Today, the Louisiana State Quarter Coin tells the story of the British tucking tail and leaving the area of New Orleans 200 years ago.
Toward the end of the War of 1812, the British attacked New Orleans with a four-pronged plan.
The Niles Weekly Register Volume 8 covering March to September of 1815 provided insight into the aftermath of the January 8th battle.
For background, the Register described the battle forces, “It is known that from the momentary absence of part of our regular troops, our line of defense in front of New Orleans was manned chiefly by militia, supported, indeed, by batteries skillfully fought by navy and artillery officers, and some by brave old French cannoniers. A large proportion of this militia, being clad in homespun frocks and pantaloons—our brilliantly dressed enemy, in derision of their plain appearance, and not deigning to honor them with the name of soldiers, had dubbed ‘long-tailed shepherds,’ and other contemptuous appellations.”
Given the heavy losses of the British, they should have had more respect for the militia.
A modern history stated, “The defeat was one of the worst suffered by the British in any war, and the losses were dramatically lopsided– nearly 2,300 British dead to only thirteen American casualties. Almost immediately, the Battle of New Orleans entered into American national mythology as the place where plucky U. S. militia defeated the soldiers who had conquered Napoleon.”
Going back to 1815, the Register published more information describing the British exodus:
Copy of a letter to his Excellency Governor Blount from Major-General Andrew Jackson, commanding 7th military district, dated Headquarters, New Orleans, Jan. 27, 1815.
Sir — I enclose you a paper which contains my address and general order to the brave army I had the honor to command on the 8th inst. In addition I have to state, that the prisoners taken on the retreat of the enemy, state their whole loss, including killed, wounded, and missing, is estimated at six thousand five hundred — and that Kean is dead of his wounds — when the numbers are known that were in action on our side, and those badly armed, it will not be accredited, and particularly when the loss of the enemy is compared with my loss, which in killed since the landing of the enemy does not exceed fifty- six —
The unerring hand of Providence shielded my men from the shower of balls, bombs and rockets, when on the other hand it appeared that every ball and bomb, from our lines was charged with the mission of death.
The spirit of the British in this quarter is broken: they have failed in every attempt — they bombarded Fort St. Philips for nine days, throwing upwards of one thousand large bombs, exclusive of small ones, with no other effect than killing two and wounding seven — five of the latter so slightly that they are reported for duty.
Mr. Shields, purser of the navy, brave and full of enterprise, got a few volunteers, and with four small boats pursued them as they were embarking, took a transport and burnt her — several small boats, and one hundred and odd prisoners; for the want of force was compelled to parole a number, bringing with him in all 70 prisoners, including two officers — They have lost all their valuable officers, and the flower of their army. This argument will have greater weight at Ghent than any other, and I view it as the harbinger of peace.
When you seethe bravery of your countrymen you must feel proud that you govern such a people! They are worthy to be free — Gen. Coffee’s brigade for the whole time literally lay in a swamp, knee deep in mud and water, and the whole of general Carroll’s line but little better — still they maintained their positions without a murmur — three thousand stand of arms more than I had on the 8th would in my opinion have placed the whole British army in my hands— but the Lord’s will be done.
P. S. I have had but few minutes of ease, and for some days bad health but am better.
P. S. The picquet guard state they lost sight of the last sail of the British at half after 11 A. M. and Louisiana may again say her soil is not trodden by the sacrilegious footsteps of a hostile Briton — they were steering for Ship island — where destined from thence uncertain.
The Louisiana State Quarter Coin shows against an artist’s portrayal of the Battle of New Orleans.