1/30/10

status quo ante bellum

The main thrust of the attack moved steadily northward, casting aside with ease the skirmishers that met them as they approached the Rodriguez Canal. Defeated on Lake Champlain at the Battle of Plattsburg and then again at Fort McHenry near the entrance of Baltimore, the British were starved for a victory. On January 8, 1815, the 5,500 seasoned soldiers of Major-General Edward Pakenham vastly outnumbered the motley defenders of the Chalmette swamps and were poised to control the interior of the fragile American continent.

But as the invaders drew near, it seemed as though the doors to a fiery furnace were opened. The Tennessee and Kentucky volunteers found their range and let loose with antique muskets and boyhood squirrel-guns. These hillbillies and thrill-seekers stood four deep; as each one took his turn atop the muddy barricade, he slid down to reload and was immediately replaced by another. The fire was never-ending. And accurate.

1,500 canons backed them up from the rear.

The British mindlessly continued forward for twenty-five minutes amidst a fury of lead but even the few that actually made it to the canal soon realized that they had forgotten to bring in the cane bundles which were to have been used to breach the ramparts. Most died with their backs exposed. Many simply preferred to lie down rather than retreat and face that hell again.

Within two hours, the battlefield was cleared. Just seven Americans were dead. The British Navy abandoned its plans for New Orleans.

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The battle was unnecessary.

The Treaty of Ghent had been signed two weeks earlier. Word just hadn’t reached the participants yet that the two countries were to return to conditions that existed before the war began almost three years earlier.

Little consolation to the 2,000 British casualties...

5 comments:

pennyyak said...

I cannot imagine what the surviving soldiers thought when they heard about this (those that did). I would suppose this sort of thing has happened at other times, before telegraphs and wireless and so forth.

Interesting story of stranded Japanese soldiers in the Mariana Islands who had to be convinced the war was over:

http://www.cnmi-guide.com/history/ww2/5/

cyurkanin said...

I lived in the Marianas for years and know all about those hold-outs. A pretty spectacular display of stubborness and loyalty.

cyurkanin said...

As far as the the feelings of the soldiers, they knew that there were negotiations going on and their standing order was to continue to fight on anyway until any treaties had been RATIFIED (which indeed didn't take place for some time). So technically they were still following orders. To me though, these "technicalities" don't soften the blow or make it more logical. Like I said, "little consolation"!

pennyyak said...

You are right, no comfort in that. Were you there in the military? The most exciting place the Army ever sent my husband was Ft. Polk in La. Not exotic.

cyurkanin said...

LOL Fort Polk would be exotic for someone from Tinian though (or maybe not...) Yes, I spent three years on Guam with the Coast Guard and got to visit quite a few places quite a few times.