Jean Lafitte
Historic Resource Study (Chalmette Unit)
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British plans, indeed, called for the main thrust to be made against Jackson's line, and preparations for that assault went on accordingly. Since the encounter of the 1st repair to the damaged artillery carriages had been underway and additional ammunition supplies were forwarded from the ships. A broad field cleared of cane refuse was used to store shell and shot, and tents arrived with which to preserve powder. Meantime a battery for six 18-pounders (later four 18-pounders) was started on January 5 on the road below the British water battery for use against American vessels moving downstream as well as to support British troops crossing the river. [1] For the latter movement the British had begun extending Villeré's Canal across the plain to the river, enlarging it by digging so that barges loaded with soldiers might obtain passage into the Mississippi for an attack against American defenses on the west side. Apparently Pakenham's design was to attack on January 7, but delays in widening and lengthening the canal necessitated a change in plan. British carpenters labored to build a system of locks to regulate the level of water in the canal but repairs to these mechanisms prompted further delays. It was the intelligence of the operation on Villeré's Canal that motivated Jackson to send reinforcements of Kentucky militia to Morgan on the right bank. [2]

Besides the new battery on the river, British artillery preparations included the renovation of former works facing Jackson's position at Rodriguez Canal. Old Battery No. 5 was re-opened to receive four 18-pounders and four 24-pounder carronades for pounding the American artillery. Former Battery No. 2 on the levee road was likewise reconditioned. [3] Most of the work to rebuild and outfit the batteries took place during the night of the 7th. It was a grueling and uncertain task, as often roads were easily missed in the darkness and the heavy ordnance had to be moved across ditches to the batteries. [4] In the case of British Battery No. 2, wrote a participant, "as the water sprang up at the depth of a foot or nine inches below the surface of the soft ground, the men were obliged to pare the surface for a great extent round, and to bring the shovels and spades dripping with mud to plaster on the queerest entrenchment I ever saw." [5] When this work was completed the British artillery consisted of three riverbank batteries with a total of six 18-pounders and two 24-pounders; four field guns positioned on the levee road; two 24-pounder carronades in battery on the levee road at or near the site of former Battery No. 2; and former Battery No. 5, 400 yards from the river and containing four 18-pounder and four 24-pounder cannon. [6]

Thus prepared and newly reinforced by 2000 troops under Major General John Lambert, on the evening of January 7 Pakenham issued his order of attack:

The Troops to fall in tomorrow morning at 4 o'Clock the 2d. and 3d. Brigades will move before day break to the ground now occupied by the Picquets, an advanced Guard to consist of the 44th Regiment, and 300 of the 95th. Regiment to occupy the old Batteries.

This force is to be divided into 400 to fire, 300 of whom are to be of the 44th. Regiment, and 250 to carry fascines if required. The chief attack will be made by the 2d. Brigade, advancing from the left in Column of Companies covered by the firing party, and preceded by the Soldiers who bear the fascines, when the fascines are lodged the Men who carry them will join the 44th. Regiment and commence fire.

The Light Companies of the 2d. Brigade are to be formed into Battalion, having attached to them 100 of the 1st. West India Regiment, this Corps will skirt the Wood as a protection to Genl. Gibbs Right and for his after disposal, 'till possessed of the Enemy's Lines when it will be used as a Corps of pursuit.

The Light Companies of the 7th. Royal Fusileers, 43d. and 93d. Regiments, and 100 of the 1st. West India Regiment under Colonel Creagh to be formed on Major General Keanes left, and considered as belonging to his Command.

The first Brigade will compose the Reserve, to which the 1st. West India Regiment will be attached, as also the dismounted Dragoons off duty. — The Reserve will form in front of the Huts occupied by the 93d. Regiment.

Should the Enemy be enabled to hold his ground on the Right, the attack must be to our left, of that of the 2d. Brigade, where our impression will answer both Columns, and it will be impossible for the Enemy to oblique the fire of his flanks sufficiently to enable his injuring the Columns from his whole front when close up to his works.

When the position is carried the flank Battalion to press the Enemy's Rear for half a Mile on the Receipt of instructions; A Detachment of Sappers to accompany each Column.

