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Title: Tennessee at the Battle of New Orleans

Author: Elbert L. Watson

Release Date: May 22, 2015 [EBook #49023]

Language: English

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Tennessee at the Battle
of New Orleans

BY
ELBERT L. WATSON
PUBLISHED BY
THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS, 150TH ANNIVERSARY
COMMITTEE OF LOUISIANA
1965

BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS SESQUICENTENNIAL
HISTORICAL BOOKLETS

Editors: Charles L. Dufour and Leonard V. Huber

1. New Orleans As It Was In 1814-1815, by Leonard V. Huber.

2. Sea Power and the Battle of New Orleans, by Admiral E. M. Eller, Dr. W. J. Morgan and Lieut. R. R. Basoco.

3. Major-General Sir Edward M. Pakenham, by Val McNair Scott.

4. Louisiana at the Battle of New Orleans, by Powell Casey.

5. Tennessee at the Battle of New Orleans, by Elbert L. Watson.

6. Plantation Houses on the Battlefield of New Orleans, by Samuel Wilson, Jr., F.A.I.A. (Price $1.00)

7. The Battle on the West Bank, by Richard R. Dixon.

8. Negro Soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans, by Marcus Christian.

9. The Weapons of the Battle of New Orleans, by William E. Meuse.

Price (Except No. 6) 50 Cents Each
DISTRIBUTED BY
LOUISIANA LANDMARKS SOCIETY
(NEW ORLEANS CHAPTER)
GALLIER HALL—LAFAYETTE SQUARE
NEW ORLEANS, LA.

Major-General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, by his great victory at Chalmette, below New Orleans, on January 8, 1815 became “a leader destined for future greatness.”


TENNESSEE AT THE BATTLE OF
NEW ORLEANS

I

Few events in the history of our nation have left the imprint of greatness upon participating individuals and groups as did the memorable Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815, the culmination of the War of 1812. Out of the great victory, there emerged on the national scene, in the person of Andrew Jackson, a leader destined for future greatness. At the same time, those dissident Federalist voices which regarded disunion as the solution to the ills facing the young republic were quieted. With the battle over, the abortive Hartford Convention of December, 1814, stood in mute contrast to the patriotic devotion to country rendered by unlearned frontiersmen.[1] The question of the possession of legal title to western lands acquired from France by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was quickly settled. Not the least result was the breaking of alliances which had existed between the Creek Indians and their British and Spanish allies.

It is impressive that so much could be accomplished for young America from a military engagement which lasted little more than two hours. The Battle of New Orleans, which occurred after the signing of the peace treaty at Ghent in December, has been referred to as a useless expenditure of life and time. One must remember, however, that the issues leading to the battle evolved over a long period of time, many of them dating back to the Revolution. A climax to the friction existing between America and Great Britain was inevitable. In this conflict, Tennessee played a prominent role, not only as a participant in the final action of the war, but in the developments preceding it. Indeed, it is important to note that Tennessee was influential in putting into motion the machinery which brought about the dramatic event, from which national attention was focused upon the Volunteer State and her courageous sons.

II

Felix Grundy, Nashville’s vocal and eloquent attorney, was elected in 1811 to the United States Congress on a platform demanding war with Great Britain. Grundy, a native Virginian who had also lived in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, resented the policy of Spain and Great Britain which was to incite the southern Indians against frontiersmen who were inexorably pushing further to the west. Tennessee, then in its early commercial development, was particularly concerned over this issue because the trade routes to New Orleans and Mobile were under almost constant attack by well-armed red men.

Once seated in Congress, Grundy wasted no time in pressing his attack. He aligned himself with Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, William Lowndes, and others who earned for themselves the title “War Hawks” by their insistence upon war. To them, the time was ripe for such a step since the Napoleonic War with England was in progress, and it offered an opportunity for America to profit from the turmoil in Europe. Unrelentingly the “War Hawks” pressed their cause until public opinion forced a reluctant Congress and President James Madison to declare war against England on June 16, 1812.[2]

Tennesseans had watched with dismay the significant success which British troops enjoyed along the Canadian boundary, and across the northeastern tier of states. Their concern was intensified with the burning of Washington on August 24, 1814. Many westerners regarded Federalist inertia toward the war with Britain as largely responsible for the ineffective resistance being offered. Some Northern governors had refused to answer the War Department’s call for militia, while others would not assume their proportionate share of the financial obligation.

After the sack of Washington, the British vessels and troops disappeared and left Americans wondering where the next blow would come. James Monroe, the tough-fisted new Secretary of State, concluded that the abrupt thrust against Washington and Baltimore was only a feint, designed to confuse the government while the enemy concentrated his forces elsewhere for a major invasion. With winter approaching, it seemed reasonable to assume that the strike, if made, would be in the South—probably at some point in the Gulf region where the defenses left much to be desired. As Monroe contemplated the portentous days ahead, he was relieved to know that the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Seventh Military District, comprising the states of Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Mississippi Territory, was Major General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee.[3]

Jackson had recently received national attention by the overwhelming victory which he and his Tennessee militiamen, led by Generals John Coffee and William Carroll, won over the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. There the westerners struck a mortal blow at the repugnant British-Indian alliance, which many believed was responsible for the infamous massacre of men, women, and children at Fort Mims.


General Jackson and his staff at headquarters on the Macarty Plantation behind his fortified line along the Rodriguez Canal.


III

On his return from Horseshoe Bend, Jackson was acclaimed throughout Middle Tennessee for his victory, and was given spectacular public receptions in Gallatin and Nashville. But his stay in Tennessee was brief and he moved south again, this time to Mobile, where he established headquarters in late August, 1814.[4] Jackson’s use of Mobile as his base of operations was fortunate, for two weeks later British vessels appeared at the entrance to Mobile Bay and made a concerted attack on Fort Bowyer (now Fort Morgan). However, the tiny garrison of 130 men stood fast and when one of the British frigates ran aground, exploded, and burned, the fleet withdrew to an unknown area. Jackson speculated over Britain’s future intentions.

The thrust against Mobile convinced Jackson that an invasion of major proportions somewhere along the coast was imminent. A likely site, he thought, would be Pensacola, which was still under Spanish control. Spain, it will be recalled, was England’s ally against France but was neutral toward America. Spain’s neutrality, Jackson believed, was only a veneer for her selfish interests which she would direct against the United States the moment a suitable opportunity arose. Then, too, there were the Creeks. Jackson had broken their power at Horseshoe Bend, but they remained in the vicinity, possibly ready to resume hostilities if supported by a strong belligerent. Before leaving Nashville, Jackson had conferred with Governor Willie Blount about sending a brigade of mounted Tennessee militiamen under Brigadier General John Coffee to join him in Mobile. Now he sent urgent word for the militiamen to come without delay!

