Reenactors celebrate the bicentenial of the battle of New Orleans

British soldiers line up at the bicentenial of the Battle of New Orleans
British soldiers line up at the bicentenial of the Battle of New Orleans

This past weekend in Louisiana, the final battle of the War of 1812, The Battle of New Orlens, was celebrated by living history reenactors from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.  The Battle of New Orleans was fought in Chalmette, Louisiana.

On June 18, 1812, President Madison signed a declaration of war due to British agitation including blockading American ships, impressing Americans into serving in the British navy in the fight against Napoleon, and inciting Native Americans against the citizens of the U.S.  After winning many battles, the British entered Washington D.C. and burned down much of the city, including the U.S. Capital building, the President’s Mansion,  and the Library of Congress and all its books.  This was in retaliation for the destruction of private property on the north shore of Lake Erie.

In November 1814 the British fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, led by General Edward Pakenham and reinforced by ships and troops who had been in the war against Napoleon, set sail for New Orleans.  They invited pirate captain Jean LaFitte to join them and guide them through the difficult waters to New Orleans.  Instead he stalled them and sided with the Americans, providing his knowledge, men, and weapons to defend the city of New Orleans.

Being warned of the attack, Lousiana Govern Claiborne sent word to General Andrew Jackson.  General Jackson and his men arrived in New Orleans on December 2nd, 2015.  In December, General Jackson’s men fought to delay General Pakenham’s advance and built an earth wall at a point where the land land was blocked on one side by swamp and on the other by the Mississippi in Chalmette between the British and American forces.  Meanwhile British troops continued to arrive until they numbered around 11,000 men, more than double the men under General Jackson.

On the eighth of January, 1815, General Pakenham implemented a rather clever plan, using ladders to scale the wall in the early morning fog.  Unfortunately, the fog had cleared along the wall leaving the forces in plain view of the American troops on the wall.  Additionally, when the men arrived at the wall, due to an oversight in planning, they had no ladders to scale it.  General Pakenham and his second in command were fatally wounded in the battle and, although he ordered his third in command, General Lambert, to fight on, the British retreated after his death with over 2,000 men lost in the battle.  Ironically, the Treaty of Ghent ending the war of 1812 was signed December 24, 1814, two weeks before the Battle of New Orleans.

The reenactors of the battle set up camp, provided military and civilian demonstrations of the of the era to thousands of visitors in addition to staging multiple battles over the weekend.

For more images from the reenactment check out the author’s photo album.

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