The Advance Guard is to carry forward with it Six long ladders with planks on them, and ten small ladders as well as the fascines, the Officer Commanding the 44th. Regiment will ascertain where these requisites are this Evening, so that there may be no delay in taking them forward tomorrow to the Old Batteries; whatever the Soldiers get in charge they must not separate from without orders.

A Rendezvous must be given to the Detachments ordered to join the 44th. Regiment on the advance—When the advance has taken up its ground and placed a few Sentries, the Picquets should join their Corps.

E.M. Pakenham
M Genl. [7]

While the employment of ladders for bridging the ditch and gaining Jackson's parapet was acknowledged, the British plan, in fact, placed much reliance on their use. The practice was known as escalading and involved the attack of a fortified line in compact column formation rather than in an extended line facing the opponent's works. Once an advance party with fascines and ladders succeeded in surmounting the ditch and parapet the troops following would attempt to carry the defenses with musket and bayonet. [8] In the matter of Jackson's line the British intended to use plank ladders "by raising them on end, and letting them drop across the ditch... for the assailants to run over them." [9] The fascines were to be thrown into the ditch to provide a firm base for the ladders. According to plan, both fascines and ladders were stored in the advanced redoubt on the right front and were there to be picked up enroute to the attack by designated troops of the Forty-fourth Infantry. Clearly under the plan Pakenham was not to rely upon his artillery to open the way for his infantrymen as he had on January 1. His guns now were to help knock out Jackson's artillery while the British infantry forged ahead in a charge that would carry them beyond the intrenchments. [10]

According to Pakenham's plan, Major General Samuel Gibbs with 2,150 men would lead the principal assault on the right center of Jackson's line where Carroll's Tennessee militia lined the parapet behind Batteries Nos. 7, 8, and 9. While this strike occurred, Major General Keane would conduct a feint toward the river with 1200 soldiers with a demonstration intended to attract the fire of the heavier American guns. Some of Gibbs's men, meantime, would advance through the woods on Jackson's left flank, keeping Coffee's attention diverted from the attack in Carroll's front. Reserve troops numbering 1400 men of the Seventh and Forty-third regiments under General Lambert would be posted in the rear center of the field.

Leading Gibbs's column would be 300 men of the Forty-fourth charged with conveying the fascines and ladders to the ditch. They would be followed by the balance of the Forty-fourth, besides the Twenty-first and Fourth regiments (comprising the attack column), with light infantry companies from these units and men of the First West India Regiment guarding Gibbs's right flank. If Colonel Thornton across the river succeeded in turning Patterson's guns against Jackson's right, Keane's column was to bear left; otherwise he was to move to his right in support of Gibbs's main thrust. Several companies of the Seventh, Forty-third, Ninety-third, and Twenty-first (Fusiliers) under Lieutenant Colonel Rennie were to advance simultaneously along the riverbank below the levee and spike the guns in the redoubt on the American right. Much rested on good timing and coordination in the attack. And for complete success, the plan required Pakenham's command to move decisively, surprising the Americans at their ditch before any firing occurred. [11]

British troops arrayed on the evening of January 7 consisted of the following: [12]

Column of First Attack.
Major General Sir Samuel Gibbs.
Forty-fourth (Essex) Foot816
Twenty-first (Royal Scots) Fusiliers790
Fourth (King's Own) Foot796


Column of Support or Second Attack.
Major General Sir John Keane.
Ninety-third (Sutherland) Highlanders1,008
Seventh Royal Fusiliers780
Forty-third (Monmouth) Light Infantry862


Column of Reserve.
Major General John Lambert.
Eighty-fifth (Bucks) Light Infantry560
Eighty-ninth (Dublin) Foot (Wing)390
Twenty-seventh Foot en route from the landing-place (Wing)360
Forty-first Foot (landing), 5 companies340
Royal Marines (Battalion)600
Royal Artillery (2 batteries and 1 Rocket Battery)318
Ninety-fifth Rifles, 3d Battalion546
Fifth West India Foot (negroes)912
Fifth West Indian Foot (negroes)796
Fourteenth Light Dragoons (4 troops)210
Total Reserve
Grand total

Some modification of this alignment evidently occurred before the attack began, Gibbs's final command consisting of the Forty-fourth, Twenty-first, and Fourth, while that of Keane essentially comprised the Ninety-third, Forty-third, and Seventh regiments.

