LAFITTE, “THE PIRATE.”
About one mile above New Orleans, opposite the flourishing City of Jefferson and on the right bank of the Mississippi, there is a small canal now used by fishermen and hunters, which approaches within a few hundred yards of the river’s bank, wrote Judge Walker, who gives remarkable pen pictures of Lafitte, “the pirate” and Lafitte, “the patriot.”
Following this canal (now Harvey’s) which runs nearly due south for five or six miles, we reach a deep, narrow and tortuous bayou (Little Barataria). Descending this and another bayou (Big Barataria), which for thirty miles threads its sluggish course through an impenetrable swamp, we pass into Little Lake, once girted with sombre forests and gloomy swamps and resonant with the hoarse croaking of alligators, and the screams of swamp fowls.
From this lake we pass into another lake, and from that into Barataria Bay, until we reach an island on which are discernible, at a considerable distance, several elevated knolls, and where a scant vegetation and a few trees maintain a feeble existence. At the lower end of this island there are some curious aboriginal vestiges in the shape of high mounds of shells which are thought to mark the burial of some extinct, tribes. This surmise has been confirmed by the discovery of human bones below the surface of these mounds. The elevation formed by the series of mounds is known as the Temple, from a tradition that the Natchez Indians used to assemble there to offer sacrifices to their chief diety, the “Great Sun.” This lake or bayou finally disembogues into the Gulf of Mexico by two outlets, between which lies the beautiful island of Grand Terre with a length of six miles and an average breadth of a mile and a half.
At the western extremity of the island at the present time stands what was once a large and powerful fortification, which was erected by the United States and named after one of the most distinguished benefactors of Louisiana, Edward Livingston. This fort commanded the western entrance or strait leading from the Gulf into the lake or bay of Barataria, but it has now fallen into decay and ruin.
Here may be found, even now, the foundations of houses, the brickwork of a rude fort, and other evidences of an ancient settlement. This ig the spot which has become so famous in the history and romances of the Southwest, as the “Pirate’s Home,” the retreat of the dead Corsair of the Gulf, whom the genius of Byron, and of many succeeding poets and novelists, has consecrated as one who
“Left a corsair’s name to other times,
Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes.”
Such is poetry — such is romance. But authentic history, by which alone Judge Walker was guided, dissipates all these fine flights of the poet and romancer.
“Shortly after the cession of Louisiana to the United States in 1803, a series of events occurred which made the Gulf of Mexico the arena of the most extensive and profitable privateering,” runs Walker’s narrative. “First came the war between France and Spain, which afforded the inhabitants of the French islands a good pretence to depredate upon the rich commerce of the Spanish possessions — the most valuable and productive in the New World. The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea swarmed with privateers, owned and employed by men of all nations, who obtained their commissions (by purchase) from the French authorities at Martinique and Guadelupe. Among these were not a few neat trim crafts belonging to the staid citizens of New England who, under the tri-color of France, experienced no scruples in the perpetrating of acts which, though not condemned by the laws of nations, in their spirit as well as in their practical results, bore a strong resemblance in piracy. The British capture and occupation of Guadalupe and Martinique, in 1806, in which expeditions the then Col. Edward Pakenham, who will figure more conspicuously in Louisiana history later on in this series of sketches, distinguished himself and received a severe wound, broke up a favorite retreat of these privateers.
“Shortly after this Colombia declared her independence of Spain and invited to her port of Carthagena the patriots and adventurers of all nations to aid her struggle against the mother country. Thither flocked all the privateers and buccaneers of the Gulf. Commissions were promptly given or sold to them to sail under the Colombian flag and to prey upon the commerce of poor old Spain who, invaded and despoiled at home, had neither means nor spirit to defend her distant possessions.
“The success of the privateers was brilliant. It is a narrow line, at the best, which divides piracy from privateering, and it is not at all wonderful that the reckless sailors of the Gulf sometimes lost sight of it. The shipping of other countries was, no doubt, frequently mistaken for that of Spain. Rapid fortunes were made in this business. Capitalists embarked their means in equipping vessels for privateering. Of course, they were not responsible for the excesses which were committed by those in their employ, nor did they trouble themselves to inquire into all the acts of their agerts. Finally, however, some attention was excited by this wholesale system of legalized pillage. The privateers found it necessary to secure some safe harbor into which they could escape from the ships of war, where they could be sheltered from the northers, and where, too, they could establish a depot for the sale and smuggling of their spoils. It was a sagacious thought which selected the little bay or cove of Grand Terre for this purpose. It was called Barataria and several huts and storehouses were built there and cannon planted on the beach. Here rallied the privateers of the Gulf with their fast-sailing schooners, armed to the teeth and manned by fierce-looking men who wore sharp cutlasses and might be taken anywhere for pirates, without offense. They were the desperate men of all nations, embracing as well those who had occupied respectable positions in the naval or merchant service, who were instigated to their present pursuit by the love of gain, as those who figured in the bloody scenes of the buccaneers of the Spanish Main. Besides its inaccessibility to vessels of war, the Bay of Barataria recommended itself by another important consideration: it was near to the City of New Orleans, the. mart of the growing valley of the Mississippi and from it the lakes and bayous afforded an easy water communication, nearly to the banks of the Mississippi, within a short distance of the city. A regular organization of the privateers was established, officers were chosen, and agents appointed in New Orleans to enlist men and negotiate the sale of goods.”
“Chief among these ‘agents’ were Jean and Pierre Lafitte. Jean, the younger, but more conspicuous of the two, was a handsome man, fair, with black hair and eyes, wearing his beard, as the fashion was, shaven neatly away from the front of his face. His manner was generally courteous, though he was irascible and in graver moments somewhat harsh. He spoke fluently English, Spanish, Italian and French, using them with much affability at the hotel where he resided and indicating, in the peculiarities of his French, his nativity in the city of Bordeaux,” says George W. Cable, who, in his exhaustive study of Louisiana, naturally devoted considerable attention to this world-famous figure.
“The elder brother was a seafaring man and had served in the French navy. He appears to have been every way less showy than the other; but beyond doubt both men were above the occupation with which they began life in Louisiana. This was the trade of blacksmith, though at their forge, on the corner of St. Philip and Bourbon Streets, probably none but slave hands swung the sledge or shaped the horseshoe.
“The Mississippi’s ‘coasts’ in the Parishes of St. James and St. John the Baptist were often astir with Jean Lafitte’s known presence, and his smaller vessels sometimes pierced the interior as far as Lac des Allemands. He knew the value of popular admiration, and was often at country balls, where he enjoyed the fame of great riches and courage, and seduced many of the simple Acadian youth to sail in his cruises. His two principal captains were Beluche and Dominique You. ‘Captain Dominique,’ was small, graceful, fair, of a pleasant, even attractive face, and a skillful sailor. There were also Gambio, a handsome Italian, who died in the late ’70s at the old private village of Cheniere Caminada; and Rigaud, a dark Frenchman, whose ancient house still stands on Grand Isle. And yet again Johanness and Jahannot, unless — which appears likely — these were only the real names of Dominique You and Beluche.”
“Therefore, the most active and sagacious of these town agents, was the ‘blacksmith’ of St. Philip Street who, following the example of much greater and more pretentious men, abandoned his sledge and anvil and embarked in the lawless and more adventurous career of smuggling and privateering,” continues Judge Walker. “Gradually, by his success, enterprise and address, Jean Lafitte obtained such ascendancy over the lawless congregation at Barataria, that they elected him their Captain or Commodore.
“There is a tradition that this choice gave great dissatisfaction to some of the more warlike of the privateers,” continues Walker, “and particularly to Gambio, a savage, grim Italian, who did not scruple to prefer the title and character of ‘pirate,’ to the puling, hypocritical one of ‘privateer.’ But it is said, the story is verified by an aged Italian, one of the only two survivors of the Baratarians, resident in Grand Terre (in Walker’s time) who rejoiced in the
nom de guerre,
indicative of a ghastly sabre cut across the face, of
that Lafitte found it necessary to sustain his authority by some terrible example and when one of Gambio’s follower’s resisted his orders, he shot him through the heart before the whole band. Whether this story be true or not, there can be no doubt that in the year 1813, when the association had attained its greatest prosperity, Lafitte held undisputed authority and control over it. He certainly conducted his administration with energy and ability. A large fleet of small vessels rode in the harbor besides others that were cruising. Their store-houses were filled with valuable goods. Hither resorted merchants and traders from all parts of the country to purchase goods which, being cheaply obtained, could be retailed at a large profit. A number of small vessels were employed in transporting goods to New Orleans through the bayou described, just as oysters, fish and game are now brought.
“On reaching the head of the bayou, these goods would be taken out of the boats and placed on the backs of mules — to be carried to the river banks — whence they would be ferried across into the city, at night. In the city they had many agents who disposed of these goods. By this profitable trade several citizens of New Orleans laid the foundations of their fortunes. But though profitable to individuals this trade was evidently detrimental to regular and legitimate commerce as well as to the revenue of the Federal Government. Accordingly, several efforts were made to break up the association but the activity and influence of their city friends generally enabled them to hush up such designs.
“Legal prosecutions were commenced on April 7, 1813, against Jean and Pierre Lafitte, in the United States District Court for Louisiana, charging them with violating the Revenue and Neutrality Laws of the United States. Nothing is said about piracy — the gravest offence charged being simply a misdemeanor. Even these charges were not sustained for, although both the Lafittes, and many others of the Baratarians were captured by Captain Andrew Holmes, in an expedition down the bayou, about the time of the filing of these informations against them, yet it appears they were released and the prosecutions never came to trial, the warrants for their arrest being returned ‘not found.’
“However, in 1814 indictments for piracy were found against several of the Baratarians. One against Johnness, for piracy on the Santa, a Spanish vessel, which was capturned nine miles from Grand Isle and nine thousand dollars taken from her; also against another who went by the name of Johannot, for capturing another Spanish vessel with her cargo, worth thirty thousand dollars, off Trinidad. Pierre Lafitte was charged as aider and abettor in these crimes before and after the fact, as one who did ‘upon land, to-wit: in the City of New Orleans, within the District of Louisiana, knowingly and willingly aid, assist, procure, counsel and advise the said piracies and robberies.’ It is quite evident from the character of the ships captured, that had the indictments been prosecuted to a trial, they would have resulted in modifying the crime of piracy into the offence of privateering, or that of violating Neutrality Laws of the United States, by bringing prizes taken from Spain into its territory and selling the same.
“Pierre Lafitte was arrested on these indictments. An application for bail was refused, and he was incarcerated in the Calaboose, or city prison, the cells of which now surround the courtyard of the Cabildo. These transactions, betokening a vigorous determination on the part of the authorities to break up the establishment at Barataria, Jean Lafitte proceeded to that place and was engaged in collecting the vessels and property of the association, with a view of departing to some more secure retreat, when an event occurred which he thought would afford him an opportunity of propitiating the favor of the government and securing for himself and his companions a pardon for their offences.
“It was on the morning of the third of September, 1814, that the settlement of Barataria was aroused by the report of cannon in the direction of the Gulf. Lafitte immediately ordered out a small boat in which, rowed, by four of his men, he proceeded toward the mouth of the strait. Here he perceived a brig of war, lying just outside of the inlet, with the British colors flying at the masthead. As soon as Lafitte’s boat was perceived, the gig of the brig shot off from her side and approached him.
“In this gig were officers, one clad in naval uniform, and one in the scarlet of the British army. They bore a white signal in the bows and a British flag in the stern of their boat. The officers proved to be Captain Lockyer, of his Majesty’s navy, with a lieutenant of the same service, and Captain McWilliams of the army. On approaching the boat of the Baratarians Captain Lockyer called out his name and rank, and inquired if Mr. Lafitte was at home in the bay as he had an important communication for him. Lafittee replied that the person they desired could be seen ashore and invited the officers to accompany him to their settlement. They accepted the invitation and the boats were rowed through the strait into the Bay of Barataria. On their way Lafitte confessed his true name and character; whereupon Captain Lockyer delivered to him a paper package. Lafitte enjoined upon the British officers to conceal the true object of their visit from his men who might, if they suspected their design, attempt some violence against them. Despite these cautions the Baratarians, on recognizing the uniform of the strangers, collected on the shore in a tumultuous and threatening manner and clamored loudly for their arrest. It required all Lafitte’s art, address, and influence to calm them. Finally, however, he succeeded in conducting the British to his apartments where they were entertained in a style of elegant hospitality which greatly surprised them.
“The best wines of old Spain, the richest fruits of the West Indies and every variety of fish and game were spread out before them and served on the richest carved silver plate. The affable manner of Lafitte gave great zest to the enjoyment of his guests. After the repast, when they had all smoked cigars of the finest Cuban flavor, Lafitte requested his guests to proceed to business.”
The package directed to “Mr. Lafitte,” was then opened and the contents read. They consisted of a proclamation, signed by Col. Edward Nicholls, commander of the British land forces on the coast of Florida, which read:
By Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Nicholls, commanding his Britannic Majesty’s forces in the Floridas.
Native of Louisiana! on you the first call is made to assist in liberating from a faithless imbicile government, your paternal soil: Spaniards, Frenchmen, Italians and British whether settled or residing for a time in Louisiana, on you also I call to aid me in this just cause: the American usurpation in this country must be abolished and the lawful owners of the soil put in possession. I am at the head of a large body of Indians, well armed disciplined and commanded by British officers — a good train of artillery with every requisite, seconded by the powerful aid of a numerous British and Spanish squadron of ships and vessels of war. Be not alarmed, inhabitants of the country at our approach; the same good faith and disinterestedness which has distinguished the conduct of Britons in Europe, accompanies them here; you will have no fear of litigious taxes imposed on you for the purpose of carrying on an unnatural and unjust war; your property, your laws, the peace and tranquility of your country, will be guaranteed to you by men who will suffer no infringement of theirs; rest assured that these brave red men only burn with an ardent desire of satisfaction for their wrongs they have suffered from the Americans, to join you in liberating these southern provinces from their yoke and drive them into those limits formerly prescribed by my sovereign. The Indians have pledged themselves in the most solemn manner not to injure in the slightest degree the persons or properties of any but enemies to their Spanish or English fathers; a flag over any door whether Spanish, French or British will be a certain protection, nor dare any Indian put his foot on the threshold thereof, under the penalty of death from his own countrymen; not even an enemy will an Indian put to death, except resisting in arms, and as for injuring helpless women and children, the red men by their good conduct and treatment to them (if it be possible) make the Americans blush for their more inhuman conduct lately on the Escambia, and within a neutral territory.
Inhabitants of Kentucky, you have too long borne with grievous impositions — the whole brunt of the war has fallen on your brave sons; be imposed on no longer, but either range yourselves under the standard of your forefathers, or observe a strict neutrality; if you comply with either of these offers, whatever provisions you send down will be paid for in dollars and the safety of the persons bringing it as well as the free navigation of the Mississippi guaranteed to you.
Men of Kentucky, let me call to your view (and I trust to your abhorence) the conduct of those factions which hurried you into this civil, unjust and unnatural war at the time when Great Britain was straining every nerve in defence of her own and the liberties of the world — when the bravest of her sons were fighting and bleeding in so sacred a cause — when she was spending millions of her treasure in endeavoring to pull down one of the most formidable and dangerous tyrants that ever disgraced the form of man — when groaning Europe was almost in her last gasp — when Britons alone showed an undaunted front — basely did those assassins endeavor to stab her from the rear; she was turned on them renovated from the bloody but successful struggle — Europe is happy and free, and she now hastens justly to avenge the unprovoked insult. Show them that you are not collectively unjust; leave that contemptible few to shift for themselves let those slaves of the tyrant send an embassy to Elba, and implore his aid, but let every honest, upright American spurn them with united contempt. After the experience of twenty-one years, can you anv longer support those brawlers for liberty who call it freedom when themselves are free; be no longer their dupes — accept of my offers — everything I have promised in this paper I guarantee to you on the sacred honour of a British officer.
Given under my hand at my head-quarters, Pensacola, this 29th day of August, 1814.
The second communication was from the same writer to “Mr. Lafitte, or commandant at Barataria,” which frankly bid for the pirate’s services in the British navy, for which rewards would be given not only the leader but his men. It read:
Headquarters, Pensacola, August 31st, 1814.
