Battle of New Orleans, 1815

Battle of New Orleans, 1815

John
John

June 24th, 2012, 11:39 pm #1

I recently engaged in a long, fruitless and ultimately undecided argument about the battle with other people on another site. I maintain that the American victory was ultimately decided by artillery, musket and riflefire, with heavy emphasis on the 'rifle fire', considering how many British Unit commanders who were wounded and killed during the battle. Other folks argue that it was primarily an artillery battle and well-aimed rifle fire played a minor role. What say you?
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celtredleg
celtredleg

June 25th, 2012, 1:11 am #2

A majority of casualties where caused by musket fire, as near as can be determined, battlefield autopsy be basicly unknown. The cannon did produce a good number of injurys, just not as many. But the guns do something more than the muskets, fear. SOme how seeing fred fall is scary, but seeing him spattered is a lot worse. Plus, the seer huge noise of the cannon is very unnerving....

We americans worship at the alter to the cult of the Rifleman. Part of our national sense of who we are. But, there is often very little or nothing to prove an individual was cut down by an aimed rifle shot, a random musketball, or a stray bit of canister. We almost always attribute it to the sniper, but with no justification.

So what really happened was that everybody poured in as much fire as they could. The Brits absorbed as much of that as they could stand, and then broke. You cant break it down by weapon type, because they all add together. So the Artillery only guys are flat wrong. If it had only been the guns, then you could have removed the infantry and still win. Never going to happen.

Owen
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John
John

June 25th, 2012, 1:47 am #3

a number of revisionist historians are trying to say that aimed musket and rifle fire played little role in the repulse of the British. They claim that artillery was the primary factor in the battle, in spite of there being only about 10 serviceable aritllery pieces of various sizes along Jackson's line and maybe a dozen more across the river that fired into the British flank until they were overun by the British. I've got well over a dozen first person sources and accounts from both sides who say differently. Also, grapeshot is no respector of rank, so how is it that virtually every British brigade, battalion and company commander was wounded or killed in the battle?
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Joined: October 30th, 2005, 12:58 pm

June 25th, 2012, 10:33 am #4

What was the maximum effective range of the smoothbores of the day? Maybe 100 yards or so? The maximum effective range of various artillery projectiles is much greater. Given the above it would seem that a study of where (if it is even possible) rather than how (with autopsies not possible) the various casualties occured would tell the tale.

If they are fairly evenly distributed during the time the British are in sight then celts point about all arms contributing to a gradual disintegration of the British seems spot on. If casualties are very slim up to the time the British come into effective rifle range then JB seems to trump the cannoneer's ace.

As to your point about grape JB, random chance gives equal odds for anyone being struck. Dumb luck does allow a greater proportion of officers to be hit. Knowing for certain again depends on where these men fell.
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motherfucker!!!
motherfucker!!!

June 25th, 2012, 1:43 pm #5

20 minutes I have been writing a reply to john, and the goddamn net eats it! Shit this pises me off.

John, I will go to bed as I work graveyard, and when i get backl up I will write this all again, probably in a couple of instalments so the stupid net doesnt eat it again. Not to take #2 to last day of school followed by some makers mark.

But I will try to explain.

Remeber Andy Jackson was the fiorst to say the guns won the battle, so it isnt really revisionist.
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John
John

June 25th, 2012, 9:59 pm #6

What was the maximum effective range of the smoothbores of the day? Maybe 100 yards or so? The maximum effective range of various artillery projectiles is much greater. Given the above it would seem that a study of where (if it is even possible) rather than how (with autopsies not possible) the various casualties occured would tell the tale.

If they are fairly evenly distributed during the time the British are in sight then celts point about all arms contributing to a gradual disintegration of the British seems spot on. If casualties are very slim up to the time the British come into effective rifle range then JB seems to trump the cannoneer's ace.

As to your point about grape JB, random chance gives equal odds for anyone being struck. Dumb luck does allow a greater proportion of officers to be hit. Knowing for certain again depends on where these men fell.
You might be able to hit a man at 100 yards with a smooth bore musket, but I guarentee he wasn't the guy you were aiming at. Hitting anything beyond 50 yards was more a matter of luck, rather than skill. A competant man armed with a rifle could hit a man sized target at 200 yards and an expert marksman could do the same at 300 yards.

RE: Artillery I've read two accounts that said American cannonballs burrowed into the boggy battlefield that day, rather than skip like a stone. The water level on the Plains of Chalmette battlefield that day was less than eight inches below the surface. I'm sure alot of the ordinance that Jackson's cannoneers fired at the British was grapshot rather than cannonballs. Jackson had 8 batterys of artillery numbering some 10 pieces of functioning cannon, ranging from two cohorn mortars, to 3 pound guns, 6, 12 and 24 pound guns up to a single 32 pounder. The vast majority of them were located right of center on his line. Patterson's US troops across the river had several more guns, but they could only be brought to bear on the area just beyond the levee across the river.