During the night of the 7th the British moved their barges into the Mississippi from Villeré's Canal. The procedure was complicated by the fact that the new channel was not deep enough for some of the larger craft, particularly at the cut in the levee, necessitating construction of a dam to raise the water level. Pakenham succeeded in getting but a portion of his intended troops to the other side before morning, mainly the Eighty-fifth regiment under Thornton. Originally, this force was to reach the west bank three miles below Morgan's line, march up, take the works, and seize Patterson's guns, turning them against Jackson's right during the main assault. [13]

The plan proved easier to conceive than to execute. Nor was it entirely undetected by General Jackson. Latour described the increasing intimations that the British were preparing for an assault:

With the assistance of a telescope in the upper apartment of head-quarters, we perceived soldiers on Larorode's plantation, busy in making fascines, while others were working on pieces of wood, which we concluded must be scaling ladders. The picketguards near the wood had moreover been increased and stationed nearer each other. Officers of the staff were seen riding about the fields of Laronde's, Bienvenu's and Chalmette's plantations, and stopping at the different posts to give orders. Finally, on the 7th, shortly after night-fall, we distinctly heard men at work in the enemy's different batteries; the strokes of hammers gave "note of preparation," and resounded even within our lines; and our out-posts informed us that the enemy was re-establishing his batteries: his guards were re-enforced about sunset, probably with a view to cover the movements of the troops. [14]

But Pakenham's timing was amiss. Delays in getting the barges through the canal into the Mississippi thwarted that part of the plan for attacking the west bank simultaneously with the attack on Jackson's defenses. Consequently, Thornton's west bank command was smaller than anticipated and out of position for coordinating any movement with British forces across the stream. Nevertheless, on the foggy, dark morning of January 8 Pakenham directed his forces against the Americans intrenched along Rodriguez Canal. Jackson's pickets were first to discover the advance and fell back before the surging British. A flaming Congreve rocket sent from near the river signaled the attack which opened with the British batteries facing the right of the American line sending forth roaring salvos against the Macarty house and the center of the defenses. Rockets burst overhead, but Jackson was not unprepared, and his own artillery returned the salute, led by the guns in Batteries Nos. 6 and 7. Patterson's artillery on the west bank likewise opened an enfilading fire of grape against the red-coated columns moving in semi-darkness across the plain. Batteries Nos. 1, 2, and 3 directed their guns against a British column quickly moving forward on the right. Only when the British came within a few hundred yards of the American position did gusting winds lift the fog and make them visible to Jackson's men. At one point as they came closer Jackson ordered his right batteries to cease firing so that the smoke could clear for his riflemen to take aim. At the outset of the action, amid the distant blare of British bugles, the band of the Battalion d'Orleans began playing "Yankee Doodle" and other patriotic airs as the British pressed forward. Most action on the American line seems to have occurred at either end of the intrenchment; troops posted on the center often had little fighting to do. "The battalions of Plauche, Dacquin [sic] and Lacoste, the whole of the forty-fourth regiment, and one half of Coffee's Tennesseans, had nothing to do but stand at their posts, and chafe with vain impatience for a chance to join the fight." [15]

The British column facing Jackson's right was slightly ahead of the others in the advance. Led by Colonel Rennie, it pressed forward in close order along the left of the levee, driving in the American pickets so rapidly that Humphreys's guns in Battery No. 1 had to hold back firing for fear of hitting them. As the light infantry companies of the Forty-third, Ninety-third, and Seventh regiments, along with units of the West India regiment, charged into the ditch around the advance redoubt the muskets of Jackson's men on the main line kept up a steady fire. But the redoubt was so positioned as to prevent the marksmen from having a clear field of fire, a factor that contributed to the British success in gaining the work. The rush was so complete that the American defenders in the redoubt were forced after a brief hand to hand struggle to withdraw into the main line having spiked the two guns. As Rennie, now slightly injured, led his men across the canal and up the parapet of the line, he and several others were shot and fell mortally wounded. More British tumbled into the ditch, either killed and wounded by Beale's riflemen or bayoneted by the marines. Others were captured. American militiamen and regulars of the Seventh Infantry leveled volleys of musketry from the right and left until the British occupants of the redoubt were forced to secure themselves in the ditch awaiting relief by Keane. Other members of the column retreated back down the levee road, many taking cover in the drainage ditches as Patterson's shore batteries and Humphreys's Battery No. 1 began a heavy fire directed at them. Meantime, Batteries Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 sent discharges at the British field guns hoping to dismount them.

