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Cochrane also informed the Admiralty that
for quicker communication, while operating in the Gulf, he intended to
establish a system of couriers through Florida, between Amelia Island
and Pensacola, both under Spanish jurisdiction.[448] On the score of
neutrality, therefore, fault can scarcely be found with General
Jackson for assaulting the latter, which surrendered to him November
7. The British vessels departed, and the works were blown up; after
which the place was restored to the Spaniards.

In acknowledging the Admiralty's letter of August 10, Cochrane said
that the diminution of numbers from those intended for Lord Hill would
not affect his plans; that, unless the United States had sent very
great re-enforcements to Louisiana, the troops now to be employed were
perfectly adequate, even without the marines. These he intended to
send under Rear-Admiral Cockburn, to effect a diversion by occupying
Cumberland Island, off the south coast of Georgia, about November 10,
whence the operations would be extended to the mainland. It was hoped
this would draw to the coast the American force employed against the
Indians, and so favor the movements in Louisiana.[449] While not
expressly stated, the inference seems probable that Cochrane
still--October 3--expected to land at Mobile. For some reason
Cockburn's attack on Cumberland Island did not occur until January 12,
when the New Orleans business was already concluded; so that, although
successful, and prosecuted further to the seacoast, it had no
influence upon the general issues.

Cochrane, with the division from the Atlantic coast, joined the
re-enforcements from England in Negril Bay, and thence proceeded to
Mississippi Sound; anchoring off Ship Island, December 8. On the 2d
General Jackson had arrived in New Orleans, whither had been ordered a
large part of the troops heretofore acting against the Creeks. The
British commanders had now determined definitely to attack the city
from the side of the sea. As there could be little hope for vessels
dependent upon sails to pass the forts on the lower Mississippi,
against the strong current, as was done by Farragut's steamers fifty
years later, it was decided to reach the river far above those works,
passing the army through some of the numerous bayous which intersect
the swampy delta to the eastward. From Ship Island this desired
approach could be made through Lake Borgne.

For the defence of these waters there were stationed five American
gunboats and two or three smaller craft, the whole under command of
Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. As even the lighter British ships
of war could not here navigate, on account of the shoalness, and the
troops, to reach the place of debarkation, the Bayou des PÍcheurs, at
the head of Lake Borgne, must go sixty miles in open boats, the
hostile gun vessels had first to be disposed of. Jones, who from an
advanced position had been watching the enemy's proceedings in
Mississippi Sound, decided December 12 that their numbers had so
increased as to make remaining hazardous. He therefore retired, both
to secure his retreat and to cause the boats of the fleet a longer and
more harassing pull to overtake him. The movement was none too soon,
for that night the British barges and armed boats left the fleet in
pursuit. Jones was not able to get as far as he wished, on account of
failure of wind; but nevertheless on the 13th the enemy did not come
up with him. During the night he made an attempt at further
withdrawal; but calm continuing, and a strong ebb-tide running, he was
compelled again to anchor at 1 A.M. of the 14th, and prepared for
battle. His five gunboats, with one light schooner, were ranged in
line across the channel way, taking the usual precautions of springs
on their cables and boarding nettings triced up. Unluckily for the
solidity of his order, the current set two of the gunboats, one being
his own, some distance to the eastward,--in advance of the others.

At daylight the British flotilla was seen nine miles distant, at
anchor. By Jones' count it comprised forty-two launches and three
light gigs.[450] They soon after weighed and pulled towards the
gunboats. At ten, being within long gunshot, they again anchored for
breakfast; after which they once more took to the oars. An hour later
they closed with their opponents. The British commander, Captain
Lockyer, threw his own boat, together with a half-dozen others, upon
Jones' vessel, "Number 156,"[451] and carried her after a sharp
struggle of about twenty minutes, during which both Lockyer and Jones
were severely wounded. Her guns were then turned against her late
comrades, in support of the British boarders, and at the end of
another half-hour, at 12.40 P.M., the last of them surrendered.

That this affair was very gallantly contested on both sides is
sufficiently shown by the extent of the British loss--seventeen killed
and seventy-seven wounded.[452] They were of course in much larger
numbers than the Americans. No such attempt should be made except with
this advantage, and the superiority should be as great as is permitted
by the force at the disposal of the assailant.

