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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. "To the well-directed exertions from the other side of the
river," wrote Jackson to Patterson, after the close of the operations,
"must be ascribed in great measure that harassment of the enemy which
led to his ignominious flight." The British guns were silenced, and
for the moment abandoned; but during the night they were either
withdrawn or destroyed. It was thus demonstrated that no adequate
antecedent impression could be made on the American lines by
cannonade; and, as neither flank could be turned, no resource
remained, on the east shore at least, but direct frontal assault.

But while Jackson's main position was thus secure, he ran great risk
that the enemy, by crossing the river, and successful advance there,
might establish themselves in rear of his works; which, if effected,
would put him at the same disadvantage that the naval battery now
imposed upon his opponents. His lines would be untenable if his
antagonist commanded the water, or gained the naval battery on his
flank, to which the crew of the "Louisiana" and her long guns had now
been transferred. This the British also perceived, and began to
improve a narrow canal which then led from the head of the bayou to
the levee, but was passable by canoes only. They expected ultimately
to pierce the levee, and launch barges upon the river; but the work
was impeded by the nature of the soil, the river fell, and some of the
heavier boats grounding delayed the others, so that, at the moment of
final assault, only five hundred men had been transported instead of
thrice that number, as intended.[456] What these few effected showed
how real and great was the danger.

The canal was completed on the evening of January 6, on which day the
last re-enforcements from England, sixteen hundred men under
Major-General Lambert, reached the front. Daylight of January 8 was
appointed for the general assault; the intervening day and night being
allowed for preparations, and for dragging forward the boats into the
river. It was expected that the whole crossing party of fifteen
hundred, under Colonel Thornton, would be on the west bank, ready to
move forward at the same moment as the principal assault, which was
also to be supported by all the available artillery, playing upon the
naval battery to keep down its fire. There was therefore no lack of
ordinary military prevision; but after waiting until approaching
daylight began to throw more light than was wished upon the advance of
the columns, Pakenham gave the concerted signal. Owing to the causes
mentioned, Thornton had but just landed with his first detachment of
five hundred. Eager to seize the battery, from which was to be feared
so much destructive effect on the storming columns on the east bank,
he pushed forward at once with the men he had, his flank towards the
river covered by a division of naval armed boats; "but the ensemble of
the general movement," wrote the British general, Lambert, who
succeeded Pakenham in command, "was thus lost, and in a point which
was of the last importance to the [main] attack on the left bank of
the river."

Not only was Thornton too weak, but he was eight hours[457] late,
though not by his own fault. Commodore Patterson, whose duties kept
him on the west bank, reported that the naval battery was actively and
effectively employed upon the flank of the storming columns, and it
was not until some time after the engagement opened that he was
informed of the near approach of the British detachment on that side.
In prevision of such an attempt, a line of works had been thrown up at
the lower end of the naval battery, at right angles to it, to cover
its flank. This was weak, however, at the extremity farthest from the
river, and thither the British directed their attack. The defenders
there, some very newly joined Kentucky militia, broke and fled, and
their flight carried with them all the other infantry. The seamen of
the battery, deprived of their supports, retreated after spiking their
guns, which fell into the enemy's hands; and Thornton, who was
severely wounded, was able to date his report of success from the
"Redoubt on the right bank of the Mississippi."[458] He advanced
actually, and without serious opposition, a mile above--that is, in
rear of--Jackson's lines and the "Louisiana's" anchorage. "This
important rout," wrote Jackson, "had totally changed the aspect of
affairs. The enemy now occupied a position from which they might annoy
us without hazard, and by means of which they might have been enabled
to defeat, in a great measure, the effects of our success on this side
of the river. It became, therefore, an object of the first consequence
to dislodge him as soon as possible."

Jackson himself attributed his success in this desirable object as
much to negotiation as to the force he would be able to apply. The
story of the main assault and its disastrous repulse is familiar. In
itself, it was but an instance of a truth conspicuously illustrated,
before and after, on many fields, of the desperate character of a
frontal attack upon protected men accustomed to the use of
fire-arms--even though they be irregulars. Could Thornton's movement
have been made in full force assigned, and at the moment intended,--so
that most of the advance on both sides the river could have been
consummated before dawn,--a successful flanking operation would have
been effected; and it is far from improbable that Jackson, finding the
naval guns turned against him, would have been driven out of his
lines. With raw troops under his command, and six thousand veterans
upon his heels, no stand could have been made short of the town, nor
in it.

