everything but escape from impending death. They would not move from the ditch, and here sheltered the rest of the day. The ground over which they had twice advanced and twice retreated was strewn thickly with their dead and wounded. Such slaughter of their own men, with no apparent loss on our side, was enough to appal the bravest of mankind.

Nearly one hundred of the enemy reached the ditch in front of the American breastwork, half of whom were killed and the other half captured. A detachment of British troops had penetrated into the wood toward our extreme left, to divert attention by a feint attack. The troops under General Coffee opened on these with their rifles, and soon forced them to retire.

After the main attack on the American left and center had begun, another column of over twenty-five hundred men, under the command of General Keene, advanced along the road near the levee, and between the levee and the river, to attack the American line on the extreme right. They were partly sheltered by the levee from the fire of the artillery, except that of Battery 1 and the guns across the river. Our outposts were driven in, and the head of the column pushing forward occupied the unfinished redoubt in front of our entrenched line before more than two or three discharges of artillery could be made. Overpowering the small force here, they compelled it to fall back, after killing and wounding a few men. Bravely led by Colonel Rence and other officers of rank, the British gained a momentary advantage, and threatened to storm the entrenchment itself. But Beale's Rifles from the city, defending this extreme, poured fatal volleys upon the head of the column, while Batteries 1 and 2 mowed down the ranks. The Seventh Regiment, the only infantry besides Beale's in musket range, did deadly execution also. By these, the farther advance of the enemy was made impossible, while the nearest ground they occupied was strewn with their dead and wounded, among whom were General Keene, Colonel Rence, and other prominent officers. Many passed the ditch and scaled the parapet only to be shot down in the redoubt by the unerring riflemen behind the entrenched line. Like the main column on the left, this second column on the right, broken and shattered, was compelled to fall back in great disorder upon the reserve, with no effort after to renew the assault. The dead and wounded lay thick along the road, the levee, and the river bank, as far out as the range of our guns. A flanking fire from the battery across the river harassed the troops in this column both in the advance and retreat, as they passed in plain view, from which fire they sustained severe losses.

The battle was now ended as far as the firing of musketry and small arms was concerned. The last volleys from these ceased one hour after the British column first in motion attacked our line upon the left center, at half-past seven o'clock. In that brief time, one of the best equipped and best disciplined armies that England ever sent forth was defeated and shattered beyond hope by one half its number of American soldiers, mostly militia. For one hour after the opening attack the firing along the American line had been incessant, and the roar of the cannon, mingling with the rattling noise of the musketry and rifles, reverberated over the open plains and echoed back from the wood and swamp, until the issue of combat sent the enemy to cover beyond range. The artillery from our batteries, however, kept up a continuous fire against the guns of the enemy, or against squads of their troops who might expose themselves, until two o'clock in the afternoon, when the lull of strife came to all.

The scene upon the field of contest was one that can not be pictured in words to convey an adequate impression. British officers who campaigned in Europe, in the wars of the Peninsula, testified that in all their military experiences they had witnessed nothing to equal the stubborn fierceness of the contending forces, and the fearful carnage that befell the troops of the British army. We have mentioned how thickly strewn was the ground along the levee and the road, on the right next to the river, with the dead and the wounded of the enemy. The fatality among the officers here was fearful. General Keene, in command of this second attacking column, was borne from the field badly wounded. Colonel Rence, next in command with Keene, was killed while leading the assault in the redoubt. Near by fell Major King, mortally wounded, and others of rank, leaving the command with but few leaders to conduct the broken ranks in precipitate retreat. On our left, in the front of the Tennesseans and Kentuckians, the greatest execution had been done. The slaughter here was appalling. Within a space three hundred yards wide, and extending out two hundred yards from our breastwork on the battlefield, an area of about ten acres, the ground was literally covered with the dead and desperately wounded. A British officer, who became also historian, says that under the temporary truce he rode forward to view this scene. Such a one he never witnessed elsewhere. There lay before him in this small compass not less than one thousand men, dead or disabled by wounds, all in the uniform of the British soldier; not one American among the number. The fatality to the English officers had been even greater on our left than on our right. Lord Pakenham, commander-in-chief, after the first repulse of the main column, with a courage as reckless as it was vain rode forward to rally his troops and lead them to a second attack in person, and in the midst of a hail of missiles from cannon and small-arms fell mortally hurt with several wounds, and died within an hour. Major-general Gibbs, next in command, was stricken down a few minutes after, dying within a few hours. Others in high rank were carried down in the holocaust of casualties, until the British army became unnerved for the want of leadership in the hour of disaster and peril.

Adjutant-general Robert Butler, in his official report to General Jackson a few days after the battle of the eighth, placed the losses of the British at seven hundred killed, fourteen hundred wounded, and five hundred prisoners; twenty-six hundred men, or almost one third the entire number the enemy admitted to have taken part in the contest of the day. The loss of the Americans was six killed and seven wounded, thirteen in all. Instead of comment upon this remarkable disparity of losses, and the causes that led to such a signal victory for the Americans and such a humiliating defeat for our enemies, it will be more interesting to our readers to quote from English writers who were participants in the battle, and eye-witnesses of the scenes they describe with graphic pen. We are ever curious to know what others see and say of us, especially if they honestly criticize us with a spice of prejudice.


Gleig, in his "History of British Campaigns," says:

Dividing his troops into three columns, Sir Edward Pakenham directed that General Keene, at the head of the Ninety-fifth, the light companies of the Twenty-first, Fourth, and Forty-fourth Regiments, and the two black corps, should make a demonstration on the right; that General Gibbs, with the Fourth, Twenty-first, Forty-fourth, and Ninety-third, should force the enemy's left; while General Lambert, with the Seventh and Forty-third, remained in reserve. Our numbers now amounted to a little short of eight thousand, a force which, in any other part of America, would have been irresistible. The forces of the enemy were reported at twenty-three to thirty thousand. I suppose their whole force to have been twenty-five thousand. All things were arranged on the night of the 7th, for the 8th was fixed upon as the day decisive of the fate of New Orleans.