My point is, considering the main British assault was directed towards the area to the left of center of Jackson's line, right in the face of Carrol's and Adair's Kentucky and Tennessee riflemen, who fired in ranks four men deep, and the majority of the British casualties fell here, I would tend to agree with the traditional accounts, both British and American, that said the majority of the British KIA and wounded resulted from American rifle and musketfire.
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Owen
Owen

June 25th, 2012, 11:53 pm #7

a number of revisionist historians are trying to say that aimed musket and rifle fire played little role in the repulse of the British. They claim that artillery was the primary factor in the battle, in spite of there being only about 10 serviceable aritllery pieces of various sizes along Jackson's line and maybe a dozen more across the river that fired into the British flank until they were overun by the British. I've got well over a dozen first person sources and accounts from both sides who say differently. Also, grapeshot is no respector of rank, so how is it that virtually every British brigade, battalion and company commander was wounded or killed in the battle?
Gibbs and Pakenham where specificly noted by people around them as being cut down by grape. I can find no reference to what got Keane. So 2 of the 3 seniors went down to grape. But why? As you say it has no respect for rank.

Where were those Officers? Big question, but we have a probable answer. Right up in the front rank leading things like they did in most other fights. So, it is not unusual for there to be high officer casualties in that situation. Visibility was poor that morning, and blackpowder smoke with a bit of fog is very hard to see through. Not likely that many could have picked out officers to target them. Sure, some probably where, but not many. And particularly BN command and below was hard to tell the differeence.

Remember as well that they where in colums, not the typical line you think of brits as using. Again that puts a higher percentage of offocers up front. look at some of the loss figures for Napoleons Grand Armee and you will see disproportionate losses among officers. Price you pay for follow me leadership. It can win a lot of battles, but sometimes you just crap out. Doesnt require riflemen carefully picking them off, just luck of the draw.

More later
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John
John

June 26th, 2012, 1:00 am #8

Keane took a smooth bore musket ball to the groin along with another grazing wound to the neck. I know it was a smooth bore musket ball, because the British surgeons were able extract the ball by pulling at his kerseymere (stretch) trousers, which removed the ball. A rifle ball with its much greater muzzle velocity would have gone right through him. Colonel Robert Dale CO of the 93rd Highlanders was killed in the middle of a change of direction command, so the command of execution was never given and the Highlanders stood stock still. THey soon took huge casualties from the rifle and musketmen of Line Jackson. Major John Anthony Whitaker of the 21st Foot was killed by rifleman Morgan Ballard who was charged with that task by General Adair.

British Regiments advanced on Line Jackson in lines sixty men across and four ranks deep.
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celtredleg
celtredleg

June 26th, 2012, 1:03 am #9

a number of revisionist historians are trying to say that aimed musket and rifle fire played little role in the repulse of the British. They claim that artillery was the primary factor in the battle, in spite of there being only about 10 serviceable aritllery pieces of various sizes along Jackson's line and maybe a dozen more across the river that fired into the British flank until they were overun by the British. I've got well over a dozen first person sources and accounts from both sides who say differently. Also, grapeshot is no respector of rank, so how is it that virtually every British brigade, battalion and company commander was wounded or killed in the battle?
firsthand accounts are great for some things, and really crappy for others. one that says fred got killed by musket fire is useful. One that says I didnt see much cgrapeshot, so it wasnt important is not so much. What sticks in your mind is what happened right by you. If no grape zapped your buddy it is not so important. If it did, then it is. It is not just one or two acounts, it is every single one of them we can get, and then you have to try to paste them all together. Plus theere is a huge problem of when they where written. Right after is good because some things are still fresh, but others unfoprtunetly have not really been procesed by our brains. So some time after, you may get a clearer idea of what happened. The worst of all are those written many years after when memory has ether faded or transmorgified to something we can better deal with.

aLSO PEOPLE HAVE AXES TO GRIND. a us INFANTRYMAN MAY WELL BE ANNOYED THAT jACKSON GAVE CREDIT TO SOME SCUMMY PIRATES. So he says no us musketmen did more. Doesnt make it so. Better is what the brits say, but again it is a matter of the percepsion of that person writing. There is also the problem of brits that dont want to admit that they where scared of scummy pirates shooting cannon at them.

Also, there is the problem of what an individual could have possibly seen. Waterloo is a great example of this. There are many brit Officers who wrote of how crappy the Dutch-belgium troops performed, yet if you plot where they where, there is no way they actualy saw any of that. So they feel they did poorly, yet they dont have direct knowledge. So they are not really fiorst hand accounts of what happened, but rather first hand accounts of the roumers that where floating around. And in many of those cases, they didnt want to share the credit. Those other guys sucked but us brits saved the day.

Makes it tough to figure out what was really going on.

Owen
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John
John

June 26th, 2012, 1:07 am #10

"Suddenly one rifle cracked, a little to the left of where I stood. A mounted officer in the front of the head of the column reeled in his saddle and fell headlong from his horse onto the ground. What happened in an instant, I cannot hope to describe. The British had kept right on, apparently not minding the artillery fire, although it was rapid and well directed. They were used to it. But now, when every hunter's rifle from the edge of Carroll's line to the edge of the swamp where Coffee stood was searching for their vitals. The British soldiers stopped! That was something new, something they were not used to! They couldn't stand it. In five minutes the entire front of their formation was shaken as if by an earthquake. Not one mounted officer could be seen. Either rider or horse or both in every case was down, most of them dead or dying. I had been in battle where rifles were used in battle on the Northwest frontier under Harrison. But even so, I had never seen anything like this."

Jackson later wrote President Monroe after the war. "At that moment, I heard a single rifle shot from a group of country carts we had been using and a moment thereafter, I saw Packenham reel and pitch out of his saddle. I have always believed he was felled by the bullet of a free man of color, who was a famous rifles shot and came from the Attakapas region of Louisianna. I was told he lived two hours after he was hit. His wound was directly through the liver and bowels."
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