War of 1812Events and Locationsfrench

The Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans

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 Attack on the Villere Plantation

Night Before the Battle

Massacre at New Orleans

Eyewitness Accounts

The British Arrive at New Orleans

The shocking news of Major General Ross’s death at Baltimore in mid-September, reached England a month later. In addition to the British Army losing a bright young commander, his death put the planned New Orleans campaign in jeopardy. A replacement for its overall command had to found.

It was quickly decided that Major General Edward Pakenham would fill the position. There were misgivings about the appointment; Pakenham, though a brave and intelligent officer, had no experience commanding large operations. Before these objections could be addressed, however, he was already sailing to Jamaica for his rendez-vous with Alexander Cochrane.

Admiral Cochrane decided not to wait for Pakenham, and thought it better to leave with his own force, as well as that of John Keane's, to commence preparations off the Gulf Coast. Cochrane had spent most of November mulling over which of New Orleans' many access points he would penetrate.

Thanks to his network of well paid informants, Cochrane knew that the Americans had only five small gunboats on Lake Borgne and that otherwise it was not fortified. Knowing that his navy could easily take care of these, his main concern would be the efficient transfer of men and supplies across the lake (which was too shallow for his large warships), up one of the many bayous and over the swampy terrain leading to the city. If there was strict and speedy execution of the plan, he felt it would work. Having been informed that Jackson hadn't yet fortified the city, Cochrane's fleet left Jamaica on November 27, 1814, hoping to catch Jackson off-guard.

Cochrane reached the entrance to Lake Borgne two weeks later and wasted no time in sending a flotilla of 45 boats, generously laden with cannon, out to meet the American gunships. After a day and a half of rowing across the windless lake, British Captain Lockyer's men cornered the Americans.

After a fierce battle, the British added five gunboats to their fleet and Cochrane began scouting out a base of operations. It was finally decided that Pine Island, at the lake's north end, would be the staging area. Over four cold and wet days, the British make several trips relaying men and equipment from the warships at the lake's entrance 30 miles across the water to Pine Island.

During this period the British did their best to assess the American state of affairs. Andrew Jackson sent out a truce party to inquire into the Americans captured after the lake battle, and Cochrane, dispensing of any formalities, drilled the emissaries as to the strength of the U.S. forces at New Orleans. Undoubtedly hoping to scare the British, one of the party put them at over 15,000. Cochrane didn't believe them, but it was all he could get from the Americans. More promising developments however, were soon reported.