Historical Society discusses Battle of New Orleans
The Pearl River County Historical Society held their first meeting of the new year Wednesday.
The group heard a presentation from society vice-president Jerry Stough about a 200-year-old battle fought after the Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the War of 1812.
The treaty was signed on Dec. 24, 1814 however, the Battle of New Orleans was still waged between the British soldiers and the American militia on Jan. 8, 1815.
The American troops were commanded by General Andrew Jackson and the British led by Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham, Stough said.
In early December 1814, the British troops landed at Ship Island as they headed to New Orleans. Stough said the Red Coats from Europe expected the “backwoods” American militia to immediately drop their guns and run for cover.
Stough said an American fleet, instructed by Jackson to delay the British, fought the British in the Battle of Lake Borgne or Pass Christian. The American fleet was quickly defeated.
After the battle, the British found they could not cross the Borgne in their ships and rode back and forth on barges to transport men and supplies to the shores of Louisiana, Stough said.
During this time, Jackson sent people to block the bayous and canals, Stough said, in efforts to make it difficult for the British to cross the swamp.
The British landed at a fishing village, where they found a guide to show them the way to New Orleans, Stough said. They traveled down the St. John Bayou to the Mozant Bayou and finally to Villere’s Canal.
“The British troops took the Villere house and it’s occupants captive,” Stough said. “However, Villere escaped to New Orleans to warn Jackson that the British were coming.”
On Dec. 23, at around 7 p.m., Jackson’s troops began bombarding the British camp at the Villere house, Stough said. It is known as “The Night Battle.” The British tried to fight and there was a great deal of hand-to-hand combat, but eventually the British pulled away, Stough said. There were many casualties on both sides.
Afterwards, Jackson began prepping his men for the attack, which included digging an embankment on the Rodriguez Canal, acquiring sharpshooters from Tennessee, enlisting the help of the Choctaw Indians and the Barataria Pirates, a group of cannonneers led by Jean Lafitte, Stough said.
The British troops came through the swamps and moved toward the Rodriguez Canal and were attacked by the Barataria Pirates, Stough said.
Stough said the British’s method of attack was to have the first row of militiamen fire and then the next row and so on, so that there was constantly someone firing.
The Americans, on the other hand, hid behind barricades and had combatants that were good at loading rifles, Stough said.
General Pakenham was wounded and later died on the battlefield, Stough.
“Once the British troops lost their biggest leader, their morale slipped,” Stough said. “They moved back and withdrew. Once word got back to New Orleans that the British had been defeated, the nuns at the Ursuline Academy sang a song praising God for victory over the British. The song has been sung every year since the battle.”
In other action:
– The group swore in the officers for 2015. The newly elected leaders are Juanita Gex, president, Stough, vice-president, Gail Sheasby, secretary and Paul MacInnis, treasurer. The board members are Mark Davis, Judy Seal, Pam Lumpkin and Helen Knight.
– Stough informed members about some new items that were donated to the soon to open historical museum in Picayune’s City Hall. The items include a 48-star American flag as well as two 50-star flags. Their donations also include a framed copy of famed Picayune resident Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson’s obituary and a painting of the first Picayune High School by Margaret Dawsey.
Follow the group on Facebook at Pearl River County Historical Society.
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