The British received reinforcements of infantry and artillery before they withdrew from the Lake Borgne area. Meanwhile, General Lambert decided on a plan to put a brigade ashore at the end of Mobile Point to capture Fort Bowyer and the entrance to Mobile Bay. In addition to clearing the way to Mobile, a quick victory would help restore morale. The rest of the army would land on Dauphin Island to further secure the entrance to the bay and to create a supply base. Following the reduction of the fort, Lambert would decide whether to continue up the peninsula to seize Mobile before making a second attempt against New Orleans. With the memory of the unsuccessful attempt to capture the fort the previous September still fresh in mind, the British determined to carry the works at the lowest possible cost.

On 6 February, now Lt. Col. William Lawrence and the garrison of 375 U.S. regular artillerymen and infantrymen watched as British warships anchored a safe distance offshore. Two days later, twelve hundred British soldiers landed on the peninsula. Deployed along Fort Bowyer’s less defended landward side, the British effectively cut the bastion off from resupply and reinforcement. Colonel Dickson then landed with 450 artillerymen and six guns, two howitzers, and eight mortars, and Lt. Col. John Fox Burgoyne of the Royal Engineers came ashore with the army’s Sappers and Miners.

Map of Mobile Point & part of the Bay & of Dauphine Island. By Arsène Lacarrière Latour. 1815. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

At dawn on 9 February, the defenders discovered that the British had cut a trench parallel to the fort’s north curtain wall, and by the end of the day, the redcoats had extended the length of the trench to one hundred fifty yards. British infantrymen took particular aim at U.S. gun crews as both sides continued to exchange artillery and musket fire. The next day, the attackers cut another trench and extended it three hundred yards to join the first one. By early morning on 11 February, the British had advanced a sap, or approach trench, to within thirty yards of the fort’s protective ditch, as their batteries opened an intense cannonade. At about 1000, the firing ceased, and a British officer advanced under a flag of truce to present Lawrence with General Lambert’s demand to surrender. If refused, Lambert promised to allow the U.S. soldiers’ dependent women and children time to leave before he initiated an assault.

With no hope of reinforcement, ammunition running low, and facing overwhelming odds, the colonel knew further resistance would prove futile. After consulting his officers, Lawrence agreed to capitulate, and so notified his counterpart that afternoon. The garrison marched out into captivity at noon the next day. The five-day siege had cost the British 13 killed and 18 wounded, while the Americans suffered 1 dead, 10 wounded, and 366 captured.

Brig. Gen. James Winchester, commander of the U.S. forces defending Mobile, had sent a column to the fort’s relief that attacked a British picket post and captured seventeen redcoats, but not before Lawrence had surrendered. Following the British occupation of the fort, Admiral Cochrane and General Lambert gave the British Army an opportunity to rest before resuming the invasion. Two days later, the sloop-of-war HMS Brazen arrived with the news that a preliminary peace agreement had been signed in Ghent, Belgium.

The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814. By Amédée Forestier. 1914. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although U.S. and British commissioners had concluded a treaty on 24 December 1814, the war had not ended on that day. It is therefore a mistake to believe that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war had ended. The U.S. government in Washington learned of Jackson’s victory on 4 February 1815, followed two days later by the arrival of the official copies of the Treaty of Ghent. The British Parliament ratified the treaty on 30 December 1814; the U.S. Senate followed suit on 16 February 1815. The next day, Secretary of State James Monroe, on behalf of the United States, exchanged the signed and ratified copies with a British ambassador in Washington. The day after, as specified in the treaty, the War of 1812 officially ended when peace was proclaimed on 18 February 1815.

Jackson received notification of the war’s termination on 13 March. He immediately ordered a cessation of hostilities. The next day, he released the militia and volunteers from federal service and sent them home for discharge and final pay. Jackson also revoked the order of 15 December that had placed New Orleans under martial law, and he proclaimed a “pardon for all military offenses committed.” He sent some of the regular units to replace the volunteers manning forts in the district. News of the armistice reached Mobile on 14 March, and British troops embarked and sailed for Europe the following day.

<- Battle of Fort St. Philip | Analysis ->