The Battle of New Orleans Begins

U.S. #1261 pictures both Jackson leading his men and the Battle of New Orleans Sesquicentennial medal.

The Battle of New Orleans Begins

On January 8, 1815, future president Andrew Jackson began the Battle of New Orleans, two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed.

After more than two years of fighting, American and British diplomats met in Belgium in December 1814 to talk peace and end the War of 1812.  At the same time, British troops in America prepared a three-pronged invasion they hoped would also bring an end to the war.  After their first two attempts at Baltimore and Plattsburg failed, the British set their sights on New Orleans, a strategically important seaport that served as a gateway to the west.

U.S. #4952 pictures American troops and artillery behind their mile-long defensive lines.

Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson, or “Old Hickory” as his men called him, learned of the British plans for New Orleans and rushed to prepare the city’s defenses.  Jackson had been taken prisoner by the British during the Revolutionary War and was anxious to face them, claiming, “I owe to Britain a debt of retaliatory vengeance…  should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt.”

In the coming days, Jackson declared martial law in New Orleans and gathered every weapon and able-bodied man to help defend the city.  Soon, Jackson amassed a force of 4,500 militiamen, army regulars, aristocrats, Choctaw, and even pirates.  However, as they’d soon find out, they were facing off against some 8,000 British invaders.

U.S. #73 – Nicknamed “Black Jack” and “Big Head,” this is one of the most popular U.S. stamps.

The two forces first clashed on December 23, when Jackson led a nighttime attack on the British position south of New Orleans.  Jackson then led his men back to the Rodriguez Canal and had them widen it into a trench, proclaiming, “Here we shall plant our stake… and not abandon them until we drive these red-coat rascals into the river, or the swamp.”  After a skirmish on December 28 and large artillery duel on January 1, the British revised their plan.  One force would cross the Mississippi and take an American battery while a larger group would charge the Rodriguez Canal.

The British attack began around sunrise on January 8.  As both sides exchanged artillery fire, the smaller British group managed to capture an American redoubt.  But as the British commander yelled, “Hurrah, boys, the day is ours!” he was shot and killed, sending his men into a frantic retreat.

CSA #8 – The first engraved CSA stamp, this features the same portrait as U.S. #73 above.

Not far away, the British main line had even less success.  American cannons shot huge gaps in the attacking British line.  General Jackson yelled, “Give it to them, my boys!  Let us finish the business today!”  In less than 30 minutes, most of the British officers were killed or wounded.  Some of them made a second attempt to capture the American battery, but were unable to hold it for long.

It was a resounding victory for the Americans, who lost less than 60 men, while the British suffered over 2,000 casualties.  New Orleans was the last major battle of the war – and also the most one-sided.  Some British troops remained in the area for several days, and even launched a failed naval attack, before sailing to the Gulf of Mexico.

Jackson was an instant hero.  He marched into New Orleans to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” as the city’s inhabitants cheered him on.  Because news traveled slow in those days, what Jackson didn’t realize was that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed by both nations weeks before, on December 24, effectively ending the war.   The victory at New Orleans was not decisive in the outcome of the war.  But it renewed American patriotism and ensured the U.S. ratification of the treaty (which came in February).  It also made the 47-year-old Andrew Jackson a national hero, paving the path to his presidency over a decade later.

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14 responses to "The Battle of New Orleans Begins"

14 thoughts on “The Battle of New Orleans Begins”

  1. Loved it! Even renewed my great pride in our military. Great spirit! I didn’t remember how far outnumbered we were in the battle. Thanks for the message.

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  2. I have been collecting stamps for 60+ years. Your daily emails of “This day in History” makes my day. Very informative. Keep up the good work

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  3. I too love these Days in History. Some I know but others I don’t know that much about. Even the ones I am familiar with usually give me some new information.

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  4. I live in TX and travel to visit family in FL. I am so thankful for I10. Every time I travel that road, I think of Andy Jackson, who marched from the panhandle of FL to New Orleans to engage in that battle. That was quite a feat in itself.

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  5. If not for the militia….let us not forget. Perhaps nowadays the local population’s with arms, at the ready, may someday once again be our first defense from invaders.

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  6. Numerous times, too many to count, I have heard the story of the Battle of New Orleans and it never gets old. In your account there is additional information that I was not aware of and it, along with the personal touches of your stamps and medals, add a fresh touch to an already epic story. Keep ’em coming.

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  7. Jackson was one American who performed all levels. The one strike against him was he was only championing white people. He had slaves and treated Native Americans like sub humans.

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  8. Among all of the celebration here, let us not forget that Jackson was a racist and did everything in his power to remove the Native Americans from their lands [“The trail of tears,” for one] and from their presence among the “whites.” He also believed in slavery and that anyone who was of color was inferior to the white race and would never enjoy the rights and freedoms of this country, but would and should be forever subservient to
    caucasiens. Hate to rain on the parade here, but we need to remember history from all sides. In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Our country has a poor memory…

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  9. The battle was not totally needless as this account implies. Yes, the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on Christmas Eve a couple of weeks before the battle, but it had not yet been ratified by the two governments. Thus, a chance existed, albeit perhaps a bit small, that if the British had won at New Orleans, capturing that vital port city at the base of the Mississippi, they might have insisted that the treaty be re-negotiated.

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  10. My regards of Mystic’s continuing effort bring 250+ years of our nation to the present via Postage Stamps. We should give the Dept of Post Office or the USPS a Thank You in providing the best source of visuals….pictures THANKS A MILLION from the both of you

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