On the morning of the 8th, the entire army was in battle array. A little after daylight, General Pakenham gave the word to advance The troops on the right and the left, having the Forty-fourth to follow with the fascines and ladders, rushed on to the assault. On the left, next to the river, a detachment of the Ninety-fifth, Twenty-first and Fourth, stormed a three-gun battery and took it. It was in advance of the main line of works. The enemy, in overpowering numbers, repulsed our attacking force and recaptured the battery with immense slaughter. On our right again, the Twenty-first and Fourth being almost cut to pieces, and thrown into some confusion by the enemy's fire, the Ninety-third pushed up and took the lead. Hastening forward, our troops soon reached the ditch; but to scale the parapet without ladders was impossible. Some few indeed, by mounting upon each others' shoulders, succeeded in entering the works; but these were, most of them, instantly killed or captured. As many as stood without were exposed to a sweeping fire, which cut them down by whole companies. It was in vain that the most obstinate courage was displayed. They fell by the hands of men they could not see. The Americans, without lifting their faces above the rampart, swung their fire-locks over the wall and discharged them directly upon their heads.

Poor Pakenham saw how things were going, and did all that a general could do to rally his broken troops. He prepared to lead them on himself, when he received a slight wound in the knee, which killed his horse. Mounting another, he again headed the Forty-fourth, when a second ball took effect more fatally, and he dropped lifeless in the arms of his aid-de-camp. Bravely leading their divisions, Generals Gibbs and Keene were both wounded, and borne helpless from the field. All was now confusion and dismay. Without leaders, and ignorant of what was to be next 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 the utmost disorder. But the retreat was covered in gallant style by the reserve. The Seventh and Forty-third, under General Lambert, presented the appearance of a renewed attack, and the enemy, overawed, did not pursue.

On the granting of a two-days' truce for the burial of the dead, prompted by curiosity, I mounted my horse and rode to the front. Of all the sights I ever witnessed, that which met me there was, beyond comparison, the most shocking and the most humiliating. Within the compass of a few hundred yards, were gathered together nearly a thousand bodies, all of them arrayed in British uniforms. Not a single American was among them; all were English. And they were thrown by dozens into shallow holes, scarcely deep enough to hide their bodies. Nor was this all. An American officer stood by smoking a cigar, and abruptly counting the slain with a look of savage exultation, repeating that their loss amounted only to eight killed and fourteen wounded. I confess that, when I beheld the scene, I hung down my head half in sorrow, and half in anger. With my officious informant, I had every inclination to pick a quarrel. But he was on duty, and an armistice existed, both of which forbade. I turned my horse's head and galloped back to the camp.

The changes of expression now visible in every countenance, no language can portray. Only twenty hours ago, and all was hope and animation; wherever you went, you were enlivened by the sounds of merriment and raillery. The expected attack was mentioned, not only in terms of sanguine hope, but in perfect confidence as to the result. Now gloom and discontent everywhere prevailed. Disappointment, grief, indignation and rage succeeded each other in all bosoms; nay, so were the troops overwhelmed by a sense of disgrace, that, for awhile they retained their sorrow without hinting at the cause. Nor was this dejection because of laurels tarnished, wholly. The loss of comrades was to the full, as afflicting as the loss of honor; for, out of more than seven thousand in action on this side, no fewer than two thousand had fallen. Among these were two generals in chief command, and many officers of courage and ability. Hardly an individual survived who had not to mourn the loss of some special and boon companion.


Many causes for the failure of the campaign of invasion, and for the disastrous issue of the battle of the eighth, were conjectured in the English army. Almost universal blame was attributed to Colonel Mullins, of the Forty-fourth Regiment, which was detailed under orders to prepare and have ready, and to carry to the front on the morning of the eighth, fascines and ladders with which to cross the ditch and scale the parapet, as the soldiers fought their way to the breastwork of the Americans. It was freely charged that the Colonel deserted his trust and at the moment of need was half a mile to the rear. It was then that Pakenham, learning of Mullins' conduct, placed himself at the head of the Forty-fourth and endeavored to lead them to the front with the implements needed to storm the works, when he fell mortally wounded. Of this incident another British officer, Major B.E. Hill, writes:

Before sunset of the 7th, I was directed to carry instructions to Colonel Mullins, of the 44th, respecting the redoubt in which the fascines and scaling ladders were placed, and to report the result of my interview to Sir Edward Pakenham. I saw Colonel Mullins, and read to him the directions from headquarters, begging to know if he thoroughly understood their purport? I was assured that nothing could be clearer. Reporting to Sir Edward, he thanked me for so completely satisfying him that the orders so important would be certainly and well executed.

Colonel Mullins may have been guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer, for which he was tried and cashiered in England; he probably saved his life at the expense of his honor, in being absent from his post on that day. But the British officers magnified the importance of the presence of himself and his regiment with their fascines and ladders ready for use. Even with the help of these devices, there were not men enough in the English army to have crossed the ditch, climbed the parapet, and made a breach in the breastwork line of the Americans. Some of them might have reached the ditch alive, as did some of their comrades, but like those comrades they would have died in the ditch or been made prisoners. The Americans, too, could have used the bayonet as well as the British, if necessary.


We have mentioned that after the night battle of the twenty-third of December General Jackson ordered General Morgan to move his command of Louisiana troops from English Turn, seven miles below the British camp at Villere's, and to take a position on the west bank of the Mississippi, opposite to the American camp. Very naturally, the possibility, and even the probability, of the enemy, when his army was made formidable by all the reinforcements coming up, throwing a heavy flanking force across the river, marching it to a point opposite New Orleans and forcing a surrender of the city, suggested itself to the military eye of Jackson. After the latter entrenched at Rodrique Canal, by the first of January, there was no other strategical route by which the British could have successfully assailed the city. The importance of this seems to have been fully comprehended neither by the one combatant nor the other until too late to fully remedy the omission.

