December 23 1814: Night Attack

On December 23, 1814, the British advance force has moved from the Bayou Bienvenue and Villeré’s Canal to the Mississippi River, and captured Villeré’s Plantation. General Keane decides not to advance onto New Orleans, and wait for reinforcements. Andrew Jackson, on hearing of the British advances, orders an attack. He attacks after nightfall, stopping the British advance; before falling back and begining the construction of a defensive line behind the Rodriguez Canal. The British are badly shaken by the attack.  A more detailed description of the attack is given by Jerome Greene, in his excellent : The New Orleans Campaign of 1814-1815 in Relation to the Clamette Battlefield. The information and quotes in the tweets for @1814now are based on that article, including he following excerpts:

Near six o’clock, Jackson began maneuvering part of his command to flank the British right (Map I-4). He sent Coffee’s riflemen, together with the
New Orleans sharpshooters under Captain Thomas Beale, and the Mississippi
dragoons by a circuitous route to the edge of the swamp behind de La Ronde’s
where they might turn and charge the British, pressing them toward the river.
Coffee’s riflemen advanced in the growing darkness, then stationed themselves
along the line separating the de La Ronde and Lacoste properties. Meantime,
Jackson arrayed his remaining soldiers nearer the river. He placed his artillery,
marines, and part of the Seventh regiment along the levee road, with the balance
of the Seventh and the Forty-fourth regiments to their left, followed by the militia
battalions of Plauche and Daquin across the level ground to the de La Ronde
home. He directed the schooner Carolina, with Commander Patterson in charge,
to pull up along the left bank of the river opposite the British camp, and, at the
appropriate time , to deliver broadsides of grapeshot against the bivouac. Once
Carolina began her barrage, the other forces were to close quickly on the camp.

…  As directed by Jackson, Carolina and two subordinate gunboats opened
the unusual nighttime engagement. The schooner carried ninety men, many of
them Baratarians, and fourteen guns. Carolina reached a position opposite the
British camp when, at 7:30 p.m., Patterson opened his artillery, roaring forth one
broadside of grape after another into the bivouacked command. The British
responded with confusion, trying to extinguish their fires and throwing forward
their artillery and Congreve rocket detachment to meet the threat. But rockets and
musketry did no good, the artillery was deemed too ineffective to use, and the
troops were forced to pull back beyond range of the vessel’s discharges. Some
took positions behind the low levee; already many men were wounded by the

One-half hour after the Carolina began the attack, her guns fell silent.
Then the red, white, and blue trail from a rocket dashed across the sky. To the
west, Jackson’s command began closing, the marines pressing forward along the
moonlit road running along the levee, the Seventh and Forty-fourth infantry
regiments marching in column to their left. As the river curved to the left,
pushing the men of the Seventh farther inland, they pressed Plauche’s and
Daquin’s battalions to the rear of the formation. Approaching the still-flickering
campfires of the British, Jackson abruptly brought his force into line and directed
the charge (Map I-4). The two 6-pounders on the road began firing, causing the
British to try to take them, but troops of the Seventh Infantry responded to save
the guns and the marines, although one of the pieces overturned during the melee.
The American troops surged ahead toward the British encampment, the Seventh
and Forty-fourth regiments making initial contact and routing the British from behind a hedge and ditch. Once again, Carolina opened her guns to rake the
levee. Meantime, Coffee’s brigade drove swiftly forward from its position 1,000
yards from Jackson’s command near the woods and swamp in a movement that
caught the right flank of the British unaware and succeeded in capturing the
commanding officer of the Ninety-fifth Rifles and about fifty soldiers. Almost
simultaneously, Plauche’s New Orleans battalion rushed onto the ground and
shattered the line held near the river by the newly arrived British Forty-fourth
Regiment of Foot. The Fourth Regiment of Foot was held in reserve throughout
the conflict.

The swift stroke succeeded and the British fell back, complete in their
surprise over the attack. Jackson’s Forty-fourth Infantry continued forcing the
flank of the British as Plauche’s battalion pressed its advantage. In the close
fighting, friend and foe became indistinguishable, and reportedly some Americans
fell at the hands of their own troops.

…. Near 11 p.m., the British suddenly closedthe encounter, pulling back in the direction of the Villeré mansion. Despite the arrival of General Carroll and his Tennesseans, Jackson decided not to pursue but to reassemble his scattered command. He yet feared the British might strike New
Orleans by an alternative approach and did not want to commit his army to a
prolonged engagement after dawn. He ordered Coffee to withdraw to the de La 47
Ronde Plantation, where his troops had first joined the battle. Soon more British
reinforcements arrived at Villeré’s Canal, notably the remaining men of the
Twenty-first and Ninety-third, and Keane ordered them out in skirmish order,
advancing toward the former British encampment area. The movement provoked
additional shooting between the reinforcements and Coffee’s Tennesseans, but the
larger engagement was over. The British took up a line consisting of the Ninetyfifth
next to the Mississippi, followed by the Eighty-fifth, the Twenty-first, the
Ninety-third, and the Forty-fourth, the latter posted in the woods adjoining the
swamp. Later, to protect the troops from the still-firing Carolina, Keane
withdrew some of them to near the debarking point at Villeré’s Canal. It became
clear that the British must somehow destroy the potent schooner.9
Casualties in the December 23 night engagement would probably have
been much greater had the event occurred in daylight. Twenty-four Americans
died and 115 were wounded, while 74 were declared missing and presumably
were captives of the British. The British themselves lost 46 killed,

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