Miracle at New Orleans
- Amy Puetz Contributing Writer
- 2005 17 Aug
The American victory at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 was an amazing miracle! When looking at the facts, there was no possible reason for the American success except the hand of God working on their behalf.
The battle was actually fought after the war was over. The peace treaty had been signed on December 24, 1814, in Ghent, Netherlands, but the Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815. At that time in history the world lacked the means to communicate important information quickly, and neither side in America knew that the war was supposed to be over.
If the British had arrived in New Orleans when they had planned, it would have been an easy triumph, but there was a Providential delay. God also provided an unusual ally for the Americans, Jean Lafitte, a notorious pirate. Completely outnumbered, the Americans, under General Jackson should have been beaten, but God, who controls everything, fought for the Americans and they won.
God graciously allowed the mistakes of one man to delay the entire British fleet that was gathering at Jamaica with the intent of sailing for New Orleans. Three British man-of-war ships under the command of Captain Lloyd saw an American privateer, the General Armstrong, anchored at a port in the Azores Islands. According to the rules of war the English could not attack the American ship since it was docked in a neutral port, but the zealous Captain attacked the ship anyway. A desperate fight began. The Americans fought valiantly! Vastly outnumbered, the Americans sank their own ship and fled to land. The victory had been costly for the British with 300 casualties. Meanwhile, the British fleet at Jamaica had postponed their intended departure for ten days waiting for Captain Lloyd. This delay allowed the Americans time to prepare for the battle. God was in control!
America found a friend in one of the most unlikely places, in the pirate Jean Lafitte. Jean Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, arrived in New Orleans years before in 1809 and began a blacksmith shop that was really a cover up for their profitable business of selling contraband goods. Although Jean said he and the 1,000 fighting men under his command were privateers, they were in truth pirates. The base of his operation was an island named Barataria, which was called the back door to New Orleans because the island controlled the bayous and swamps between New Orleans and the Gulf. For many years the clever, creative, cunning Jean Lafitte was very successful. The American government had tried to rid New Orleans of the outlaw, but all of their efforts failed. Before the Battle of New Orleans, Governor Claiborne offered $500 for the capture of Jean Lafitte. The next day, Claiborne's wanted poster was gone and another hung in its place which offered $1500 for the capture of Governor Claiborne, and it was signed by Jean Lafitte. The pirate had a sense of humor! Seeing the strategic position of Barataria, the British attempted to obtain the pirate's aid in capturing New Orleans. They offered him a commission in the Royal Navy, land, and 30,000 pounds, but to their request and gift he gave evasive answers saying he needed time to think about it. Strangely, Jean then took the letters he had received from the English to New Orleans and warned them of the British attack and offered his services. Lafitte also provided musket flints and powder, which the Americans desperately needed. During the Battle of New Orleans Lafitte and his men fought courageously. Later they were given a pardon by President Madison but not long afterward Jean returned to his piracy. What made Lafitte side with the Americans? As a pirate he had no loyalty except to himself. If Lafitte had helped the English it is possible the Battle of New Orleans would have turned out differently. God can use anyone, even a godless pirate!
Leading the Americans who stood between the British and New Orleans was the bold Andrew Jackson from Tennessee. He was born on March 15, 1767. Even though he was just a boy, he fought in the American Revolution. During that war he was captured by the British and was ordered to clean an officer's boots, but the young Jackson passionately refused. The officer slashed Andrew on the cheek with his sword leaving a prominent scar. Jackson was always proud of how he got that scar. Many years later, when the War of 1812 broke out, Jackson, who was in his forties, raised troops to help conquer the ambitious British. Andrew Jackson was a determined man, a courteous gentleman, and a fierce general; he was nicknamed Old Hickory by his men because he was as hard as hickory wood. There could not have been an abler man sent to defend the city of New Orleans. God brought the right man along at America's darkest hour.
During the closing days of December, 1814, several small skirmishes took place between the two enemies. On January 8, 1815, the greatest battle began--the Battle of New Orleans. The Americans were outnumbered more than two to one. The British had 12,000 soldiers while America had around 5,000 men. Industriously, the Americans constructed a crude entrenchment of earth and logs along the Rodriguez Canal, which was a dry ditch. The British troops, under General Pakenham, the brother-in-law of Wellington, were over-confident of their ability. After all, they had just defeated Napoleon, the greatest military genius the world had ever seen, and here they were fighting backwoodsmen and farmers. God humbles the plans of the proud! When the English advanced, the Americans began a devastating fire of musketry. General Jackson's army was made up of men from Kentucky, Tennessee, volunteers from New Orleans, and the pirates from Barataria. The men from Kentucky were known as excellent marksmen and sharpshooters. Despite the heavy fire, the English kept advancing. Keeping up a determined discharge of bullets the Americans went about their bloody work. At last the fatal blow came to the British when General Pakenham was shot down while trying to rally his men. The English retreated. It had been a hard and grueling day for the Americans but a devastating day for the British. Suffering few losses, the Americans had 8 killed and 13 wounded while the English had over 2,000 killed or wounded including many officers. The British were defeated. The fighting ended. America won! God brought about a great victory!
Although the battle had no effect on the outcome of the war, it was definitely not a useless encounter. The victory at the Battle of New Orleans gained America the respect of other countries and gave the United States a strong sense of national pride. Up to that point individuals still saw themselves as citizens of their respective states, but with the conclusion of the war the people professed a firm dedication to the union and found delight in being Americans. They truly became the United States of America. Sadly the people did not give God the glory for their triumph as the Founding Fathers had done. Andrew Jackson was one of the few who saw that it was God who had brought about the victories. God is still God whether we acknowledge His power or deny it. May we be a people who see the miracles God has preformed through the pages of history and give Him the glory due His name!
Study Questions & Follow up Research
- Although the War of 1812 is not a very well known war it is very interesting to study. A good resource that recounts the war is From Sea to Shining Sea by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. Read the chapters "Don't give up the ship" and "The Dawn's Early Light."
- What caused the War of 1812? How long did the war last? Who was president at the time of the war?
- On a map find: New Orleans, Barataria, and Jamaica.
- What is the difference between a pirate and a privateer?
- Read a biography about Andrew Jackson.
- Some topics for study could be: British's practice of impressing American sailors, The Burning of Washington, Francis Scott Key and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, and History of Louisiana (consider that it had only been a part of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase). An encyclopedia would be a good resource to learn about these topics.
- Pretend you are a soldier with Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. Write a letter home telling about the battle.
Amy Puetz, a homeschool graduate, loves history, sewing, and working as a computer graphic artist for her company A to Z Designs. She is also the author of the exciting book Costumes with Character. Visit her website at a2zdesigns.vcn.com. She makes her home in Wright, Wyoming.
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com. To request a free sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html