I have arrived in the Floridas for the purpose of annoying the only enemy Great Britain has in the world, as France and England are now friends. I call on you with your brave followers to enter into the service of Great Britain in which you shall have the rank of a Captain; lands will be given to you all in proportion to your respective ranks on a peace taking place, and I invite you on the following terms:
Your property shall be guaranteed to you and your persons protected; in return for which I ask you to cease all hostilities against Spain or the allies of Great Britain. — Your ships and vessels to be placed under the orders of the commanding officer on this station, until the commander-in-chief’s pleasure is known, but I guarantee their fair value at all events. I herewith enclose you a copy of my proclamation to the inhabitants of Louisiana, which will, I trust point out to you the honourable intentions of my government. You may be an useful assistant to me, in forwarding them; therefore, if you determine, lose no time. The bearer of this, Captain M’Williams will satisfy you on any other point you may be anxious to learn as will Captain Lockyer of the Sophia, who brings him to you. We have a powerful re-enforcement on its. way here, and I hope to cut out some other work for the Americans than oppressing the inhabitants of Louisiana. Be expeditious in your resolves and rely on the verity of
Your very humble servant,
The third letter was from the Hon. William Henry Percy, captain of His Majesty’s ship Hermes and senior officer in the Gulf of Mexico, to Nicholas Lockyer, Esq., commander of H. M. Sloop Sophia:
You are hereby required and directed after having received on board an officer belonging to the first battalion of Royal colonial marines to proceed, in His Majesty’s sloop under your command, without a moment’s loss of time for Barataria.
On your arrival at that place you will communicate with the chief persons there — you will urge them to throw themselves under the protection of Great Britain — and, should you find them inclined to pursue such a step, you will hold out to them that their property shall be secured to them, that they shall be considered British subjects and at the conclusion of the war, lands within his majesty’s colonies in America will be allotted to them in return for these concessions. You will insist on an immediate cessation of hostilities against Spain, and in case they should have any Spanish property not disposed of that it be restored and that they put their naval force into the hands of the senior officer here until the commander-in-chief’s pleasure is known. In the event of their not being inclined to act offensively against the United States you will dp all in your power to persuade them to a strict neutrality, and still endeavor to put a stop in their hostilities against Spain. Should you succeed completely in the object for which you are sent, you will concert such measures for the annoyance of the enemy as you judge best from circumstances; having an eye to the junction of their small armed vessels with me for the capture of Mobile, &c.
You will at all events yourself join me with the utmost despatch at this post with the accounts of your success.
Given under my hand on board his majesty’s ship Hermes, at Pensacola, this 30th day of August, 1814.
W. H. Percy, capt.
The fourth letter carried a more direct threat and was dated two days later:
Having understood that some British merchantmen have been detained, taken into and sold by the inhabitants of Barataria, I have directed Captain Lockyer of his majesty’s sloop Sophia to proceed to that place and inquire into the circumstances with positive orders to demand instant restitution, and in case of refusal to destroy to his utmost every vessel there as well as to carry destruction over the whole place and at the same time to assure him of the co-operation of all his majesty’s naval forces on this station. I trust at the same time that the inhabitants of Barataria consulting their own interest, will not make it necessary to proceed to such extermities — I hold out at the same time a war instantly destructive to them; and on the other hand should they be inclined to assist Great Britain in her just and unprovoked war against the United States, the security of their property, the blessings of the British constitution — and should they be inclined to settle on this continent, lands will at the conclusion of the war be allotted to them in his majesty’s colonies in America. In return for all these concessions on the part of Great Britain, I expect that the directions of their armed vessels will be put into my hands (for which they will be remunerated), the instant cessation of hostilities against the Spanish government, and the restitution of any undisposed property of that nation.
Should any inhabitants be inclined to volunteer their services into his majesty’s forces either naval or military for limited services, they will be received; and if any British subject being at Barataria wishes to return to his native country, he will, on joining his majesty’s service, receive a free pardon.
Given under my hand on board H. M. ship Hermes,
Pensacola, this 1st. day of September, 1814.
W. H. Percy,
Captain and Senior Officer.
These letters were once part of the records of the United States District Court in New Orleans, where they were filed by Lafitte’s lawyers, Edward Livingston and John R. Grimes, as documentary evidence for the Lafittes when they were arrested for piracy some years after the war was over and the Battle of New Orleans won. From the archives of the court they disappeared, but turned up years after in a curio store where they were purchased by Mr. S. J. Schwartz, of New Orleans, in whose possession they are today.
“Besides the flattering offers the letters contained, the British officers proceeded to enlarge upon them by many plausible and cogent arguments,” Walker writes. “Captain McWilliams stated that Lafitte, his vessels and men would be enlisted in the honorable service of the British navy; that he would then receive the rank of Captain (an offer which must have brought a smile to the face of the unnautical blacksmith of St. Philip Street) and the sum of thirty thousand dollars: that being a Frenchman, proscribed and persecuted by the United States, with a brother then in prison, he should unite with the English, as the English and French were now fast friends; that a splendid prospect was now opened to him in the British navy, as from his knowledge of the Gulf Coast he could guide them in their expedition to New Orleans, which had already started; that it was the purpose of the English Government to penetrate the upper country and act in concert with the forces in Canada; that everything was prepared to carry on the war with unusual vigor; that they were sure of success, expecting to find little or no opposition from the French and Spanish population of Louisiana whose interests and manners were opposed and hostile to those of the Americans; and, finally, it was declared by Captain Lockyer to be the purpose of the British to free the slaves and arm them against the white people who resisted their authority and progress.
“Lafitte, effecting an acquiescence in the proposition, begged to be permitted to go and consult an old friend and associate in whose judgment he had great confidence. Whilst he was absent his men, who had watched suspiciously the conference, many of whom were Americans and none the less patriotic because they had a taste for privateering, proceeded to arrest the British officers, threatening to kill or deliver them up to the Americans. In the midst of this clamor and violence, Lafitte returned and immediately quieted his men by reminding them of the laws of honor and humanity which forbade any violence to persons who come among them with a flag of truce. He assured them that their honor and rights would be safe arid sacred in his charge. He then escorted the British to their boats and, after declaring to Captain Lockyer that he only required a few days to consider the flattering proposals and would be ready at a certain time to deliver his final reply, took a respectful leave of his guests, kept them in v1ew until they were out of reach of the men on shore.”
Immediately after the departure of the British, Lafitte sat down and addressed a long letter to John Blanque, a member of the House of Representatives of Louisiana, which read:
Barataria, 4th September, 1814.
Though proscribed by my adopted country, I will never let slip any occasion of serving her or of proving that she has never ceased to be dear to me. Of this you will here see a convincing proof. Yesterday, the 3d of September, there appeared here, under a flag of truce, a boat coming from an English brig, at anchor about two leagues from the pass. Mr. Nicholas Lockyer, a British officer of high rank, delivered me the following papers: two directed to me, a proclamation, and the admiral’s instructions to that officer, all herewith enclosed. You will see from their contents the advantages I might have derived from that kind of association.
I may have evaded the payment of duties to the custom house; but I have never ceased to be a good citizen; and all the offences I have committed I was forced to by certain vices in our laws. In short, sir, I make you the depository of the secret on which perhaps depends the tranquility of our country; please to make such use of it as your judgment may direct. I might expatiate on this proof of patriotism but I let the fact speak for itself.
I presume, however, to hope that such proceedings may obtain amelioration of the situation of my unhappy brother, with which view I recommend him particularly to your influence. It is in the bosom of a just man, of a true Amercian, endowed with all other qualities that are honoured in society, that I think I am depositing the interests of our common country and that particularly concerns myself.
Our enemies have endeavored to work on me by a motive which few men would have resisted. They represented to me a brother in irons, a brother who is to me very dear; whose deliverer I might become, and I declined the proposal. Well persuaded of his innocence, I am free from apprehension as the issue of a trial, but he is sick and not in a place where he can receive the assistance his state requires. I recommend him to you, in the name of humanity.
As to the flag of truce, I have done with regard to it everything that prudence suggested to me at the time. I have asked fifteen days to determine, assigning such plausible pretexts, that I hope the term will be granted. I am waiting for the British officer’s answer, and for yours to this. Be so good as to assist me with your judicious counsel in so weighty an affair.
I have the honour to salute you,
Through Mr. Blanque, Lafitte addressed a letter to Governor Claiborne, in which he stated very distinctly his position and desires. He penned the following:
In the firm persuasion that the choice made of you to fill the office of first magistrate of this state was dictated by the esteem of your fellow-citizens and was conferred on merit, I confidently address you on an affair on which may depend the safety of this country.
I offer to you to restore to this state several citizens who perhaps, in your eyes have lost that sacred title. I offer you them, however, such as you could wish to find them, ready to exert their utmost efforts in defence of the country. This point of Louisiana, which I occupy, is of great importance in the present crisis. I tender my services to defend it; and the only reward I ask is that a stop be put to the proscription against me and my adherents, by an act of oblivion for all that has been done hitherto. I am the stray sheep, wishing to return to the sheepfold. If you were thoroughly acquainted with the nature of my offences, I should appear to you much less guilty, and still worthy to discharge the duties of a good citizen. I have never sailed under any flag but that of the republic of Carthagena, and my vessels are perfectly regular in that respect. If I could have brought my law- ful prizes into the ports of this state, I should not have employed the illicit means that have caused me to be proscribed. I decline saying more on the subject until I have the honour of your excellency’s answer, which I am persuaded can be dictated only by wisdom. Should your answer not be favorable to my ardent desires, I declare to you that I will instantly leave the country, to avoid the imputation of having co-operated towards an invasion on this point, which cannot fail to take place, and to rest secure in the acquittal of my own conscience.
I have the honour to be
Your excellency’s, &c.
This packet of letters to John Blanque, Lafitte in trusted to the keeping of a trusted lieutenant and adviser, Rancher, by name. The latter made all haste to New Orleans, and in person delivered the letters to the member of the Legislature.
While Lafitte was thus sending word of the designs of the English to the proper authorities the brig Sophia still lay off Grande Terre and to keep the British officers there until he would receive instructions from the Governor the wily pirate leader despatched the following letter to Captain Lockyer:
The confusion which prevailed in our camp yesterday and this morning, and of which you have a complete knowledge, has prevented me from answering: in a precise manner to the object of your mission; nor even at this moment can I give you all the satisfaction that you desire; however, if you could grant me a fortnight, I would be entirely at your disposal at the end of that time — this delay is indispensable to send away the three persons who have alone occasioned all the disturbance — the two who were the most troublesome are to leave this place in eight days, and the other is to go to town — the remainder of the time is necessary to enable me to put my affairs in order. — You may communicate with me, in sending a boat to the eastern point of the pass, where I will be found. You have inspired me with more confidence than the admiral, your superior officer, could have done himself; with you alone I wish to deal, and from you also I will claim, in due time, the reward of the service which I may render to you.
Be so good, sir, as to favour me with an answer, and believe me yours, &c.
The contents of the packet Rancher delivered to Representative Blanque evidently created consternation in the official circles of the city, already apprehensive of a sudden descent of the English forces on the rich and altogether unprotected city.
John Blanque at once repaired to Governor Claiborne’s offices and the Governor quickly summoned his military and naval advisers to consider the matter in full. They were Major-General Jacques Villere, Commodore Patterson, of the United States navy and Col. Ross of the regular army. The Governor submitted the letters to his council, asking for a decision on these two questions: First, whether the letters were genuine? Second, whether it was proper that the Governor should hold intercourse or enter into any correspondence with Lafitte and his associates? To each of these questions a negative answer was given, Major-General Villere alone dissenting. This officer being (as well as the Governor who, presiding in the council, could not give his opinion), not only satisfied as to the authenticity of the letters of the British officers but believing that the Baratarians might be employed in a very effective manner in case of invasion.
Collector Dubourg, in charge of the customs for the Government in New Orleans, was particularly insistent that this pirates’ stronghold, or smugglers’ retreat, be done away with and the more law-conforming merchants of the city were backing him up in his demands that the State assist the Government as it was sworn to do.
While Lafitte’s proffer of help to the constituted authorities was being turned down, Rancher, the Baratarian who delivered the letters to John Blanque, and even the august member of the legislature, were not unbusy if the public prints of the day are to be believed.
Just exactly what were Rancher’s actions after visiting Blanque at his home are unknown, but the day after his arrival the New Orleans newspapers carried the following advertisement:
Will be paid for the apprehension of PIERRE LAFITTE, who broke and escaped last night from the prison of the parish. Said Pierre Lafitte is about five feet ten inches in in height, stout made, light complexion, and somewhat cross-eyed; further description is considered unnecessary, as he is very well known in the city.
Said Lafitte took with him three negroes, (giving their names and those of their owners). The above reward will be paid to any person delivering the said Lafitte to the subscriber.
J. H. Holland.
Keeper of the Prison.
Together the messenger and the elder Lafitte made their way back to the “Temple,” using the light, swiftailing pirogues for threading the devious waterways of the Louisiana lowlands. Holland, the jailer, being left to wave his thousand dollars’ reward around the various coffee houses in Rue Royal and Chartres Street and answer the quips and jibes that the letter-writers of that day furnished the badly-typed columns of the Louisiana Gazette.
While Pierre was on his way back to the stronghold Jean intercepted a letter that contained a warning of the British intentions toward New Orleans. This he promptly despatched in a letter of his own to John Blanque, in which he again proclaimed his devotion to his adopted country.
Grande Terre, 7th. September, 1814.
You will always find me eager to evince my devotedness to the good of the country, of which I endeavoured to give some proof in my letter of the 4th, which I make no doubt you received. Amongst other papers that have fallen into my hands, I send you a scrap which appears to me of sufficient importance to merit your attention.
Since the departure of the officer who came with the flag of truce, his ship, with two other ships of war, have remained on the coast, within’sight. Doubtless this point is considered as important. We have hitherto kept on a respectable defensive; if, however, the British attach to the possession of this place the importance they give us rooni to suspect they do, they may employ means above our strength. I know not whether, in that case, proposals of intelligence with government would be out of season. It is always from my high opinion of your enlightened niind, that I request you to advise me in this affair.
I have the honour to salute you,
No doubt the “Temple” witnessed the finest celebration it could boast when Rancher arrived with the “crosseyed” Pierre. Just what was done — exactly what form of the celebration took will never be known, but in the collection of Lafitte letters the following from Pierre, the elder, is found:
Grande Terre, 10th September, 1814.
On my arrival here I was informed of all the occurrences that have taken place; I think I mav justly commend my brother’s conduct under such difficult circumstances. I am persuaded he could not have made a better choice than in making you the depositary of the papers that were sent to us and which may be of great importance to the state. Being fully determined to follow the plan that may reconcile us with the government, I herewith send you a letter directed to his excellency the governor, which I submit to your discretion, to deliver or not, as you may think proper. I have not yet been honored with an answer from you. The moments are precious; pray send me an answer that may serve to direct my measures in the circumstsances in which I find myself.
I have the honour to be, &c.
But the only apparent result of Lafitte’s act of loyalty and warning was to hasten the steps that had been previously commenced, and which Col. Ross, Commodore Patterson, backed by the United States collector Duborg, insisted upon, to fit out an expedition to Barataria to break up Lafitte’s establishment. In the meantime, the two weeks asked for by Lafitte to consider the British proposal, having expired, Captain Lockyer appeared off Grand Terre, and hovered around the inlet several days, anxiously awaiting the answer of Lafitte. At last, his patience being exhausted, and mistrusting the intentions of the Baratarians, he retired. It was about this time that the spirit of Lafitte was sorely tried by the intelligence that the constituted authorities, whom he had supplied with such valuable information, instead of appreciating his generous exertions in behalf of his country, were actually equipping an expedition to destroy his establishment.
“This was truly an ungrateful return for services, which may now be justly estimated,” declares Judge Walker in his excellent history. “Nor is it satisfactorily shown that mercenary motives did not mingle with those which prompted some of the parties engaged in this expedition.