The fraternal feeling existing between John Coffee and Andrew Jackson ran deep. Each man, completely devoted to the other, was willing to undergo the most rigid personal sacrifice should the other command it. Coffee, “tall, broad-shouldered, gentle in manner, but brave and intelligent,” had executed the key move that bottled up the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend.[5] With his usual alacrity, he once again answered his country’s call to duty and ordered his troops to rendezvous in Fayetteville on October 3. Patriotic feeling swept across Tennessee as Coffee’s veterans, with the fire of battle still flashing in their eyes, emerged from the hills, valleys, and hamlets to make the long trek southward for the second time within a year. Most of them were simple countrymen, armed only with their long rifles and knives and attired in the clothing of the frontier. Their pantaloon pockets were filled with bullets. In this manner they responded to the appeal to “come forward ... as there (could not) be a moment’s delay.”[6]

Jackson’s recall of the Tennessee militia, already schooled in the kind of wilderness warfare which appeared forthcoming, was a wise decision. Against the Creeks these men had subsisted for months in the Alabama back country with only scanty supplies. Their mobility, loyalty, and capacity to move upon their objective with a minimum loss of time made Jackson confident that here was a fighting force well prepared to meet any test.


General John Coffee, hero of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Creeks, was Jackson’s close friend and military “right arm” and he led his Tennesseans gallantly at New Orleans. Portrait in Hermitage, Nashville.


At Fayetteville, Coffee mustered 2,000 men into service, and organized two divisions under Colonels Robert H. Dyer and Thomas Williamson. At dawn on October 5, the high-spirited troops began their long march southward over the familiar trails which they had traveled the previous year. During the march, their ranks were swelled by the addition of 800 more men, including four East Tennessee companies. Coffee’s men reached Camp Gaines, 70 miles north of Mobile, on October 22, after having traveled 470 miles in 18 days.[7] That autumn trip had been accomplished with a minimum of sickness and no deaths, and the men were inspired with the feeling that Nature’s blessing was upon them, however arduous the campaign might be.

With the arrival of General Coffee, Jackson was ready to move against the Spaniards at Pensacola. He did so with an awesome display of force on November 7, and within a few hours declared the town in the possession of the United States. With this blow, although it accomplished little in the way of military success, Jackson confirmed his “reputation as a man who could act boldly, assume vast responsibilities, and move rapidly.”[8] Having quieted the aggressive intentions of the Spaniards and Creeks, Jackson quickly returned to Mobile where he expected a British attack at any moment. Coffee, in the meantime, was instructed to proceed at once to the mouth of Sandy Creek, about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.

At this point of the campaign, Jackson had no idea that New Orleans would be the focal point of a British invasion. He was convinced that the landing would come somewhere to the east, and considered that logically the invaders would align themselves with the hostile Creeks and push through the back country to the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge. There Coffee would be in a position to repulse whatever force was thrown against him. Unknown to Old Hickory, however, the British had no immediate designs upon Baton Rouge. At that moment, a great invasion fleet of some fifty armed vessels and over ten thousand veterans of the Napoleonic wars were being organized at Negril Bay in Jamaica: its objective being New Orleans.[9]

However uncertain Jackson’s initial operations along the coast may have seemed to the uneasy citizens of New Orleans, it was soon evident that he did not intend to allow the city to go completely undefended. To further bolster his army and make his coastal defenses adequate, Jackson now called upon the trusted William Carroll. Carroll was only 26 years of age at this time but his courage and intelligence had already elevated him to the rank of Major General of the Second Tennessee Division.[10] A veteran of the Creek campaign, Carroll made no effort to conceal his destination in his strongly worded appeal for volunteers:

Should any foreign power obtain a permanent possession of the City of New Orleans and the mouth of the Mississippi we may bid farwell (sic) to all our prosperity and anticipated greatness. Let our enemy ... place one foot in Louisiana and we are at once bestrode by a colossus who has too long rested the other in Canada; in fine let him command the Mississippi River, and we become the most dependent, degraded, and miserable people on earth.... You may add the immortal glory of conquering the boasted troops of a Lord Wellington.[11]

The 3,000 militiamen who met with Carroll in Nashville on November 13 were similar in appearance to those of Coffee. One eyewitness remarked that they were “as fine looking men as any we ever saw, and a considerable part of them (were) well armed, with muskets and rifles.”[12] Another observer noted that they “have come forward with that promptitude which has heretofore characterized the state.... They are generally provided with arms, etc. at their own expense.”[13]

Six days after they gathered in Nashville, the troops embarked on boats for New Orleans. The main diversion offered the Tennesseans during the slow, tedious trip down the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi rivers was the daily drilling which Carroll and his two subordinates, Brigadier Generals Thomas Coulter and Bird Smith, gave the recruits. There had been no time for training prior to their hasty departure.

Enroute the militiamen were cheered when they overtook a New Orleans-bound keelboat laden with muskets. Thomas L. Servoss, a prominent Natchez businessman, was responsible for this fortunate occurrence. While visiting New York during the summer of 1814, he was informed by a government official that New Orleans was considered the likely site for a British invasion. Concerned for his family’s welfare, Servoss had left for home immediately. At Pittsburg he boarded one of two keelboats headed for New Orleans with large quantities of arms and ammunition. Experienced in navigation himself and familiar with the route, Servoss prevailed upon the captain to depart earlier than was scheduled. By doing so, Servoss unintentionally insured that Carroll’s troops were fully armed before their trip was completed.[14]


General William Carroll, later governor of Tennessee as here portrayed, was only 26 years old during the Battle of New Orleans, where he demonstrated the same courage and intelligence he had shown at Horseshoe Bend. Portrait in Tennessee Historical Society.


IV

While William Carroll and his men were plying their way down the Mississippi, John Coffee and his mounted militiamen were making their way toward Sandy Creek. The 16-day march was worse than any Coffee had ever experienced, because the area was interlaced with streams and covered with heavy undergrowth.[15] Drenching rain fell for 20 successive days. At Sandy Creek, where quantities of corn had arrived from Tennessee, the men ate their first adequate meal since leaving Pensacola and the horses were foraged. Here they impatiently awaited further word from Jackson.

By now the British plan was becoming clear to Jackson, who hastened from Mobile to New Orleans. There, on December 2, he found the local situation one of general turmoil and confusion. The citizens appeared in a fighting mood and, on the whole, received him enthusiastically.

