(Archive - Week of January 8, 2005)

History of Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans

General Andrew Jackson after the
Battle of New Orleans

Andrew was born at the South Carolina settlement of Waxhaw on March 15, 1767. He became an orphan at the young age of fourteen. He and his two brothers, Hugh and Robert, lived with their aunt. He attended school for only a few years. All three brothers fought in the American revolution. Hugh was killed in 1779. Teen-aged Jackson and his older brother, Robert, fought side by side in many skirmishes against the British in South Carolina. After the battle of Hanging Rock the two boys were thrown into jail, where they both contracted small pox. Andrew was able to recover but Robert died.

After the Revolution Jackson lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and then moved to Salisbury, North Carolina where he began to study law. After studying law for two years he began his own practice in Martinsville, North Carolina. Subsequently, he moved to Nashville Tennessee where he met and married Rachel Donelson Robards. They had no children but he adopted Rachel's nephew.

During this time Jackson started to make a name for himself as a successful backwoods lawyer. He also began to take an active part in politics. He was elected to the United Stated House of Representatives but he resigned his post to become a senator when he was just thirty years old. Jackson resigned as a senator to become a judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Next he decided to become a major general of the Tennessee Militia. He spent much of the next decade drilling and training his troops. The war of 1812 marked the turning point of his career. Responding to Alabama's and Georgia's pleas for help, Jackson and his 3,500 militiamen moved out of Tennessee and marched through miles of wilderness under very hard conditions. Jackson's forces met the Creek forces at a place called Horseshoe Bend along the Tallapoosa River on March 27, 1814, and defeated them.

This forced the Indians to give up most of their land to Alabama and Georgia. Shortly after this victory Jackson was commissioned a Major General in the United Stated Army. After defeating the Creeks, Jackson was sent to Mobile with a handful of troops to defend Fort Bowyer against British forces. Fort Bowyer was defended by twenty guns, while the British ships had seventy-eight. Jackson managed to sink one of the British ships and damage another. The remaining two British ships fled to what they thought would be a safe harbor at Pensacola.

After recruiting additional troops, Jackson soon followed the ships. Jackson took over Pensacola. Jackson and his men returned to Mobile. Jackson found out that the British were preparing to launch an attack on New Orleans, and immediately sent a message to Tennessee having his Indian riflemen meet him in New Orleans. He then left with a few troops and headed for Louisiana.

The Battle of New Orleans was one of the last remarkable conflicts in history. The last major land battle of the war was the war of 1812. The battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty of peace, which end the hostilities, was signed.

British fleets of more than 50 ships commanded by General Edward Pakenham sailed into the Gulf of Mexico and prepared to attack New Orleans, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

He sent a scout ahead to see what shape the defense of New Orleans was in. The scout told Pakenham of the terrible shape the troops were in. This proved most helpful for Jackson. When Jackson first arrived in New Orleans almost no preparations had been made for the defense of the city. There were about 1,700 untrained men. Jackson set about drilling them and training the men. He also got some riflemen from Tennessee. Jackson also manage to acquire a number of volunteers such as the Choctaw Indians, a small group of sailors, a battalion of Louisiana Creoles, a battalion of free African Americans, and a crew of pirates.

General Andrew Jackson, commander of the U.S. Army of the Southwest, hastened to the defense of the city. Jackson's army of between 6,000 and 7,000 troops consisted chiefly of militiamen and volunteers from southern states. Because of slow communications, news of the peace treaty between Britain and the United States that had been signed at Ghent did not reach the United States in time to avert the battle, in which Jackson's troops fought against 7,500 British regulars who stormed their position on Jan. 8, 1815.

When Jackson arrived at New Orleans he found a strange collection of troops wearing all manner of dress and carrying a large variety of weapons. Jackson was able to unite his forces into an army that was capable of beating the British forces. Pakenham (head of the British forces) had the best forces Great Britain had to offer. His troops were veterans of the long years of war in Europe. They were well disciplined and well organized. Pakenham was very confident in his troops.

The Battle of New Orleans began on Christmas Eve of 1814. On December 10 Pakenham's forces moved into Lake Borgne. At Lake Borgne, Pakenham met and defeated an American squadron of gunboats and then penetrated the Mississippi River Delta region to a point about ten miles from New Orleans. Royal Marines and British riflemen then moved inland through swamp lands and captured a plantation at Charlmette.

