The year 1815 is celebrated in British history for the great victory at Waterloo, but there was also a great defeat – at New Orleans on January 8. Britain and the infant United States had fallen out over Britain’s press-ganging of American sailors, her attempts to impose a blockade against Napoleonic France, and American territorial ambitions in Canada.
In fact, the battle should never have been fought, as the two combatants had made peace at Ghent on Christmas Eve 1814, but the news had still not reached America. If it had, the British would probably have been disappointed. They had 8,000 professional soldiers, many of whom had helped defeat the French in the Peninsular War, and fancied themselves to rout General Andrew Jackson’s untrained frontiersmen.
The American ranks, though, were packed with sharpshooters, and Jackson had constructed his defences well and sited his artillery very effectively. When the British charged, they were cut down in dozens.
The British commander, Edward Pakenham was killed, as was another British general, and within 25 minutes, the Redcoats had to withdraw, having lost 2,000 killed, wounded or captured against just 300 casualties on the American side.
*A review of Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters from Kent on Sunday.