Today in New Orleans History

January 8

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The Battle of New Orleans
January 8, 1815
A little after daybreak on the morning of the 8th the British moved out of their camps and spread across the level ground, about two-thirds of the distance between the river and the woods. Apparently, about 6,000 men were in line. At 8:30 a rocket went up on the British right as a signal to begin the attack. A single cannon shot from the American line gave the corresponding signal. The foe moved to the attack in perfect order. On the extreme right the advance was so rapid that before the American battery there could fire its third shot the British were in the p105redoubt and had overpowered its defenders; but in a desperate attempt to scale the breastworks beyond, they were repulsed, the commander killed, and the Americans were able to retake the position in part. At the opposite extremity of the line the attack was obviously a feint. Coffee was able easily to repulse the feeble onset. In the center General Gibbs opened the attack under terrific fire from the American guns. The Forty-fourth Regiment was charged with the duty of bringing up the scaling ladders with which it was expected to mount the American parapet. For some unaccountable reason these necessary implements were forgotten. The mistake was discovered only after the troops had come under fire. It was then necessary to halt and wait while the culprit regiment went back to equip itself with the ladders. No more trying position than this of waiting passively under a severe fire; the British stood it as long as human nerves could endure the strain; then Gibbs took the responsibility of ordering the attack pressed home without further delay. The men advanced within 100 yards of the American position, but here they were greeted by a continuous sheet of shot, and began to waver. Only the frantic efforts of their officers held them momentarily in position under the terrible punishment. In the meantime Pakenham led up the Forty-fourth with the missing ladders. The American sharpshooters were concentrating their fire especially upon the officers. Pakenham's horse soon fell. He mounted a small black pony and urged his men forward by his own dauntless example. They struggled into the ditch, set their ladders against the parapet, and attempted to scale the top. It was a valorous attempt, but was met with equal courage, and after a moment of desperate effort broke and recoiled. Keane now ordered up a regiment of Highlanders hitherto held in reserve; the whole line led by him, Gibbs and Pakenham in person, surged forward, only to recoil again at the very foot of the American works. Pakenham, struck by a charge of grape shot, fell mortally wounded; Keane was disabled, and when Lambert arrived on the field with the reserves, he could do nothing but cover the retreat of men hopelessly shattered and making for cover. The British loss was over 2,000 men, of whom 289 were killed. The American loss was 71, including only 13 men killed. The only point at which the British entered the American lines was at the river redoubt. The battle had lasted not more than 25 minutes.

On the opposite side of the river the British, however, scored a success which, but for the death of Pakenham, and the resulting discouragement and disorganization of the army, might have been improved into a decisive advantage. Thornton was expected to cross the river on the night of the 7th, surprise Morgan, and as soon as this was done signal by means of rockets the fact to the British main body, which would then deliver its attack on Jackson's position. While the Americans would be busy with the attack on their front, Thornton would move up, recross the river, and cut off Jackson from the city. Unfortunately, the barges necessary for this movement were not all got up through the Villeré Canal, owing to the collapse of its banks, and only three-fourths of the force allotted to Thornton ever became available for the execution of the manoeuvers. The current of the river swept the little flotilla down far below the point of intended landing, with the result that the attack on Morgan was delivered many hours late. Gibbs, having waited in vain for the concerted p106signal from across the river, was finally compelled to attack without it; with the result already described. Morgan's men rested upon Patterson's redoubt with its battery of naval guns. His force broken at the first onslaught. They fell back in disorder as far as Verret's Canal, in what is now the Fifth District (Algiers) of New Orleans. The British captured a flag which was afterwards hung up at Whitehall, in London, as a trophy of the battle. Thornton's men remained at the redoubt, inactive, till the next day, when they recrossed the river.

A few incidents connected with this memorable chapter in the history of Louisiana may be appended here. During the battle the women and children of the city assembled regardless of creed at the chapel of the Ursuline nuns on Chartres Street, and there awaited in tears and prayer the news from the scene of conflict. The Abbe DuBourg implored at the altar the help of the Most High, and asked the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. How soon and how effectively these supplications were answered has been seen. Jackson gratefully attributed to Providence his signal success, and on his return to the city went in person to the Ursuline convent to thank the community for their intercessions on his behalf. As soon as the British withdrawal was confirmed, he addressed a letter to the Abbe DuBourg in which he asked that there be public services of thanksgiving in honor of the victory.

The battle cost the life of the owner of land upon which it was fought. The scene of the conflict was the Chalmette plantation; it was the property of a wealthy and respected citizen, Ignace Martin, Sieur de Lino de Chalmette, a man of the most distinguished ancestry, whose wife was the daughter of the Marquis de Vaugine. On the approach of the British he and his family were compelled to abandon their stately home. One of his grand-daughters has left a narrative of the terror of that eventful day, when the faithful slaves hastened through Jackson's lines carrying what they could of family plate, crystal, and other valuable heirlooms — only part, however, of the splendid furnishings of the building. De Lino found refuge in a small house on Bourbon, between Conti and Bienville. After the battle, on February 2nd, he rode down to his deserted home, only to find that it had been committed to the flames. The loss was irreparable. He was too old to repair his shattered fortunes. Within a few days he passed away and was laid to rest in the St. Louis cemetery.

Peace was actually concluded between America and Great Britain on December 24th, and thus the sanguinary affair of January 8th might have been avoided. However, this intelligence did not arrive till February 18th. In the meantime, the campaign had been fought and won. 

From History of New Orleans by John Kendall published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1922.

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The Tulane Avenue streetcar. (originally named Canal & Common) ran from January 15, 1871 through  January 8, 1951. From 1900 –- 1951 the St. Charles and Tulane lines operated in a loop as the St. Charles-Tulane Belt, taking passengers past the beautiful homes on St. Charles Avenue, up S. Carrollton. past the St. Charles Line's present terminal at S. Claiborne Ave., across the New Basin Canal (now the site of the Pontchartrain Expressway), turning at the former Pelican Stadium onto Tulane Ave. and back downtown. The Tulane Avenue service became a trolley bus and later a diesel bus route.

The Liberty ship  Jean Louis was launched by Delta Shipbuilding Company New Orleans  on January 8, 1944.

The 1811 German Coast Uprising was a revolt of black slaves in parts of the Territory of Orleans on January 8–10, 1811. The uprising occurred on the east bank of the Mississippi River in what are now St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes. While the slave insurgency was the largest in US history, the rebels killed only two white men. Confrontations with militia and executions after trial killed ninety-five black people.  Between 64 and 125 enslaved men marched from sugar plantations near present-day LaPlace on the German Coast toward the city of New Orleans. They collected more men along the way. Some accounts claimed a total of 200-500 slaves participated. During their two-day, twenty-mile march, the men burned five plantation houses (three completely), several sugarhouses, and crops. They were armed mostly with hand tools. White men led by officials of the territory formed militia companies to hunt down and kill the insurgents. Over the next two weeks, white planters and officials interrogated, tried and executed an additional 44 insurgents who had been captured. Executions were by hanging or decapitation. Whites displayed the bodies as a warning to intimidate slaves. The heads of some were put on pikes and displayed at plantations.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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