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The Battle of New Orleans: Summary, Significance & Facts

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  • 0:02 Last Battle of War of 1812
  • 1:09 Background
  • 2:25 Battle of New Orleans
  • 4:17 Aftermath
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

Expert Contributor
Jeffrey Perry

Jeffrey Perry earned his Ph.D. in History from Purdue University and has taught History courses at private and state institutions of higher education since 2012.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Learn what happened at this battle, how it affected the war as a whole, and who was involved in the battle.

The Last Battle of the War of 1812

The Battle of New Orleans was the last major battle of the War of 1812. It happened on January 8, 1815, although it was preceded by smaller skirmishes. Under the command of General Andrew Jackson, American forces successfully repelled the invading British army (led by General Edward Pakenham). From defensive earthwork positions, the rag-tag American army won a decisive victory despite being outnumbered by a ratio of 2:1. Many people think the Battle of New Orleans ended the War of 1812, but this is not the case. A peace treaty, the Treaty of Ghent had been signed before the battle started, but news of the treaty did not arrive in America until after the battle was fought. Because the decisive victory was followed shortly afterward by news of a peace treaty, many Americans at the time mistakenly believed the Battle of New Orleans had won the war. The Battle of New Orleans is also important because it propelled Andrew Jackson to fame as a war hero.

Background: War of 1812

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain between 1812 and 1815. It was fought over a number of complex issues, including British impressment of American sailors, British support of Native American raids against Americans, trade restrictions and disputed territory. Major fighting took place at sea on the Atlantic Ocean, along the American-Canadian border, along the Gulf of Mexico and in the mid-Atlantic region. The most dramatic moment of the War of 1812 occurred when British troops invaded Washington, D.C. and burned down the White House. The shelling of Fort McHenry was also an important event in the War of 1812 because it was during this battle that Francis Scott Key penned the American national anthem. Over the course of the war, both the Americans and the British won important battles. With both sides war-weary and neither making much progress, the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814. The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812 and restored boundaries to their pre-war status. The War of 1812 basically ended as a draw.

The Battle of New Orleans

So the War of 1812 officially ended in December 1814. Remember, however, that it took a long time for news to travel across the Atlantic Ocean. When the Battle of New Orleans began on January 8, 1815, news of the treaty had not yet reached America.

There were a few skirmishes that led up to the Battle of New Orleans. Some historians and textbooks include these skirmishes as part of the Battle of New Orleans, while others do not. It is probably best to think of the Battle of New Orleans as being a one-day battle that took place on January 8, 1815. That said, let's look at what happened leading up to the battle.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts for the Battle of New Orleans:

Writing Prompt 1:

Imagine you are a young "war hawk" in the U.S. Congress in 1812. You desire a war with Great Britain to right what you believe are many injustices. Many of your colleagues, however, do not agree. Write a brief speech to persuade them to your side. You should outline what you believe are the key reasons that war with Great Britain was necessary.

Writing Prompt 2:

Imagine you are a soldier attached to Andrew Jackson's army in New Orleans. Write a letter home describing your experience in during the Battle of New Orleans. Your family would be interested in who you fought alongside, who you fought against, your impressions of General Jackson, and any experiences you felt during and after the battle.

Writing Prompt 3:

Develop a timeline of major events from of the War of 1812 from its beginning until its conclusion in early 1815. For each event, provide a brief annotation noting its location, its notable participants, and its significance.

Additional Questions for Consideration:

Who was Francis Scott Key? What is his connection with the War of 1812?

Why, if the Treaty of Ghent (signed December 1814) ended the war, did the Battle of New Orleans (January 1815) occur at all?

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