On this day in 1815, two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had ended the War of 1812 on Christmas Eve, General Andrew Jackson achieves a stunning American victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Whilst the Battle is made up of combat occurring between December 14, 1814 and the following February, Jackson’s rout of the disheveled Brits along the Rodriguez Canal on January 8 is seen as the decisive blow to the entire operation.
On the fateful day, the British massed and marched in force against General Jackson’s lines. The Americans had constructed three lines of defense, the forward one four miles in front of the city, strongly entrenched at the Rodriquez Canal, which stretched from a swamp to the river, with a timber, loop-holed breastwork and earthworks for artillery. Suffice it to say, the Yanks were ready, well-seasoned with sharp riflemen of Kentucky and Tennessee, who poured withering fire on the British advances repeatedly.
The Battle of New Orleans was remarkable for both its brevity and lopsided lethality; the official report of Adjutant-general Robert Butler, claimed that in the space of twenty-five minutes, the British lost 700 killed, 1,400 wounded, and 500 prisoners, a total loss of 2,600 men. American losses were only seven killed and six wounded. After the battle was over, around 500 British soldiers who had pretended to be dead rose up and surrendered to the Americans.
In the aftermath, while the Americans believed the vastly powerful British fleet and army descending on New Orleans portended the worst, fate favored the new nation. News of victory, one man recalled, “came upon the country like a clap of thunder in the clear azure vault of the firmament, and traveled with electromagnetic velocity, throughout the confines of the land.”
The battle boosted the reputation of Andrew Jackson, a checkered figure in history from the modern perspective, helped to propel him ultimately to the White House, and the anniversary of the battle was celebrated as a national holiday for many years, called “The Eighth,” following Jackson’s election as President. It also inspired a really annoying Johnny Horton song.
And here the lesson of vital, real-time communication endeth.