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Preparing for the Decisive Battle

After the artillery duel of January 1, Pakenham decided to await reinforcements. This delay gave scattered American forces time to converge on New Orleans and reinforce Jackson's defenses. Maj. Gen. Philemon Thomas with 500 Louisiana Militia arrived from Baton Rouge. These manned one of the lines between the Rodriguez Canal and New Orleans.

And on January 4, some 2,250 Kentucky Militia under Generals John Thomas and John Adair arrived and encamped in the rear of the line. Only 550 of these, however, were armed. Many wore rags. Jackson wrote a blistering letter to the Secretary of War on the failure of expected supplies to arrive. A subscription taken in New Orleans and the surrounding country raised money to buy woolens which the women of the city made into clothes for the Kentucky soldiers. The city was searched again for arms. Skirmishing, patrolling, and intermittent cannonading went on between battles.

Despite the shortage of supplies and an unfinished redoubt in front of the fortified line at the river end, the defenders were well prepared for the coming battle. The Rodriguez Canal was from 10 to 20 feet wide and from 4 to 8 feet deep. The mud wall behind the canal though irregular in height and thickness, could withstand the enemy's cannon balls as far as the cypress swamp. In the swamp, the wall was only thick enough to resist musket balls. It was a double log wall, with earth between. On the advice of Jean Lafitte, it is said, the line had been extended at a right angle in the swamp to prevent that end of the American line from being turned.

This line was defended by 8 batteries of artillery in 4 groups. The first 3 batteries were near the river. Battery No. 4 was by itself, Batteries 5 and 6 were near the center of the line, and Batteries 7 and 8 were near the swamp. The guns ranged in size from 4-pounders to 32-pounders. The gun crews included regular artillerymen, militia, seaman, pirates, and Napoleonic veterans.

The infantrymen defending New Orleans were as varied as the artillerymen. The New Orleans Rifle Company was at the river end. Next was the 7th Infantry. Then came the Orleans Battalion, the Louisiana Free Men of Color, the San Domingo Free Men of Color, and the 44th Infantry, in that order. A company of United States Marines was near the center of the line. The remainder of the defenders, about half the line, consisted of Kentucky and Tennessee troops. From Battery No. 6 to the swamp, the infantry was Carroll's Tennesseans, supported by Adair's Kentuckians. The line in the swamp was held by Coffee's men, who suffered great hardships, even sleeping in the mud.

Capt. Peter V. Ogden's Cavalry, the Attakapas Dragoons, Lt. Louis Chauveau's Horse Volunteers, and Hinds' Dragoons were stationed at various places in the rear to pounce on any of the enemy who broke through.

The British were not idle during this lull. Their leaders decided to attack on both sides of the Mississippi at the same time—now that American warships were no longer on the river to hinder a crossing. To bring their boats from the bayous to the river, the British with immense labor cut a canal across Villeré's plantation. This was finished on January 6. On the same day, Gen. John Lambert arrived from England by a somewhat roundabout route with the 7th and 43rd Regiments as reinforcements. The British worked all through the day and night of January 7 to prepare the attack. From observation of this activity, the American officers expected action the next day.


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