The Advance of the British on New Orleans, 1815.

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The Advance of the British on New Orleans, 1815.

Post by pud » Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:04 pm

Source: A History Of The War between Great Britain and the United States of America During The Years 1812, 1813 & 1814. G. Auchinleck. Arms and Armour Press and Pendragon House, Great Britain, 1972. p.p. 391-392. *(originally published in parts by The Toronto Globe between 1853 and 1855).

"After the capture of the gunboats the British were enabled to advance to within about 6 miles of the city, and here, unfortunately, in place of pressing on, the success of the enterprise was considered so certain that a halt was called to recruit the men, and allow the reinforcements to come up. Had the British despised the American soldiers less, and not made so sure of their game, the capital of the Southern Provinces with its millions must have fallen into their hands. To the halt and the advance by the Bayou Bienvenu, instead of approaching by Lake Pontchartrain so as to take the city in the rear, may be ascribed General Jackson's success and the repulse of the British.

On the halting of the British, General Jackson determined to endeavour to arrest their further progress, and during those days some sharp skirmishing ensued, a good many being killed and wounded on both sides, and the Caroline, American schooner, blown up. This vessel in concert with the Louisiana sloop had effected a powerful diversion on the British flank.

The loss of the British may be estimated on those days at 275 killed and wounded, that of the Americans, according to their own account, at 213.

On the evening of the 25th [December, 1814] Sir Edward Pakenham arrived to take the command, bringing with him reinforcements which brought up the number of his troops to 5040. The Americans received also considerable reinforcements, making General Jackson's force at least 14,000 men.

From this date till the 8th of January [1815] a series of conflicts to place, the nature of which will be best explained by the following extract from a work written by a subaltern in the British army. "During the 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, strong detachments from the different corps were employed in bringing a train of heavy ordinance from the boats, with ample supply of powder and ball. The labor and difficulty of accomplishing it were beyond calculation. Nor was it the only irksome duty in which we engaged. The picquets were never mounted without suffering, sooner or latter, an attack. Sometime the enemy contented themselves with cannonading the outposts; sometimes they advanced large corps in the day, who amused themselves and us with long unprofitable skirmishes. But they're more usual system was to steal forward in sections, After Dark, and to harass us with a desultory and troublesome fire of musketry till morning… "As yet, neither I nor the men have ventured to light a fire… But the day was piercing cold. A heavy shower fell from time to time, and the absolute discomfort of our situation proved too much for the whispers of prudence. Two fires were made to blaze up-one for the men, the other for myself and my companion. It seemed as if the American artillerymen had waited for some such object to direct their aim, for the smoke had hardly begun to ascend, when they played upon us, from a battery of five guns, as perfect a storm of grape shot as ever whistled past the ears of men so situated, and in five minutes the fires were abandoned. But with this the enemy were not contented; under cover of the cannonade, a body of some two or three hundred infantry advanced, in extended order, from the line… A most uninteresting skirmish ensued. The Americans, it was perfectly manifest, were raw troops. The made no determined efforts; probably it was not intended they should make efforts to drive us in. But they pressed forward from time to time, creeping along the ground, and running from ditch to ditch, and retreating again as soon as they had discharged their pieces. On our side no movement what ever was made. The men lay down, as I directed, behind a row of bushes, which served at least to conceal them from their opponents, and each file regularly shifting its ground, a pacer two to the right or left, as soon as it had fired. By this means many lives were saved, for the Americans regularly returned our fire, and they never failed to direct their aim to the spots from whence our smoke ascended. The affair having lasted four or five hours, the enemy at length saw fit to withdraw, and we returned to our ditch, with trifling loss of only two wounded… Their cannon continued to annoy us to the last, in so much that the very sentinels were under the necessity of hiding themselves… It was now about midnight, and the darkness had become, almost without a metaphor, such as might be felt. Worn out with fatigue, I had returned to the ditch, not to seat myself beside a comfortable blaze-for no fire had been lighted, and it would have been madness to think of lighting one-but to rest my limbs a little, and to smoke a cigar… The enemy, finding that their heavy artillery hardly reached our camp, had moved two field pieces and a mortar without their lines, and, advancing them as near to the sentries as a regard for their own safety would allow, were now cannonading, not to the outposts, but the main body of the British army. It was easy to perceive that the balls fell not short of their mark, Looking back towards the position, I saw that the fires were hastily covered up, and the murmur of voices which arose gave testimony that they were not thus stifled before it was necessary."

During this time to British acknowledge a loss of 55 killed and wounded, the Americans of 51.

The grand struggle which was to decide the fate of New Orleans did not, however, take place until the 8th [of January, 1815], on the morning of which day the final attack was made by General Pakenham on General Jackson's position."

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