U. S. Naval Squadron—New Orleans, 1814
by Richard Williams
In over all command of the U. S. Navy in the New Orleans theater was 29 year-old Master Commandant Daniel T. Patterson. Commodore Patterson was originally appointed Midshipman on August 20, 1800. Promoted to Lieutenant on January 24, 1807, he attained his rank on July 24, 1813. As a result of his competency and heroism during the New Orleans campaign he was promoted to Captain as of February 28, 1815.
The Fleet at New Orleans.
Originally a merchant sloop built in New Orleans in 1812 at a cost of $15,500, the USS Louisiana displaced 341 tons, and rated 16 guns (which were to be 24-pounders). She measured 99 feet, 6 inches on the deck, beam of 28 feet, and a 14 foot deep hold. Louisiana was unmanned at the start of the campaign, and commanded by Captain Charles C. B. Thompson. He entered the navy as a midshipman December 22, 1802, and promoted to lieutenant as of February 15, 1809. After the war he continued to serve, and achieved the rank of captain by 1825.
There were six of President Jefferson's gunboats attached to the squadron. No. 5 was built in Baltimore by William Price. It was launched March 1, 1805. Its crew of 36 manned the long 24-pounder and four 12-pounder carronades. No. 23 was built by John Connel and Peter Miles at Charleston, (West) Virginia during 1807-1808. She was armed with a long 32-pounder and four 6-pounders, crewed by 39 men. No. 65 was built in Matthews County, Virginia by John Patterson and Hunley Gayle in 1807-1808. It had an unknown compliment and armament. No. 65 was sold after the war. Numbers 156, 162 and 163 were either built by James Marsh in Charleston, South Carolina or by Francis Saltus in Beaufort, North Carolina in 1807-1808. 156 was armed with a long 24-pounder and four 12-pounder carronades. It was crewed by 41 men. 162 was armed with a long 24-pounder and four 6-pounders. It had a crew of 35. No. 163 was armed with a long 24-pounder and two 12-pounder carronades. All of the gunboats were captured in the battle of Lake Borgne on December 14, 1814, except No. 65 which was patrolling the Mississippi near Fort St. Philip.
USS Alligator was a sloop that was used as a tender. Its builder and dimensions are unknown. It was purchased in New Orleans in 1812, and armed with a 4-pounder. It had a crew of 8. It was captured along with the gunboats on Lake Borgne. USS Seahorse was a sloop used as a tender on Lake Borgne. Its builder and dimensions are unknown. It was purchased in 1812 in New Orleans. It mounted a single 6-pounder. Its crew of 14 burned her to prevent capture by the British on the night of December 13, 1814. USS Tickler was a dispatch sloop used as a bomb ketch, purchased in August 1812. It was 50 tons, but further dimensions and its builder are not known. It was sold in New Orleans in 1818. Four other vessels were in the area, but their use in the campaign is unknown. USS Etna or Aetna was a 220 ton ketch purchased in New Orleans in 1813 to replace a vessel of the same name lost the year before. It was rated for eleven guns, and in 1816 was armed with two long 6-pounders and two 7¼ inch howitzers. It was condemned in New Orleans in 1817. USS Bulldog was a two gun felucca purchased in New Orleans in 1814. She was sold in New Orleans in 1821. USS Eagle was a twelve gun schooner purchased in 1814, one of three so-named vessels during the war. It was sold in 1820. USS Tchefonta was a block ship started in New Orleans in 1813. It was 152 feet, 9 inches on deck, drew 8 feet, 6 inches, and was rated for 22 guns. She was armed with 32-pounder long guns and 42-pounder carronades. Work ceased on her during the summer of 1814, and was in the dock during the battle. It was later sold while still on the stocks.
On December 13 the gunboat flotilla spotted the British fleet, withdrawing up Lake Borgne. The lake is very shallow, and does not allow for large, deep drafted ships. The British sent 42 armed launches filled with 980 to 1200 sailors and marines against the flotilla's 183 men and 23 guns. The tender Seahorse was sent to protect stores on the shore of the lake. She fought seven British launches for one-half hour before the crew burned both ship and stores to prevent capture.