“The rich plunder of the ‘Pirate’s Retreat,’ the valuable fleet of small coasting vessels that rode in the Bay of Barataria, the exaggerated stories of a vast amount of treasure, heaped up in glittering piles, in dark, mysterious caves, of chests of Spanish doubloons, buried in the sand contributed to inflame the imagination and avarice of some of the individuals who were active in getting up this expedition.
“A naval and land force was organized under Commodore Patterson and Colonel Ross, which proceeded to Barataria, and with a pompous display of military power, entered the Bay. The Baratarians at first thought of resisting with all their means, which were considerable. They collected on the beach armed, their cannon were placed in position, and matches were lighted, when lo! to their amazement and dismay, the stars and stripes became visible through the mist.
“Against the power which that banner proclaimed, they were unwilling to lift their hands. They then surrendered, a few escaping up the Bayou in small boats. Lafitte, conformably to his pledge, on hearing of the expedition, had gone to the German coast as it is called — above New Orleans, his brother with him. Commodore Patterson seized all the vessels of the Baratarians and, filling them and his own with the rich goods found on the island, returned to New Orleans loaded with spoils. The Baratarians, who were captured, were ironed and committed to the calaboose. The vessels, money and stores taken in this expedition were claimed as lawful prizes by Commodore Patterson and Colonel Ross. Out of this claim grew a protracted suit, which elicited the foregoing facts, and resulted in establishing the innocence of Lafitte of all other offences but those of privateering — or employing persons to privateer against the commerce of Spain under commissions from the Republic of Colombia and bringing his prizes to the United States, to be disposed of contrary to the provisions of the Neutrality Act.
“The charge of piracy against Lafitte, or even against the men of the association of which he was the chief, remains to this day unsupported by a single particle of direct and positive testimony. All that was ever adduced against them, of a circumstantial or inferential character, was the discovery among the goods taken at Barataria of some jewelry which was identified as that of a Creole lady, who had sailed from New Orleans seven years before and was never heard of afterwards.
“Considering the many ways in which such property might have fallen into the hands of Baratarians, it would not be just to rest so serious a charge against them on this single fact. It is not at all improbable — though no facts of that character ever came to light — that among so many desperate characters attached to the Baratarian organization, there were not a few who would, if the temptation were presented, ’scuttle ship, or cut a throat’ to advance their ends, increase their gains, or gratify a natural bloodthirstiness.
“But such deed’s cannot be associated with the name of Jean Lafitte, save in the idle fictions by which the taste of the youth is vitiated, and history outraged and perverted. That he was more of a patriot than a pirate, that he rendered services of immense benefit to his adopted country, and should be held in respect and honor, rather than defamed and calumniated will, we think, abundantly appear to the reader,” sums up Walker.
“But was this loyalty anything more than strategem?” asks Cable. “The Spaniard and Englishman were Lafitte’s foe and his prey. The Creoles were his friends. His own large interests were scattered all over Lower Louisiana. His patriotism has been overpraised; and yet we may allow him patriotism. His whole war, on the main-land side, was only with a set of ideas not superficially fairer than his own. They seemed to him unsuited to the exigencies of the times and the country. Thousands of Louisianians thought as he did. They and he — to borrow from a distance the phrase of another, were ‘polished, agreeable, dignified, averse to baseness and vulgarity.’ They accepted friendship, honor and party faith as sufficient springs of action, and only dispensed with the sterner question of right and wrong. . True, Pierre, his brother, and Dominique You, his most intrepid captain, lay then in the calaboza. Yet should he, so able to take care of himself against all comers and all fates, so scornful of all subordination, for a paltry captain’s commission and a doubtful thirty thousand, help his life-time enemies to invade the country and city of his commercial and social intimates?”
But pirate or patriot, or both, Jean Lafitte and his men were on the firing line when England’s trained hosts invaded Louisiana. This, we of 1915, know. His two lieutenants, Dominique You and Bluche, on January 1st won imperishable fame by the handling of cannon that out-shot the trained artillerists of Pakenham; Pierre Lafitte was given a position of trust the morning of the memorable 8th of January, after the British troops had thrown the American forces on the right bank of the river into confusion, and last, but not least, when General Jackson was mystified as to what direction the invading army would strike the city he was defending, he sent Jean Lafitte to the Barataria region with a strong force to guard against a rear attack from the Gulf. Here the “corsair”, he of the thousand vices but of the single virtue that will never die, under the gnarled oaks that sprouted from the shell mound at the junction of Little Barataria and Big Barataria bayous, lay ready to hurl back the minions of the government that had sought to buy his honor with gold and emoluments, as decisively as the Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen actually did on the plains of Chalmette.
“General Jackson, in his correspondence to the Secretary of War, did not fail to notice the conduct of the ‘corsairs of Barataria’.” Major Latour tells us while giving full credit to the services of Jean Lafitte and his band, “they were employed in the artillery service and in the course of the campaign they proved, in an unequivocal manner, that they had been misjudged by the enemy who had hoped to enlist them in his cause.
“Many of them were killed or wounded in the defense of their country. Their zeal, their courage, and their skill, were remarked by the whole army who could no longer consider such brave men as criminals, or avoid wishing their permanent return to duty and the favor of the government. These favorable sentiments were expressed by the legislature of the State, in a memorial to the President, and General Jackson added his and those of the army. The Chief Magistrate of our Government yielded to these intercessions and issued a proclamation by which he granted full and complete pardon to all those who had aided in repulsing the enemy.”
After the great battle Lafitte and his men practically passed out of the life of Louisiana. On the honors gained by the President’s pardon Dominique You settled down to a quiet life, “enjoying the vulgar admiration which is given the survivor of lawless adventures;” says one writer who evidently never thrilled himself over Jean Lafitte and his crew. “It may seem superfluous to add,” says this same writer, “that he became a leader in ward politics.” However, in 1830 all that was mortal of the chief gunner of Jackson’s Battery No. 3, was laid to rest with military honors, at the expense of the city, and followed on his way by the Louisiana Legion.
The visitor to New Orleans to-day may see his tomb in the middle walk of what is known as St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. The tablet bears his name surmounted by the emblem of Free Masonry. An epitaph, in French verse, proclaims him the “intrepid hero of a hundred battles on land and sea; who, without fear and without reproach, will one day view, unmoved, the destruction of the world,” being taken from Voltaire’s “La Henriade.”
Of Beluche we only know that after peace had descended upon his native city, for he was a Creole, he became the commodore of the navy of Venezuela.
Of Pierre Lafitte we know nothing, and of Jean but little more. In 1818 he had a fleet out under the Colombian flag, later he formed a colony on the island now occupied by the City of Galveston, and his name, if not his person, was the terror of the Gulf of Mexico in 1821-22, but his end is lost in a maze of tradition and thus lost to history.
His men, the Baratarians, their days of smuggling over, straggled back to their old haunts and became fishermen, crabbers, shrimpers and oyster men. And there today, in the great lowland sections of Louisiana, their descendants live on the “chenieres” (islands on which oaks grow) and they will tell you in low musical tones what a great man Lafitte was and how he saved Louisiana by changing Lafitte, the pirate, to Lafitte, the patriot.
JACKSON ARRIVES IN NEW ORLEANS.
Of the mode of General Jackson’s entrance into New Orleans we have a pleasant and picturesque account from the pen of Alexander Walker, long a distinguished resident of the Crescent City, and author of the little work entitled “Jackson and New Orleans;” one of the best executed and most entertaining pieces of American history in existence. What Judge Walker has told so interestingly and well, need not be told again in any words but his:
“The Bayou St. John enters into Lake Ponchartrain at a distance of seven miles from the city. Here at its mouth may be seen the remains in an excellent state of preservation of an old Spanish fort which was built many years ago by one of the Spanish Governors as a protection of this important point, for by glancing at the map of New Orleans and its vicinity, it will be seen that a maritime power could find no easier approach to the city than through the Bayou St. John. This fort was built as the Spaniards built all their fortifications in this State where stone could not be procured, of small brick imported from Europe cemented with a much more adhesive and permanent material than is now used for building and with walls of great thickness and solidity. The foundation and walls of the fort still remain, interesting vestiges of the old Spanish, dominion. On the mound and within the walls stands a comfortable hotel, where in the summer season (1855) may be obtained healthful cheer, generous liquors and a pleasant view of the placid and beautiful lake over whose gentle bosom the sweet south wind comes with just power enough to raise a gentle ripple on its mirror-like surface, bringing joy and relief to the wearied townsman and debilitated invalid.
“What a different scene did this fort present one hundred years ago! Then there were large cannon looking frowningly through those embrasures which are now filled up with dirt and rubbish, and around them clustered glittering bayonets and fierce-looking men full of military ardor and fierce determination. There, too, was much of a reality, if not of the pomp and circumstance of war. High above the fort from the summit of a lofty staff floated, not the showy banner of old Spain with its glittering and mysterious emblazonry, but that simplest and most beautiful of all national standards, the stars and stripes of the United States.
“From the Fort St. John to the city the distance is six or seven miles. Along the bayou which twists its sinuous course like a huge dark green serpent through the swamp, lies a good road hardened by a pavement of shells taken from the bottom of the lake. Hereon city Jehus in 1855 exercised their fast nags and lovely ladies took their evening airings. But at the time this narrative commences it was a very bad road, being low, muddy and broken. The ride which (at the time Walker wrote) occupied some twenty minutes very delightfully, was then a wearisome two hours’ journey.
“It was along this road early on the morning of the 2d of December, 1814, that a party of gentlemen rode at a brisk trot from the lake towards the city. The mist which during the night broods over the swamp had not cleared off. The air was chilly, damp and uncomfortable. The travelers, however, were evidently hardy men accustomed to exposure, and intent upon purposes too absorbing to leave any consciousness of external discomforts. Though devoid of all military display and even of the ordinary equipments of soldiers the bearing and appearance of these men betokened their connection with the profession of arms. The chief of the party, which was composed of five or six persons, was a tall, gaunt man of very erect carriage with a countenance full of stern decision and fearless energy, but furrowed with care and anxiety. His complexion was sallow and unhealthy; his hair was iron grey, and his body thin and emaciated like that of one who had just recovered from a lingering and painful sickness. But the fierce glare of his bright and hawk-like eye betrayed a soul and spirit which triumphed over all the infirmities of the body. His dress was simple and nearly threadbare. A small leather cap protected his head and a short Spanish blue cloak his body, whilst his feet and legs were encased in high dragoon boots, long ignorant of polish or blacking, which reached to the knees. In age he appeared to have passed about forty-five winters — the season for which his stern and hardy nature seemed peculiarly adapted.
“The others of the party were younger men whose spirits and movements were more elastic and careless and who relieved the weariness of the journey with many a jovial story.
“Arriving at the high ground near the junction of the Canal Carondelet with the Bayou St. John, where a bridge spanned the bayou and quite a village had grown up, the travelers halted before an old Spanish villa and throwing their bridles to some negro boys at the gates, dismounted and walked into the house. On entering the gallery they were received in a very cordial and courteous manner by J. Kilty Smith, Esq., then a leading New Orleans merchant of enterprise and public spirit. On the bayou in an agreeable suburban retreat Mr. Smith had established himself. Here he dispensed a liberal hospitality and lived in such a style as was regarded in those economical days, and by the more frugal Spanish and French populations, as quite extravagant and luxurious.
“Ushering them into the marble paved hall of his old Spanish villa, Mr. Smith soon made his guests comfortable. It was evident that they were not unexpected. Soon the company were all seated at the breakfast table which fairly groaned with the abundance of generous viands prepared in that style of incomparable cookery for which the Creoles of Louisiana are so renowned. Of this rich and savory food the younger guests partook quite heartily, but the elder and leader of the party was more careful and abstemious, confining himself to some boiled hominy whose whiteness rivaled that of the damask tablecloth. In the midst of the breakfast and whilst the company were engaged in discussing the news of the day, a servant whispered to the host that he was wanted in the ante-room. Excusing himself to his guests Mr. Smith retired to the ante-room and there found himself in the presence of an indignant and excited Creole lady, a neighbor, who had kindly consented to superintend the preparations in Mr. Smith s bachelor establishment for the reception of some distinguished strangers and who, in that behalf, had imposed upon herself a severe responsibility and labor.
“‘Ah, Mr. Smith!’ exclaimed the deceived lady, in a half reproachful, half indignant style, ‘how could you play such a trick upon me? You asked me to get your house in order to receive a great General. I did so. I worked myself almost to death to make your house comme il faut and prepared a splendid dejeuner, and now I find that all my labor is thrown upon an ugly old Kaintuck-flatboatman instead of your grand General, with plumes, epaulettes, long sword and mustache!’
“It was in vain that Mr. Smith strove to remove the delusion from the mind of the irate lady, and convince her that that plainly-dressed, jaundiced, hard-featured, unshorn man in the old blue coat and bullet buttons, was that famous warrior Andrew Jackson.
“It was indeed Andrew Jackson who had come fresh from the glories and fatigue of his brilliant Indian campaigns, in this unostentatious manner, to the city which he had been sent to protect from one of the most formidable perils that ever threatened a community. Cheerfully and happily had he embraced this awful responsibility. He had come to defend a defenceless city, situated in the most remote section of the Union — a city which had neither fleets nor forts, means nor men — a city whose population were comparatively strangers to that of the other States, who sprung from a different national stock, and spoke a different language from that of the overwhelming majority of their countrymen — a language entirely unknown to the General — to defend it, too, against a power then victorious over Napoleon, supposedly safe out of mischief on Elba.
“After partaking of their breakfast the General, taking out his watch, reminded his companions of the necessity of their entrance into the city. In a few minutes carriages were procured and the whole party rode toward the city by the old Bayou road. The General was accompanied by Major Hughes, commander of the Ft. St. John, by Major Butler and Captain Reid, his secretary, who afterwards became one of his biographers, Major Chotard and other officers of the staff. The cavalcade proceeded to the elegant residence of Daniel Clark, the first representative of Louisiana in the Congress of the United States, a gentleman of Irish birth who had acquired great influence, popularity and wealth in the city, and died shortly after the commencement of the war of 1812. Here Jackson and his aides were met by a committee of the State and city authorities and of the people at the head of whom was the Governor of the State who, in earnest but rather rhetorical terms, welcomed the General to the city and proffered him every aid of the authorities and the people, to enable him to justify the title which they were already conferring upon him of ‘saviour of New Orleans.’ His excellency, W. C. C. Claiborne, the first American Governor of Louisiana, a Virginian of good address and fluent elocution, then in the bloom of life, was supported by the leading civil and military characters of the city. There in the group was that redoubtable naval hero Commodore Patterson, a stout, compact, gallant-bearing man, in the neat undress naval uniform. His manner was slightly marked by hauteur, but his movement and expression indicated the energy and boldness of a man of decided action, as well as confident bearing.
“Here, too, was the then Mayor of New Orleans, Nicholas Girod, a rotund, affable, pleasant old French gentleman, of easy, polite manners. There too, was Edward Livingstone, then the leading legal character in the city — a tall, high-shouldered man of ungraceful figure and homely countenance, but whose high brow and large thoughtful eyes indicated a profound and powerful intellect. By his side stood his youthful rival at the bar — an elegant, graceful and showily-dressed gentleman whose figure combined the compact dignity and solidity of the soldier with the ease and grace of the man of fashion and taste, and who, as the sole survivor of those named, retained in a remarkable degree the elegance and grace which characterized his bearing forty years ago to the day of his lamented decease. We refer to John R. Grymes, so long the veteran and chief ornament of the New Orleans bar.
“Such were the leading personages in the assembly which greeted Jackson’s entrance into New Orleans.
“The General replied briefly to the welcome of the Governor. He declared that he had come to protect the city and he would drive their enemies into the sea or perish in the effort. He called on all good citizens to rally around him in this emergency and, ceasing all differences and divisions, to unite with him in the patriotic resolve to save their city from the dishonor and disaster which a presumptuous enemy threatened to inflict upon it. This address was rendered into French by Mr. Livingstone. It produced an electric effect upon all present. Their countenances cleared up. Bright and hopeful were the words and looks of all who had heard the thrilling tones and caught the heroic glance of the hawk-eyed General. The General and staff then re-entered their carriages. A cavalcade was formed and proceeded to the building, 106 Royal street — one of the few brick buildings then existing in New Orleans, which stood but little changed or effected by the lapse of so many years, until torn down to make way for the new courthouse. A flag unfurled from the third story soon indicated to the population the headquarters of the General who had come so suddenly and quietly to their rescue.”