Jackson’s problems, however, increased immediately. There were only about 700 regular United States troops in the city—hardly enough to pose a threat to an invading veteran army—and the situation was made more difficult when the New Orleans militia refused to serve under United States officers. The offer of service by the Baratarian pirates made through the local Committee of Defense was refused by Jackson because the pirates were at that time being prosecuted in a Federal court. Since the pirates possessed artillery in considerable quantities and were proficient in its use, the Committee next turned to Federal Judge Dominick Hall. He advised them to have the Louisiana legislature, then meeting in New Orleans, adopt a resolution requesting that all charges against the pirates be dropped for four months. The resolution was then presented to Judge Hall, who, in turn, ordered the District Attorney to suspend his prosecution for the designated period. This action made possible the valuable contribution of the Baratarians in the defense of New Orleans.

Jackson’s problems were intensified by his own health. He was wracked with a high fever resulting from malaria which he contracted while in Florida. Lacking sufficient sleep and rest, he was touchy and sensitive to any criticism directed at him by the legislature or local groups.[16]

On December 15, Jackson notified Coffee that a large enemy fleet had been observed arriving off Cat and Ship islands, a dozen miles off the Mississippi Coast and 60 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi. In his communication, Jackson thought it unlikely that the British would attack up the river, because the approach from its mouth was guarded by two forts, Bourbon and St. Philip. Major W. H. Overton, of Nashville, one of Jackson’s capable subordinates, commanded St. Philip. Coffee was skeptical that the invaders would try the other logical route open to them, crossing Lake Borgne and marching directly on the city. In the event that the British should choose this route he promised, “I shall be ready to meet them, in the swamps, where one Tennessean can run down ten sailors, and worn out Europeans, through mud, water, and brush,—I do not believe they will ever land, but should they attempt it, I have no doubt as to the result, being favorable to our army.[17]” Events proved that Coffee’s confidence in his men was fully justified.

Jackson quickly augmented his New Orleans garrison by ordering Coffee to make a forced march of 135 miles from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, a feat which the latter accomplished in three days. Coffee encamped at Avart’s Plantation, five miles upriver from the city, on December 20. Further upriver, Carroll received a similar command to hasten his best trained and equipped troops and additional arms to supply Coffee’s men, whose arms and ammunition had been damaged by the heavy rain.[18]

After the defeat and capture of the five little American gunboats on Lake Borgne on December 14, the road to New Orleans was open for the invaders. The British secretly disembarked their troops between December 16 and 20 on Pea Island. Then on the 22nd, they boarded open boats and cautiously crossed Lake Borgne, about 60 miles across. Under cover of darkness the trip was made even more somber by the biting, penetrating cold weather. Jackson, seemingly, lost sight of the British army’s movements following its arrival at Ship and Cat islands. Arriving the following morning at Fisherman’s Village (an extreme point on Villere’s Canal) on the Bayou Bienvenue, the invaders with their movements still unnoticed marched stealthily across Villere’s plantation toward the Mississippi River. About 9 a.m., they surprised and captured Major Gabriel Villere, and a detachment of troops. Major Villere managed to escape into a nearby cypress swamp, and make his way to New Orleans where he notified Jackson at his headquarters on Royal Street that the British were below the city.[19]

Faced now with a sudden crisis, Jackson was equal to the occasion. It was noon when Jackson learned that the Redcoats were at the Mississippi, seven miles below New Orleans. About 2 p.m. he learned from Major Arsene Lacarriere Latour, his chief engineer, that the British numbered between 1,600 and 1,800. Jackson, meanwhile had called in his troops from various points on the outskirts of New Orleans. Coffee marched down from Avart’s plantation in mid-afternoon to rendezvous at Fort St. Charles. Carroll was sent to the upper branch of the Bayou Bienvenue to command Jackson’s center. The conference between Jackson and Coffee was brief. Jackson thought of awaiting the British attack, but acceded to Coffee’s strategy of carrying the fight to the enemy by a night attack. Thereupon, Coffee and his mounted infantry proceeded southward through the city, where one observer remembered them as follows:

Their appearance, however, was not very military. In their woolen hunting shirts and coperas dyed pantaloons; with slouched hat or cap made from the skins of raccoons or foxes; with belts of untanned deer-skin and in which were stuck their hunting-knives—but were admirable soldiers, remarkable for endurance and possessing that admirable quality in soldiers, of being able to take care of themselves. At their head rode their gallant leader, a man of noble respect, tall and herculean in appearance, mounted upon a fine Tennessee thoroughbred, was stately and impressive.[20]

The main body of the British army, lighthearted and confident that their movements were undetected, bivouacked the night of the 23rd on the upper part of Villere’s plantation. To a man they were fully confident of an overwhelming victory. A short distance away, however, the frontiersmen crept and crawled into position under the brilliant moonlight which enveloped the area. Drifting silently down river at the same moment was the small American schooner, the Carolina, which suddenly opened fire on the British camp about 7:30 p.m. The confused invaders were driven back three or four hundred yards from the river’s bank by the unexpected attack.


Determination is written all over the face of Andrew Jackson in this portrait by Ralph E. W. Earle in the Brooks Gallery, Memphis.


The Carolina’s fire was the signal to attack. Coffee, guided by Colonel Pierre Denis de la Ronde, whose plantation was near that of Villere, skirted the edge of a swamp to attack the enemy’s right flank while Jackson and Carroll struck from the front. Coffee’s powerful thrust sent the British 85th regiment reeling backward, permitting the Tennesseans to get behind the faltering line. Then by a “sudden movement Coffee was able to penetrate almost to the very heart of the British camp.”[21] The engagement quickly became one of great confusion. Coffee’s riflemen were so determined in pressing their advantage that they became somewhat disorganized, but never lost their poise. The invaders, on the other hand, could not regain the initiative against the surprise attack. Much of the battle was fought hand-to-hand.

A decided advantage to the Tennesseans was their use of long rifles against the shorter weapons of the British. Jackson’s men kept up a brisk, punishing fire for over two hours. Their excellent marksmanship drew praise from Major Latour, who noted in one spot a half dozen marks made by their rifle balls within a diameter of only four inches.[22] Little, if any, random shooting was done by the deliberate riflemen, who had been carefully schooled to take careful aim before firing.