This obstacle to the movement of the troops being removed, debarkation
began at the mouth of the Bayou des PÍcheurs;[453] whence the
British, undiscovered during their progress, succeeded in penetrating
by the Bayou Bienvenu and its tributaries to a point on the
Mississippi eight miles below New Orleans. The advance corps, sixteen
hundred strong, arrived there at noon, December 23, accompanied by
Major-General Keane, as yet in command of the whole army. The news
reached Jackson two hours later.

Fresh from the experiences of Washington and Baltimore, the British
troops flattered themselves with the certainty of a quiet night. The
Americans, they said to each other, have never dared to attack. At
7.30, however, a vessel dropped her anchor abreast them, and a voice
was heard, "Give them this for the honor of America!" The words were
followed by the discharge of her battery, which swept through the
camp. Without artillery to reply, having but two light field guns,
while the assailant--the naval schooner "Caroline," Lieut. J.D.
Henley--had anchored out of musket range, the invaders, suffering
heavily, were driven to seek shelter behind the levee, where they lay
for nearly an hour.[454] At the end of this, a dropping fire was heard
from above and inland. Jackson, with sound judgment and characteristic
energy, had decided to attack at once, although, by his own report, he
could as yet muster only fifteen hundred men, of whom but six hundred
were regulars. A confused and desperate night action followed, the men
on both sides fighting singly or in groups, ignorant often whether
those before them were friends or foes. The Americans eventually
withdrew, carrying with them sixty-six prisoners. Their loss in killed
and wounded was one hundred and thirty-nine; that of the British, two
hundred and thirteen.

The noise of this rencounter hastened the remainder of the British
army, and by the night of December 24 the whole were on the ground.
Meantime, the "Caroline" had been joined by the ship "Louisiana,"
which anchored nearly a mile above her. In her came Commodore
Patterson, in chief naval command. The presence of the two impelled
the enemy to a slight retrograde movement, out of range of their
artillery. The next morning, Christmas, Sir Edward Pakenham arrived
from England. A personal examination satisfied him that only by a
reconnaissance in force could he ascertain the American strength and
preparations, and that, as a preliminary to such attempt, the vessels
whose guns swept the line of advance must be driven off. On the 26th
the "Caroline" tried to get up stream to Jackson's camp, but could not
against a strong head wind; and on the 27th the British were able to
burn her with hot shot. The "Louisiana" succeeded in shifting her
place, and thenceforth lay on the west bank of the stream, abreast of
and flanking the entrenchments behind which Jackson was established.

These obstacles gone, Pakenham made his reconnaissance. As described
by a participant,[455] the British advanced four or five miles on
December 28, quite unaware what awaited them, till a turn in the road
brought them face to face with Jackson's entrenchments. These covered
a front of three fourths of a mile, and neither flank could be turned,
because resting either on the river or the swamp. They were not yet
complete, but afforded good shelter for riflemen, and had already
several cannon in position, while the "Louisiana's" broadside also
swept the ground in front. A hot artillery fire opened at once from
both ship and works, and when the British infantry advanced they
were met equally with musketry. The day's results convinced Pakenham
that he must resort to the erection of batteries before attempting an
assault; an unfortunate necessity, as the delay not only encouraged
the defenders, but allowed time for re-enforcement, and for further
development of their preparations. While the British siege pieces were
being brought forward, largely from the fleet, a distance of seventy
miles, the American Navy was transferring guns from the "Louisiana" to
a work on the opposite side of the river, which would flank the
enemies' batteries, as well as their columns in case of an attempt to
storm.

[Illustration: MAP
SHOWING THE LANDING OF THE
BRITISH ARMY
its several Encampments and Fortifications on the Mississippi and
the Works they erected on their Retreat; also the different
Posts, Encampments and Fortifications made by the several Corps
of the American Army during the whole Campaign
by Major A. LACARRIERE LATOUR Late Principal Engineer 7th
Military District U.S. Army 1815]

When the guns had arrived, the British on the night of December 31
threw up entrenchments, finding convenient material in the sugar
hogsheads of the plantations. On the morning of January 1 they opened
with thirty pieces at a distance of five hundred yards; but it was
soon found that in such a duel they were hopelessly overmatched, a
result to which contributed the enfilading position of the naval
battery.



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