Rennie's detachment actually comprised the advance of Keane's column of most of the Ninety-third. This column, assembled on the levee road at the British left, was supposed to support Thornton's attack across the river. When that failed to occur on schedule Pakenham directed Keane to lead his men in support of the column on the right under General Gibbs. The survivors of Rennie's assault force therefore had no further support but for the artillery. [16]

Pakenham's main impetus lay with the attack by Gibbs's 2500-man column against the left center of Jackson's line. But this strike also failed. Gibbs's column was composed of the Forty-fourth, Twenty-first, and Fourth regiments, in that order, plus three companies of the Ninety-fifth rifles to lie down in front as a covering party. The assault, intended to be carried out close to the woods and out of range of Patterson's guns on the far shore, was led by the Forty-fourth, a reputedly undisciplined Irish unit whose commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Mullins, neglected to have his men pick up the required fascines and ladders at the advanced redoubt along the swamp for bridging the ditch and scaling the American works. Instead, the regiment moved 500 yards forward three or four abreast through the road gap in the old 10-gun battery of January 1. [17] When the mistake was realized, 300 men went back to retrieve the fascines and ladders, a time consuming operation at the critical moment the attack was supposed to begin. Furthermore, part of the troops got lost returning to the front, so that those farthest in advance had ladders instead of fascines, which were needed first. This produced hesitancy and confusion. [18] Consequently, the British advance failed to approach the Americans closely enough before daylight revealed their presence. The soldiers also had to traverse the several waterfilled drainage ditches, each four or five feet wide, although this was apparently accomplished with ease. But as the soldiers of the Twenty-first and Fourth moved forward in column they became confused at seeing Mullins's disorderly men coming on their flanks from the rear bearing the implements that should have been well ahead. Before they could recover, the American cannon, particularly those in Batteries Nos. 6 through 8, poured forth its grape and canister into the uncertain ranks. Gibbs's column began laying down then doubled back on itself as the shelling and musketry opened from Jackson's intrenchments. Rather than storm the works the British obliqued left to avoid Battery No. 8, then halted, trying to fire at the line. Finally, within about 100 yards from the works, the column wavered. As Mullins's men tossed aside the ladders and sugar cane fascines the British troops began stumbling frantically toward the rear. To add to the confusion an acoustical illusion took place when "the roar of musketry and cannon seemed to proceed from the thick cypress-wood..., whilst bright flashes of fire [on Jackson's line]...were not apparently accompanied by sound." [19] An officer of the Twenty-first later recollected the assault:

The Column advanced, composed, and perfectly steady, until we were within about 40 yards of the enemy's lines; during the time, between our leaving the advanced Battery and getting to within 40 yards of the enemy's Works, several individuals of the 44th Regiment passed to the front, on our Flank, in an hurried, and irregular manner, bearing Facines and Ladders, particularly our left flank, in groups of 3 or 4, and others individually. When we were within 40 yards of the enemy's lines, several straggling shots were fired on both Flanks, and I particularly saw one man of the 44th, throw away his Facine, and take his firelock and fire. Cheering at this time had also commenced; I went to the rear of the 21st Regiment, in order to prevent men joining them, either in cheering or firing, several musket shots passed over while I was in the rear, and the men complained of being fired on very much by the rear; I returned in a few minutes to the head of the column and found it checked, and a great many men of the 4th and 44th intermixed with the head companies of our Regiment, which they said had fallen back on them; the head of the column was at this time in considerable confusion.... [20]

