The Battle of New Orleans was one of the most significant battles in American history — the last important land battle of the War of 1812 and the last time the United States and Great Britain fought as enemies. The United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 to uphold American maritime rights, preserve American claims to the Louisiana Purchase, and drive the British from Canada. At that time, the British were at war with Napoleon’s France, so action on the American front remained limited until Napoleon’s defeat in May 1814 freed thousands of battle-tested British troops for an American campaign. In late November 1814, 10,000 British troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Sir Edward Pakenham set sail for New Orleans. Facing the British would be about 5,400 Americans under the command of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson.
By December 14, 1814, the British had captured American gunboats on Lake Borgne. After an indecisive night battle on December 23, the British waited for reinforcements and the Americans prepared their defenses behind the Rodriguez Canal, which bordered the Chalmet plantation just downriver from New Orleans. They dug a mud rampart across a narrow strip of land between the Mississippi River and a cypress swamp, hoping to force the British troops through a bottleneck. As dawn broke on January 8, 1815, 7,000 British troops marched toward the rampart where 4,000 Americans waited for the order to fire.
The Battle of New Orleans lasted less than two hours, with the major fighting confined to about 30 minutes. Ironically, the British defeated the Americans on the west bank of the river, but the British on the east bank (at what is now Chalmette Battlefield) sounded the retreat after it became apparent that the battle was lost. At the battle, the Americans suffered fewer than 20 casualties (dead, wounded, or captured); the British sustained more than 2,000.
Many people believe the battle was unnecessary since the Treaty of Ghent ending the war had been signed on December 24, 1814. However, the treaty stated that it was not binding and that fighting would continue until it was ratified by the governments of the United States and Britain and final copies of the treaty exchanged. Since the treaty did not specify what land would be awarded to the combatants, the Battle of New Orleans can literally be seen as a fight for New Orleans, since many in the British government did not feel that the Louisiana Purchase was legal and that therefore the United States did not own Louisiana or the Mississippi River when the war began. The War of 1812 officially ended on February 17, 1815, with no changes in the ownership of any territory.
EVENTS: Events in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes will bring the world of the Battle of New Orleans to life and explore its meaning for today Friday-Monday, January 5-8. A complete schedule of events and links to related websites are available at www.nps.gov/jela.
National Park Service Events at Chalmette Battlefield will be highlighted by solemn ceremony, hands-on activities, period craft demonstrations, and nearly 100 living history reenactors. The battlefield was the site of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and is managed by Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve as part of the National Park Service. More information at 504-281-0510 or www.nps.gov/jela.
• Battle of New Orleans Anniversary Event, Saturday, January 6, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Free. Living history experts dressed as civilians and troops from 1815 demonstrate military drills, fire cannons and muskets, perform period music, and share life in 1815 via craft demonstrations, games, and hands-on activities, including a special Kids Camp. ALL public parking at the St. Bernard Parish Government Center, 8201 West Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette. Restrooms and tourism information available; local historians present informal talks on the battle and its impact on national and local history. Free shuttles, including wheelchair accessible shuttles, will run continuously between the parking area and Chalmette Battlefield; allow 15 minutes for the trip. The first shuttle leaves the parking area for the battlefield at 8:45 a.m.; the last shuttle leaves the parking area for the battlefield at 2:15 p.m. The last shuttle leaves the battlefield for the parking area at 3:15 p.m.
• Ranger Talks, Sunday, January 7, 10: 45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Free. Park at Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette. Battlefield and visitor center open 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (Battlefield opens at 10:00 a.m. rather than the regular time of 9:00 a.m. due to Jackson Day Race.)
• Wreath-Laying Ceremony, Monday, January 8, 9:30 a.m. Free. Honor the men who fought at the Battle of New Orleans with a solemn ceremony at Chalmette Monument. Park at Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette. Battlefield and visitor center open at 9:00 a.m.
• Ranger Talks, Monday, January 8, 10: 45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Free. Park at Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette. Battlefield and visitor center open 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
• Remembrance Ceremony presented by the Daughters of the British Empire, Friday, January 5, 11:00 a.m. Free. At de La Ronde Historic Site, Chalmette. https://www.facebook.com/Daughters-of-the-British-Empire-in-Louisiana-121516331195025/
• Lantern Tour presented by The Company: A St. Bernard Community Theatre, Saturday, January 6, evening. https://www.facebook.com/TheCompanySTB
• Jackson Day Race presented by the New Orleans Track Club, Sunday, January 7, 8:00 a.m. http://runnotc.org/races/2018/jacksonday.shtml
• Wreath-Laying Ceremony presented by National Society United States Daughters of 1812, Monday, January 8, 12:30 p.m. Free. At Jackson Square, 700 block of Decatur Street, New Orleans. Free. http://sites.usdaughters1812.org/chalmetteusd1812/
Tourism information for St. Bernard Parish is available at www.visitstbernard.com or 504-278-4242. Media contact: Katie Tommaseo/St. Bernard Parish 504-278-4242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
www.nps.gov – About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 400+ national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov