The war had ended, but they fought the battle anyway - seriously.
On December 24th, 1814, in Ghent, Belgium, peace emissaries from the United States and Great Britain signed the treaty which officially brought The War of 1812 to a close. Unfortunately (in the pre-Skype era), it took weeks for word to travel across the Atlantic that peace had been declared. In the interim of ignorance, British and American forces found one last opportunity to lock horns in a deadly struggle for control of the critical Gulf Coast port city of New Orleans.
Hoping to seize the mouth of the Mississippi River and wrest Louisiana from American control, a powerful British fleet brushed aside American resistance and landed an army (8,000 strong) within striking distance of New Orleans under the command of General Edward Pakenham. As the British maneuvered toward their objective, they were opposed by a pugnacious U.S. General named Andrew Jackson who led a motley force of 4,500 men. The American troops were comprised of a dizzyingly patchwork assemblage of Choctaw Indian warriors, free blacks, US Regulars, state militia units, citizen volunteers and honest-to-goodness pirates under the command of the colorful privateer Jean Lafitte (hey, someone should make a movie about this ... oh wait, they did, and it's a Killian family favorite).
Jackson arrayed his kaleidoscopic army in a strong defensive position along the Rodriguez Canal, only 4 miles distant from the city, and braced for a British assault. General Pakenham would comply and offered Jackson battle on the morning of January 8th, 1815 (200 years ago today). As the day's early fog lifted, the bravely advancing redcoats drew a withering fire and their poorly coordinated attack foundered badly. Both Pakenham and his second-in-command were slain as the British were ultimately forced to withdraw, suffering over 2,000 casualties versus only 71 American losses.
One American observer noted that news of the victory, "...came upon the country like a clap of thunder in the clear azure vault of the firmament and traveled with electromagnetic velocity throughout the confines of the land." Although the battle bore no relationship to the outcome of the war, the lopsided U.S. victory was a huge boost to national pride and Jackson was eventually able to translate his meteoric rise in stature into a successful presidential bid and a spot on the $20 bill.
As we mark the battle's bicentennial, let everyone on both sides of the pond give thanks that Britain and America were subsequently able to bury the hatchet and forge a uniquely special relationship - one which would ultimately save the world from the scourge of fascism, Nazism and Japanese imperialism.
Also, let's consider reuniting Gwyneth Paltrow and the dude from Coldplay.