Jackson had come! There was magic in the news. Every witness living and dead testified to the electric effect of the General’s quiet and sudden arrival. There was a truce at once to indecision, to indolence, to incredulity, to factious debate, to paltry contentions, to wild alarm. He had come, so worn down with disease and the fatigue of his ten days’ ride on horseback that he was more fit for the hospital than the field. But there was that in his manner and aspect which revealed the master. That will of his triumphed over the languor and anguish of disease, and everyone who approached him felt that the man for the hour he was there.
He began his work without the loss of one minute. The unavoidable formalities of his reception were no sooner over than he mounted his horse again and rode out to review the uniformed companies of the city. These companies consisted then of several hundred men, the elite of the city — merchants, lawyers, the sons of planters, clerks and others, who were well equipped and not a little proud of their appearance and discipline. The General complimented them warmly, addressed the principal officers, inquired respecting the numbers, history and organization of the companies, and left them captivated with his frank and straightforward mode of procedure.
JACKSON’s FIRST “CONQUEST” OF NEW ORLEANS.
Jackson’s first conquest of New Orleans differed so from the conquest that made him president, that it deserves more than a passing mention. Rough of speech, fond of telling stories that would go better around a soldier’s campfire than in an aristocrat’s drawing room, and given to expressing himself in language that shocked the gentle members of his committee of defense, the Creoles of New Orleans, contrary to their usual course of action whenever any person of distinction visited the city, did not invite the gaunt, swearing and crude major general to their homes.
Jackson had been planning the defense of New Orleans some days before he made his polite bow to society of the city. Edward Livingston, who was the General’s military secretary, learned that his wife, herself a full-blooded French Creole and an acknowledged leader of the society of her Creole city, was to give a dinner to a party of belles of the intimate circle she ruled, told her that he had invited Jackson to attend and that the General had accepted.
Mrs. Livingston, who had heard some of the many tales of the rough Jackson, as had every first family in town, was dismayed and took her lawyer husband to task for having such a disregard of the amenities as to bring “that wild Indian-fighter from Tennessee to a dinner party of young ladies!” Her husband smiled as he was berated and bidding his wife remain calm until she saw the fire-eater, added, “He will capture you at first sight.”
Livingston afterwards told the story with great glee. He described how the hero of Horseshoe Bend and Pensacola clattered up to the Livingston domicile on horseback, a.nd how the party of Creole belles sat stiffly in the drawing room holding, their breaths in awe of the contretempts they felt was to follow.
“I ushered General Jackson into the drawing room and presented him to Madame who was surrounded by a dozen or more young ladies,” said Livingston. “The General was in the full-dress uniform of his rank — that of major general in the regular army. This was a blue frock-coat with buff facings and gold lace, white waistcoat and close fitting breeches, also of white cloth, with morocco boots reaching above the knees.
“To my astonishment this uniform was new, spotlessly clean and fitted his tall, slender form perfectly. I had seen him before only in the somewhat worn and careless fatigue uniform he wore on duty at headquarters. I had to confess to myself that the new and perfectly fitting full-dress uniform made almost another man of him.
“I also observed that he had two sets of manners: One for the headquarters, where he dealt with men and the problems of war: the other for the drawing-room, where he met the gentler sex and was bound by the etiquette of fair society. But he was equally at home in either. When we reached the middle of the room all the ladies rose. I said: ‘Madame and Mesdemoiselles, I have the honor to present Major-General Jackson of the United States Army.’
“The General bowed to Madame, and then right and left to the young ladies about her. Madame advanced to meet him, took his hand and then presented him to the young ladies severally, name by name. Unfortunately, of the twelve or more young ladies present — all of whom happened to be French — not more than three could speak English; and as the General understood not a word of French — except, perhaps, Sacre bleu — general conversation was restricted.
“However, we at once sought the table, where we placed the General between Madame Livingston and Mile. Eliza Chotard, an excellent English scholar, and with their assistance as interpreters, he kept up a lively all-round chat with the entire company. Of our wines he seemed to fancy most a fine old Maderia and remarked that he had not tasted anything like it since Burr’s dinner at Philadelphia in 1797 when he (Jackson) was a senator. I well remembered that occasion, having been then a member of Congress from New York and one of Burr’s guests.
“‘So you have known Mr. Livingston a very long time,’ exclaimed Mile. Chotard.
“‘Oh yes, Miss Chotard,’ he replied, ‘I had the honor to know Mr. Livingston probably before the world was blessed by your existence.”
“This was only one among a perfect fusillade of quick and apt compliments he bestowed with charming impartiality upon Madame Livingston and all her pretty guests.
When the dinner was over he spent half an hour or so with me in my library when he returned to the drawing room to take leave of the ladies, as he still had much work before him at headquarters that night. During the whole occasion the ladies, who thought of nothing but the impending invasion, wanted to talk about it almost exclusively. But he gently parried the subject. The only thing he said about it that I can remember was to assure Madame that while ‘possibly the British soldiers might get near enough to see the church-spires that pointed to heaven from the sanctuaries of your religion, none should ever get even a glimpse of the inner sanctuaries of your homes.’ I confess that I myself more than once marvelled at the unstudied elegance of his language and even more at the apparently spontaneous promptings of his gallantry.”
It has since been pointed out that Livingston was not the only man in New Orleans whom Jackson puzzled in this respect. Rough as he was, he possessed a trait of gentle chivalry which only the society of the gentler sex could ever call forth. It was in singular contrast to the sententious autocracy of speech and manner that so often characterized his intercourse with men in public affairs.
“When the General was gone,” Livingston records, “the ladies no longer restrained their enthusiasm. ‘Is this your savage Indian-fighter?’ they demanded in a chorus of their own language. ‘Is this your rough frontier General? Shame on you, Mr. Livingston, to deceive us so! He is a veritable preux chevalier!’ And I must confess that Madame was as voluble in her reproaches as any of the young ladies. I was glad to escape in a few minutes, when I went to join the General at headquarters, where we were busy until near two a. m. with the preliminary work of the campaign.”
When Madame Livingston’s gay guests dispersed that evening, they carried tidings of Jackson’s first “conquest” of New Orleans far into the homes of the elete of Creole society. Wonderful stories concerning the suavity and aplomb of the great American general, who was to protect them and their sanctuaries from invasion and rapine, were told — and believed. He captivated the women of the city as successfully as he commanded the men.
(December 14, 1814)
THE BATTLE OF THE GUN BOATS.
“A storm on the 9th of December, 1814, greeted the first appearance of the British fleet off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico,” writes Judge Alexander Walker in his entertaining “Jackson and New Orleans.”
“To minds less buoyant and confident than those of the sanguine and hitherto irresistible veterans of that gallant array of naval and military power this occurrence might have appeared as an evil augury. Soon, however, the storm lulled, the clouds passed quickly away and the bright sun came forth to cheer the hearts of the crowded crews. A favorable wind bears the squadron rapidly onward in the direction of the entrance of Lake Borgne. The huge Tonnant, the same which was captured at Abouquir in Nelson’s great fight, after the gallant Dupetit Thouars had flooded her decks with his noble blood that flowed from a dozen wounds, now commanded by the white-haired British Vice-Admiral, and the gallant Sea-horse, with her corklegged Captain, lead the van. Behind follow the long train of every variety of sailing craft, from the great ships of war, with their frowning batteries, to the little trim sloops and schooners of fifteen or twenty ton, designed to penetrate the bays and inlets of the coast.
“The pilots, who have accompanied the fleets from the West Indies, have announced that the land is not far off and all parties are on deck, eagerly straining their eyes for a view of the desired shore. There, in the distance, they soon discover a long, shingling white line, which sparkles in the sun like an island of fire. Presently it becomes more distinct and substantial and the man at the look-out proclaims ‘land ahead’. The leading ships approach as near as is prudent and their crews, especially the land troops, experience no little disappointment at the bleak and forbidding aspect of Dauphine island, with its long, sandy beach, its dreary, stunted pines, and the entire absence of any vestige of settlement or cultivation. Turning to the west, the fleet avoids the island and proceeds towards a favorable anchorage in the direction of the Chandeleur islands, the wind in the meantime having chopped around and blowing too strong from the shore to justify an attempt to enter the lake at night.
“As the Tonnant and Sea-horse pass near to Dauphine Island, the attention of the Vice-Admiral is called to two small vessels, lying between the island and the shore. They are neat little craft, sloop-rigged, and evidently armed. They appear to be watching the movements of the British ships and when the latter take a western course, they weigh anchor and follow in the same direction. At night-fall the signal ‘to anchor’ is made from the Tonnant and the order is quickly obeyed by all the vessels in the squadron.
“The suspicious little sloops, as if in apprehension of a night attack of boats, then press all sail and proceed in the direction of Biloxi Bay. They prove to be the United States gunboats No. 23, Lieutenant McKeever, (afterwards Commodore McKeever), No. 163, Sailing Master Ulrick, which had been detached from the squadron of Lieutenant Thomas Ap Catesby Jones (later the Commodore Jones who ran up the first American flag at Monterey, California, in 1847), who had been sent by Commodore Patterson with six gunboats, one tender, and a despatch boat, to watch and report the approach of the British. In case their fleet succeeded in entering the lake, he was to be prepared to cut off their barges and prevent the landing of the troops. If hard pressed by a superior force, his orders were to fall back upon a mud fort, the Petites Coquilles, near the mouth of the Rigolets and shelter his vessels under its guns.
“The two boats which had attracted the notice of the British Vice-Admiral, joined the others of the squadron that night near Biloxi. The next day, the 10th of December, at dawn, or as soon as the fog cleared off, Jones was amazed to observe the deep water between Ship and Cat Islands where the current flows, crowded with ships and vessels of every calibre and description. The Tonnant having anchored off the Chandeleurs, the Sea-horse was now the foremost ship. Jones immediately made for Pass Christian with his little fleet, where he anchored, and quietly awaited the approach of the British vessels.
“In compact and regular order, the fleet moved slowly through the passage between Cat and Ship Islands and along the east coast of the former island presenting, under a bright sun and cloudless sky, a most impressive marine panorama. Soon, however, the soundings warned
the British that they were getting into shallow water and the line-of-battle ships came to anchor. They were now, however, safe within American waters, almost in Lake Borgne, and preparations were actively commenced to relieve the ships of the impatient and restless mass of belligerent mortality with which they were crowded. The troops were therefore embarked on the transports and smaller vessels. Before, however, the landing could be attempted, it was necessary to clear the lake of the agile and well-managed little American gunboats, which hovered in their front and appeared ready to pounce down on any smaller craft that might trust themselves too far from the shelter of the batteries of the ships of the line.
“Vice-Admiral Cochrane, who directed all the movements relating to the landing of the troops, proceeded to organize an expedition of barges to attack and destroy the gun-boats. The command of this enterprise was confided to Captain Lockyer, the same naval officer who endeavored to persuade Jean Lafitte to come over to the English, who was presumed to be better acquainted with the coast than any other officer. Captain Lockyer had also commanded one of the sloops in the attack of Fort Bowyer and, no doubt, longed for an opportunity of wiping from the escutcheon of the British Navy the disgrace of that defeat. All the launches, barges and pinnaces of the fleet were collected together. The barges had been made expressly for this expedition, and were nearly as large as Jones’ gunboats, each carrying eighty men. To these were added the gigs of the Tonnant and Sea-horse. There were forty launches, mounting each one carronade 12, 18 or 24 calibre; one launch, with one long brass pounder; another with a brass nine-pounder; and three gigs, with small arms. There were, therefore, in all, forty-five boats and forty-two cannon, manned by a thousand sailors and marines picked from the crews of the ships.
“Captain Lockyer was ably seconded in the organization and direction of this formidable fleet by his subordinates, Montressor of the Manly, and Roberts of the Meteor, both veteran and experienced officers.
“On the evening of the 12th the flotilla moved in beautiful order from the anchorage of the squadron near Ship Island, in the direction of Pass Christian. It consisted of three divisions under the three officers named. Gallantly, and in perfect line, these divisions advanced along the white shores of what is now the coast of the State of Mississippi for a distance of thirty-six miles, the boats being rowed by the hardy sailors, without resting.
“When morning broke on the 13th, the flotilla had arrived near the Bay of St. Louis, whither three of the barges were detached to capture the small schooner Sea-horse, which Jones had sent into the bay for the purpose of removing some stores deposited there.
“As soon as the barges came within range of her guns, the Sea-horse opened upon them a well-directed and effective fire. At the same time two six pounders, placed in battery on the shore, followed up the discharge of the Seahorse and, striking the barges, wounded several of the men. The barges then drew off towards the main body of the flotilla when, thinking they had retired for reinforcement and apprehending a renewal of the attack by the whole force of Lockyer, the captain of the Sea-horse blew her up and set fire to the stores on shore, which were entirely destroyed.
“But the British commander had no idea of diverting his energies from the serious task before him. The staunch little gun-boat fleet lay just ahead in battle array as if inviting, rather than avoiding the combat.
“It is due, however, to Jones’ reputation as a good officer to add that he had attempted to obey Patterson’s order and fall back to the fort at Petit Coquilles. In vain he tried to beat into the Rigolets, against the strong current of that strait. Finally, his vessels were carried into the narrow channel between Malheureux Island and Point Clear on the main land.
“There they became unmanageable, several of the vessels sticking fast in the mud. Then Jones resolved to bide the issue of a fight.
“At daylight on the 14th, the flotilla could be seen at anchor nine miles off. The men were refreshing themselves after their severe rowing. Jones called aboard his flagship, a little sloop of eighty tons, all the officers of his Lilliputian squadron and addressing them in the style of a blunt, sturdy sailor, gave them their several commands and prepared for a vigorous resistance. His officers were all young men, full of courage, vigor and activity. His orders were to form with their boats a close line abreast across the channel, anchored by the stern, with springs on their cables. At a given signal they were to open upon the enemy with their long guns and, when the barges closed upon them, they were to ply their musketry with all their activity.
“The squadron consisted of the following gun-boats: No. 5 with five guns and thirty-six men, commanded by Sailing Master John D. Ferris; gunboat No. 23, with five guns and thirty-nine men, under Lieutenant Isaac McKeever; gun-boat No. 156, with five guns and forty-one men, under Lieutenant commanding Thomas Ap Catesby Jones; gun-boat No. 162 with five guns and thirty-five men, under Lieutenant Robert Spedden; gun-boat No. 163, with three guns and thirty-one men, under Sailing-Master Ulrick-total, five gun-boats, twenty-three guns and one hundred and eighty-two men. This was certainly a small force to repel the powerful flotilla which was bearing down upon them, having about 2,500 men.
“The morning was bright, cool and bracing. There was not a breath of air to stir the surface of the placid entrance to the lake. The men in the British flotilla took their breakfast as gaily and pleasantly as if it were a sportive occasion and then stood to their arms. The flotilla approached with all the precision of soldiers in line; Jones’ gunners fixed their eyes steadily upon the imposing array of bristling barges, measuring coolly the distance, in order to ascertain when they might come in range of their long guns. Just as the Americans are about to level their pieces, the flotilla comes to a grapnel and appears to be deliberating on the expediency of attacking so determined a little squadron. A division of the barges is now detached from the main line of the flotilla, and bears towards the west. The object of this movement is understood in Jones’ fleet, when a little white speck is discerned in the distance, which soon assumes the shape of a small fishing smack. This proves to be the Alligator, a little tender, armed with a four-pounder and eight men, under sailing master, Richard S. Sheppard.
“The Alligator was making every effort to join Jones’ squadron to take part in the approaching combat, but the wind had lulled and she could make no progress. Lockyer detached four boats, with nearly two hundred men, under Captain Roberts, to capture this formidable ship-of-war, with her eight sailors and toy gun. It is due to the British Navy to state that they succeeded in effecting this object without much loss. Roberts returned to the flotilla in triumph with his splendid prize, and was received with three loud cheers. The stout sailor could not, however, suppress a smile when he boarded his capture and ascertained her force and metal. Perhaps, under all the circumstances, Captain Lockyer may be excused for the slight exaggeration, in his description of this little cockle-shell ‘as an armed sloop.’ But it is due to history to state, that this high-sounding designation has been conferred on Commodore Porter’s old gig!