On December 24 Jackson sent a regiment of his Tennessee riflemen to engage the British in a surprise night attack. Although the fight was a standoff the British were temporarily knocked off balance because it was not European style to fight during the night. While the British hesitated and Pakenham ordered up more troops, Jackson ordered his men to build a strong main line of defense. The line was protected by a barricade of cotton bales stretching across a space about a thousand yards wide. One flank was guarded by the Mississippi River. The other flank was guarded by a swamp. In front of the main line defense was a dry canal that acted as a natural barrier for the line of defense Jackson had prepared.

The War of 1812 may have ended on Christmas Eve of 1814, but news of the Treaty of Ghent had not yet crossed the Atlantic Ocean when a British army marched on New Orleans on January 8, 1815. A massacre ensued as 2,044 British troops, including three generals, fell dead, wounded or missing before General Andrew Jackson's well-prepared earthworks, compared with only 71 American casualties. Among the British victims were the Highlanders of the 93rd Regiment of Foot, mowed down by Jackson's contingent of U.S. Marines.

The British did not attack again until New Year's Day of 1815. They began to fire on the Americans but the fire was immediately returned with great accuracy. Pakenham and his officers were astonished at the accuracy of the American cannoneers. They had expected an easy win. When Pakenham figured out that winning was not going to be such an easy task he sent for more troops. It took about a week for more troops to come. But it only gave Jackson's men more time to strengthen their army.

On January 8, 1815, Pakenham attacked sending his men forward in long close columns across the open ground. They were constantly under fire from behind the American barricade. Sending his men forward was suicide, each time he would send men forward the Americans would wipe them out.  After a few more sad attempts the British left, leaving hundreds of dead men behind. Included among the dead was General Pakenham and two other British generals. This was a great win for Andrew Jackson. He saved New Orleans and made a name for himself.

During the War of 1812, the Seminole and Creek Indians assisted the British in fighting against the Americans, which led to a war between the U.S. and the Creek Indians. In 1813 General Andrew Jackson led his Tennessee volunteers to victory against the Creeks in the bloody Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The result was a treaty signed by the Indians which gave the U.S. millions of acres of land in Alabama and western Georgia.

Around the same time President Monroe was negotiating with Spain for the cessation of Florida. However, direct action was needed to deal with the worsening border situation. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun ordered General Andrew Jackson with about 1,000 Tennessee militiamen into the field. Jackson's troops marched 450 miles in 46 days, and arrived at Fort Scott on March 19, 1818. Immediately he set out along the Apalachicola River to meet a supply squadron and then marched back to Prospect Bluff and erected a temporary fort, which he named Fort Gadsden in honor of James Gadsden (the young engineer officer who built it). The area scouted along the way was between the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. According to legend, the Indian band hid in the caves around what now comprises the Florida Caverns State Park to avoid detection.

The Adams-Onis Treaty was signed between Spain and the United States (1819-1821). The treaty provided for inhabitants of Florida to become citizens of the United States. Andrew Jackson was quickly appointed as Florida's first governor.

After Andrew Jackson received the Florida territory from the Spanish in 1821, he set in motion the first vestiges of civil government. Territorial government was established in 1822, but from St. Augustine to Pensacola there were only two towns. Due to difficulty in travel and a yellow fever epidemic, in 1823 a territorial government half-way between was selected. This location is known today as Tallahassee. Daniel Burch was commissioned to build a road from Tallahassee to Pensacola, intersecting the Apalachicola River at Aspalaga and cutting across Jackson County. At that time, Florida was divided into an east and a west section. The East section or county was St. John's County and the West was Escambia County.

The American commander General Andrew Jackson became very famous from the victory at New Orleans. His winning eventually led to his becoming the seventh president of the United States and the founder of the modern Democratic political party.  


President Andrew Jackson

General Jackson emerged a national hero from the War of 1812, primarily because of his decisive defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans. It was during this period he earned his nickname of "Old Hickory." Jackson had been ordered to march his Tennessee troops to Natchez, Mississippi. When he got there he was told to disband his men because they were unneeded. General Jackson refused and marched them back to Tennessee. Because of his strict discipline on that march his men began to say he was as tough as hickory and the nickname stuck.

Mrs. Andrew Jackson Never Became First Lady

Rachel Jackson

Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson never got to be First Lady. She died in the period between her husband's election as President and his inauguration. Her death had a profound effect upon our government.



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