Fearful at the turnabout, Gibbs saw his commands go unheeded and he sought out Pakenham who was in the rear. The commander rode out on a charger, hat in hand, and tried to encourage the troops to turn back. As he reached a point at the head of the column near the woods Pakenham's horse was shot out from under him and he received a wound. Mounting another, he was struck immediately by a round of grape and was conveyed to the back lines dead or dying. The spot where Pakenham fell was probably between 20 and 40 yards from the American fortifications, based upon knowledge of how close the British advance reached before withdrawing. Contemporary reports stated that the British did not proceed much farther after Pakenham was shot. [21] In any event, the attack now collapsed, the men staggering in disorganized rout back across the plain. Some of the Fourth and Twenty-first men sought shelter in the ditches and swamp or lying flat in the sedge grass. The Forty-fourth was severely damaged in the attack which lasted all of twenty minutes. Back at the first ditch Gibbs managed to rally the troops of the Fourth and Seventh infantry regiments and they moved ahead, now without the encumbrance of their knapsacks. This time some British soldiers reached the canal before the American works but could not surmount the defenses. Again the Americans filled the air with grape and canister, cutting huge swaths through the oncoming ranks while the riflemen delivered volley after volley of fire into the flanks of the advance. The cannon resounded across the field like thunder as the guns and rockets blazed forth a furious spectacle of light. Wounded British soldiers writhed in agony on the ground, their screams punctuating the morning air. Many soldiers died before the precisioned musketry of Carroll's Tennesseans. Gibbs himself received a mortal wound but 20 yards from the ditch. Major Tatum described the destruction thusly:

He [the enemy] approached the lines almost in the face of our 18 lb. battery, and gave to that battery and another, containing a Howitzer, still further to our left, an opportunity of raking the right of his column compleatly; and also a favorable opportunity to rake him on his left with a 12, 4 [?] & 6 lbr., and at a greater distance, by a 32 lb. battery. As he approached with this column a tremendous fire was opened upon him from these batteries, the militia and part of the 44 U. S. Infantry. The effect was astonishing. The enemy were broken three, several times, halted, closed column and advanced again and finally entered the canal with their front platoons. Such destruction of men, for the time it lasted, was never before witnessed. [22]

When the confused advance of Gibbs's command became apparent to General Keane, that officer determined against moving to support the force of Colonel Rennie attacking Jackson's right. He instead put his troops, principally the Ninety-third Highlanders, 950 strong and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Dale, in motion to bolster Gibbs's left flank. From his covered position in the second ditch between the British batteries Keane led his men in a gentle oblique movement toward Gibbs's column, then approaching the right center of Jackson's line. The maneuver was disastrous because the American artillery, especially Battery No. 5, unleashed heavy barrages into the diagonally moving force and Keane's men began falling in droves. Colonel Dale was hit and killed immediately. The failure of the highlanders to turn the battle seems to have caused the advance to collapse altogether. After Keane was badly wounded in the neck near the American ditch the men of both commands began falling back amid a rain of grape and musket balls. Dickson recalled the event:

At first the Musquetry fire was scattered along the [American] line, it then became more general, but not so great and incessant as might have been expected from a line so well manned, the fire of Artillery was heavy, and kept up with the Utmost vigour. When I got near the Old 10 Gun Battery the Musquetry fire slackened and seemed to recede on the Enemies left, from which I thought the line was carried, but the occasional discharge of a Gun from that quarter convinced me I was deceived in my hopes, although I still was inclined to think some impression had been made, but on going a little further I heard Sir Edward Pakenham was badly wounded, and immediately after-wards I met the troops coming back in numbers and in great Confusion, the first Brigade at the Same time however advancing in good order; At this period I saw the Field Artillery on my left slowly retiring, I immediately rode up to them and learnt from Capt. Carmichael that he had moved forward agreeable to the order, taken up a position, and opened as soon as the Musquetry fire Commenced, but that he had Scarcely fired five Rounds a Gun, when the Columns that attacked broke at the head, and such numbers of men came in front of his Guns, that he was obliged to cease firing, and being under a Most heavy fire without the power of returning it, he had thought it best to fall back. [23]

The battle was over in little more than two hours, the field littered with hundreds of dead and dying while numbers of British deserters entered Jackson's line.