“Somewhat animated by this little achievement, Lockyer ordered his men to refresh themselves with a hearty meal, adding an extra allowance of Jamaica rum, to increase their appetite for the feast and the fray which was to follow. At half-past ten the flotilla weighed anchor, and bore down upon Jones’ squadron in open order, forming a line abreast extending nearly from the mainland to the Malheureux Island. The appearance of the flotilla, as the barges with unbroken front swept rapidly and boldly forward — the six oars on each side dipping in the water with the regularity of clock-work and glittering in the sunbeams as they rose and fell — the red shirts of the sailors, the shining muskets of the marines, and the formidable carronades which protruded so threateningly from the bows of the barges, constituted an impressive spectacle, one well calculated to try the nerves of that heroic band which stood on the decks of those little sloops, with lighted matches and muskets cocked, ready to meet more than quadruple their numbers in deadly combat.
“So calm and quiet was the aspect of Jones’ fleet that the British believed they were about to surrender without essaying so vain a resistance against an overpowering force. But they were soon aroused from this delusion by the booming of McKeever’s thirty-two pounder and a shower of grape-shot that carried destruction among the flotilla and seriously disturbed their line. With amazing rapidity this gun continued her fire, and presently the other guns of Jones’ fleet joined in. The barges, though evidently crippled and damaged by this heavy fire, pushed steadily forward and began a lively response with their carronades. A brisk firing was continued for some time; but Lockyer soon perceived that in such a contest the gun-boats had the advantage and accordingly, he ordered the barges to close in and board.
“Owing to the force of the current and the unmanageable state of the boats, Jones’ and Ulrich’s vessels (156 and 163) had been borne out of the line one hundred yards in advance of the others — Jones’ boat was a little ahead. Captain Lockyer seeing this, determined to attack the boats in detail. Breaking this flotilla into three divisions he pressed forward with the advance, composed of four barges and two gigs, against the flat boat. He was met by a most destructive volley of grape and musketry. Every shot appeared to take effect. Two of the barges were capsized and the men were barely saved from drowning by clinging to the boat’s sides until others could come up and rescue them. Nearly all the men on board these barges were killed or wounded. Undismayed by this awful destruction, four other barges pushed forward and renewed the attack and, getting near Jones’ boat, poured upon her decks an incessant fire of musketry.
“Jones, standing on the deck exposed to this fire, determined to sell his life as dearly as possible and singling out the officer who in the captain’s gig appeared to be the most active in inciting the British sailors and marines discharged his pistol at him and the Briton fell mortally wounded in the arms of the sailors. This officer was Lieutenant Pratt, the first of the Sea-horse, the same who under the orders of Admiral Cockburn, burnt the Capital and other buildings, at Washington, in the summer of 1814.
“The British sought immediate revenge for the fall of their gallant young officer and a dozen muskets were brought to bear upon Jones at once, several balls passed through his clothes and cap — but one struck him in the shoulder, where it remained to his death.
“The wound was so painful that he could not stand up under it and was dragged below by his men, crying out, however, to Parker, his second in command: ‘Keep up the fight, keep up the fight.’ Parker shouted: ‘Aye! aye!’ but the words had hardly escaped his lips whom he was shot down and the British, now closing upon the little boat, clambered up her sides and appeared on her deck in such overwhelming forces as to render further resistance vain. In accomplishing this feat, however, they had suffered most grievously. Lockyer had received three wounds, all severe; and poor Lieutenant George Pratt, was fairly riddled with balls, yet he continued to fight to the last. The fighting on No. 156 was now over but, strange to say, the stars and stripes still continued to wave at her masthead and so remained until the fighting was over in the other boats. Perhaps, considering the heavy loss they had sustained for so small a capture, the British did not think they were entitled to lower the American flag. Indeed their commander was too sorely wounded and in too great pain, to think of any further action after he had gained the decks of the flag-boat, upon reaching which he fainted from loss of blood, and was taken below and laid by the side of his gallant antagonist.
“Meantime, the guns of Jones’ boat were turned upon the others, under the direction of Lieutenant Tatnall, a gallant and enterprising officer — the same who had been captured by the French in a bloody naval contest a few years before — who, escaping from a French prison in the guise of a monk, reached the seashore of France and in a small open boat joined the English fleet in the channel.
“At the same time, Captain Montressor, with his division of barges, closed upon Ulrick’s boat. They were held at bay for some time, but being reinforced by the other division under Roberts, soon succeeded in overpowering the little vessel. The guns of these two boats were then concentrated upon the other gunboats, and particularly upon the nearest one, under Lieutenant Robert Spedden; but that gallant young officer undaunted by the disasters which had overtaken his companions, returned this fire with an alacrity and vigor which drove the barges to take shelter behind the two boats that had been captured. Here, combining and arranging their forces into one powerful division, Montressor and Roberts again threw themselves upon Spedden’s little craft, with more than a dozen barges, filled with several hundred sailors and marines. Though surrounded, the little gunboat did not yield, but showered her iron hail upon the crowded barges with most destructive vigor. A grapeshot had shattered Spedden’s left arm at the elbow. Regardless of his wounds the brave young sailor held his post, giving orders to his men and cheering them with his words and with a countenance in whicih gallantry and heroism conquered the agony of a painful wound. Occupying an exposed and conspicuous position on the deck of the boat, Spedden became the target of the British marines for their musket exercise. He noted particularly one fellow in the bow of the nearest barge aiming at him with the coolness and precision of a sportsman shooting a pigeon. He was a good marksman and lodged a musket-ball in Spedden’s shoulder which deprived him of the use of his right arm.
“He was thus without the use of either arm. Mutilated and covered with blood — his men rapidly falling around him (the other boats being in the hands of the enemy), this gallant young man did not yield until, overpowered by numbers, he was forced below by the British, who rushed upon deck and took possession of the boat. The guns of the captured boats were next turned upon Ferri’s boat, No. 5, with such effect as to dismount her most effective weapon, a twenty-four-pounder, and after this, the barges encountered but little difficulty in boarding and capturing her. Meantime, McKeever, on No. 23, kept up a brisk fire on the barges with his thirty-two-pounders. But the guns of the other boats were all turned upon him and further resistance became vain — so he surrendered at halfpast twelve p. m.
“Thus closed this very remarkable and gallant action. It was maintained by both parties for three hours, with great courage and activity. Both did their duty faithfully. The British, though numerically and in metal vastly superior to the Americans, were in open boats, exposed to a heavy fire for some time, without the ability to return it with effect. They certainly displayed great gallantry and determination in advancing against such a fire as Jones opened upon them. But the Americans, too, labored under great disadvantages. Owing to the state of the tide and wind, Jones’ boat having become detached from the others, the British were able to concentrate upon it a powerful force, and its capture rendered that of the others inevitable. The gunboats could thus be attacked in detail. It was, therefore, really when the close fighting commenced, a combat between one or two gunboats of ten guns and less than a hundred men, and some twenty-five or thirty barges, with more than six hundred men. The other boats, in the meantime, could not take part in the fight when the barges closed upon their companions, as they could not use their guns. Having captured two of the gunboats, the British could turn their own guns on the remaining ones, which lay entirely at their mercy.
“The results will show how severe and gallant an action 1t was. The Americans lost, in killed and wounded, about one-third their number (according to Jones’ official report 6 killed and 35 wounded). Among the wounded were Jones, Spedden, McKeever and Parker. The British loss was much more severe. Thirteen British ships of war were represented in the ghastly heap of killed and wounded that were strewn uoon the decks of the gunboats after this severe action. Of these, three midshipmen, thirteen seamen, and one marine were reported dead; and one captain, four lieutenants, one lieutenant of marines, three master-mates, seven midshipmen, fifty seamen and eleven marines were wounded. Many of the wounded died before they got to the squardon, and not a few were killed and wounded who did not figure in the returns. (The official British loss was reported to be 94 and among them were 22 officers.)
“It would not be extravagant to estimate the number of those in the British flotilla, placed hors de combat in this action, as fully equal to the whole number of Americans engaged. Of the officers, Captain Lockyer was very badly wounded in several places -not, as has been frequently stated, in a hand-to-hand fight on the deck of Jones’ flagboat, but in attempting to bring his barge alongside. Lieutenant George Pratt, second of the frigate Sea-horse, who was in the same boat with Lockyer. was shot down by his side several times, in attempting to board the gun-boat. Lieutenant Tatnall, of the Tonnant, had his boat sunk, and rescuing himself and hia men, succeeded in getting into another barge. Lieutenant Roberts, also of the Tonnant, was wounded in closing with the gunboats. Besides these, there were ten midshipmen killed and wounded. These results show that the victory of the British was a costly one. There was not much rejoicing and exultation over it. The groans and cries of the wounded were the prevalent notes in that melancholy squadron as it returned to the anchorage of the British fleet.
“And yet their victory was one of great value and importance. It not only cleared Lake Borgne of all enemies, but supplied Sir Alexander Cochrane with a very important addition to his fleet of smaller vessels, so much needed in effecting a landing of the army. It was late in the afternoon when the barges and gunboats returned to Ship Island. On their appearance they were loudly cheered by the sailors and soldiers of the ships; but they were too much wearied and oppressed by the severity of their loss, to give more than a feeble and faint response. It was more like a wail than a cheer. The wounded were removed to a large store-ship, the Gorgon, where the Americans were attended by the same surgeons who ministered the British. Jones, and Spedden, being very severely wounded, were confined in the cabin for many weary days. Though all that skill and kindness could accomplish was done for them, their condition was one of nervous anxiety and painful apprehension for the fate of the city, for whose defense they had so gallantly fought. From the port-holes of the hospital ship they could perceive the movements going on in the fleet around them, the arrival and despatch of troops, the hum and buzz of preparations for the disembarkation. The agony of their wounds was dreadfullv increased bv the reflection that the city had no means of defense — that it must inevitably fall into the hands of their powerful foe. Thev had not heard of the arrival of any troops there. Jackson had not reached the city when their little fleet left the port to watch the entrance of the Lake. Nothing, it seemed to them, but a miracle could save New Orleans.
“The officers of the British fleet were kind and considerate to their unfortunate and gallant foes, but even they could not conceal their exultation, their confidence in the complete success of the expedition, and of the measures referring to their comfort and enjoyment which were to follow that event.
“Among other incidents, illustrative of the confidence of the British and full of painful interests to the wounded prisoners, was the introduction to them of the future collector of the revenue of his Britannic Majesty in the Port of New Orleans, in the person of a tall and gentlemanly individual, who conversed freely with the Americans respecting his future arrangements for the discharge of his duties. How these painful feelings of the young American sailors fluctuated and varied with every indication of the occurrences, which, unknown to them, were transpiring on the mainland — how eagerly they harkened to the distant roar of artillery, kept up continuously for fourteen days — with what agonizing suspense they observed boats returning to the fleet with wounded men, and reloading with fresh recruits from the ships, including the greater part even of the common sailors, and with large cannon taken from these decks of the ships of war — how they were struck with the silent and changed expression of the British officers, who gave their orders in sharp, angry, anxious tones; and how, at last, their pains grew lighter, their wounds were forgotten, the groans and dying sighs of those around them were unheeded, when the gloomy portents and signs of the English fleet began to proclaim more emphatically than words could, the astounding and glorious result; and how despite wounds, debility and the presence of their enemies, these gallant sailors could not, even in that awful place, surrounded by the dead and dying, suppress the involuntary cheer of joyful exultation over these proofs of the triumph of American valor and how, then, with a smile on his face, the gallant Spedden submitted cheerfully to the terrible operation of amputation of his arm; and the heroic Jones could regard with pride, rather than sorrow, the mutilation of the same member, are transitions whose intensity can be better imagined than described, which have been rarely equalled in dramatic effect by any of the realities of history, or the creations of poetry.
“As soon as intelligence of the capture of the gallant tars was received in New Orleans, Mr. Shields, a purser in the navy, and Dr. Morrell, were dispatched by Commodore Patterson with a flag of truce to the British fleet at Cat Island, for the purpose of affording to the wounded prisoners such comforts and necessaries as their situation might demand. On their arrival off Cat Island, they were received by Vice-Admiral Cochrane, and were told that their visit was a very inopportune one, and he should be compelled to detain them. They protested against such conduct as contrary to the laws of nations, as they came under a flag of truce and merely to relieve the sufferings of their unfortunate fellow-citizens, who had been wounded. Their protest was disregarded, and they were assigned a room in the cabin of the flag-ship, where they were closely guarded. Suspecting from the interrogatories of the British Commander, that every word which fell from them would be eagerly caught up and reported to the Vice-Admiral, Shields and Morrell in their conversations never failed to dwell on the powerful force which Jackson had collected to defend the city, or the myriads of Western riflemen that were flocking to his standard, and the severe chastisement which awaited the British if they dared to advance upon the city. These artful statements produced the desired effect on the minds of the British commanders, and contributed to the deliberation and slowness of movement which marked their subsequent course.”
The capture of the gun-boats gave the British command of the lake and enabled them to land at any point they desired, without the fear of disturbance, or even detection.
THE PREPARATIONS FOR DEFENDING THE CITY.
Andrew Jackson had the task of resisting the invasion of one of the finest armies ever sent from England. The city he was to save was absolutely without defenses, save the natural ones the swampy land presented, but he did not bemoan this fact and sit around wishing conditions were different. Figuratively speaking, he threw off his rusty uniform coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves and started to work.
What these preparations were are best told by Major A. LaCarriere Latour in his excellent “Memoirs,” which must forever remain the text-book of the campaign before New Orleans:
“General Jackson was returning from a tour of observation to the river of Chef-Menteur when the intelligence of the loss of the gunboats reached him. He immediately ordered the militia battalion of men of color, commanded by Major Lacoste and the dragoons of Feliciana, to proceed with two pieces of cannon and take post at the confluence of Bayou Sauvage and the river of Chef-Menteur in order to cover the road to the city on that side and to watch the enemy’s movements. Major Lacoste was also ordered to erect a close redoubt surrounded with a fosse according to a plan which he drew agreeable to General lackson’s orders.
“On his arrival in town, the General bent his attention to the fortifying of all assailable points, it being impossible to ascertain which the enemy would make choice of, the want of vessels on the lake depriving us of all means of obtaining any certain intelligence of his movements before he could effect his landing.
“Captain Newman of the artillery, who commanded the port of Petites Coquilles, which stands at the inner entry of the pass of the Rigolets towards Lake Pontchartrain, was postiyely ordered to defend his post to the last extremity, and in case of his not being able to hold out, to spike the guns, blow up the fort, and evacuate on the post of Chef Menteur.
“Captain Pierre Jugeaut (Jackson’s invaluable Choctaw half-breed), was authorized to levy and form into companies all the Choctaw Indians he could collect. On the 15th the commander-in-chief informed Generals Coffee, Carroll and Thomas of the takings of the gun-boats, by letters sent by express, and urged them to use all possible speed in marching to New Orleans with the troops under their command. General Winchester, commanding at Mobile, was also informed of the loss of our naval force, and it was earnestly recommended to him to use the greatest vigilance in protecting the vicinity of that town, as the enemy might endeavor to make an attack in that quarter.
“On the 16th General Jackson wrote to the Secretary of War, apprising him of the capture of the gunboats; he expressed to him his concern for the consequences that might attend that event, which he apprehended might happen when he wrote to government suggesting the propriety of giving the necessary orders for finishing the block ship then building at Tchifonte, and when he gave orders for supplying Forts Strother Williams and Jackson with six months’ provisions. The General apprehended lest the interruption of our communications by water with Mobile might be attended with consequences fatal to the safety of the country. He, however, assured the Secretary of War that, should the enemy effect a landing he would, with the help of God, do all he could to repel him. He also informed the Secretary that neither the Tennessee troops nor those of Kentucky had yet arrived but that they were daily expected and that in the meanwhile he was putting the river below the city in the best possible state of defense. He acquainted him with the taking of the post of the Balize (at the mouth of the Mississippi River) with all the pilots and a detachment of troops that was there stationed, but he informed him at the same time of the establishment of martial law and of the rising of the militia in mass. ‘The country,’ said the General, ’shall be defended, if in the power of the physical force it contains, with the auxiliary force ordered. We have no arms here — will the government order a supply? If it will, let it be speedily. Without arms, a defense cannot be made.’
