“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” —Ecclesiastes 9:11
The Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815
f ever there was an international city in America, New Orleans was it. The city was founded by the French Mississippi Company in 1718, ceded to Spain as a result of the French and Indian War (7 Years War) in 1765, returned to French control in 1803 and was the same year included in the Louisiana Purchase, making it a United States territory. Immigrants from all those countries, plus Germans, Jews, Poles and Italians, not to mention thousands of both free and slave Africans called New Orleans home in 1815. The city was known for its aggressive pirate bands led by Jean LaFitte, and the predominant religions of the area were Roman Catholicism and Voodoo. Toward the end of the War of 1812, England decided it was their turn to own New Orleans and thus control all the trade on the Mississippi River, so they sent an army fresh from defeating Napoleon Bonaparte, to seize it from the Americans. That most polyglot mixture of local ruffians, American regulars, militias, blacks, slave and free, and pirates—led by the only man on the continent who could command such a mob, Andrew Jackson—determined to prevent his majesty’s forces from capturing the immensely profitable chaos that was New Orleans.
The Battle of New Orleans was the climax of the five-month Gulf Campaign (September 1814 to February 1815) by Britain to capture New Orleans. Above is a depiction of the night attack of December 23, 1814 where Choctaws and a mixed group of Major Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour face off against members of the British 85th and 95th Regiments.
Great Britain and the United States had gone to war against each other in 1812. Both sides won and lost battles on the sea and land, with the British given the edge with their capture and burning of the enemy capitol of Washington, DC on August 24, 1814. With the repulse of the English Navy at Baltimore and the defeat of a major expedition on Lake Champlain, the British agreed to sit down at Ghent in Belgium and discuss a cease-fire and end the war. The belligerents signed the Peace Treaty on December 24, 1814, awaiting only the approval of the United States Senate for it to legally and officially end the war. While the treaty was crossing the ocean for that purpose, the expedition to capture New Orleans came to shore among the bayous above New Orleans.
The Treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814: The leading British delegate Lord Gambier is shaking hands with the American leader John Quincy Adams; the British Undersecretary of State for War and the Colonies, Henry Goulburn, is carrying a red folder