George Gleig recalls the mood in British Camp the night before the Battle
More eyewitness accounts of the Battle of New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans
A Description of the Hardships of the New Orleans Campaign
George Gleig was a captain with the British 85th Foot. Below he describes the
British camp at Pine Island which was used as a base of operations at Lake
Borgne during the New Orleans campaign. Near the end, Gleig makes reference
to the men of the British West Indies regiments who suffered enormously
in the cold and wet December weather. They had left their islands with only
light uniforms and were unprepared for the chilling rain and frost. They
perished in scores.
"Than this spot, it is scarcely possible to imagine any place more completely wretched. It was a swamp, containing a small space of firm ground at one end, and almost wholly unadorned with trees of any sort or description. There were, indeed, a few stinted firs upon the very edge of the water, but these were so diminutive in size, as hardly to deserve a higher classification than among the meanest of shrubs. The interior was the resort of wild ducks and other water-fowl; and the pools and creeks with which it was intercepted abounded in dormant alligators.
"Upon this miserable desert the army was assembled, without tents or huts, or any covering to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather; and in truth we may fairly affirm, that our hardships had here their commencement. After having been exposed all day to a cold and pelting rain, we landed upon a barren island, incapable of furnishing even fuel enough to supply our fires. To add to our miseries, as night closed, the rain generally ceased, and severe frosts set in; which congealing our wet clothes upon our bodies, left little animal warmth to keep the limbs in a state of activity; and the consequence was, that many of the wretched negroes, to whom frost and cold were altogether new, fell fast asleep, and perished before morning.
"For provisions again, we were entirely dependent upon the fleet. There were here no living creatures which would suffer themselves to be caught; even the water-fowl being so timorous, that it was impossible to approach them within musket shot. Salt meat and ship biscuit were, therefore, our food, moistened by a small allowance of rum; fare which, though no doubt very wholesome, was not such as to reconcile us to the cold and wet under which we suffered."