Just such a flanking movement was undertaken by the English at the latest day, which brought on a second battle on the eighth, on the right bank of the river, resulting in a defeat to the American forces, and well-nigh ending in disaster to the American cause. It is in evidence that this strategic movement was the result of a council of war held by the British officers, at which Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane was present. This idea of reaching the city by a heavy detachment thrown across the river and marching up to a point opposite, in cannon reach, had occurred before; but the difficulty was in finding a way to cross over the troops and artillery, with the Americans in command of the means of transportation. The suggestion came from Admiral Cochrane that the Villere Canal from the bayou could be easily deepened and widened to the river bank and opened into the river for the passage of the boats and barges from the fleet, and a sufficient force thrown across the river in that way under cover of night. This seemed feasible, and the strategy determined on. It is related further that Lord Pakenham insisted that the main attack upon the city for its capture should be made by a heavy detachment in this direction, and at the same time only a demonstration in force made on the American breastworks with the whole army, supported by the artillery. He urged that to directly assault the fortified line in front would be at a fearful loss of life, if successful; if it failed it would be disastrous. The Admiral replied to this tauntingly, that there was no cause for alarm over anticipated defeat; he would undertake to force the lines of the American militia with two or three thousand marines. In allusion to this, Latour says: "If the British commander-in-chief was so unmindful of what he owed to his country, and to the army committed to his charge, as to yield to the ill-judged and rash advice of the Admiral, he sacrificed reason in a moment of irritation; though he atoned with his life for having acted contrary to his own judgment." Undoubtedly the English made their last and most fatal blunder here.

As the English writers who were with the army have so variously minimized the forces under Colonel Thornton, and so exaggerated the numbers of the Americans in this affair on the west bank, we quote from the official report of Major-general Lambert, who succeeded to the immediate command of the invading army after the fall of Generals Pakenham, Gibbs, and Keene, what appears to be reliable:

To Lord Bathurst: JANUARY 10th, 1815.

It becomes my duty to lay before your Lordship the proceedings of the force lately employed on the right bank of the Mississippi River. Preparations had been made on our side to clear out and widen the canal that led from the bayou to the river, by which our boats had been brought up to the point of disembarkation, and to open it to the Mississippi, by which our troops could be got over to the right bank, and the cooperation of armed boats be secured. A corps consisting of the 85th light infantry, two hundred seamen, four hundred marines, the 5th West India Regiment, and four pieces of artillery, under the command of Colonel Thornton, of the 85th, were to pass over during the night, and move along the right bank toward New Orleans, clearing its front, until it reached the flanking battery of the enemy on that side, which it had orders to carry. Unlooked for difficulties caused delay in the entrance of the armed boats from the canal into the river, destined to land Colonel Thornton's corps, by which several hours' delay was caused. The ensemble of the general movement was lost, a point of the last importance to the main attack on the left bank, although Colonel Thornton ably executed his instructions.


The two regiments above, with the seamen and marines, if all were present, would have given Colonel Thornton a command of nearly two thousand men. But it is said that in consequence of some difficulties in getting the boats through the canal into the river, and delay consequent thereon, a part of the forces were left behind. From the best authorities, there were twelve hundred British troops landed upon the west bank of the river on the morning of the eighth, by daybreak—all except the West India regiment.


General Morgan, commanding the Louisiana militia, was in position on Raquet's old canal site, next to the river. Major Latour, chief of the engineer corps, had been instructed by General Jackson, a week or two before the battle, to proceed across the river and to select on that side a suitable line for defensive works for General Morgan, in case the enemy should attempt a flanking movement on the right bank. Of this mission, Major Latour writes:

Agreeable to orders, I waited on General Morgan, and in the presence of Commodore Patterson communicated to him my orders, and told him I was at his disposal. The General seemed not to come to a conclusion, but inclined to make choice of Raquet's line. He then desired that I inspect the different situations myself, and make my report to him. My orders were to assist him, and my opinion was subordinate to his.

I chose for the intended line of defense an intermediate position, nearly at equal distances from Raquet's and Jourdan's canal, where the wood inclines to the river, leaving a space of only about nine hundred yards between the swampy wood and the river. Works occupying this space could not well be turned, without a siege and assault in heavy force by the enemy. I made a rough draft of the intended line, and immediately the overseer set his negroes to execute the work. Returning to the left bank, I made my report to the Commander-in-chief, who approved the disposition made. One thousand men could have guarded a breastwork line here, and half that number would have been sufficient had pieces of cannon been mounted in the intended outworks. That line, defended by the eight hundred troops and the artillery of General Morgan's command, on the 8th, could have defied three or four times the number of British who crossed over to the right bank that day. But these dispositions had been changed by General Morgan, and the negroes ordered to work on the Raquet line.

Major Latour had selected for General Jackson his line of defense on the left bank of the river, and had directed the construction of the breastwork and redoubts to the entire satisfaction of the General. He objected to the Raquet line favored by General Morgan, as wholly unsuited for defense. The space here from the river to the wood swamp was two thousand yards, or considerably over one mile, a much longer line than Jackson's on the other side. To be effective against an attacking force, the entrenchment and outworks must be extended to cover the entire space. It would require then more than double the number of troops and of pieces of artillery for defense than the situation selected by Latour.

In determining on this change of the line of defense, contrary to the judgment and warning of the chief of the engineer corps, General Morgan seems to have been influenced by one consideration paramount to all others. He was in daily council with Commodore Patterson, and was assured of the powerful aid of his battery on the right bank, which had done such execution in the ranks of the British across the river. Should the enemy attack General Morgan's position at Raquet's line, the Commodore could turn his twelve pieces of cannon in their embrasures, sweep the field, and drive back any reasonable force in range. With this support of his artillery, the few hundred militia of Morgan's command could more successfully repulse an attack at Raquet's line than at the line selected by Latour farther away. This change in the situation and plan of defense is characterized by Latour and other authorities as an unmilitary proceeding, as it abandoned the idea of a fortified line behind which a successful defense could have been made probable, if not certain, for an almost open field subject to the flanking movement of veteran troops against raw militia, with no auxiliary support except a park of artillery with guns turned another way, and of most doubtful use in case of need. General Morgan must not share alone the criticism which has been so freely made of his disposition of forces and changes of strategic plans which resulted in sensational disaster to his command. Commodore Patterson, experienced in military affairs as well as naval, advised with him, and must have approved. This change of line, made some days before the eighth, must have been known, and on the representations of Morgan and Patterson, approved by General Jackson. It is not conceivable that so important a change of plans would have been made by a subordinate officer, affecting seriously the safety of New Orleans, without the consent of the commander-in-chief. The latter seemed always to have held in very high personal esteem these two officers, and to have had confidence in their abilities as commanders.