“During the summer while yet among the Creeks, General Jackson had made a requisition of a quantity of arms, ammunition, heavy cannon, balls, bombs, etc,, to be sent to New Orleans; but such was the fatality that appeared to be attached to all the measures adopted for our defense, that it was not till the middle of January, 1815, that a very small portion of what had been ordered arrived at New Orleans.
“A special law of the State had some time before authorized the formation of a battalion of free men of colour. It had already taken the field under the command of Major Lacoste and had been stationed at Chef-Menteur. Colonel Michael Fortier, senior, a respectable and worthy citizen of New Orleans, having the superior command of all the corps of men of colour presided over the levying of a new battalion of the same description formed by the exertions and under the direction of the gallant Captain Savary, who had occupied an honorable and distinguished reputation in the wars of St. Domingo. It was chiefly with refugees from that island that Colonel Savary formed that battalion, whose officers were immediately commissioned by the governor of the State; and its command was confided to Major Daquin of the Second Regiment of militia. We shall, hereafter, see in the relation of the different engagements that that brave corps realized by a brilliant display of valour, the hopes that had been conceived of it.
“The capture of the gunboats was announced to the Senate and House of Representatives of the State by a message from the Governor: ‘I lay before you,’ said he, ‘a letter addressed to me by Commodore Patterson, announcing the capture of five of the United States gunboats of the New Orleans station by a vastly superior force of the enemy. The length of the combat is a proof of the valour and firmness with which our gallant tars maintained the unequal contest and leaves no doubt that, although compelled ultimately to strike, their conduct has been such as to reflect honour upon the American name and navy. The ascendency which the enemy has now acquired on the coast of the lake, increases the necessity of enlarging our measures of defense.’
“Commodore Patterson addressed a second letter to the governor in which he complained of the want of seamen to man the armed vessels then at New Orleans and requested the support and assistance of the State authorities. This letter was laid by the governor before the Legislature who passed a resolution giving a bounty of twenty-four dollars to each seaman who would enter the service of the United States for three months arid to this end placed at the disposition of the governor six thousand dollars. The governor forthwith issued his proclamation. Between seventy and eighty sailors received the bounty of the State and were of the number of those brave tars who by their incessant fire from the ship Louisiana and the schooner Carolina so annoyed the enemy in all his movements and so particularly harassed him on the night of the 23rd of December as will be seen hereafter.
“On the 18th of December, General Jackson reviewed the New Orleans militia, the first and second regiments, the battalion of uniform companies under the command of Major Plauche and part of the free men of colour. Addresses were read to them and answered with accalmations of applause. My voice is too weak to speak of these addresses in adequate terms; I leave the reader to form an idea of the effect they must have produced on the minds of the militia, from the impression that the mere perusal of them will make on himself.”
General Jackson’s stirring address to his untried fighting men was read by Edward Livingston, who was then acting as the General’s chief aid. While this address was evidently written by Livingston, it is so typically Jacksonian in character as to leave no doubt who dictated it:
TO THE EMBODIED MILITIA.
Fellow citizens and soldiers!
The General-commanding-in-chief would not do justice to the noble ardour that has animated you in the hour of danger, he would not do justice to his own feeling if he suffered the example you have shown to pass without public notice. Inhabitants of an opulent and commercial town, you have, by a spontaneous effort, shaken off the habits which are created by wealth and shown that you are resolved to deserve the blessings of fortune by bravely defending them. Long strangers to the perils of war you have embodied yourselves to face them with the cool countenance of veterans — and with motives of disunion that might operate on weak minds, you have forgotten the difference of language and the prejudices of national pride and united with a cordiality that does honour to your understandings as well as to your patriotism. Natives of the United States! They are the oppressors of your infant political existence with whom you are to contend — they are the men your fathers conquered whom you are to oppose. Descendants of Frenchmen! natives of France! they are English, the hereditary, the eternal enemies of your ancient country, the invaders of that you have adopted, who are your foes. Spaniards! remember the conduct of your allies at St. Sebastians and recently at Pensacola and rejoice that you have an opportunity of avenging the brutal injuries inflicted by men who dishonour the human race.
Fellow citizens of every description, remember for what and against whom you contend. For all that can render life desirable — for a country blessed with every gift of nature — for property, for life — for those dearer than either, your wives and children — and for liberty, without which, country, life, property are no longer worth possessing; as even the embraces of wives and children become a reproach to the wretch who would deprive them by his cowardice of those invaluable blessings. You are to contend for all this against an enemy whose continued effort is to deprive you of the least of these blessings — who avows a war of vengeance and desolation, carried on and marked by cruelty, lust and horrors unknown to civilized nations.
Citizens of Louisiana! the general commanding in chief rejoices to see the spirit that animates you, not only for your honour, but for your safety; for, whatever had been your conduct or wishes, his duty would have led and will now lead him to confound the citizen unmindful of his rights with the enemy he ceases to oppose. Now, leading men who know their rights, who are determined to defend them, he salutes you, brave Louisianians, as brethren in arms and has now a new motive to exert all his faculties which shall be strained to the utmost in your defense. Continue with the energy you have begun and he promises you not only safety but victory over the insolent enemy who insulted you by an effected doubt of your attachment to the constitution of your country.
TO THE BATTALION OP UNIFORM COMPANIES.
When I first looked at you on the day of my arrival, 1 was satisfied with your appearance and every day’s inspection since has confirmed the opinion I then formed. Your numbers have increased with the increase of danger and your ardour has augmented since it was known that your post would be one of peril and honour. This is the true love of country! You have added to it an exact discipline and a skill in evolutions rarely attained by veterans; the state of your corps does equal honour to the skill of the officers and the attention of the men. With such defenders our country has nothing to fear. Everything I have said to the body of militia applies equally to you — you have made the same sacrifices — you have the same country to defend, the same motive for exertion — but I should have been unjust had I not noticed as it deserved, the excellence of your discipline and the martial appearance of your corps.
TO THE MEN OF COLOUR.
Soldiers: — From the shores of Mobile I collected you to arms — I invited you to share in the perils and to divide the glory of your white countrymen. I expected much from you for I was not uninformed of those qualities which must render you so formidable to an invading foe — I knew that you could endure hunger and thirst and all the hardship of the war — I knew that you loved the land of your nativity and that like ourselves, you had to defend all that is most dear to man — but you surpass my hopes. I have found in you united to those qualities, that noble enthusiasm which impels to great deeds.
Soldiers — The President of the United States shall be informed of your conduct on the present occasion and the voice of the representatives of the American nation shall applaud your valour, as your General now praises your ardour. The enemy is near; his “sails cover the lakes;” but the brave are united and if he finds us contending among ourselves it will be for the prize of valour and fame, its noblest reward.
Thomas L. Butler,
These corps had two days before they entered upon actual service and did regular duty like troops of the line. On the 18th Plauche’s battalion was sent to Bayou St. John and the major took command of that post.
A general order of this day enjoined all officers commanding detachments, outposts and pickets on the approach of the enemy, to remove out of his reach every kind of stock, horses, etc., and provisions, and directed them upon their responsibility to oppose the invaders at every point and harass them by all possible means. It concluded with this animating sentence:
“The Major-General, anticipating that the enemy will penetrate into this district in a few days, requests of the people of Louisiana to do their duty cheerfully and bear the fatigues incident to a state of war as becomes a great people, anticipating from the ardour pervading, and the present help at hand, to make an easy conquest of them and teach them in future to respect the rights of liberty and the property of free men.”
“The garrison of Fort St. John, on Lake Pontchartrain, had been reinforced by the volunteer company of light artillery under the command of Lieutenant Wagner,” Major Latour continues in his excellent narrative, “by an order of the day of the 19th, the commander-in-chief ordered several persons confined in the different military prisons, for having violated the laws of the country, to be set at liberty on their offering to take up arms in defense of the country.
“But that favor was restricted to such persons as were within two months of completing the term of imprisonment to which they had been condemned. These and all others not under sentence were, in persuance of that order, set at liberty by the commanding officers at Fort St. Charles, the Barracks and the powder magazine.
“The country being now in imminent danger, it became necessary to adopt the most vigorous measures to prevent all communication with the enemy; and in order that such persons as might be apprehended for having given the British information as to the situation of the country, its means of defense in troops, artillery, fortification, etc., might not escape punishment, General Jackson wrote to the Governor suggesting to him the propriety of his recommending to the Legislature to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. As the danger was daily increasing the General could not without exposing the safety of the country whose defense was committed to him, wait till the dilatory forms of deliberation should empower him to take the steps necessary for saving it. Nor did it escape his penetration that the legislature was not disposed to second his views by that energetic measure. The hour of combat grew near, that of discussing, deliberating and referring to committees, had gone by.
“The time called for action and promptitude, and accordingly General Jackson proclaimed martial law and from that moment his means became more commensurate with the weight of responsibility he had to sustain. The object of his commission was to save the country; and this he was sensible could never be effected by half-measures. It was necessary that all the forces, all orders, all means of opposition to be directed against the enemy should receive their impulse from the center of the circumference they occupied. They ought to be radii, diverging from one and the same point, and not entangliner chords intersecting that circumference and each other. From the moment martial law was proclaimed everything proceeded with order and regularity, nor did any of our means prove abortive. Every individual was stationed at his proper post. The guard of the city was committed to the corps and veterans and fire-engine men who were to occupy the barracks, hospitals, and other posts as soon as the troops of the line and the militia should be commanded on service out of town.
“The privateers of Barataria and all persons arrested for or accused of any infraction of the revenue laws, sent to tender their services to General Jackson. Jean Lafitte, adhering to the line of conduct he had marked out for himself and from which he had never deviated from the beginning of September, when the British officers made him proposals, waited on the commander-in-chief who, in consideration of the eventful crisis, had obtained for him a safe conduct from Judge Hall, and from the marshal of the district.
“Mr. Lafitte solicited for himself and for all the Baratarians the honour of serving under our banners that they might have an opportunity of proving that if they had infringed the revenue laws, none were more ready than they to defend the country and combat its enemies.
“Persuaded that the assistance of these men could not fail of being very useful the General accepted their offers. Some days after a certain number of them formed a corps under the command of Captains Dominique You and Belauche and were employed during the whole campaign at the lines where, with distinguished skill they served two twenty-four-pounders Batteries Nos. 3 and 4. Others enlisted in one or other of the three companies of marines, raised by Captains Songis, Lagaud and Colson. The first of these companies was sent to the fort of Petites Coquilles, the second to that of St. Philip, and the third to Bayou St. John.
“All classes of society were now animated with the most ardent zeal. The young, the old; women and children, all breathed defiance to the enemy, firmly resolved to oppose to the utmost the threatened invasion. General Jackson had electrified all hearts; all were sensible of the approaching danger; but they waited its presence undismayed. They knew that in a few days they must come to action with the enemy; yet, calm and unalarmed, they pursued their usual occupations interrupted only when they tranquilly left their homes to perform military duty at the posts assigned them. It was known that the enemy was on our coast within a few hours’ sail of the city, with a presumed force of between nine and ten thousand men whilst all the forces we had yet to oppose him amounted to no more than one thousand regulars, and from four to five thousand militia.
“These circumstances were publicly known nor could anyone disguise, to himself or to others, the dangers with which we were threatened. Yet, such was the universal confidence inspired by the activity and decision of the commander-in-chief, added to the detestation in which the enemy was held and the desire to punish his audacity should he presume to land, that not a single warehouse or shop was shut nor were any goods or valuable effects removed from the city. At that period New Orleans presented a very effecting picture to the eyes of the patriot and of all those whose bosoms glow with the feelings of national honour which raise the mind far above the vulgar apprehension of personal danger.
“The citizens were preparing for battle as cheerfully as if it had been a party of pleasure each in his vernacular tongue singing songs of victory The steets resounded with Yankee Doodle, the Marseilles Hymn, the Chant du Depart and other military airs, while those who had been long unaccustomed to military duty, were burnishing their arms and accoutrements.
“Beauty applauded valour and promised with her smiles to reward the toils of the brave. Though inhabiting an open town, not above ten leagues from the enemy and never till now exposed to war’s alarms, the fair sex of New Orleans were animated with the ardour of their defenders and, with cheerful serenity at the sound of the drum, presented themselves at the windows and balconies to applaud the troops going through their evolutions and to encourage their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, to protect them from the insults of our ferocious enemies and prevent a repetition of the horrors of Hampton.
“The several corps of militia were constantly exercising from morning till evening and at all, hours was heard the sound of drums and of military bands of music. New Orleans wore the appearance of a camp and the greatest cheerfulness and concord prevailed amongst all ranks and conditions of people. All countenances expressed a wish to come to an engagement with the enemy and announced a foretaste of victory.”
THE ARRIVAL OF THE INVADING ARMY.
To gain a clear and comprehensive idea of part of what happened when the invading army landed and in unfolding the wonderful series of events that followed, as far as possible, English officers who took part in them shall tell their side of the history that reads like romance.
The writing of “The Subaltern,” Robert Gleig, a lieutenant of the Eighty-fifth Light Infantry, whose work, “The British Campaigns at Washington and New Orleans,” published at London in 1836, give exceptionally fine descriptions of all the events in which he participated. This book was held in high opinion by the Duke of Wellington who said: “The Subaltern is excellent, particularly in the American Expedition to New Orleans. He describes all he sees.”
“It is impossible,” says the Subaltern in writing of the fleet that was to descend on New Orleans, “to conceive a finer sea view than this general stir presented. Our fleet amounted now to upwards of fifty sail many of them vesselsof-war which, shaking loose their topsails and lofting their anchors at the same moment, gave to Negril Bay an appearance of bustle such as it has seldom been able to present. In half an hour all the canvass was set and the ships moved slowly and proudly from their anchorage till, having cleared the head-lands and caught the fair breeze which blew without, they bounded over the water with the speed of eagles and long before dark the coast of Jamaica had disappeared.
“There is something in rapidity of motion, whether it be along a high road or across the deep extremely elevating; nor was its effect unperceived on the present occasion. It is true that there were other causes for the high spirits which now pervaded the armament but I question if any proved more efficient in their production than the astonishing rate of our sailing. Whether the business we were about to undertake would prove bloody or the reverse entered not into the calculations of a single individual in the fleet. The sole subject of remark was the speed with which we got over the ground and the probability that existed of our soon reaching the point of debarkation.
“It was the 10th of December before the shores of America could be discerned. On that day we found ourselves opposite to the Chandleur Islands and near the entrance of Lake Borgne. There the fleet anchored that the troops might be removed from the heavy ships into such as drew least water; and from this and other preparations it appeared that to ascend this lake was the plan determined upon.
“To reduce the forts which commanded the navigation of the river was regarded as a task too difficult to be attempted; and for any ships to pass without their reduction seemed impossible. Trusting, therefore that the object of the enterprise was unknown to the Americans, Sir Alexander Cochrane and General Kane determined to effect a landing somewhere on the banks of the lake and pushing directly on to take possession of the town before any effectual preparation could be made for its defense. With this view the troops were removed from the larger into the lighter vessels and these, under convoy of such gun-brigs as the shallowness of the water would float, began on the thirteenth, to enter Lake Borgne.”
After describing the destruction of the gunboats, “The Subaltern” gives a graphic account of the actual landing. “Having destroyed all opposition in this quarter, the fleet again weighed anchor and stood up the lake,” he says. “But we had not been many hours under sail when ship after ship ran aground. Such as still floated were, therefore, crowded with the troops from those which could go no further ’till finally the lightest vessel stuck fast and the boats were of necessity hoisted out to carry us a distance of upward of thirty miles. To be confined for so long a time as the prosecution of this voyage would require in one posture, was of itself no very agreeable prospect, but the confinement was but a trifling misery when compared with that which arose from the change of the weather. Instead of a constant bracing frost, heavy rains such as an inhabitant of England cannot dream of, and against which no cloak could furnish protection, began. In the midst of these were the troops embarked in their new and straightened transports and each division, after an exposure of ten hours, landed upon a small desert spot of earth called Pine Island where it was determined to collect the whole army previous to its crossing over to the mainland.
