Battle of New Orleans
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The engagement between the British and Americans on January 8, 1815, known as the Battle of New Orleans came about in the larger British strategy of taking the city of New Orleans. Among other aims, in the War of 1812, the British goal was to:
- Take control of southern areas of the eastern United States
- They specifically desired particularly Florida and Louisiana
- New Orleans was a prized trophy
The reason they fought so fiercely for these territories is that these areas were never a formal part of the United States as it had existed at the close of the War of Independence in the last decade of the 1700s. U.S. explorations and settlements had extended to these areas, and the U. S. considered them virtually a part of the country. But still they had not been recognized as being so by a treaty or by military victory in those areas. By controlling New Orleans, the British meant to have control of the Mississippi River valley and thereby put an end to the westward expansion of the U.S.
Battle of New Orleans - 1812
Beyond wishing to control the disputed southern areas or at least keep the U. S. from expanding into them, the British hoped that the War of 1812 might even lead to the collapse of the newly-founded nation of the United States, with the British regaining control of former colonies. The British had never accepted that the Americans had rightfully or convincingly defeated the British militarily. The engagements at Saratoga and Yorktown which ended British military activity in the United States were not military victories for the American forces, but rather surrenders of the British forces, much of which had been made up of mercenaries. Since shortly after the end of the War of Independence, the British had been seizing American ships, impressing American sailors into British service, otherwise interfering with American trade, and encouraging Indian raids along the the U.S. northern frontier with Canada. The U.S. had been mostly helpless to put an end to these activities.
In 1814, in the War of 1812, British troops had landed in Maryland and marched to the capital of Washington, D. C. and set fire to the White House, the Capitol, and nearly all of the other public buildings. This invasion by the British did not defeat the U. S. but it was humiliating to the U. S. and seen as proof to the British that they were right in believing that the U.S. was a weak nation which could not defeat British forces militarily.