As mentioned above, the dispositions made for a line of defense by Major Latour were changed by General Morgan, and the negroes set to work on Raquet's line. A breastwork fortification was thrown up by the seventh of January, extending but two hundred yards from the river bank out on the site of the old canal. From this terminus across the plantation land to the wooded swamp was an open plain, with scarce an obstruction to the deploy of troops or the sweep of artillery. The old canal had long been in disuse, and the ditch was filled nearly full with the washings and deposits of years. Behind this two hundred yards of entrenchment General Morgan massed all the Louisiana troops of his command and planted his artillery, three pieces in all. From the end of the breastwork on the right, one mile or eighteen hundred yards to the swamp, there were no defensive works from behind which to repulse the assault of an enemy, nor any means of resistance in sight to an attack, other than the guns in battery of Commodore Patterson, of more than doubtful use, and the yet very doubtful contingent of reinforcements sufficient from General Jackson's limited supply of men and arms.

On the seventh, the forces of Morgan's immediate command were the First Louisiana Militia on the left, next to the river; on the right of these, the Second Louisiana; and on the right of the latter, the drafted Louisiana militia, in all about five hundred men, who occupied the fortified line of two hundred yards. It was not until late this day that General Jackson seemed to fully awaken to the impending dangers of this formidable flanking movement across the river. He at once gave orders that five hundred of the unarmed Kentucky militia in camp should be marched up the river to New Orleans and receive certain arms in store there; then cross the river, and march down five miles on the west bank and reinforce General Morgan's command by, or before, daylight next morning. It was late afternoon when they started on this tramp of ten miles, through mud and mire ankle deep. Arriving at New Orleans, it was found that four hundred stand of arms which were expected to be obtained from the city armory had been loaned to General Adair, and sent to him at the Kentucky camp for other use. From other sources some miscellaneous old guns were obtained to equip less than two hundred of the detailed Kentuckians, who crossed the river, began their weary night march, and reported to General Morgan before daylight of the eighth, ready for duty, though they had not slept for twenty-four hours, nor eaten anything since noon of the previous day. Their arms, a mongrel lot, were many of them unfit for combat; old muskets and hunting-pieces, some without flints, and others too small-bored for the cartridges.


About sunset on the evening of the seventh, General Morgan was notified of the intention of the enemy to cross the river by Commodore Patterson, who had closely observed his movements in the afternoon. Before day-dawn on the eighth, the General received information of the enemy landing on the west bank, at Andry's plantation. The rapid current of the Mississippi had carried his little flotilla three miles below the point he had desired to land. Having debarked his troops, he marched up the river; his boats, manned by four pieces of artillery, keeping abreast and covering his flank. A detachment of Louisiana militia, about one hundred and fifty men, under command of Major Arnaud, had been sent in the night a mile or two down the river to oppose the landing and to check the advance of the British. These raw militia, very poorly armed, retired before the enemy. The detachment of one hundred and seventy Kentuckians just arrived, under command of Colonel Davis, was ordered to move forward to the support of the command of Major Arnaud. Though wearied with the toilsome all-night march, the Kentucky troops went forward about one mile below Morgan's line and took position on Mayhew's Canal, their left resting on the bank of the river. Major Arnaud halted his Louisiana militia on the right of these in line. The enemy, over one thousand strong, came up in force under Colonel Thornton, who commanded the British in the night battle of the twenty-third. A heavy fire of musketry from the front was supported by a flanking fire of artillery and rockets from the boats. The command of Major Arnaud gave way and hastily retreated to the wood, appearing no more during the day on the field of action. The Kentuckians returned the fire of the enemy with several effective volleys, when they were ordered by an aid-de-camp of General Morgan's, just arrived, to fall back and take a position on his line of defense.

The falling back of the Kentuckians before the enemy was under orders which they could not but obey. They were holding him in check and inflicting heavier losses than they were receiving, against four or five times their own numbers. They fell back one mile in good order. By disposition of the commanding officer, they were placed in line, with an open space of two hundred yards between their extreme left and the extreme right of the entrenched Louisianians, and stretched out to cover a space of three hundred yards, or one man to nearly two yards of space. The remainder of the line stretching to the wood on the extreme right, twelve hundred yards, was wholly without defensive works, or any defense excepting a picket of eighteen men under Colonel Caldwell, stationed out two hundred yards beyond the extreme right of the Kentuckians. Less than two hundred poorly armed militia were thus isolated and distributed in thin ranks to defend a line one mile in length, while General Morgan lay behind his entrenchment, defending a space of two hundred yards with five hundred troops and three pieces of artillery, which could have been easily held by two hundred men.

Colonel Thornton, in command of the British troops, in advancing to the attack, readily perceived with his trained military eye the vulnerable situation of the American forces. Gleig, the English author present, gives the disposition of the enemy's assaulting columns as follows: The Eighty-fifth, Colonel Thornton's own regiment, about seven hundred men, stretched across the field, covering our front, with the sailors, two hundred in number, prepared to storm the battery and works; while the marines formed a reserve, protecting the fleet of barges. It is not probable that the attack upon the entrenchments next to the river was intended to be more than a demonstration in force to hold the attention of General Morgan and his command there, while the main assault was being directed with the Eighty-fifth Regiment against the thin and unsupported line of the Kentucky militia, with a view of flanking these and getting in the rear of General Morgan's breastworks.