The battlefield confusion became more pronounced when a heavy fog settled over the area and soldiers of both armies were captured after being separated from their comrades. The British gained some respite from their punishment when their Second Division arrived from Bayou Bienvenue and slipped behind Coffee’s rear. This advantage, however, was lost when a British commander failed to extend his line for fear of being cut off from the lake and boats. Finally, the Redcoats slowly retired from the battlefield to shelter under a river levee. By this time the fog was so heavy that pursuit would have entailed serious hazards to the Americans, including exposure to the Carolina’s fire which had continued intermittently throughout the fight. Accordingly, Coffee also left the field, withdrawing about a mile and a quarter to De la Ronde’s garden to await the dawn.

Although the result could be regarded as indecisive, the Americans considered the outcome a victory since only 1,600 of their men had been pitted against some 3,000 British. There was also a considerable difference in the number of casualties: American losses totaled 95 killed and wounded and 75 taken prisoner, while the British lost 400 killed and wounded and 100 captured.

The significance of the night action of December 23 was the indication that a numerically inferior American force could hold its own against British invaders. The Americans, many of whom lacked formal military training, had faced British military might and had given no quarter. They felt strongly that they possessed the mental and physical equipment to withstand and, indeed, to hurl back almost any onslaught which might be thrown against them. The only question remaining in their minds was when their victory might come.

On the other hand, the outcome of the night struggle dismayed the British forces to the extent that they became overly cautious, and permitted Jackson valuable time in which to prepare his New Orleans defenses.[23] They could, however, take some satisfaction from the fact that they were not dislodged from their positions.

Some of the Tennessee casualties included Colonels Robert H. Dyer and John H. Gibson, who were wounded, and the capture of Majors David Hubbard and Charles Kavennaugh. The deaths of Colonel James Lauderdale and Lieutenant Samuel T. Brooks were serious losses to Coffee. Lauderdale, who had fought with unusual courage in the Creek War and was wounded at Horseshoe Bend, was still recovering from his wounds when he returned to active service with the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. During the engagement which took his life, Lauderdale customarily overexposed himself in leading his men forward. But he fought to the last with the instinctive skill of a battle-tested soldier. Many were the eulogies expressed for Colonel Lauderdale, by none was more appropriate than that which appeared in the Nashville Whig:

With such examples as that of Lauderdale, which by their splendor and their number will soon constitute for us a national character capable of the sublimest efforts of steady fortitude and masculine courage, tho’ the enemy were to land a hundred thousand men on our shores we need not tremble—they would but serve to illustrate the invincible rigor of our free constitution, and the irresistible energy of our spirit.[24]


William Trousdale, who became governor of Tennessee, was a dashing young lieutenant under Andrew Jackson at New Orleans. Portrait in Tennessee Historical Society.


There were, of course, many individual acts of heroism performed by Tennesseans, some of which, fortunately, have been recorded. John Donelson, Coffee’s brother-in-law, captured an important British officer, Major Mitchell. Lieutenant William Trousdale, himself destined for later fame as governor of Tennessee, was in the company which captured a major, two lieutenants, and thirty privates. The intrepid Trousdale barely escaped while leading a charge against the British who were entrenched behind a fence and a river levee. Having already leapt upon the fence, Trousdale glanced behind him only to discover to his dismay that the company had been ordered to retreat, leaving him alone in the enemy’s fire. He scrambled down from the fence and escaped back to his lines amid a hall of bullets.

Again, as at Horseshoe Bend, the excellent teamwork of Jackson and Coffee was evident. Coffee’s troops bore the brunt of fire and, as disciplined fighting men, had carried the fight to the enemy. Their outward simplicity concealed the marrow of the born soldier, willing—perhaps eager—to endure any personal hardship to gain his mission. Governor William C. C. Claiborne of Louisiana noted this quality and wrote that the “Tennessee troops equal the high expectations which were formed of them; nor is it possible for men to display more patriotism, firmness in battle, or composure under fatigue and privations.”[25] It was evident that even after the December 23 engagement, the British were still inclined to underestimate American ability in massed battle array. It is just as well as they reasoned from a faulty premise and lacked the benefit of Latour’s estimation:

General Coffee’s Tennesseans, those modest and simple sons of nature, displayed that firm composure which accompanies and indicates true courage.... Instinctively valiant, disciplined without having passed through the formal training of reviews and garrison maneuvers, they evinced on this memorable night, that enthusiasm, patriotism, and a sense of a just cause, which were of far more avail than scientific tactics. The heroes of Wellington, who boasted of their military tactics and disciplined valor, were often doomed by woful (sic) experience, to appreciate the prowess of those warlike sons of the western country.[26]

V

Both armies now began in earnest to prepare for the impending big battle. The British ferried in several thousand more soldiers, bringing their number to approximately 8,000. General Sir Edward M. Pakenham, the Duke of Wellington’s brother-in-law, arrived on Christmas Day eager to add other laurels to his 22-year military career. His accomplishments already included his decisive attack as division commander at Salamanca in the Peninsula Campaign against Napoleon.

Jackson, although elated over the results of the initial encounter, realized that the British had come to fight, not as a striking force similar to that of the Washington foray, but as a conquering army bent upon seizing the Mississippi Valley. When, early in the morning of December 24, there was no move by the invaders, Jackson drew his army back about two miles to a point between the McCarty and Chalmette plantations and formed a line which extended from the Mississippi River on his right to a cypress swamp on the left.[27] The Rodriguez Canal, a large wet ditch five feet deep, ran in front of the works. There the soldiers worked feverishly day and night to erect strong breastworks. Carroll’s position was on an extension of the canal. Coffee, on the extreme left of Jackson’s line after a scare on December 28, extended his ditch and works into the swamp, eliminating almost any further possibility for a flanking attack. The entire line covered about three-quarters of a mile, with about two-thirds of this being across the open plain.

Although no general action ensued immediately after the night battle, conditions in the battlefield area were hardly tranquil prior to January 8. On the evening of December 27, the British rushed a strong force forward, causing Jackson’s advance guard to fall back under heavy cannon, rocket, and musket fire. Pakenham staged a reconnaissance in force the next day and before it was called off the British were able to install a sizable force behind a fence oblique to the American line. Carroll instructed Colonel James Henderson and a detachment of 200 men to sweep along a wooded area, make a turn to the right toward the river and thus cut off the Redcoats. Unfortunately, Henderson’s slant to the right was premature and left the British still well covered by the fence, and his detachment several yards away from the protective covering of the woods.[28] A burst of musketry killed Henderson and five men and the others fell back into the woods. In the noisy and heavy artillery duel of January 1, casualties on each side were few, but the Americans at the guns proved as keen marksmen as the Tennessee riflemen, and impressed the British considerably.

The British sentries were indeed terrified by the Tennesseans’ ability with their rifles. These sentries called the Tennesseans dirty shirts because their brown hunting dress camouflaged them in the thick undergrowth and dry grass. These militiamen were not soldiers in the European definition of the word. Many were frontiersmen who had battled the wilderness and endured the merciless elements of nature. Small wonder it is that they were not awed by the polished legions poised for their defeat. In truth, their pride grew as they measured themselves against the reputation of their heralded foe.

They gained considerable satisfaction, for example, from their harassment of the enemy. One operation which they called the “hunting party” amounted to nothing more than slipping out at night and disposing of as many British sentries as possible. In one night’s effort, one old Tennessean killed three sentries, took their arms and accouterments, and returned before dawn boasting of his feat.

When Jackson was finally in position, his force of some 5,000 presented a heterogeneous array of the unlikeliest components for an army. The blue-coated American regulars anchored one end of the line and Coffee’s militiamen the other. In between were various groups such as the Louisiana militia; New Orleans volunteers; Mississippians; battalion of free men of color; Louisiana Creoles; and the recently arrived Kentuckians. The Baratarian pirates had their cannons, ranging in size from 6- to 32-pounders, loaded and ready to fire on signal. The breastworks were five feet high, and were considered by Jackson to be impenetrable by small projectiles. Pakenham apparently did not share this view. His plan of attack was now devised, and before the misty morning of January 8 was gone, the Americans and British engaged each other in their last great struggle.

VI

General Pakenham, realizing that further delays would only give Jackson additional time in which to make his position more secure, concluded that a day-break frontal attack would break the resistance of the Americans. He was still not convinced of their ultimate ability to withstand Britannia’s veterans. Strangely, he was joined in this opinion by his supporting officers, although they had witnessed the bravery and skill of the American in arms in both night and day engagements.

Sitting in the top of a tree, surveying the American works on the afternoon of January 7, Pakenham was inclined to agree with a deserter to his ranks that the weakest point in the American position was the extreme left, where some of Coffee’s militiamen stood knee-deep in the swamp. So far as he could determine, the outlook appeared good that the morning would bring a memorable victory. His plan called for three columns to attack. The smaller one, numbering about 800 men, was to invest the American right. Two thousand soldiers were in the middle column, while the 4,000 on the British right were to storm Coffee’s militiamen and attack Jackson’s rear. To begin the attack, 1,400 troops would be transported across the Mississippi by boats brought in from Lake Borgne to capture an American battery erected there to rake the British ranks.

Jackson also was observing Pakenham on the afternoon of the seventh and he concluded that a major assault upon his works was imminent. Fascines and scaling ladders were in evidence, as were additional troops which had arrived the previous day under the command of Major General John Lambert, who had sailed from England at the end of October. Jackson’s plan of defense, a simple one, was designed to frustrate and repulse the British onslaught. The riflemen were numbered “one” and “two.” At the signal, the “ones” would fire first, step back, reload, and then wait for the “twos” to fire.


A typical mid-19th century conception of how the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815 was fought. The officer on the white horse presumably is Sir Edward M. Pakenham, who commanded the British forces. The sharpshooter with his knee on the parapet has delivered the fatal shot that killed the British commander. This sketch, by an unknown artist, appeared in Harper’s Weekly.


The night hours wore slowly on until the first vestiges of morning light which was hardly perceptible because of the low-hanging fog. Every Tennessean fingered his trigger, checking occasionally to see if his trusty long knife was in place should hand-to-hand struggle become necessary. Finally, when the rolling mists parted, there was seen a red line advancing across the plain of Chalmette toward the American entrenchments. When Jackson saw this, he felt that the plan of attack would fail because no frontal attack could storm his entrenchments. Coffee strode up and down his line encouraging his men to remain steady and to withhold their fire until “one could see their belt-buckles.”[29] On and on the silent line flowed, until it seemed like a great red carpet across the battlefield. Coffee recalled seeing the provocative scene of Redcoats advancing “in solid column in superior numbers and great order.” Within a few moments a mighty blast of artillery mowed down entire columns, but failed to halt the now surging tide streaming dangerously near the entrenchments. The British had come to within forty yards of Coffee’s flank before he roared: “Now men, aim for the center of the cross belts——fire!”[30]

The smoke from the long rifles hung so heavy in that misty morning that Jackson, slightly to the right of center, could not ascertain the result of the militiamen’s blast. So with Abner Duncan and Tom Overton he rode to Coffee’s end of the line. A few moments later there was another sharp, ringing volley, and Jackson increased his horse’s gallop. When he was within 100 yards of Coffee, the smoke lifted just enough for the surprised commander to see the British “falling back in a confused mass with the first ranks of their column ... blown away.”[31] So far as Coffee was concerned, the grape and canister were “nothing to the carnage of our rifles and muskets when they (the British) reached them.”

General Carroll also caught the force of the attack when nearly 2,000 men bore down upon the center of his line. As before, his rifles answered with an authority which inspired one officer to write: “The determined firmness of the men, silent as death at their posts, convinced me that on that day they would add fresh laurels to those already won by Tennessee.”[32]

Regrouping, the British line advanced a second time only to be cut down again. It was now apparent that Pakenham’s well devised plans had gone awry. The depleted columns which did reach the works could not scale them because an Irish regiment and a West Indian regiment, entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the fascines and scaling ladders, had failed in their duty. A major, a lieutenant, and twenty men finally pressed across the ditch on the American left, and the two officers started up the works. The major was riddled immediately with bullets, but the lieutenant managed to scale the top and demanded the surrender of a couple of militia officers facing him. To this demand they suggested that he look behind him, which he did and discovered to his consternation that the men whom he thought were following him “had vanished as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up.”[33] Of greater consequence to the British, however, was the death of General Pakenham, who had been cut down as he attempted to arouse his stricken troops for another assault.

During the struggle, several Tennesseans became mixed with the Kentuckians and one of them was accidentally killed by a Kentucky sharpshooter when a gun discharged prematurely. One Tennessean, remembered only as Paleface, remained with the Kentuckians throughout the battle. A gaunt little man, Paleface received the sword of a surrendering British officer and, in the closing minutes of the fight, killed at nearly 300 yards a retreating Redcoat who was making obscene gestures at the defenders.

As the firing died down, captives began to trickle into the works, one of whom was a young man about 19 or 20 years old, apparently in great pain. He was assisted by several Kentuckians who sought to alleviate his suffering by removing his accouterments. At the same time a Tennessean returned from the river with a tin coffee pot filled with water. The stricken soldier asked if he could have just a drop. “Oh yes!” said the Tennessean, “I will treat you to anything I’ve got.” After taking two or three sips out of the spout, the young man returned the pot, sank backward, took a gasp or two, and died.[34]

By now, the tide of battle was receding as the aggressors retired from the field “under cover of a very thick fog.”[35] When the smoke and fog lifted, the gallant defenders witnessed a sight which would forever be etched upon their minds. Before them were the tortured forms of the dead and dying, many of them convulsing in the agonies of death. Across the battlefield, there also arose sounds which would reverberate across the years in their memories—the groans and lamentations of fallen men. Witnessing that scene, few could dispute Coffee’s conviction that the “famous campaign against Orleans is at rest at present, and has thus far been marked with better fortune to the American arms than anything heretofore known.”[36] Over 2,000 British were either dead, wounded, or missing, while the American loss stood at seven killed and six wounded.[37]

Thus, within two hours the Battle of New Orleans belonged to history. General Lambert, the only remaining British officer of general rank, covered the retreat and that afternoon assumed the melancholy task of retrieving and burying the dead. The bodies were delivered to the British lines by the Tennesseans and Kentuckians on the unused scaling ladders they found strewn across the battlefield. The dead soldiers were interred in a site on the Bienvenu plantation. Ironically, some British officers were buried in Villere’s garden, which had been their headquarters prior to the battle. It was not until the night of January 18, however, that the entire British army withdrew from its encampments and returned across Lake Borgne to their fleet still anchored in deep water between Cat and Ship islands. Their departure was carefully observed by Jackson, who distributed his forces to protect every approach to the city should the frustrated enemy attempt to strike another blow.

VII

On January 21, 1815, Tennessee was “revered, and General Jackson idolized” by appreciative citizens of New Orleans who filled the city’s streets to cheer the army during its victory march through the city. Included in the festive occasion, arranged as an outpouring of the city’s gratitude, was a “triumphal arch, adorned with wreaths, supported by eighteen pillars (one for each state) and eighteen damsels, the fairest in the city, bearing a motto emblematic of the state she represented.”[38] Flowers were scattered in abundance along the entire route. While the period of rejoicing was still in progress, Mrs. Jackson arrived in the city on February 19th in time for a grand ball given in the general’s honor on Washington’s birthday.

Praise was showered upon the Tennesseans, particularly the Coffee militiamen who, from the inception of the campaign, had carried the heaviest burden of battle among the American troops. From the time they departed Fayetteville in early October, they had been almost constantly in the saddle or on foot, often wading through muck, and stoically enduring privation. This patient endurance of any test they were called upon to face, drew from Robert Butler, Adjutant General, Seventh Military District, this comment:

To the Tennessee mounted gunmen, to their gallant leader, brigadier-general Coffee, the general presents his warmest thanks, not only for their uniform good conduct in action, but for the wonderful patience with which they have borne the fatigue, and the perseverance with which they surmounted the difficulties of a most painful march, in order to meet the enemy—a diligence and zeal to which we probably owe the salvation of the country. Ordinary activity would have brought them too late to act the brilliant part they have performed in the defeat of our invaders.[39]

Resolutions of thanks and gratitude were also tendered the Tennesseans by the Louisiana Legislature which, however, failed to include any recognition of Jackson. In a note to that body, Coffee courteously thanked them for the recognition, but added that the highest honors given to anyone connected with the defense of New Orleans rightfully belonged to General Jackson.


The Natchez Trace at about the time of the Battle of New Orleans.


On March 14, word finally reached Jackson that the war was officially over. He thereupon released the Tennesseans from duty and instructed Generals Coffee and Carroll to return them home immediately. Traveling over the famed Natchez Trace, there was ample time for them to reflect upon the momentous events of the past five months, and they may have wondered what the result at New Orleans would have been had Tennessee not been represented there. But there was one thing certain! No group connected with New Orleans marched any harder, fought more relentlessly, or endured hardship as long as did the Tennesseans. This being the case, one could not blame them for musing a bit, and occasionally stroking their long rifles, which had etched for each of them an honored place in the golden annals of their country’s history.


Jackson’s visit to New Orleans.

General Jackson received a gala welcome in New Orleans when he
returned victorious from the Plains of Chalmette.


It is a long trail leading from the plain of Chalmette to January 8, 1965, but nothing that has happened over these years lessens the modern Tennessean’s appreciation for the warriors who represented their state so well at New Orleans. History has observed that of the approximately 5,000 Tennesseans in the vicinity almost 1,500 were on the line during the battle.

With the exception of the 700 United States regulars, no group connected with the campaign on the American side had the military training and leadership which the Tennesseans already possessed by virtue of their participation in the Creek War. If the British attack on the American left, held by Coffee’s Tennesseans, had succeeded, the battle’s outcome might well have been a different story.

The several groups comprising Jackson’s army performed capably. Each had its unique talents and accomplished much of what was expected of it. When considering the entire New Orleans campaign, however, one is immediately impressed with the fact that no phase can be studied without finding evidence of Tennessee’s participation. It is clear in retrospect, as it was in 1815, that the role of Tennessee at New Orleans was highly significant, perhaps the dominant force, in bringing the campaign to a successful conclusion.


NOTES

1.  O. P. Chitwood, F. L. Owsley, and H. C. Nixon. The United States from Colony to World Power, (New York, 1954), 218. Delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire met at Hartford, Connecticut, December 15, 1814, to declare their opposition to the war. Declaring that a state could interpose its authority against unconstitutional acts of the Federal Government, the Convention also proposed seven constitutional amendments and appointed a committee to go to Washington to negotiate with the Government. Shortly after the committee’s arrival, however, word came of the overwhelming American victory at New Orleans, so that the representatives retired without revealing the purpose of their trip.

2.  The northern states were more concerned with the infamous “Orders of Council” passed by the British Government permitting that nation’s navy to search any United States ship on the pretense of looking for English deserters, and forbidding any intercourse between France and America. The firing on the American frigate Chesapeake in the summer of 1807 by the British warship Leopard for the former vessel’s refusal to be searched, brought the two countries dangerously close to war, and Federalist apathy was almost swept away by an aroused public opinion.

3.  Charles B. Brooks, The Siege of New Orleans. (Seattle, 1961), 12. Jackson assumed command of the Military District on May 28.

4.  Enroute to Mobile, Jackson on August 10 concluded a peace treaty with the Creeks, requiring that tribe to reside on lands bordered by the Coosa River to the west, the Chattahoochee in the east, and to the south, by a line running east and west. It was thought that the Creeks and Seminoles would thus be separated, and contact broken with British agents. John H. DeWitt, “General James Winchester, 1752-1826,” in Tennessee Historical Magazine I (1915), 183.