“Than this spot it is scarcely possible to imagine any place more completely wretched. It was a swamp containing a small space of firm ground at one end and almost wholly unadorned with trees of any sort or description. There were, indeed a few stunted firs upon the very edge of the water but these were so diminutive in size as hardly to deserve a higher classification than among the meanest of shrubs. The interior was the resort of wild ducks and other water fowl and the pools and creeks with which it was intersected abounded in dormant alligators.
“Upon this miserable desert the army was assembled without tents or huts or any covering to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather and in truth we may fairly affirm that our hardships had here their commencement. After having been exposed all day to a cold and pelting rain we landed upon a barren island, incapable of furnishing even fuel enough to supply our fires. To add to our miseries, as night closed, the rain generally ceased and severe frosts set in which, congealing our wet clothes upon our bodies, left little animal warmth to keep the limbs in a state of activity and the consequence was that many of the wretched negroes, to whom frost and cold were altogether new, fell fast asleep and perished before morning. For provisions again, we were entirely dependent upon the fleet. There were here no living creatures which would suffer themselves to be caught, even the water fowl being so timorous that it was impossible to approach them within musket shot. Salt meat and ship biscuit were, therefore, our food, moistened by a small allowance of rum; fare, which though no doubt very wholesome, was not such as to reconcile us to the cold and wet under which we suffered.
“On the part of the navy again all these hardships were experienced in a four-fold degree. Night and day were boats pulling from the fleet to the island and from the island to the fleet, for it was the 21st before all the troops were got on shore and as there was little time to inquire into men’s turns of labor, many seamen were four or five days continually at the oar. Thus, they had not only to bear up against variety of temperature, but against hunger, fatigue and want of sleep in addition; three as fearful burdens as can be laid upon the human frame. Yet, in spite of all this, not a murmur nor a whisper of complaint could be heard throughout the whole expedition. No man appeared to regard the present whilst everyone looked forward to the future. From the general down to the youngest drum-boy, a confident anticipation of success seemed to pervade all ranks; and in the hope of an ample reward in store for them, the toils and grievances of the moment were forgotten. Nor was this anticipation the mere offspring of an overwhelming confidence in themselves. Several Americans had already deserted who entertained us with accounts of the alarm experienced in New Orleans. They assured us that there were not at present five thousand soldiers in the State, that the principal inhabitants had long ago left the place; that such as remained were ready to join us as soon as we should appear among them; and that, therefore, we might lay our account with a speedy and bloodless conquest. The same persons likewise dilated upon the wealth and importance of the town; upon the large quantities of government store there collected; and the rich booty which would reward its capture — subjects well calculated to tickle the fancy of invaders and to make them unmindful of immediate afflictions in the expectation of so great a recompense to come.
“The enemy’s cutters having fallen into our hands, at an early hour on the morning of the 16th the disembarkation of the troops began. So deficient, however, was the fleet in boats and other small craft fit to navigate the lakes, that it was late on the evening of the 21st, before the last division took up its ground upon Pine Island, and even then the inconveniences of descent were not beginning. The troops had yet to be arranged in corps and brigades; to each of these its proportion of commissaries, purveyors and medical attendants, etc., etc., required to be allotted, and some attempt at establishing depots of provisions and military stores had to be made. In adjusting these matters the whole of the 22nd was occupied, on which day General Keane likewise reviewed the whole of the army. This being ended the force was next distributed into divisions or corps and the following is the order it assumed.
“Instead of a light brigade the General resolved to set apart three battalions as an advance guard. The regiments nominated to that service were the 4th., the 85th. Light Infantry and the 95th. Rifles and he selected Colonel Thornton of the 85th. as an officer of talent and enterprise to command them. Attached to his corps were a party of rocketmen with two light three-pounders, a species of gun convenient enough where celerity of movement is alone regarded but of very little real utility in the field. The rest of the troops were arranged, as before, into two brigades. The first composed of the 21st, 44th., and one black regiment was intrusted to Colonel Brook; and the second containing the 93rd., and the other black corps to Colonel Hamilton of the 7th. West India regiment. To each of these a certain proportion of artillery and rockets was allotted whilst the dragoons, who had brought their harness and other appointments on shore, remained as a sort of body guard to the General till they should provide themselves with horses.
“The adjustment of these matters having occupied a considerable part of the 22nd., it was determined that all things should remain as they were till next morning. Boats in the mean-time began to assemble from all quarters, supplies of ammunition were packed so as to prevent the possibility of damage by moisture and stores of various descriptions were got ready. But it appeared that even now many serious inconveniences must be endured and obstacles surmounted before the troops could reach the scene of action. In the first place from Pine Island to that part of the main land towards which prudence directed us to steer, was a distance of no less than eighty miles. This of itself was an obstacle or at least an inconvenience of no slight nature, for should the weather prove boisterous, open boats heavily laden with soldiers would stand little chance of escaping destruction in the course of so long a voyage. In the next place, and what was of infinitely greater importance, it was found that there were not throughout the whole fleet a sufficient number of boats to transport above one-third of the army at a time. But to land in divisions would expose our forces to be attacked in detail by which means one party might be cut to pieces before the others could arrive to its support. The undertaking was, therefore, on the whole extremely dangerous and such as would have been probably abandoned by more timid leaders. Ours, however, were not so to be alarmed. They had entered upon a hazardous business in whatever way it should be prosecuted, and, since they could not work miracles, they resolved to lose no time in bringing their army into the field, in the best manner which circumstances would permit.
“With this view the advance, consisting of sixteen hundred men and two pieces of cannon, was next morning embarked. I have already stated that there is a small creek called the Bayou de Catiline which runs up from Lake Pontchartrain through the middle of an extensive morass about ten miles below New Orleans. Towards the creek were the boats directed and here it was resolved to effect a landing. When we set sail the sky was dark and lowering and before long a heavy rain began to fall. Continuing without intermission during the whole of the day towards night it as usual ceased and was succeeded by a sharp frost which, taking effect upon men thoroughly exposed and already cramped by remaining so long in one posture, rendered our limbs completely powerless. Nor was there any means of dispelling the benumbing sensation or effectually resisting the cold. Fires of charcoal, indeed being lighted in the sterns of the boats, were permitted to burn as long as daylight lasted, but as soon as it grew dark they were of necessity extinguished, lest the flame should be seen by row boats from the shore and an alarm be thus communicated. Our situation was, therefore, the reverse of agreeable since even sleep was denied us from the apprehension of fatal consequences.
“Having remained in this uncomfortable state till midnight the boats cast anchor and hoisted awnings. There was a small piquet of the enemy stationed at the entrance of the creek by which it was intended to effect our landing. This it was absolutely necessary to surprise and, while the rest lay at anchor, two or three fast-sailing barges were pushed on to execute the service. Nor did they experience much difficulty in accomplishing their object. Nothing, as it appeared, was less dreamt of by the Americans than an attack from this quarter, consequently no persons could be less on their guard than the party here stationed. The officer who conducted the force sent against them found not so much as a single sentinel posted but having landed his men at two places above and below the hut which they inhabited, extended his ranks so as to surround it and, closing gradually in, took them all fast asleep — without noise or resistance.
“When such time had been allowed as was deemed sufficient for the accomplishment of this undertaking the flotilla again weighed anchor and without waiting for intelligence of success pursued their voyage. Hitherto we had been hurried along at a rapid rate by a fair breeze which enabled us to carry canvas but this now left us and we made way only by rowing. Our progress was, therefore, considerably retarded and the risk of discovery heightened by the noise that labor necessarily occasions, but in spite of these obstacles we reached the entrance of the creek by dawn and about nine o’clock were safely on shore.
“The place where we landed was as wild as it is possible to imagine. Gaze where we might nothing could be seen but one huge marsh covered with tall reeds; not a house nor a vestige of human industry could be discovered; and even of trees there were but a few growing upon the banks of the creek. Yet it was such a spot as above all others, favored our operations. No eye could watch us or report our arrival to the American general. By remaining quietly among the reeds we might effectually conceal ourselves from notice because from the appearance of all around it was easy to perceive that the place which we occupied had been seldom, if ever before, marked with a human footstep. Concealment, however, was the thing above all others which we required; for be it remembered that there were now only sixteen hundred men on the main land. The rest were still at Pine Island where they must remain till the boats which had transported us should return from their conveyance, consequently, many hours must elapse before this small corps could be either reinforced or supported. If, therefore, we had sought for a point where a descent might be made in secrecy and safety we could not have found one better calculated for that purpose than the present, because it afforded every means of concealment to one part of our force until the others should be able to come up.
“For these reasons it was confidently expected that no movement would be made previous to the arrival of the other brigades, but in our expectations of quiet we were deceived. The deserters who had come in and accompanied us as guides assured the general that he had only to show himself when the whole district would submit. They repeated that there were not five thousand men in arms throughout the State; that of these not more than twelve hundred were regular soldiers, and that the whole force was at present several miles on the opposite side of the town, expecting an attack on that quarter and apprehending no danger on this. These arguments, together with the nature of the ground on which we stood, so ill calculated for a proper distribution of troops in case of attack and so well calculated to hide the movements of an army acquainted with all the passes and tracks which, for aught we knew, intersected the morass, induced our leader to push forward at once into the open country. As soon, therefore, as the advance was formed and the boats had departed we began our march following an indistinct path along the edge of the ditch or canal. But it was not without many checks that we were able to proceed. Other ditches similar to that whose course we pursued, frequently stopped us by running in a cross direction and falling into it at right angles. These were too wide to be leaped and too deep to be forded, consequently on all such occasions the troops were obliged to halt till bridges were hastily constructed of such materials as could be procured and thrown across.
“Having advanced in this manner for several hours we at length found ourselves approaching a more cultivated region. The marsh became gradually less and less continued being intersected by wider spots of firm ground, the reeds gave place by degrees to wood and the wood to inclosed fields. Upon these, however, nothing grew, harvest having long ago ended. They accordingly presented but a melancholy appearance being covered with the stubble of sugar cane, which resembled the reeds which we had just quitted in everything except altitude. Nor as yet was any house or cottage to be seen. Though we knew that human habitations could not be far off it was impossible to guess where they lay or how numerous they might prove; and, as we could not tell whether our guides might not be deceiving us and whether ambuscades might not be laid for our destruction as soon as we could arrive where troops could conveniently act, our march was insensibly conducted with increased caution and regularity.
“But in a little while some groves of orange-trees presented themselves on passing which two or three farm houses appeared. Towards these our advanced companies immediately hastened with the hope of surprising the inhabitants and preventing any alarm from being raised. Hurrying along at double quick time they surrounded the buildings, succeeded in securing the tenants and capturing several horses; but, becoming rather careless in watching their prisoners, one man contrived to effect his escape. Now, then, all hope of eluding observation might be laid aside. The rumor of our landing would, we knew, spread faster than we could march and it only remained to make that rumor as terrible as possible.
“With this view the column was commanded to widen its files, and to present as formidable an appearance as could be assumed. Changing our order in obedience to these directions we marched, not in sections of eight or ten abreast, but in pairs and thus contrived to cover with our small division as large a tract of ground as if we had mustered thrice our present numbers. Our steps were likewise quickened that we might gain, if possible, some advantageous position where we might be able to cope with any force that might attack us and thus hastening on we soon arrived at the main road which leads directly to New Orleans. Turning to the right we then advanced in the direction of that town for about a mile, when having reached a spot where it was considered that we might encamp in comparative safety, our little column halted, the men piled their arms and a regular bivouac was formed.
“Looking up towards the town which we at this time faced, the marsh is upon your right and the river upon your left. Close to the latter runs the main road following the course of the stream all the way to New Orleans. Between the road and the water is thrown up a lofty and strong embankment resembling the dykes in Holland and meant to serve a similar purpose by means of which the Mississippi is prevented from overflowing its banks and the entire flat is preserved from inundation. But the attention of a stranger is irresistibly drawn away from every other object to contemplate the magnificence of this noble river. Pouring along at the prodigious rate of four miles an hour an immense body of water is spread out before you, measuring a full mile across and nearly a hundred fathoms in depth. What this mighty stream must be near its mouth I can hardly imagine for we were here upwards of a hundred miles from the ocean.
“Such was the general aspect of the country which we had entered; — our own position again was this: The three regiments turning off from the road into one extensive green field formed three close columns, within pistol-shot of the river. Upon our right, but so much in advance as to be of no service to us, was a large house surrounded by about twenty wooden huts probably intended for the accommodation of slaves. Towards this house there was a slight rise’ in the ground and between it and the camp was a small pond of no great depth. As far to the rear again as the first was to the front stood another house inferior in point of appearance and skirted by no out-buildings; this was also upon the right, and here General Keane who accompanied us fixed his headquarters, but neither the one nor the other could be employed as a covering redoubt, the flank of the division extending as it were between them. A little way in advance again, where the outposts were stationed, ran a dry ditch and a row of lofty palings affording some cover to the front of our line should it be formed diagonally with the main road. The left likewise was well secured by the river but the right and rear were wholly unprotected. Though in occupying this field, therefore, we might have looked very well had the country around us been friendly, it must be confessed that our situation hardly deserved the title of a military position.”
(December 23rd, 1814.)
THE BATTLE THAT REALLY SAVED NEW ORLEANS.
While the 8th of January commemorates a great battle and the one, in the minds of most Americans, that witnessed the astonishing triumph of untrained merchants and backwoodsmen against the veteran soldiery of Europe, the 23rd of December had perhaps far more to do with the driving of Pakenham’s legions from our soil than the battle which has gone down in history as our greatest triumph. This fight that occurred two days before Christmas is barely mentioned in most histories, but it was the saving of Louisiana. This is the opinion of Major Latour to whom all historians must go to learn what actually happened in New Orleans one hundred years ago.
On the 21st of December General Jackson ordered a detachment of the third regiment of militia to scout along the outlying bayous and waterways lying between the city, English Turn, as the bend of the Mississippi River is known, and Lake Borgne. These militia men were commanded by Major Gabriel Villere, the son of General Jacque Villere who afterwards became the second Governor of Louisiana under American domination, to see that the invading army would not attack the city from below without Jackson’s knowing of it. Arriving at his home, the old Villere plantation, the houses of which are standing in 1915, Major Villere sent a detachment of his forces consisting of eight white men under the sergeant, who is believed to have been Bernard Ducros, in a boat to the village of the Spanish fishermen on the left bank of the Bayou Bienvenu, a mile and a half from its entry into Lake Borgne, for the purpose of discovering whether the enemy might attempt to penetrate that way and to give notice of such an attempt. The nine white men were accompanied by three negroes.
The Bayou Bienvenu has become a matter of great interest from the fact that the British forces penetrated through it to the dry land below the city, and the description given here and the account of the British invasion are taken principally from Major Latour’s most valuable historical memoir.
“This bayou, formerly called the river St. Francis, under which designation it is laid down in some old maps, is the creek through which run all the waters of a large basin, of a triangular form, about eighty square miles in surface, bounded on the south by the Mississippi, on the west by New Orleans, by Bayou Sauvage of Chef-Menteur on the northwest, and on the east by Lake Borgne, into which it empties. It receives the waters of several other bayous, formed by those of the surrounding cypress swamps and prairies and of innumerable little streams from the low grounds along the river. It formerly commenced behind the suburb Marigny at New Orleans, dividing the triangle nearly into two equal parts from the summit to the lake which formed its basis and running in a south-easterly direction. It is navigable for vessels of one hundred tons as far as the forks of the canal of Piernas’ plantation, twelve miles from its mouth. Its breadth is from one hundred and ten to one hundred and fifty yards, and it has six feet of water on the bar at common tides, and nine feet at spring tides. Within the bar there is, for a considerable extent, sufficient water for vessels of from two to three hundred tons. Its principal branch is that which is called Bayou Mazant, which runs towards the southwest, and receives the waters of the canals of the plantations of Villere, Lacoste and Laronde, on which the enemy established his principal encampment. It was at the forks o*f the Canal Villere and Bayou Mazant that the British ascended in their pinnaces and effected a landing.