We quote from Major Latour's "Historical Memoir" a further account:

The enemy advancing rapidly by the road opposite the left of the line, the artillery played on him with effect; and as he came nearer, the musketry began to fire also. This having obliged him to fall back, he next directed his attack against the detached Kentuckians on our right, one column moving toward the wood and the other toward the centre of the line. Now was felt the effect of the bad position that we occupied. One of the enemy's columns turned our troops at the extremity of Colonel Davis' command, while the other penetrated into the unguarded space between the Kentuckians and the breastwork of the Louisianians. Flanked at both extremes by four times their own number, and unsupported, the Kentucky militia, after firing several volleys, gave way; nor was it possible again to rally them. Confidence had vanished, and with it all spirit of resistance. If instead of extending over so much space, those troops had been formed in close column, the confusion that took place might have been avoided, and a retreat in good order made.

The enemy having turned our right, pushed on towards the rear of our left, which continued firing as long as possible. At length the cannon were spiked just as the enemy arrived on the bank of the canal. Commodore Patterson had kept up an artillery fire on the British over the river. As they advanced up the road, he would now have turned his cannon in their embrasures, and fired on those of the enemy who had turned our line and come in range. But the Kentucky troops and the Louisianians masked the guns, and made it impossible to fire without killing our own men. Seeing this, he determined to spike his guns and retreat.

The Louisiana militia under General Morgan now fell back and took a position on the Bois Gervais line, where a number of the fleeing troops rallied. A small detachment of the enemy advanced as far as Cazelards, but retired before evening. In the course of the night all the enemy's troops recrossed the river, to join their main body. The result of this attack of the enemy on the right bank was, the loss of one hundred and twenty of his men, killed and wounded. The commander-in-chief, receiving intelligence of the retreat of our troops on the right bank, ordered General Humbert, formerly of the French army, who had tendered his services as a volunteer, to cross over with a reinforcement of four hundred men, assume command, and repulse the enemy, cost what it might. The order was verbal; some dispute having arisen over the question of military precedence, and the enemy withdrawing, no further steps were taken.


In this historic review, we dwell exhaustively upon the episode of this battle on the west bank, on the 8th of January, 1815, not because of any intrinsic importance of the subject, but rather from the sensational incidents which attended the movements of the belligerents, and which were consequent upon the issue. The galling words of General Jackson, hastily and unguardedly uttered in an attempt to throw the blame of defeat upon a small detachment of Kentucky militia, "the Kentuckians ingloriously fled," were resented as an undeserved stigma upon the honor and good name of all the Kentuckians in the army, and upon the State of Kentucky herself. The epigrammatic phrase, construed to mean more than was intended, perhaps, like Burchard's "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," struck a chord of sympathetic emotion that vibrated not only in the army and the community of Louisiana, but throughout the entire country. These burning words are of record in the archives at Washington, and remembered in history; but the facts in full, which vindicate the truth and render justice to whom it is due, are known to but few, if known to any now living. In the words of Latour: "What took place on the right bank had made so much sensation in the immediate seat of war, and had been so variously reported abroad, to the disparagement of many brave men, that I thought it a duty incumbent on me to inquire into particulars and trace the effect to its cause."

Rather than give our own impressions, we quote from "Reid and Eaton's Life of Jackson" an account of this affair, interesting because written when the subject was yet fresh in the public mind, and from the intimacy of the authors with the personal and public life of General Jackson:

On the night of the 7th, two hundred Louisiana militia were sent one mile down the river, to watch the movements of the enemy. They slept upon their arms until, just at day, an alarm was given of the approach of the British. They at once fell back towards General Morgan's line. The Kentucky detachment of one hundred and seventy men, having arrived at five in the morning, after a toilsome all-night march, were sent forward to cooperate with the Louisiana militia, whom Major Davis met retreating up the road. They now formed behind a mill-race near the river. Here a stand was made, and the British advance checked by several effective volleys. General Morgan's aid-de-camp being present, now ordered a retreat back to the main line of defense, which was made in good order. In the panic and disorderly retreat afterwards are to be found incidents of justification, which might have occasioned similar conduct in the most disciplined troops. The weakest part of the line was assailed by the greatest strength of the enemy. This was defended by one hundred and seventy Kentuckians, who were stretched out to an extent of three hundred yards, unsupported by artillery. Openly exposed to the attack of a greatly superior force, and weakened by the extent of ground they covered, it is not deserving reproach that they abandoned a post they had strong reasons for believing they could not maintain. General Morgan reported to General Jackson the misfortune of defeat he had met, and attributed it to the flight of these troops, who had drawn along with them the rest of his forces. True, they were the first to flee; and their example may have had some effect in alarming others. But, in situation, the troops differed. The one were exposed and enfeebled by the manner of their arrangement; the other, much superior in numbers, covered a less extent of ground, were defended by an excellent breastwork manned by several pieces of artillery; and with this difference,—the loss of confidence of the former was not without cause. Of these facts, Commodore Patterson was not apprised; General Morgan was. Both reported that the disaster was owing to the flight of the Kentucky militia. Upon this information, General Jackson founded his report to the Secretary of War, by which these troops were exposed to censures they did not merit. Had all the circumstances as they existed, been disclosed, reproach would have been prevented. At the mill-race no troops could have behaved better; they bravely resisted the advance of the enemy. Until an order to that effect was given, they entertained no thought of retreating.

Intelligence quickly came to General Jackson of the defeat and rout of General Morgan's command, imperiling the safety of the city of New Orleans, in the midst of the congratulations over the great victory of the main army on the east bank. Naturally, a state of intense excitement followed, bordering on consternation for a few hours. When the danger was ended by the withdrawal of the British forces to recross the river, the report of General Morgan, followed by that of Commodore Patterson, came to headquarters, laying the blame of defeat and disaster to the alleged cowardly retreat of the Kentucky militia. With General Jackson's great personal regard for the authors of these reports, he took for granted the correctness of the charge of censurable conduct. Amid the tumult of emotions that must have been felt, rapidly succeeding the changes of scenes and incidents and issues of strategy and battle during that eventful twenty-four hours, the great commander yielded to the impulse of the moment to write in his official report to the Secretary of War, on the ninth, the day succeeding the battles, the following words:

Simultaneously with his advance upon my lines, the enemy had thrown over in his boats a considerable force to the other side of the river. These having landed, were hardly enough to advance against the works of General Morgan; and what is strange and difficult to account for, at the very moment when their discomfiture was looked for with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky reinforcement, in whom so much reliance had been placed, ingloriously fled, drawing after them by their example the remainder of the forces, and thus yielding to the enemy that most formidable position. The batteries which had rendered me, for many days, the most important service, though bravely defended, were of course now abandoned; not, however, until the guns had been spiked.

