War of 1812Events and Locationsfrench

The Battle of New Orleans

Map of the Position of the Armies

“Such a destruction of men, for the time it lasted, was never before witnessed”
American Engineer Major Tatum Howell

Further Reading

The South in 1814: Background to the Battle of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson's Southern Defense

Cochrane's Campaign: The British Approach New Orleans

The December Defense: Andrew Jackson Arrives at New Orleans

The British Arrive at New Orleans

Night Before the Battle

Eyewitness Accounts



Massacre at New Orleans: The Americans Devastate the British

At 5:00 am on January 8, 1815, British General Edward Pakenham moves to the east bank of the Mississippi; he doesn’t like what he sees. Colonel Thornton’s troops should be across the river and moving on the American guns. Instead, most of his men are waist-deep in mud, clearing away sections of the levee that have caved in on the canal passage and made it too shallow for the boats to cross. Only a few of the regiments are boarded and ready to move out.

Pakenham is adamant that his own attack force will move on the American line before first light. He orders Thornton to proceed with the advance with the men he has. As they shove off, it's obvious that no one has anticipated the river, which is flowing faster than normal. Thornton’s men will eventually make it across, but they land well below their target and lose precious time.

Pakenham rides back to his line through the fog and orders his officers to make the final preparations among their units. The officers are uneasy as they realize that their general is sending them forward before Thornton has successfully secured the American guns. This is a sign of Pakenham’s lack of experience as a commander that, at this crucial stage, he changes his original plan rather than sticking to it fully or devising a new one. But with the men form up, and with the day about to break, the officers hope that the capable Colonel Thornton makes short work of his opponents.

The fog that is supposed to help the British in their advance is creating more problems than anticipated. It is thick enough to create problems for the artillery units, who are having trouble finding their positions and setting up. One regiment should have brought up ladders to bridge the Rodriguez Canal and storm the Americans, but they’ve left them behind so they must break formation and fumble towards the rear to retrieve them. As the artillery opens up to signal the advance, British regiments on opposite ends of the field head out to capture and silence the gun batteries in front of the American lines. Suddenly, the fog begins to lift.