During the fighting Jackson maneuvered his support troops to be ready in case the British succeeded in carrying his works. Hinds's cavalry moved from behind Macarty's house to the rear of Coffee's command near the swamp at the time of the second British assault to make certain the left could not be turned. Jackson had also moved 600 Kentuckians into position between Coffee's right and Carroll's left, thereby adding substantially to his complement of veteran marksmen. Some of the Kentucky troops had to be ordered to remain behind the parapet, so eager were they to take risks that many of them rashly stood atop the defenses exposing themselves to the foe. While the main attack raged in front, Coffee's men successfully repelled another attempt by the British, this time by the light infantry units of the Second Brigade with 100 men of the Fifth West India regiment, to turn the left by penetrating the swamp. [24]

During the fighting Major General John Lambert had stayed in the rear with the reserve First Brigade consisting of the Seventh Fusiliers and the Forty-third regiment besides the First West India regiment. Cautiously, Lambert now advanced to a point 250 yards from the American works where he was met by the reeling commands of Gibbs and Keane falling back without order. Seeing that there was no possibility of pressing ahead, Lambert ordered the army back to a position of security beyond range of the American guns. [25]

As the smoke cleared following the retirement of the British, the men in the American intrenchments were greeted by a bloody spectacle. The entire plain on the left front of the line lay strewn with the dead and wounded. Some of the latter managed to stand up and run to the rear or into the American position where they surrendered. "A space of ground," wrote Latour,

extending from the ditch of our lines to that on which the enemy drew up his troops, two hundred and fifty yards in length, by about two hundred in breadth, was literally covered with men, either dead or severely wounded. About forty men were killed in the ditch, up to which they had advanced, and about the same number were there made prisoners. [26]

Despite the retreat of the enemy with severe losses, Jackson continued an artillery bombardment until 2 p.m. Able British troops now posted themselves in the several drainage ditches to guard against a sortie by the Americans. [27]

While the attack on the east bank of the river proved disastrous, the British achieved some success across the Mississippi despite initial delays. Having reached the opposite bank, Colonel Thornton advanced his 560-man column upstream along the levee in the direction of General Morgan's line. The British boats, hugging the shoreline, moved upstream protecting Thornton's right flank while sending loads of grape shot toward the American position. The British encountered the badly armed Louisiana command of Major Paul Arnaud, driving them back from their front until they fell in with 170 Kentuckians under Colonel John Davis situated about a mile before Morgan's line at Mayhew's Canal. Arnaud drew up his command in line with the Kentucky troops and together the soldiers sent a volley into Thornton's men, causing them to open ranks in line formation and charge the American advance post. Morgan, seeing this attack, called on his men to fall back. Arnaud's command dashed into the woods on their right, while the Kentuckians retired toward Morgan's line on Raguet Canal.

Thornton pressed the attack, directing the Eighty-fifth to extend over the field and sending troops to skirt the woods. The seamen were ordered to move ahead on the road fronting the riverbank, while the marine unit formed in reserve behind the Eighty-fifth. In that formation Thornton advanced amid a shower of grape and canister from the river battery. Commander Patterson hastened to turn his six 12-pounders and three 24-pounders toward the advancing British, and Morgan readied his command of 700 to meet the enemy from behind the inadequate defenses. The General then ordered his soldiers to shoot, but the volley was uneven and Thornton's troops quickly responded with their own. At this, the Kentucky militia pulled away from the canal and began a headlong retreat up the river, followed shortly by the Louisiana troops of Colonels J. B. Dejan, Alexander DeClouet, and Zenon Cavalier posted near the stream. Before long the retreat became a disorganized rout, many Kentucky soldiers charging into the woods and swamps to escape the onrushing British. Unable to fire for fear of hitting Morgan's men, Patterson quickly ordered his guns spiked and batteries abandoned by the sailors, who moved after the retreating command. During the fighting a number of the British were killed and wounded, Colonel Thornton among the latter. But the troops pushed on toward New Orleans, routing Morgan again at Jourdan's Canal and yet again at Flood's Canal. The Americans finally stopped at Boisgervais Canal where the earthen defenses were improved and where Morgan had found some dragoons to help him stem the retreat. Other reinforcements under General Jean Humbert began to arrive from the east bank. Most of the Kentuckians had by this time, however, fled into the woods leaving the Louisianians to defend the Boisgervais works. The British decided against assaulting this position and awaited instructions from across the river. Besides taking the flag of the First Louisiana, Thornton's command captured Patterson's spiked weapons, and the armament of Morgan's line, including a howitzer taken from the British at Yorktown thirty-four years earlier. [28]

