Battle of New Orleans
Andrew Jackson was just 13 years old when the British captured him during the American Revolution. The young soldier lost his mother and two brothers during the conflict. Jackson’s experiences led him to believe that he owed “Britain a debt of retaliatory vengeance,” once telling his wife, “should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt.” On January 8, 1815, Major General Andrew Jackson received the opportunity that he’d been waiting for.
On December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States agreed to a peace accord in Ghent, Belgium that effectively ended the War of 1812. Great Britain quickly ratified the Treaty of Ghent, but the document didn’t reach the United States until February 14, 1815. As the treaty made its slow trans-Atlantic ship journey to American shores, two great forces clashed at the Battle of New Orleans.
Nicknamed “Old Hickory” for his legendary toughness, Andrew Jackson was determined to defend New Orleans against his old enemy. On January 8, 1815, some 8,000 British regulars commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham marched against the city, hoping they could separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. To stop them, Jackson assembled a ramshackle force of 4,500, composed of army regulars, frontier militiamen, free blacks, New Orleans aristocrats, Choctaw tribesmen, and even pirates. Aided by their defensive positions, Jackson’s ragtag bunch won the day.
Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, illustration by Frederick Coffay Yohn. (Photo: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Two separate British assaults were aimed at Jackson, but both were unable to penetrate the American defenses. In under half an hour, the Battle of New Orleans was over. General Pakenham was killed during the fighting and intense American fire took its toll on his forces. The British suffered nearly 2,000 casualties during the battle. Jackson’s side fared much better, losing less than 100 men. Those results led future President James Monroe to praise General Jackson by remarking, “History records no example of so glorious a victory obtained with so little bloodshed on the part of the victorious.”
Andrew Jackson had enacted his vengeance against Great Britain. His victory at the Battle of New Orleans raised American morale around the country and elevated him to a national war hero. The War of 1812 didn’t offer the United States many bright moments, but Andrew Jackson certainly provided a triumph that many of his countrymen would never forget.