Roughly 4,600 men were under Jackson’s command — including militia
men, a collection of volunteers from throughout New Orleans, a company
of “long rifles” from Kentucky and Lafitte’s Baratarians. The British
forces, coming by water under the charge of Sir Edward Pakenham,
Fighting began on December 23 with a lake battle off
the coast of New Orleans. Backed by cannon batteries, the American
fighters held their own in the ensuing days and then into the new year.
A master of the hauntingly dangerous swamp lands, Lafitte commanded a
band of sharpshooters. He and his men battled the Redcoats in several
skirmishes, and they impressed General Jackson with their fearless
resolve and calm bravery.
Jackson dug in seven miles south of the city
on the plains of Chalmette — a narrow strip of land between the
Mississippi River and the swamps through which he figured British foot
soldiers would have to march to reach New Orleans.
“As the forthcoming lines of British fell, they created
literal stumbling blocks for the men behind them. Tripping over
their fallen comrades in the obscurity, face-on into a swarm of
bullets, British gallantry waned.”
— author Joseph Geringer
The actual Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815,
shortly after Pakenham’s troops arrived at Chalmette.
The fog was thick. The Americans crouched behind their man-made
ramparts with their muzzles loaded.
The sound of British bagpipers
filled the air as the Redcoats moved onward through the heavy air —
toward the very location that Jackson surmised they
Waiting patiently until the enemy was but 50 yards from his soldiers,
Jackson gave the command to fire.
Line after line of the attackers
fell, and the ensuing chaos proved more than the British could handle.
In “Jean Lafitte: Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans,” Joseph Geringer
wrote: “As the forthcoming lines of British fell, they created literal
stumbling blocks for the men behind them. Tripping over their fallen
comrades in the obscurity, face-on into a swarm of bullets, British
Added Turk: “Largely thanks to Jackson’s choice of
position, good communication and resolve, the Americans won a decisive
triumph. Pakenham fell mortally wounded, and the numerically
superior British retreated.”
A sizeable portion of that good
communication was carried forth by Marshal Peter Duplessis, and the
United States will forever be the better for it.
The marshal’s term
ended on Jan. 17, 1815, after which, according to Turk, “he faded into
Governor Claiborne died less than three years later of a
liver ailment. General Jackson went on to become the nation’s seventh
president in 1829.
Although Duplessis was now gone from public view,
his usefulness to Jackson became apparent many years after his service
as marshal ended.
The year was 1843, and the former president was
coming under some fire for arresting the district judge in New Orleans
prior to the decisive war battle
there. Jackson defended his actions under martial law.
The proof of his defense was none other than an old statement taken
from Marshal Duplessis. “It was an irony,” Turk said, “that the unsung
New Orleans would again aid Andrew Jackson 28 tears later."
Continued: Page Two | Page Three
| Page Four | Page Five