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Jackson's Letter Describing the Battle of New Orleans
Freedom Shrine Documents
Camp 4 miles below Orleans
Sir: 9th Jan: 1815
During the days of the 6th. & 7th. the enemy had been actively employed in making preparations for an attack on my lines. With infinite labour they had succeeded on the night of the 7th in getting their boats across from the lake to the river, by widening & deepening the Canal on which they had effected their disembarkation. It had not been in my power to impede these operations by a general attack: Added to other reasons, the nature of the troops under my command, mostly militia, rendered it too hazardous to attempt extensive offensive movements in an open Country, against a numerous & well disciplined army.- Altho my forces, as to number, had been increased by the arrival of the Kentucky division - my strength had received very little addition; a small portion only of that detachment being provided with arms: Compelled thus to wait the attack of the enemy I took every measure to repele it when it whould be made, & to defeat the object he had in view. genl. Morgan with the Orleans Contingent the Louisiana Militia, & a strong detachment of the Kentucky troops occupy an entrenched Camp, on the opposite side of the river, protected by strong batteries on the bank erected & superintended by Commodore Patterson.
In my encampment every thing was ready for action, when early on the morning of the 8th. the enemy, after throwing a heavy shower of bombs & congreve rockets, advanced their columns on my right & left, to storm my entrenchments. I cannot speak sufficiently in praise of the firmness & deliberation with which my whole line received their approach:-more could not have been expected from veterans, inured to war. For an hour the fire of the small arms was as incessant & severe as can be imagined. The artillery too, directed by officers who displayed equal skill & courage did great execution- Yet the columns of the enemy continued to advance with a firmness which reflects upon them the greatest credit. Twice the column which approached me on my left was repulsed by the troops of genl. Carrole - those of genl. Coffee, & a division of the Kentucky Militia, & twice they formed again & renewed the assault.
At length however, cut to pieces, they fled in confusion from the feild, leaving it covered with their dead & wounded. The loss which the enemy sustained on this occasion cannot be estimated at less than 1500 in killed wounded & prisoners- Upwards of three hundred have already been delivered over for burial; & my men are still engaged in picking them up within my lines, & carrying them to the point where the enemy are to receive them. This is in addition to the dead & wounded whom the enemy have been enabled to carry from the feild during & since the action, & to those who have since died of the wounds they received. We have taken about 500 prisoners, upwards of 300 of whom are wounded: & a great part of them mortally. My loss has not exceeded, & I believe has not amounted to ten killed & as many wounded. The entire destruction of the enemys army was now inevitable had it not been for an unfortunate occurence which at this moment, took place on the other side of the river. Simultaneously with his advance upon my lines, he had thrown over in his boats, a considerable force to the other side of the river. These having landed, were hardy enough to advance against the works of genl. Morgan; & what is strange & difficult to account for, at the very moment when their entire discomfiture was looked for with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky reinforcements in whom so much reliance had been placed, ingloriously fled,-drawing after them, by their example, the remainder of the forces;-& thus, yielding to the enemy that most fortunate position. The batteries which had rendered me, for many days, the most important services-tho bravely defended were of course, now abandoned; not however until the guns had been spiked.
This unfortunate route had totally changed the aspect of affairs. The enemy now occupied a position from which they might annoy us without hazard, & by means of which they might have been enabled to defeat, in a great measure, the effects of our successes on this side the river It became therefore an object of the first consequence to dislodge him as soon as possible. For this object all the means in my power, which I could with any safety use, were immediately put in preparation. Perhaps however it was owing somewhat to another cause that I succeeded even beyond my expectations. In negotiating the terms of a temporary suspension of hostilities to enable the enemy to bury their dead; & provide for their wounded, I had required certain propositions to be aceeded to as a basis; among which this was one - that altho, hostilities should cease this side the river until 12 OCLK of this day yet it was not to be understood that they should cease on the other side; but that no reinforcements should be sent across by either army until the expiration of that hour. His Excellency Majr Genl. Lambert beged time to consider of those propositions until 10 OCLK of to day; & in the meantime recrossed his troops. I need not tell you with how much eagerness I immediately regained possession of the position he had thus hastily quitted.
The enemy having concentered his forces may again attempt to drive me from my position by storm: Whenever he does: I have no doubt my men will act with their usual firmness, & sustain a character now become dear to them.
I have the honor to be With great respect
Yr. Obt st
Major genl comdg