Commodore Patterson also sent in a report to the Secretary of the Navy, characterizing the little detachment of Kentucky militia in terms as censurable and as unjust as were the words of General Jackson. When these official reports became publicly known, imputing all blame of disaster to the retreat of the Kentuckians, an indignant protest was entered by General Adair and by the entire Kentucky contingent of the army. In this protest they had the sympathy and support of a large portion of other troops of the army, and of the community. Language at this late day of forgetfulness and calmer reason would be too tame to really portray the irritations, the bitter recriminations, and the angry protests which agitated army circles, and the civil community as well, and which were echoed from many parts of the country at large.


General Adair, supported by the officers of his command, insisted that the statements made in these reports to the departments at Washington were made upon a misapprehension of the facts, and that great injustice had been done the Kentucky militia in General Morgan's command by attempting to shift the responsibility of defeat from its real sources, and placing it to their discredit. A military court of inquiry was demanded, and granted by the commander-in-chief, the members of which were officers of rank in the army, and disinterested by their relations in the findings, and General Carroll, of Tennessee, appointed to preside. The following notice was served on General Morgan, and similar notices on other officers concerned:


Sir: A Court of Inquiry is now in session for the purpose of inquiring into the conduct of the officers under your command, on the morning of the 8th of January. As you are somewhat concerned, I have to request that you will introduce such witnesses on to-morrow as you may think necessary. The conduct of Colonel Cavalier, and of Majors Tesla and Arnaud, is yet to be inquired into.

Your Most Obt. Servant, WM. CARROLL, Maj.-Gen'l, Prest. of Court.

The following opinion was rendered:




At a Court of Inquiry, convened at this place on the 9th inst., of which Major-general Carroll is President, the military conduct of Colonel Davis, of Kentucky Militia, and of Colonels Dijon and Cavalier, of Louisiana Militia, in the engagement on the 8th of January last, on the west bank of the Mississippi, were investigated; the Court, after mature deliberation, is of opinion that the conduct of those gentlemen in the action aforesaid, and retreat on the 8th of January, on the western bank of the river, is not reprehensible. The cause of the retreat the Court attributes to the shameful flight of the command of Major Arnaud, sent to oppose the landing of the enemy. The retreat of the Kentucky militia, which, considering their position, the deficiency of their arms, and other causes, may be excusable; and the panic and confusion introduced into every part of the line, thereby occasioning the retreat and confusion of the Orleans and Louisiana militia. While the Court found much to applaud in the zeal and gallantry of the officer immediately commanding, they believe that a further reason for the retreat may be found in the manner in which the force was placed on the line; which they consider exceptionable. The commands of Colonels Dijon, Cavalier, and Declouet, composing five hundred men, supported by three pieces of artillery, having in front a strong breastwork, occupying a space of only two hundred yards; whilst the Kentucky militia, composing Colonel Davis' command, only one hundred and seventy strong, occupied over three hundred yards, covered by a small ditch only.

The Major-general approves the proceeding of the Court of Inquiry, which is hereby dissolved.

By Command. H. CHOTARD, Asst. Adj. Gen.


General Adair seems to have regarded the decision of the Court of Inquiry as a modifying compromise, in deference to the high personal character and influence of a number of persons concerned, and not the full vindication of the Kentucky militia from the imputations of ungallant conduct on the field reflected upon them in the official reports. The controversy, and other causes preceding it, had rankled the bosoms of both General Jackson and himself, and estranged the warm friendship that had before existed between them. Adair thought that Jackson should withdraw, or modify, the language of his official report. General Jackson was not a man to readily retract; and was certainly not in the humor with Adair to retract anything he had said. He would do no more than approve the opinion of the Court of Inquiry. This, perhaps, was as much as General Adair should have asked at the time.

On the 10th of February, 1816, the Legislature of Kentucky, in a resolution of thanks to General Adair for gallant services at New Orleans, added: "And for his spirited vindication of a respectable portion of the troops of Kentucky from the libelous imputation of cowardice most unjustly thrown upon them by General Andrew Jackson." This and other incidents intensified the animosity of feeling.

It was some two years after the close of hostilities that the correspondence between Jackson and Adair was terminated in language and spirit so intensely bitter as to make the issue personal. Adair had reported all proceedings and facts concerning the Kentucky troops during the campaign to Governor Shelby, who had taken a very active part in sending all possible aid for the defense of New Orleans. In these reports he reflected on what he deemed the injustice done the Kentucky troops in several official publications; especially by General Jackson, not only in the affair of Morgan's rout, but in his report of other operations during the campaign. These were causes of irritation on the part of the commander-in-chief. The burning words in the reports of General Jackson, General Morgan, and Commodore Patterson, imputing cowardice to a few of their comrades, had touched a sensitive chord and sunk deep into the hearts of the Kentucky troops in the army. In their resentments, expressed in words and sometimes in actions, all danger from the enemy being over, they were perhaps not always so orderly as soldiers should be while in camp, or on scout or picket service.