Jackson, meanwhile secure in his victory on the opposite shore, feared that the British success over Morgan on the west bank would jeopardize his position once Patterson's guns should be unspiked and trained against the American right at Rodriguez Canal. But that eventuality never occurred, for Lambert, unable to provide reinforcements, ordered the west bank command to withdraw. That night the American's regained their west bank lines and Patterson unspiked his artillery. But the retreat of the Americans, and particularly the Kentuckians, reportedly enraged Jackson, who told the Secretary of War that those troops "ingloriously fled" from the enemy. The episode precipitated a lively debate in the press that lasted for years and cast a shadow over the role of the Kentuckians at New Orleans. A court of inquiry convened shortly after the battle cleared most of the militia leaders of blame and laid much criticism on Morgan for his defenses and troop disposition which contributed to the defeat. Yet the stigma haunted the Kentuckians and they remained bitter toward Jackson ever after. [29]

With the refusal of General Lambert to commit his rescue forces or to provide reinforcements to the west bank column Jackson's victory was assured. After the American guns fell silent over the plain before Rodriguez Canal hundreds of the prostrate British rose from among the dead and wounded to descend on Jackson's line in surrender. With no time to pull back his artillery, Lambert decided to wait until night when his men might spike the 18- and 24-pounders in the front batteries and dump the powder and shot into the waterfilled ditches. Meantime, most of his command edged closer to the woods or took cover in the ditches, some remaining for as long as five hours, until some orderly withdrawal could take place, usually by rising in squad formation and retreating in a crouch while on the run. Some of the Ninety-third troops along with the Fifth West India regiment were sent to the left to cover that exposed flank. Jackson refused to accept Lambert's request for a truce as long as the British operation proceeded across the river. Flags passed between the commands through the afternoon until 4 p. m., after which Jackson renewed his cannonade, shortly to include mortar fire from the weapon on his right, besides that of five new gunboats placed under cover of the riverbank. [30]

Many of Jackson's men went over the parapet after the retreat to assist the wounded British into their lines, often using planks and discarded ladders to transport the injured soldiers. The operation was attended with certain risk, for British marksmen in the first ditch tried to disuade the Americans from removing the wounded. During the afternoon a company of Daquin's Free Men of Color advanced to rid the ditch of these British, a mission that succeeded despite several casualties. [31] Some Americans now ventured over the plain picking up muskets and other articles scattered over the ground. Reported one observer:

When we first got a fair view of the field in our front, individuals could be seen in every possible attitude. Some laying quite dead, others mortally wounded, pitching and tumbling about in the agonies of death. Some had their heads shot off, some their legs, some their arms. Some were laughing, some crying, some groaning, and some screaming. There was every variety of sight and sound. Among those that were on the ground, however, there were some that were neither dead nor wounded. A great many had thrown themselves down behind piles of slain, for protection. [32]

British losses had, indeed, been exceedingly high. Jackson's inspector general, Colonel Arthur P. Hayne accounted for 700 killed, 1400 wounded, and 500 captured. [33] The Medical Director of the British Army later reported that 381 British soldiers had been killed on the field and that 477 others died of wounds received, making a total of 858 killed. Total wounded numbered 2,468, bringing the grand total of British casualties to 3,326. [34] Yet another estimate placed British losses at 1971 killed and wounded. [35] These casualties moreover, included "one lieutenant general, two major generals, eight colonels and lieutenant colonels, six majors, eighteen captains, and fifty-four subalterns." [36] On the right bank of the Mississippi British losses stood at 120 killed and wounded. [37] American casualties in the main British attack were remarkably low, reportedly 6 killed and 7 wounded. Across the river 1 man had been killed and 5 wounded, making the total American loss that day 7 killed and 12 wounded. [38] The most practical explanation for these light casualties is that the British were unable to penetrate the fortifications and their artillery was once again trained too high to seriously threaten the troops behind the line. The British guns, wrote an American, "have done no harm to our troops, the bursting of their bombs in our works has been of no effect." [39]

