War of 1812: "In Praise of the Firmness and Deliberation"

Cropped view of an engraving recolored in light greyscale tones shows General Jackson on a horse with American soldiers fighting the British in the background.

The day after the Battle of New Orleans—fought on January 8, 1815—American General Andrew Jackson wrote this letter to Secretary of War James Monroe. He reported the victorious repulses of British attacks but also waited to see if the British would renew their attacks. This final battle of the War of 1812 resulted in an American victory, and Jackson praised his diverse militia troops when they stood firm during the battle.


Gen. Jackson to Hon. James Monroe

Camp 4 miles below New Orleans, 9th January, 1815.

Sir—During the days of the 6th and 7th, the enemy had been actively employed in making preparations for an attack on my lines. With infinite labour, they had succeeded on the night of the 7th, in getting their boats across from the lake to the river, by widening and deepening the canal on which they had effected their disembarkation. It had not been in my power to impede these operations by a general attack: added to other reasons, the nature of the troops under my command, mostly militia, rendered it too hazardous to attempt extensive offensive movements in an open county, against a numerous and well disciplined army. Although my forces, as to number, had been increased by the arrival of the Kentucky division, my strength had received very little addition; a small portion only of that detachment being provided with arms. Compelled thus to wait the attack of the enemy, I took every measure to repel it, when it should be made, and to defeat the object he had in view. Gen. Morgan, with the New Orleans contingent, the Louisiana militia, and a strong detachment of the Kentucky troops, occupied an intrenched camp on the opposite side of the river, protected by strong batteries on the bank, erected and superintended by Com Patterson.

In my encampment, every thing was ready for action, when, early on the morning of the 8th, the enemy, after throwing a heavy shower of bombs and Congreve rockets, advanced their columns on my right and left, to storm my intrenchments. I cannot speak sufficiently in praise of the firmness and deliberation, with which my whole line received their approach—more could not have been expected from veterans inured to war. For an hour, the fire of the small arms was as incessant and severe as can be imagined. The artillery, too, directed by officers who displayed equal skill and courage, did great execution. Yet the columns of the enemy continued to advance, with a firmness which reflects upon them the greatest credit. Twice, the column which approached me on my left, was repulsed by the troops of Gen. Carroll, those of Gen. Coffee, and a division of the Kentucky militia, and twice they formed again and renewed the assault. At length however, cut to pieces, they fled in confusion from the field, leaving it covered with their dead and wounded. The loss which the enemy sustained on this occasion, cannot be estimated at less than 1,500 in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Upwards of three hundred have already been delivered over for burial; and my men are still engaged in picking them up within my lines, and carrying them to the point where the enemy are to receive them. This is in addition to the dead and wounded, whom the enemy have been enabled to carry from the field, during, and since the action, and to those who have since died of the wounds they received. We have taken about 500 prisoners, upwards of 300 of whom are wounded, and a great part of them mortally. My loss has not exceeded, and I believe has not amounted to, ten killed, and as many wounded. The entire destruction of the enemy's army was now inevitable, had it not been for an unfortunate occurrence, which at this moment took place on the other side of the river. Simultaneously with his advance upon my lines, he had thrown over in his boats, a considerable force to the other side of the river. These having landed, were hardy enough to advance against the works of Gen. Morgan! and what is strange and difficult to account for, at the very moment when their entire discomfiture was looked for with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky reinforcements, ingloriously fled, drawing after them, by their example, the remainder of the forces; and thus yielding to the enemy that most fortunate position. The batteries which had rendered me, for many days, the most important service, though bravely defended, were of course now abandoned; not however, until the guns had been spiked.

This unfortunate route, 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. For this object, all the means in my power, which I could with any safety use, were immediately put in preparation. Perhaps, however, it was somewhat owing to another cause, that I succeeded, beyond my expectations. In negociating the terms of a temporary suspension of hostilities, to enable the enemy to bury their dead, and provide for their wounded, I had required certain propositions to be acceded to as a basis; among which this was one—that although hostilities should cease on this side [of] the river until 12 o'clock of this day, yet it was not to be understood, that they should cease on the other side; but that no reinforcements should be sent across by either army, until the expiration of that day. His Excellency Maj. Gen. Lambert, begged time to consider of these propositions until 10 o'clock of to-day, and in the mean time re-crossed his troops. I need not tell you with how much eagerness I immediately regained possession of the position he had thus hastily quitted.

The enemy having concentrated his forces, may again attempt to me from my position, by storm. Whenever he does, I have no doubt my men will act with their usual firmness, and sustain a character, now become dear to them.

I have the honour, &c.




Waldo, S. Putnam, excerpt from “Memoirs of Andrew Jackson,” Digital Public Library of America.

Related Battles

Louisiana | January 8, 1815
Result: United States Victory
Estimated Casualties
United States
United Kingdom