In the closing correspondence, the language used by both Jackson and Adair became exceedingly bitter; that of the former beyond all restraint toward his respondent. The issue of this controversy, tradition says, was a challenge to meet upon the field of honor, then so called, and to settle it at the pistol's point. The challenge was accepted. By whom it was sent, the author has not been able to learn. In the absence of any record, written or in print, of this affair, he has to rely upon oral recitals which have come down through members of the Adair family in Kentucky, and are remembered in the main facts to-day. The would-be combatants met by appointment at a spot selected on the border line of their respective States, accompanied each by his second, his surgeon, and a few invited friends. The unfriendly breach between Jackson and Adair, and its possible tragic issue, seems to have given deep concern to some of their friends. There was no other cause of enmity between them save what grew out of the unfortunate occurrences at New Orleans. They were of the same political party—Jeffersonian Republicans, as they were known then, in distinction from Federalists. Jackson had won renown and prestige as no other in America, and his name had already been mentioned in connection with the highest office within the gift of the people. Adair was held in high esteem by the people of Kentucky, and bright hopes of political preferment were held out by his party friends. Other considerations added, induced friends on either side to urge a reconciliation, which was happily effected on terms mutually satisfactory. The above account of this meeting on the field of honor was related to the author by General D.L. Adair, of Hawesville, Kentucky, now long past his fourscore years. He gave the facts to the writer, he said, as he received them from his father, Doctor Adair, of Hardin County, Kentucky, many years ago. Doctor Adair was a cousin of General Adair, of Jackson's army, and was one of the intimate friends whom the General invited to be present upon the ground.

The correspondence of Jackson and Adair throws light upon the subject of this controversy, and reveals to us some of the causes of the errors and contentions of this affair. We have mentioned that Adair, in his eagerness to arm as many as possible of the Kentucky militia and place them in line for the main battle of the eighth, went into the city and plead with the Committee of Safety to loan him four hundred stand of arms, held in the city armory for the protection of New Orleans, for a few days. This urgent request was granted, and the arms privately moved out, hauled to the camp of the Kentuckians, and delivered there about nightfall of the seventh. Four hundred more of the Kentuckians were thus armed and moved up to the rear of the breastwork, ready for the battle next morning. Adair believed that he was acting in the line of his duty, and that Jackson would approve of his device for arming more of his idle men in camp. Busy as he was that day in New Orleans, and in equipping and marshaling the men of his command for battle, he was not made aware of the urgent need of reinforcements on the opposite bank of the river, nor did he know of the purpose of the commander-in-chief to arm these from the city armory. While Adair's device very much strengthened Jackson's line on the left bank, it unfortunately defeated Jackson's plan of sending four hundred more men to reinforce General Morgan on the right bank, and may in this way have largely contributed to the latter's defeat.

When Jackson, late on the seventh, ordered a detail of five hundred of the Kentucky militia to be marched at once to New Orleans, there to be armed, to cross the river and report by daylight to General Morgan, he expected to use the arms from the city armory. There was no other supply.

We may readily imagine the feeling of disappointed chagrin and passion that stirred to its depths the strong nature of Jackson, when the intelligence quickly came to him across the river of the disaster to Morgan's command, and of its retreat toward New Orleans, followed by the enemy. It was in this tumult of passion and excitement that the report of Morgan, followed by that of Patterson, was brought to him, imputing the cause of defeat and disaster to the cowardly retreat of the Kentucky detachment. Under the promptings of these incidents of the day, Jackson's report to the Secretary of War was made, in which the words of censure were so unjustly employed. Jackson must have informed Morgan on the evening of the seventh that he would reinforce him with five hundred armed soldiers. When Colonel Davis reported to Morgan, one hour before daylight, the arrival of the Kentucky contingent, the latter was expecting five hundred men to reinforce him. Had this been done, the Kentucky troops and Major Arnaud's one hundred and fifty Louisianians would have made the forces sent to the front to check the advance of the British under Colonel Thornton over six hundred men. Such a force, well officered, would probably have held the enemy in check, fallen back in good order, and made a stubborn fight on the line of battle. But there was only one third the Kentucky force expected; and when Major Arnaud's command retreated, there was but this contingent of one hundred and seventy Kentucky militia left to resist the advance of one thousand British veterans, and to meet their main assault on the center and right of the long line of battle. It made its march from New Orleans at midnight, and was reported to General Morgan before daybreak. These facts give a more intelligible view of the plan of battle arranged by this officer. It was undoubtedly marred and broken up by the unforeseen incidents mentioned, unfortunately for General Morgan and for the American cause. Commodore Patterson, in his report to the Secretary of the Navy, five days after the battle, makes the force of Kentucky militia that gave way before the British four hundred men, more than double the real number; thus showing the error prevalent.

When the facts came out that General Adair had secured the four hundred stand of city arms for his own immediate command with which Jackson had designed to arm the reinforcement for General Morgan, the incident was naturally very irritating to the Commander-in-chief. It was imputed as a cause, in part, of the defeat and disaster on the right bank. Jackson seems to have complained to Adair that the latter ought to have known of his order to call out the detachment of five hundred Kentuckians in time, and of his intention to arm them in the city. Adair replied that the order came to General Thomas, in chief command of the Kentuckians, lying ill in camp, while he was busily engaged in New Orleans and at the front, preparing his own command for battle next day; that he did not know of the intention of Jackson to use the city arms until too late to repair the mistake. It made up a chapter of accidents and errors, happening with best intentions. As for the little body of Kentucky militia, who were made sensationally notorious, where there was honor and fame for no one, poorly armed and wearied with fasting and a heavy all-night march, they did as well as troops could do. It is doubtful if any one hundred and seventy troops in Jackson's army would have done better. Unsupported, and attacked and flanked by four times their own number, no troops could have held their ground longer.

In the possession of Judge William H. Seymour, of New Orleans, is an original letter of Major Latour, addressed to General Morgan in anticipation of the publication of his "Historical Memoirs of the War of 1812-15," advising him that he would give an account also of the military situation and battle on the west bank, as he viewed them; and inviting any statement from General Morgan in his own vindication that he might choose to make. This letter is not printed in the history, but was seen and copied by the author, through the courtesy of Judge Seymour, who is a lineal descendant of a sister of Andrew Jackson. A diligent inquiry was made by the writer of this monograph for a copy of General Morgan's report, and also of letters or documents from him in vindication of his course in the affairs mentioned. If any such are in print, or otherwise preserved, the author did not succeed in finding them, to his regret.


Sir: I send you herewith a copy of the publication that I am preparing for the press, upon the last campaign, relating to the transaction that took place on the right bank, on the 8th of January.

As I am of opinion that you are to bear the blame of our disgrace on that part of our defense, I thought myself in duty bound, as a man of honor, to participate to you what I wrote on the subject previous to my putting it to the press. What I have stated is, I believe, strictly true; however, sir, you are in a situation to furnish me with such observations as may tend to rectify what should not be printed, in its true light.