The commander of the Lake Borgne flotilla was Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. He had entered the navy as a midshipman November 22, 1805, and promoted to his rank May 24, 1812. After the war he made captain March 11, 1829, and continued to serve the navy until he was placed on the Reserve List in September 1855.
On December 14, Lt. Catesby Jones lined up his gunboat flotilla between two islands, virtually grounded in the shallows of Lake Borgne in a still wind. The lighter launches of the British were gaining. At 10:50 am the Battle of Lake Borgne commenced. The tender Alligator was first captured. Lt. Jones' gunboat was assailed by Captain Lockyer, the Royal Navy commander of the launches. The gunboats quickly sunk two of the launches and repulsed the attack twice, before British sailors climbed aboard Jones' gunboat and used it against the other gunboats. Casualties amounted to 17 British dead and 77 wounded; and 6 Americans dead and 35 wounded. Among the wounded were both Captain Lockyer and Lt. Jones. The remaining 142 American prisoners and their vessels were added to the British fleet. The battle ended at 12:30 p.m. The next day when word of the defeat reached New Orleans, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a $6000 bounty for Patterson, and $24 bounties for anyone enlisting for three months service in the Navy. 80 volunteer for service aboard the Louisiana, mostly merchant men from the docks of New Orleans—Yankees, Portuguese, Norwegians, Spanish, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Arabs, Hindus and Swedes. Some were induced to enlist by threats of arrest (Jackson had declared martial law and was exercising supreme power).
When Andrew Jackson attacked the British camp during the night of December 23, the Carolina began the battle by drifting down stream into position, anchoring by the bow 160 yards off the British flank. At 7:30 p.m. the command, "Now boys, give it to them, damn their eyes!" commenced the broadsides into the British camp. The grapeshot continued until Jackson's troops mixed into the British. Over the next three days Carolina continued to periodically shell the British encampment, striking the field hospital in the process. She cannot move back upriver because of lack of favorable winds and the strong current. Louisiana was then brought down to support Jackson's line.
On December 27, the British complete a levee battery of two 9-pounders, four 6-pounders, two 5½ inch howitzers, and a 5½ inch mortar. Using a furnace, they fire hot shot into the Carolina, which ignited the magazine in a magnificent explosion 800 yards off shore. Her crew escaped, and some of the guns were later salvaged. Louisiana was towed and dragged further upstream. Carolina crew were then assigned to a land battery under Lt. Charles E. Crawley. The next day a British reconnaissance force probed Jackson's line. Louisiana broadsided the British advance, knocked out the levee battery and stopped the British advance. She fired 800 rounds during the battle.
Louisiana landed two 12-pounders and a 24-pounder on the right bank of the Mississippi on December 29. Patterson commenced building a land battery manned by sailors. The next day, while Louisiana was moored a depot for ammunition and gunpowder near the battery, additional guns were taken ashore. Patterson's battery covered a mile of the river. Captain John D. Henley was assigned to command the battery opposite New Orleans. By New Year's Day Patterson's right bank battery consisted of three long 24-pounders, six long 12-pounders, and three field pieces pointed down range; all manned by 106 sailors. Carolina sailors man Battery No. 2 under Lt. Otho Norris, 17 men and one iron 24-pounder. Norris entered the navy as a midshipman January 16, 1809. He was promoted to Lieutenant July 24, 1813. After the war he made master commandant March 3, 1827, and was lost when the USS Hornet sunk on September 10, 1829 off Tampico. Other sailors from the Carolina served Battery No. 4 or No. 5 (depending on how they are counted.) Lt. Crawley commanded 16 men and one iron 32-pounder. The 32-pounder was struck and silenced during the attack.
The main battle occurred on January 8, 1815. Carolina soldiers manned the same batteries as on the first of the year. As there were no round shot for the 32-pounder, it fired grape and landidage. The 24-pounders were also low on round shot. The British infantry broke against the batteries. On the right bank Patterson's battery was overrun when Kentucky and Louisiana militia broke and ran. Patterson spiked the guns. Louisiana did not fire a round until the British began to retreat.
Patterson's sailors reoccupy the guns of the right bank on the tenth, and through the thirteenth they harassed the British encampment. From the ninth through the seventeenth the British fleet shelled Fort St. Philip, before withdrawing. The campaign for New Orleans was over.
Miscellaneous Notes on the Navy.