As it was, the failure of the two parts of the British to act
coincidently caused them to be beaten in detail: for the disastrous
and bloody repulse of the columns on the east bank led to the
withdrawal of the tiny body on the west.[459] No further attempt was
made. On the 18th of January the British withdrew. In pursuance of the
full discretionary power given by their orders as to any further
employment upon the American coast of the forces under their command,
General Lambert and the Admiral then concerted an attack upon Fort
Bowyer, at the entrance to Mobile Bay. This surrendered February 11,
the day that the news of the Peace reached New York.

* * * * *

The ocean as well as the land had its episodes of fighting after peace
had been signed. The United States frigate "President," which during
the first two years of the war had been commanded continuously by
Commodore John Rodgers, was in May, 1814, transferred to Decatur, who
took to her with him the crew of his old ship, the "United States,"
irretrievably shut up in New London. The "President" remained in New
York throughout the year, narrowly watched by the enemy. In a letter
of August 10, Decatur speaks of the unfavorable conditions of the
season for sailing; that four British ships kept close to Sandy Hook,
at times even anchored. He then mentions also "the great apprehension
and danger" which New York was undergoing, in common with the entire
seaboard, and the wish of the city government that the crew of the
ship should remain for defence of the port.[460] It will be remembered
that this was in the anxious period preceding the development of the
British menace to the coast, which issued in the capture of Washington
and Alexandria, and the attack on Baltimore. Philadelphia also
trembled; and Decatur received an order to carry the "President's"
crew to her protection, if threatened.[461]

On New Year Day, 1815, the "President" was still in the bay, awaiting
a chance to sail. She was deeply laden for a long absence, and was to
be accompanied by a merchant brig, the "Macedonian," carrying further
stores. The sloops "Hornet" and "Peacock," and brig "Tom Bowline,"
were likewise watching to slip out. On the night of January 14, 1815,
in a heavy northwester, the "President's" attempt was made; the
pilots for the occasion having undertaken to mark the channel by boats
suitably stationed. Despite these precautions the ship grounded, and
beat heavily on the bottom for an hour and a half. By this she was
seriously injured, and would have gone back had the wind permitted. As
it was, she had to be forced over, and at 10 P.M. went clear; but with
loss of a large part of that speed for which she was known, and which
had been among Decatur's chief reasons for preferring her to the new
"Guerrière."[462] The "Macedonian" was in company.

The British blockading division was under the command of Captain John
Hayes, of the razee[463] "Majestic," and consisted, besides that ship,
of the forty-gun 24-pounder frigate "Endymion," and the
thirty-eight-gun 18-pounder frigates "Pomone" and "Tenedos"; the
latter of which had joined on the 13th. The vessels were driven off
shore by the violence of the gale; but Hayes, reasoning as a seaman,
anticipated both Decatur's sailing that night and his probable course.
After clearing the bar, the "President" steered nearly due east, along
the south shore of Long Island, for fifty miles, when she headed off,
southeast by east, for the open sea. At 5 A.M. three of the British
squadron were seen ahead on the new course; the fourth, the "Tenedos,"
being then out of sight to the southward, either detached for a wider
sweep of watchfulness, or separated by the gale.

The "President," on seeing the enemy, hauled up again along shore, and
a stern chase began, which lasted till near nightfall of the 15th;
the "Endymion" leading the British squadron. The "Tenedos" being
sighted soon after daybreak, Hayes detached the "Pomone" to ascertain
what ship it was; a step which for the time threw the "Pomone," as
well as the "Tenedos," out of the running. At 5 P.M. the "Endymion"
had got well within point-blank shot of the "President." It must be
appreciated that, with the whole hostile squadron at her heels, the
American frigate could not delay, or turn her side with its battery
towards an assailant behind; for to do so enabled the others to gain
on her.



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