Be persuaded, sir, that I have no enmity against you; on the contrary, as a private citizen, I have the regard for you that I think you deserve. Then I hope you will not take my conscientious caution in a bad part, and that you will direct to me in Philadelphia, where I am departing for in a day or two, anything you will choose to write for your vindication. It will find room in the appendix, at all events, should it be founded upon proper authorities.

I remain, sir, your most respectful servant,


Incidental prominence has been given to this episode of the battle of the eighth, on the west bank of the river, far beyond its real merits as an event of the military operations around New Orleans. Worse panic and confusion resulted among the American militia at Bladensburg, in front of Washington, and at other places, during the War of 1812-15, and passed into history without unusual criticism, as incidents common to warfare. But the injustice done to the little band of Kentucky militia, imputing to them cowardly conduct, on the part of some of the highest officials of the army, aroused a spirit of indignant protest that echoed far and wide, and would not down. Had it not been for the misleading report of General Morgan, followed by that of Commodore Patterson, and prompting that of General Jackson to the Secretary of War, saying that "the Kentuckians ingloriously fled," and imputing blame to no other party, the incident of the battle and defeat would have been mentioned and passed without comment.


The battles of the eighth were decisive of the campaign, and of the War of 1812-15, so far as military operations were concerned. The British had been beaten in generalship and beaten upon the field of battle, until they were made to feel and to confess to defeat so crushing as to leave no hope of retrieving disaster. Within fifteen days after landing, they had sustained losses equal to one third of their entire army of invasion. With prestige gone and spirit broken, and their ranks shattered, there was but one thing left to do. To cover their retreat and get safely back to their ships before the broken remnants of their army were made to capitulate by surrender became a matter of gravest concern. The situation is set forth in the following official letter to the Secretary of War:

CAMP BELOW NEW ORLEANS, January 19, 1815.

Sir: Last night, at 12 o'clock, the enemy precipitately decamped and returned to his boats, leaving behind him, under medical attendance, eighty of his wounded, fourteen pieces of heavy artillery, and a quantity of ammunition. Such was the situation of the ground he abandoned, and that through which he retired, protected by canals, redoubts, intrenchments, and swamps on his right and the river on his left, that I could not, without great risk, which true policy did not seem to require, much annoy him on his retreat.

Whether it is the purpose of the enemy to renew his efforts at some other point, or not, I can not certainly determine. In my own mind, however, there is little doubt that his last exertions have been made in this quarter, at least for the present season. In this belief I am strengthened by the prodigious losses he has sustained at the position he has just quitted, and by the failure of his fleet to pass Fort St. Philip. His loss on this ground, since the debarkation of his troops, as stated by the last prisoners and deserters, and as confirmed by many additional circumstances, must have exceeded four thousand men. We succeeded on the 8th, in getting from the enemy about one thousand stand of arms of various kinds.

Since the action of the 8th, the enemy have been allowed but very little respite, my artillery from both sides of the river being constantly employed until the hour of their departure, in annoying them. They were permitted to find no rest.

I am advised by Major Overton, who commands at Fort St. Philip, in a letter of the 18th, that the enemy having bombarded his fort for nine days, with thirteen-inch mortars, without effect, had on the morning of that day retired. I have little doubt that he would have sunk their vessels had they attempted to run by.

Do not think me too sanguine in the belief that Louisiana is now clear of the enemy. I need not assure you, however, that wherever I command, such a belief shall never occasion any relaxation in the measures for resistance. I am but too sensible that while the enemy is opposing us, is not the most proper time to provide for them. On the 18th, our prisoners on shore were delivered to us, an exchange having been agreed to. I shall have on hand an excess of several hundred.

I have the honor to be, &c., ANDREW JACKSON, Commander-in-Chief.

The losses to the American army, in the five battles fought from the twenty-third of December to the eighth of January, inclusive, are summarized in the report of the Adjutant-general, which we give:


Sir: I enclose for the information of the War Department, a report of the killed, wounded, and missing, of the army under Major-general Jackson, in the different actions with the enemy since their landing.

ROB'T BUTLER, Adjutant-General.

BATTLE. KILLED. WOUNDED. MISSING. December 23d 24 115 74 December 28th 9 8 None. January 1st 11 23 None. January 8th 13 39 19 ——- ——— ——- 57 185 93

A total of three hundred and thirty-five men. This includes the killed, wounded, and missing in the two battles on the eighth.

Our English authorities are so marked with exaggerations and discrepancies as to numbers in either army, and also as to losses and casualties, that they are unreliable. There is with nearly all their writers, and in the reports of their officers, a disposition to minimize numbers on their own side, and to overstate those on the side of the Americans. This was no doubt due to a sense of mortified pride and deep chagrin over their repeated defeats and final expulsion from the country, under humiliations such as English armies and navies had rarely before known in history. General Jackson was not far wrong in estimating the entire losses of the British, during the two weeks of invasion, at more than four thousand men. If the large number who deserted from their ranks after the battles of the eighth of January be included, the excess would doubtless swell the numbers much above four thousand. Their killed, wounded, and missing on the eighth approximated three thousand. So decimated and broken up were their columns that they dared not risk another battle.


On the first of January, Major W.H. Overton, in command of Fort St. Philip, which guards the passage of the Mississippi River from its mouth for the protection of New Orleans, received information that the enemy intended to capture or pass the fort, to cooperate with their land forces threatening the city. On the seventh, a fleet of two bomb-vessels, one sloop, one brig, and one schooner appeared and anchored below the fortification and began an attack. For nine days they continued a heavy bombardment from four large sea-mortars and other ordnance, but without the effect they desired. Making but little impression toward destroying the fort, and fearing to risk an attempt finally to pass our batteries, the fleet withdrew on the morning of the eighteenth, and passed again into the Gulf. Our loss in this affair was but two killed and seven wounded. During the nine days of attack the enemy threw more than one thousand bombs from four ten-and thirteen-inch mortars, besides many shells and round shot from howitzers and cannon.

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