5.  Coffee was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, June 2, 1772, and died at his home “Hickory Hill” near Florence, Alabama, July 7, 1833. Migrating to Tennessee in 1798 with his widowed mother, Coffee became a successful merchant and surveyor. In 1809 he married Mary Donelson. Their farm on Stone’s River in Rutherford County was 10 miles from the Hermitage. “Letters of General John Coffee to His Wife, 1813-1815,” in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II, (1916), 264-65. Coffee’s granddaughter, Eliza Croom Coffee, described him as possessing a commanding appearance with brilliant black eyes and a dark skin. “His expression,” she wrote, “was quiet and serious, but not sad, and showed deep thought. His manners were courteous and gentle.” Eliza Croom Coffee, “Sketch of the Life of General John Coffee,” Florence, Alabama, 1897 (Script in Manuscript Collection, Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee State Library and Archives.)

6.  Nashville Whig, September 21, 1814, p. 3.

7.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, Camp Gaines, October 22, 1814, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 285-86.

8.  C. S. Forester, “Victory of New Orleans,” in American Heritage VIII, (1957), 8.

9.  N. Floyd McGowin, “Some Aspects of Waning British Influence in the Middle Gulf Region,” in The Alabama Review, IX (1956), 166-67.

10.  Born near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, March 3, 1788, Carroll came to Nashville in 1810 to open a mercantile store. His fondness for studying military tactics endeared him to Andrew Jackson, then Major General of the Second Tennessee Division encompassing West (now Middle) Tennessee. When Jackson resigned in 1813 to command the United States Army in defense of the Southern frontier, Carroll received the appointment. Later, as Governor of Tennessee, Carroll distinguished himself for his frugality and business acumen.

11.  Nashville Clarion, November 1, 1814, p. 3.

12.  The Clarion and Tennessee State Gazette, November 22, 1814, p. 3.

13.  Nashville Whig, November 16, 1814, p. 3.

14.  Nashville Daily Gazette, November 10, 1858, p. 2. As the story goes, all of the Tennessee troops, including those of Coffee, were fully armed by December 21. The second keelboat, however, did not arrive until some time after the battle of January 8, leaving the Kentuckians, who arrived January 4, only partially armed.

15.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, Sandy Creek, December 15, 1814, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 289. The line of march was almost parallel to the sea coast, about 40 or 50 miles from the Gulf.

16.  Edward Larocque Tinker, Creole City, Its Past and Its People (New York, 1953), 45-46. Jackson’s relationship to the legislature was so strained that, after the battle, that body refused to pass a resolution of commendation for the general’s services.

17.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, December 15, 1814, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916).

18.  John Coffee to Andrew Jackson, December 17, 1814, Andrew Jackson MSS., Manuscript Division, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

19.  McGowin, op. cit., 167.

20.  Major A. Lacarriere Latour, Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana (Philadelphia, 1816), 88; Eliza Croom Coffee.

21.  Benson L. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 (New York, 1869).

22.  Latour, op. cit., 99.

23.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, New Orleans, January 20, 1815, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 289-90. See also J. A. Trousdale, “A History of the Life of General William Trousdale,” in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 123-24.

24.  Nashville, Whig, January 11, 1815, p. 3. Of interest is the fact that Lauderdale County, Alabama, where John Coffee later made his home, is named after Colonel James Lauderdale.

25.  Ibid.

26.  Latour, op. cit., 107.

27.  Going down the river the following six plantations comprised the principal theater of action: Macarty, Chalmette, Bienvenu, De la Ronde, Lacoste, and Villere.

28.  John Spencer Bassett, (ed.), Major Howell Tatum’s Journal (Northampton, Massachusetts, 1921), 115-16. One other man, presumed dead, was wounded, but arose three times and endeavored to escape under a heavy discharge of musketry. He was finally rescued by Major John W. Simpson, Captain Barbee Collins, and two privates.

29.  Eliza Croom Coffee, op. cit.

30.  Ibid.

31.  Ibid.

32.  Nashville Whig, January 25, 1815, p. 2. This information was taken from a letter sent by an officer to a Nashville friend and reprinted in the Whig.

33.  Rossiter Johnson, A History of the War of 1812-1815 (New York, 1882), 344.

34.  “A Contemporary Account of the Battle of New Orleans by a Soldier in the Ranks,” in The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, I (1926), 15.

35.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, New Orleans, January 20, 1815, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 290.

36.  Ibid.

37.  Stanley Clisby Arthur, The Story of the Battle of New Orleans (New Orleans, 1915), 247.

38.  John Coffee to Mary Donelson Coffee, New Orleans, January 30, 1815, in Tennessee Historical Magazine, II (1916), 291.

39.  Latour, op. cit., Appendix, clxxxv.


APPENDIX
 
Jackson Reports On Battle

Letter from Major-General Jackson
to the Secretary of War.

Camp, four miles below Orleans, 9th January, 1815.

Sir:

During the days of the 6th and 7th, the enemy had been actively employed in making preparations for an attack on my lines. With infinite labour they had succeeded on the night of the 7th in getting their boats across from the lake to the river, by widening and deepening the canal on which they had effected their disembarkation. It had not been in my power to impede these operations by a general attack—added to other reasons, the nature of the troops under my command, mostly militia, rendered it too hazardous to attempt extensive offensive movements in an open country, against a numerous and well-disciplined army. Although my forces, as to number, had been increased by the arrival of the Kentucky division, my strength had received very little addition; a small portion only of that detachment being provided with arms. Compelled thus to wait the attack of the enemy, I took every measure to repel it when it should be made, and to defeat the object he had in view. General Morgan with the Orleans contingent, the Louisiana militia, and a strong detachment of the Kentucky troops, occupied an intrenched camp on the opposite side of the river, protected by strong batteries on the bank, erected and superintended by commodore Patterson.

