Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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1814 Along the Gulf Coast

Though the declaration of war in June 1812 was solely against Great Britain, President Madison and others also hoped to use the opportunity to end Spanish rule in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.  In early 1813 Congress authorized the seizure of West Florida, which included the modern Florida panhandle, Alabama, and Mississippi coasts and an army occupied Mobile.  For most of the war, clashes in this region were between settlers and Native Americans, mostly from the Red Stick Creek tribe.  With more troops available and a desire to increase the economic pressure on the United States, in 1814 the British sent emissaries to the hostile Creeks to gain support for a campaign to take New Orleans.  With Vice Admiral Cochrane in overall command, the first attempt began with an unsuccessful naval attack on Fort Bowyer, which protected Mobile, in September.  American resistance proved stronger than expected, so Cochrane decided to focus his effort solely on the city of New Orleans.  Meanwhile, American troops under General Andrew Jackson fortified the obvious targets and conducted an assault against Pensacola that dislodged the Spanish.

The campaign against New Orleans stretched over several weeks.  The first engagement took place on Lake Borgne, when the British troops left their ships to be ferried across.  The British encountered United States gunboats on 13 December, and after pursuing the gunboats for most of the day, engaged and captured them the following morning.  The British then spent a week accumulating men and supplies while Jackson marshaled and deployed his forces.

Fighting continued on December 23rd and January 9, and a naval bombardment of the city’s defenses continued until January 17 when the British sailed away.  The joy of the news of the victory was soon compounded when word came that the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed on December 24.