On January 8, 1815, US General Andrew Jackson won one of the most decisive victories of the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. The only problem? The Treaty of Ghent had been signed two weeks earlier, and the war was technically over …
In September 1814, American forces won a major victory on Lake Champlain and the British were finally ready to negotiate terms of peace. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, but the news will not reach North America in time.
On January 8, 1815, the two sides fought in what became the Bloody Battle of New Orleans, where future President Andrew Jackson halted the British invasion and propelled his popularity. General Andrew Jackson was made aware of a British incursion nine miles south of New Orleans, at the home of Major Gabriel VillerÃ©. VillerÃ© escaped the attack and signaled to Jackson, who attacked the British as they waited for reinforcements.
Jackson’s counterattack saved the Americans time to build a heavily fortified earthwork along a drainage channel connected to the Mississippi River. This fortification gave British Major-General Sir Edward Packenham a target to attack. He believed that when the British regulars attacked, his defenders would flee the battlefield.
Packenham had every reason to believe he would be victorious. He led the British fleet in the Gulf of Mexico with a force of 8,000 veterans fresh from the Napoleonic wars. He was looking at 4,700 Americans, only a handful of whom were in a regular American infantry regiment. The others were militiamen, civilians, Choctaw Indians, freed slaves and pirates.
Instead, the British suffered some 20,000 casualties, while Jackon’s motley crew lost less than 100 lives.
Today, January 8 is still celebrated in Louisiana, where a federal park was created to preserve the battlefield.