Only 69 miles from where you are standing, the most significant battle of the War of 1812 was fought, the Battle of New Orleans. Ironically, it was neither fought in New Orleans, nor was it fought during the official War of 1812. Instead, it was fought in Chalmette, two weeks after the war had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. In the fall of 1814, the British sent 7,500 troops under General Edward Pakenham to New Orleans in order to get control of the Mississippi River. In response, the Americans chose General Andrew Jackson to meet the threat. Jackson's army was made up of a mishmash of militiamen from southern states, pirates, sailors, and about four-hundred free black volunteers from Louisiana for a total of approximately 6,000. Nothing about this group struck fear in the hearts of the British. As a result, Pakenham ordered a direct frontal assault on January 8, 1815. But the Americans were firmly entrenched behind cotton bales, mounds, and the like that they had set up, they were well protected as the British came ashore. American riflemen tore the invading British forces to pieces. The battle only lasted a half hour and by the end of it, the British had suffered over two-thousand casualties compared to the Americans who suffered only about seventy. The British were forced to retreat. Coupled with the news
about the Treaty of Ghent, the reports of the incredible victory at New Orleans lifted the nation's spirits after a war that was mainly a disaster for the United States. Americans came out of the war with a sense of national pride especially because it had ended on such a high note at New Orleans. Those who had opposed the war, especially the members of the Federalist party, began to be seen as defeatists and even worse, traitors. Consequently, the Federalist party fell out of favor and essentially disappeared after the war. The Battle of New Orleans also created a new national hero in Andrew Jackson. Jackson was a new type of hero for America, a man of the west (Tennessee) and one that was raised far from the traditional seats of political power on the east coast. Jackson would be seen as a common man, as a man of the people. Of course, Jackson would later become the seventh president of the United States. But his rise to national prominence happened first because of his leadership at the Battle of New Orleans.