Burial of the British dead proceeded on the early afternoon of January 9 following Lambert's accession to Jackson's demand that reinforcements from neither army should be sent to the west bank. Indeed, Lambert informed Jackson that his troops across the Mississippi had been recalled. Under an arrangement worked out with Jackson at the time of the armistice, all of the dead lying between Rodriguez Canal and the first drainage ditch about 400 yards away would be delivered by the Americans to the upper side of the ditch "at the edge of the sedge grass." Those dead found in the swamp above a prolongation of the ditch were likewise turned over by the Americans. The British were responsible for burying all these dead, plus those lying below the ditch, in two hours' designated time, although the burials in fact lasted well into the evening. More than 300 dead British were thus turned over at the demarcation line by the Americans, and Jackson's officers tending to this duty noticed that many dead also existed across the ditch. At the same time some wounded British prisoners were escorted across the ditch and into the enemy lines, there to be exchanged for American prisoners. After dark a torchlit ceremony was held during which the British fatalities were interred in shallow muddy graves. [40]

Location of the burial places of the British dead has never been precisely determined, except that they occurred somewhere beyond the first drainage ditch. One source stated that the bodies were "Buried in the Battery... hastily erected on New Years eve," probably meaning the position straddling the center road (British Batteries Nos. 6 and 7). [41] Such a location seems logical since it required transporting the dead only a short distance directly to the rear. Another source, however, while noting that "the ditch along the levee was the grave of numbers," also remarked that he did not visit "that part of the field where the British buried (nominally) the greatest number of their dead...." [42] There were accounts, too, that indicated that the dead were "thrown by dozens into shallow holes, scarcely deep enough to furnish them with a slight covering of earth." [43] And an officer reported preparing a mass grave into which he threw about 200 bodies. [44] It is clear that the burials were slight gestures because of the nature of the terrain. The bodies were straightened "and the great toes tied together with a piece of string." [45] Most were barely covered with earth and during the ensuing weeks as the weather turned warm the bodies putrefied and their stench pervaded a broad area. "Every light puff from the eastward which passes over the field brings evidence with it that the bodies are still here," wrote one chronicler. [46] By summer the situation concerned residents of New Orleans who feared an outbreak of pestilence brought on by the mouldering British dead. [47] Probably periodic flooding did much to alleviate such concerns, along with the passage of time. It seems likely that most of the original burials were made in the part of the battlefield adjoining the woods, indeed, in the area of the aforementioned British batteries. [48]

While the interments proceeded on January 9, British naval vessels on the lower Mississippi tried to make their way past Fort St. Philip to assist Pakenham's operation below New Orleans. Since early December British craft plied the waters at the river's mouth and had occupied the works at The Balize. Fort St. Philip had been refurbished according to Jackson's specifications and during the middle of December Major Walter Overton took command of the garrison, composed of approximately 400 men of the regular artillery and infantry, plus several units of local militia. One gunboat took station in the river near the post. On January 9 several British craft, including two mortar vessels, approached Fort St. Philip and initiated a long-range bombardment that lasted over the next eight days, killing 2 Americans and wounding 7. Overton fired back with his artillery, consisting of twenty-nine 24-pounders, two 32-pounders, one 6-pounder, two howitzers, and one 13-inch mortar, but the British stayed out of range. On the 17th the Americans opened an effective mortar fire that prompted the British to give up the attempt and sail downstream to the Gulf. Throughout the encounter the guns on the lower river instilled certain apprehension among Jackson's men. "We have heard a heavy cannonade to day in that direction," wrote a soldier. "If they should pass that fort, all our efforts here I am afraid will be unavailing...." [49] As a precaution Jackson caused a new water battery to be erected about 50 yards behind the right of his line at Rodriguez Canal. This battery mounted four 24-pounders and was completed under the supervision of an engineer named Blanchard. Across the stream Morgan undertook a new line of defense while Patterson began work on another battery on the levee, this one higher up than his earlier batteries though armed with the weapons removed from them. With the withdrawal of British shipping from in front of Fort St. Philip, however, the need for these new batteries passed. [50]

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Last Updated: 05-Sep-2004