In my encampment every thing was ready for action, when early on the morning of the 8th the enemy, after throwing a heavy shower of bombs and congreve rockets, advanced their columns on my right and left, to storm my intrenchments. I cannot speak sufficiently in praise of the firmness and deliberation with which my whole line received their approach. More could not have been expected from veterans inured to war.—For an hour the fire of the small arms was as incessant and severe as can be imagined. The artillery, too, directed by officers who displayed equal skill and courage, did great execution. Yet the columns of the enemy continued to advance with a firmness which reflects upon them the greatest credit. Twice the column which approached me on my left, was repulsed by the troops of general Carroll, those of general Coffee and a division of the Kentucky militia, and twice they formed again and renewed the assault. At length, however, cut to pieces, they fled in confusion from the field, leaving it covered with their dead and wounded. The loss which the enemy sustained on this occasion, cannot be estimated at less than fifteen hundred in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Upwards of three hundred have already been delivered over for burial; and my men are still engaged in picking them up within my lines, and carrying them to the point where the enemy are to receive them. This is in addition to the dead and wounded whom the enemy have been enabled to carry from the field during and since the action, and to those who have since died of the wounds they received. We have taken about five hundred prisoners, upwards of three hundred of whom are wounded, and a great part of them mortally. My loss has not exceeded, and I believe has not amounted to ten killed and as many wounded. The entire destruction of the enemy’s army was now inevitable, had it not been for an unfortunate occurrence, which at this moment took place on the other side of the river. Simultaneously with his advance upon my lines, he had thrown over in his boats a considerable force to the other side of the river. These having landed, were hardy enough to advance against the works of general Morgan; and, what is strange and difficult to account for, at the very moment when their entire discomfiture was looked for with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky re-enforcements, in whom so much reliance had been placed, ingloriously fled, drawing after them, by their example, the remainder of the forces; and thus yielding to the enemy that most formidable position. The batteries which had rendered me, for many days, the most important service, though bravely defended, were, of course, now abandoned; not however until the guns had been spiked.

This unfortunate rout had totally changed the aspect of affairs. The enemy now occupied a position from which they might annoy us without hazard, and by means of which they might have been able to defeat, in a great measure, the effects of our success on this side the river. It became therefore an object of the first consequence to dislodge him as soon as possible. For this object, all the means in my power, which I could with any safety use, were immediately put in preparation. Perhaps, however, it was owing somewhat to another cause that I succeeded even beyond my expectations. In negotiating the terms of a temporary suspension of hostilities, to enable the enemy to bury their dead and provide for their wounded, I had required certain propositions to be acceded to as a basis, among which this was one—that, although hostilities should cease on this side the river until twelve o’clock of this day, yet it was not to be understood that they should cease on the other side; but that no re-enforcements should be sent across by either army until the expiration of that day. His excellency major-general Lambert begged time to consider of those propositions until ten o’clock of to-day, and in the meantime re-crossed his troops. I need not tell you with how much eagerness I immediately regained possession of the position he had thus happily quitted.

The enemy having concentrated his forces, may again attempt to drive me from my position by storm. Whenever he does, I have no doubt my men will act with their usual firmness, and sustain a character now become dear to them.

I have the honour to be, &c.            
ANDREW JACKSON.

Letter from Major-General Jackson
to the Secretary of War.

Camp, four miles below Orleans, January 13, 1815.

Sir:

At such a crisis I conceive it my duty to keep you constantly advised of my situation.

On the 10th instant I forwarded you an account of the bold attempt made by the enemy on the morning of the 8th, to take possession of my works by storm, and of the severe repulse which he met with. That report having been sent by the mail which crosses the lake, may possibly have miscarried; for which reason I think it the more necessary briefly to repeat the substance of it.

Early on the morning of the 8th, the enemy having been actively employed the two preceding days in making preparations for a storm, advanced in two strong columns on my right and left. They were received however, with a firmness which it seems they little expected, and which defeated all their hopes. My men, undisturbed by their approach, which indeed they had long anxiously wished for, opened upon them a fire so deliberate and certain, as rendered their scaling ladders and fascines, as their more direct implements of warfare, perfectly useless. For upwards of an hour it was continued with a briskness of which there has been but few instances, perhaps, in any country. In justice to the enemy it must be said, they withstood it as long as could have been expected from the most determined bravery. At length, however, when all prospects of success became hopeless, they fled in confusion from the field—leaving it covered with their dead and wounded. Their loss was immense. I had first computed it at fifteen hundred; it is since ascertained to have been much greater. Upon information which is believed to be correct, colonel Hayne, the inspector-general, reports it to be in the total two thousand six hundred. His report I enclose you. My loss was inconsiderable being only seven killed and six wounded. Such a disproportion in loss, when we consider the number and the kind of troops engaged, must, I know, excite astonishment, and may not every where, be fully credited; yet I am perfectly satisfied that the account is not exaggerated on the one part, nor underrated on the other.

The enemy having hastily quitted a post which they had gained possession of on the other side of the river, and we having immediately returned to it, both armies at present occupy their former positions. Whether, after the severe loss he has sustained, he is preparing to return to his shipping or to make still mightier efforts to attain his first object, I do not pretend to determine—it becomes me to act as though the latter were his intention. One thing, however, seems certain, that if he still calculates on effecting what he has hitherto been unable to accomplish, he must expect considerable re-enforcements; as the force with which he landed must undoubtedly be diminished by at least three thousand. Besides the loss which he sustained on the night of the 23d ult. which is estimated at four hundred, he cannot have suffered less between that period and the morning of the 8th inst. than three hundred—having, within that time, been repulsed in two general attempts to drive us from our position, and there having been continual cannonading and skirmishing during the whole of it. Yet he is still able to show a very formidable force.

There is little doubt that the commanding general, sir Edward Packenham, was killed in the action of the 8th, and that major-generals Kean and Gibbs were badly wounded.

Whenever a more leisure moment shall occur, I will take the liberty to make out and forward you a more circumstantial account of the several actions, and particularly that of the 8th; in doing which my chief motive will be to render justice to those brave men I have the honour to command, and who have so remarkably distinguished themselves. I have the honour to be, &c.

ANDREW JACKSON.

TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

Punctuation, and spacing in abbreviations and initials, were normalized.

Variations in hyphenation were maintained.

The placement of the advertising material was re-ordered to occur after the title page.

Spelling has been maintained, with the exception of the following typographical or printers’ errors:

Page 5: “resistence” was changed to “resistance”.

Page 11: “collossus” was changed to “colossus”.

Page 12: “occurrance” was changed to “occurrence”.

Page 17: “or untanned deer-skin” was changed to “of untanned deer-skin”.

Pages 17, 20: “Bayou Bienvenu” was changed to “Bayou Bienvenue”.

Page 19: “prise” was changed to “praise”.

Page 21: “individuals” was changed to “individual”.

Page 23: “Jqckson” was changed to “Jackson”.

Page 26: “and further possibility” was changed to “any further possibility”.

Page 33: “striken” was changed to “stricken”.

A variation in the spelling of McCarty or Macarty was maintained.





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