“The detachment sent by Major Villere repaired in the night of the 21st December to the post assigned, the fishermen’s village, consisting of twelve very large cabins, capable of containing from two hundred to three hundred men, and constructed with stakes, thatched and inclosed with palmetto leaves, on a tongue of land on the left bank of Bayou Bienvenu. In these cabins lived about thirty or forty fishermen, almost all Spaniards or Portuguese. From Lake Borgne, which being shallow and in their vicinity, afforded them an advantageous fishing ground, they used to convey their fish in pirogues (periaguas) to the extremity of the canal of Laronde’s and Villere’s plantations, from which place it was transported by wagons to town. The owners of these plantations, Messrs. Villere, Lacoste and LaRonde, permitted these fishermen to enjoy the gratuitous use of their canals, and constantly afforded relief to such of these wretches as happened to fall sick, and it will soon appear that in return lor the beneficence ot those gentlemen the wretches sold the lives and fortunes of their benefactors.”
Major Latour was not able to discover the names of all those fishermen, “to consign them to execration and infamy, as I here do the following few who have come to my knowledge,” but said the master fishermen were: Maringuier, Old Luiz, Francisco, and Graviella, and the hireling fishermen were: Antonio el Italiano, El Campechano, Antonio El Portuguez, Manuelillo, Antonio El Mayorquin, Garcia, and others.
These are well known to have aided the British in disembarking their troops, serving as pilots on board their vessels and boats, and acting as spies tor them Irom the period of their arrival on the coast. It was their practice, when they came to town to sell their fish, to get all the information they could, for the purpose of carry1ng it to the English when they went out to lish in Lake Bprgne. On the 20th of December, the day preceding the arrival of the detachment at the village, the British Captain Peddie had come disguised, accompanied by the three first named of these fishermen, as far as the bank of the Mississippi, and had even tasted its water. It was from his report, alter having examined the country, that the enemy determined to penetrate by Villere’s canal, whose banks at the time afforded firm footing from the landing place in the prairie to the river. Peddie was accompanied by the Hon. Captain Spencer, son of Earl Spencer, on the spying expedition.
“When the detachment arrived at the village,” continues Latour’s narrative, “they found only one fisherman, and him sick, all the others having gone the day before, under the pretence of fishing, to serve as pilots to the British barges. A few men were immediately sent into the lake to discover whether the enemy were already arrived and on their return a sentinel was posted at some distance in advance of the last cabin for the rest of the night.
“On the 22nd, by break of day, a reconnoitring party of three men was again sent two miles on to the lake and during that whole day fresh parties were sent out every two hours to discover whether the enemy were approaching. Towards evening three men in a pirogue arrived from Chef Menteur, who had traversed part of the lake without seeing any enemy. That night a sentinel was again posted in advance of the cabins.
“Some time after midnight the sentinel having heard a noise, called his comrades, who all instantly seized their arms. By the last gleams of the setting moon, they perceived five barges full of men, with some pieces of artillery, ascending the bayou; on which, thinking it would be imprudent to fire, considering the great disproportion of numbers, they retired for concealment behind a cabin. As soon as the five barges had passed this cabin, a party determined to attempt to escape by the lake and give information of the arrival of the enemy. With this view, seven men of the detachment had already got into the boat, when one of the barges having perceived them, gave the alarm to the four others, who all made for the boat and became masters of it before it could be got ready to push off. Only four of those in the boat had time to land, and the remaining three were taken, as were two others on shore, so that of the whole detachment only four escaped, who ran in different directions into the prairies, and of these four, three individuals,” after having wandered a whole day in the prairies, where the height of the grass hindered them from seeing any way to get out of them, happened to fall into the hands of the enemy at the very village from which they had fled. One alone, Mr. A. Rey, more persevering, or perhaps more fortunate, after three days of uncommon fatigue, hardships and perils, over trembling prairies, bayous, lagoons, and through cane brakes, arrived at the post of Bertoniere on the road leading from Gentilly to Chef-Menteur.
“The enemy having made prisoners of all these men, shut them up in this cabin which they used as their quarters and placed a guard at the door. What further corroborates the evidence of the communication of the fishermen with the British is the precaution that had been taken by the only one of them that was at the village on the arrival of the enemy to shut up in a cabin, that same evening, all the dogs of the village who had kept up an incessant barking during all the preceding night. But this is not all: the British, through a mistake, imprisoned one of the fishermen with the detachment on the morning of the 23rd. This man, seeing a British officer passing by the cabin, called to him, and on discovering himself to him as one of those whom he had frequently seen aboard British vessels, he was immediately set at liberty.
“About an hour afterwards Mr. Ducros, a native of Louisiana, was taken from among the prisoners in the cabin and put on board a boat in which was Captain Spencer of the navy, with the colonel of infantry. The boat proceeded to the lake in which, when they had advanced about a mile, they met the rest of the first division consisting of about three thousand men in eight boats. That division was composed of the light brigade formed of the 85th and 95th regiments, Captain Lake’s rocketeers, one hundred men of the engineer corps, and the 4th regiment, all under the command of Colonel Thornton.
“Captain Spencer announced his prisoner to General Keane and Admiral Cochrane as one of those taken at the village. The admiral then inquired of Mr Ducros what might be the number of the American forces in the city and environs. The answer he received was that there were from twelve to fifteen thousand men in the city and from three to four thousand at the English Turn. The admiral then ordered Captain Spencer to proceed with all speed with the advanced guard and to effect a landing at the point agreed on. The division proceeded accordingly and when it arrived at the village Admiral Cochrane with several other officers went on shore and the division, under the command of General Keane, proceeded up the bayou. The admiral had the other officers put again to all the prisoners the question they had asked Mr. Ducros, and received from nearly all the same answer in consequence of a conversation the evening before in which they had made the number of troops already arrived or hourly expected at New Orleans to amount to eighteen thousand men.
“The division arrived at the extremity of Villere’s canal by four in the morning and soon effected a landing, being almost wholly composed of light troops. After the troops had rested some hours, the British colours were displayed at the top of a tree, while the band played “God Save the King”; and at about ten o’clock they commenced their march towards the banks of the Mississippi, cutting cane as they went along, to facilitate their passage over the prairie and small bayous or coulees. From the mouth of the canal to the skirts of the wood the distance is about a mile, and from thence to the bank of the river nearly two miles. At about half after eleven, the advance arrived at the side of the wood next the river, and immediately extended along Villere’s canal. They now surrounded the house of General Jacque Villere, in which was stationed a company of the third regiment of militia, whom they made prisoners, and where they surprised Major Gabriel Villere, his son, who, notwithstanding several pistols fired at him, made his escape through a window and got to the river, where finding a pirogue, he crossed to the right bank. Colonel Denis de la Ronde, who on that very night, the 23rd, as indeed throughout the whole campaign, rendered essential services to his country, had also escaped from the enemy and arrived in town by the opposite bank.
“The rest of the troops of the division continued to arrive at General Villere’s house and were on the march towards the higher boundary of the plantation, with intent to encamp there, when they were first discovered. Colonel Denis de la Ronde, who had stationed detachments of his regiment, the third Louisiana Militia, on General Villere’s and Jumonyille’s plantations, had, in the evening of the 22nd, sent to inform General Jackson that several sails of vessels had been seen on the point of the three bayous, behind Terre aux Boeufs. The General ordered me (Major Latour) to go, in company with Major Tatum, topographical engineer, to ascertain whether this report were true; directing us to examine very particularly all the communications from Terre aux Boeufs to Lake Borgne. We left town at eleven o’clock in the forenoon of the 23rd, and when we arrived at the boundary of Bienvenu’s and la Ronde’s plantations we met several persons flying towards town who told us that the British had got to General Villere’s house by the canal and had taken prisoner Major Villere, the general’s son.
“It being of the utmost importance to inform General Jackson of an event no longer doubtful, Major Tatum immediately returned to town and I proceeded forward as far as over the boundary of Lacoste’s and Villere plantations, whence I discovered British troops occupying the ground from the commencement of the angle made by the road in that place to the head of the canal. I approached within rifle-shot of these troops and judged that their number must amount to sixteen or eighteen hundred men. It was then half-past one p. M., and within twenty-five minutes after General Jackson was informed of the enemy’s position.
“On this the General, with that heroism and prompt decision which is characteristic of him, and of which he had exhibited such signal instances during the campaign, instantly said he would go to meet the British, and immediately issued orders to that effect. The alarm-gun was fired; the battalion of uniform companies, commanded by Major Plauche, then stationed at the Bayou St. John, was ordered to return and join the other corps with all possible speed, which order the battalion executed by running all the way.”
It is this run that the athletes of the city of New Orleans have observed nearly every January 8th thereafter. Running the six-mile course that stretches from the old Spanish Fort to the statue of the beloved general in Jackson Square.
THE PART MAJOR VILLERE PLAYED.
“One man contrived to effect his escape,” says The Subaltern, in that part of his narrative which describes the surrounding of a planter’s house near the banks of the Mississippi and the seizure of its inmates.
How many a gallant life hung upon the chances of that one man’s capture! How many a wife, mother, sweetheart over the sea had been spared the desolation of their lives had one of the shower of bullets amid which he fled have stopped his flight! How differently it might have fared with New Orleans, with General Jackson, with the invading army, if the news from the Villere’s plantation had been delayed but a few hours!
The individual invested with such sudden and extreme importance was young Major Gabriel Villere, the son of General Jacques Villere, a Creole planter of ancient lineage upon whose plantation the British were then halting. Major Villere it was who had stationed the picket at the mouth of the bayou by which the English troops had gained the banks of the Mississippi, and stood now upon the high road leading to the prize they were in search of and within a few miles of it. The adventures of this young man upon that eventful day, as gathered from his own lips, have been effectively told by the admirable author of “Jackson and New Orleans.”
“Secure in his outposts,” says the author referred to, “the Major was sitting on the front gallery of the house looking toward the river and quietly enjoying his cigar, whilst his brother Caliste was engaged in cleaning a fowling-piece. Suddenly the Major observed some men in red coats running toward the river. Immediately he leaped from his chair and rushed into the hall with a view of escaping by the rear of the house. What were his horror and dismay to encounter at the back door several armed men. One of these was Colonel Thornton who, with drawn sword, called to the Major to surrender. There were no braver men than the Villeres; their heritage was one of dauntless courage and chivalry, — but resistance under such circumstances would have been madness. With infinite mortification the young Creole surrendered. Caliste had already been arrested in the yard.
“The two young men were then confined in one of the rooms closely guarded, until General Keane could come up. These events occurred at half past ten o’clock on the morning of the 23rd of December. Surrounded and vigilantly guarded by his captors, Major Villere watched eagerly for an opportunity to escape. He felt that if he should remain imprisoned the columniators of his race would find, in the circumstance, some color for the aspersions of the patriotism and fidelity of the Creoles of Louisiana. To repel so base an inference he determined to incur every peril.
“Springing suddenly from the group of soldiers, he leaped through the window of the room in which he was confined, and throwing down several-of the British who stood in his way, ran toward a high picket fence which inclosed the yard; clearing this at a bound in the presence of some fifty British soldiers, several of whom discharged their arms at him, he made for the woods with that celerity and agility for which the young Creole hunter is so distinguished. The British immediately started in hot pursuit, scattering themselves over the field so as to surround the fugitive. ‘Catch or kill him’ was Thornton’s order.
“Traversing the field behind the house, Villere plunged into the cypress forest which girts the swamp and ran until the boggy nature of the soil began to impede his progress. He could distinctly hear the voices of his pursuers rallying one another and pointing put the course he had taken. His recapture now seemed inevitable, when it occurred to him to climb a large live-oak and conceal himself in its thick evergreen branches.
“As he was about to execute his design his attention was attracted by a low whine or cry at his feet. He looked down and beheld his favorite setter crouched piteously on the ground, by her mournful look and action expressing more strongly than could the human face or form her sympathy for the perils of her master and her desire to share his fate. This faithful creature had followed her master in his flight. What could Villere do with the poor animal? Her presence near the tree would inevitably betray him. There was no other hope for escape. His own life might not be of so much value, but then the honor of his family, of a proud lineage, the safety of the city of his birth, with whose fortunes those of his family had been so conspicuously associated; the imminent peril in which Jackson and his soldiers would be placed by the surprise of the city.
“These and other considerations, such as should influence and control a gallant and honorable man, suppressed and overwhelmed all tender emotions of pity and affection. The sacrifice had to be made. With a deep sigh and eyes full of tears the young Creole seized the throat of the poor fawning, faithful dog as she cowered at his feet and with his strong hands soon throttled her. Concealing the dead body, he ascended the tree where he remained until the British had returned to their camp, and the pursuit was relinguished. He then slipped stealthily down and stealing along the edge of the woods hurried to a plantation below where he found his father-in-law, Colonel de la Ronde, who, hearing of the approach of the British, was hurrying up from Terre-aux-Boeufs to join Jackson.
“Obtaining a boat, Villere and de la Ronde rowed across the river and reached in safety the plantation on the right bank of the Mississippi of P. S. Dussau de la Croix, one of the Committee of Public Safety of New Orleans. Horses were quickly saddled and Villere, De la Ronde and De la Croix leaping upon them, put spurs in their animals and rode towards the city as rapidly as the swift little Creole ponies conld bear them.
“Thirty-seven years had passed and the gallant young Creole hero of this adventure, emaciated by long sickness and prematurely old, surrounded by a family of gallant sons and lovely daughters, sat in that very gallery and on the very spot on which he was surprised by the British, and related with graphic distinctness, with kindly eye and voice, hoarse with emotion, the painful sensation, the agonizing remorse which agitated his soul when compelled to sacrifice his faithful dog to prevent the surprise of his native city and save his own honor. A few weeks after, his worn frame was consigned to the mausoleum which incloses the mortal remains of many other members of a family whose name is so highly honored in the annals; of Louisiana.”
During all the exciting events of this campaign, Jackson had barely the strength to stand erect without support; his body was sustained alone by the spirit within. Ordinary men would have shrunk into feeble imbecils or useless invalids under such a pressure. The disease contracted in the swamps of Alabama still clung to him. Reduced to a mere skeleton, unable to digest his food, and unrefreshed by sleep, his life seemed to be preserved by some miraculous agency. There, in the parlor of his headquarters in Royal street, surrounded by his faithful and efficient aids, he worked day and night organizing his forces, dispatching orders, receiving reports, and making all the necessary arrangements for the defense of the city.
“Jackson was thus engaged at half past one o’clock, p. m. on the 23rd of December, 1814, when his attention was drawn from certain documents he was carefully reading, by the sound of horses galloping down the streets with more rapidity than comported with the order of a city under martial law,” Judge Walker’s account continues. “The sounds ceased at the door of his headquarters and the sentinel on duty announced the arrival of three gentlemen who desired to see the General immediately, having important intelligence to communicate.
“‘Show them in,’ ordered the General.
“The visitors proved to be Mr. Dussau de la Croix, Major Gabriel Villere and Colonel De la Ronde. They were stained with mud and nearly breathless with the rapidity of their ride.
“‘What news do you bring, gentlemen?’ eagerly asked the General.
“‘Important, highly important!’ responded Mr. de la Croix. The British have arrived at Villere’s plantation nine miles below the city and are there encamped. Here is Major Villere, who was captured by them, has escaped and will now relate his story.”
“The Major accordingly detailed in a clear and perspicuous manner the occurence we have related, employing his mother tongue, the French language, which de la Croix translated to the General. At the close of Major Villere’s narrative the General drew up his figure, bowed with disease and weakness, to its full height, and with an eye of fire and an emphatic blow upon the table with his clenched fist, exclaimed:
“‘By the Eternal, they shall not sleep on our soil!’
“Then courteously inviting his visitors to refresh themselves and sipping a glass of wine in compliment to them, he turned to his secretary and aides and remarked:
“‘ Gentlemen, the British are below, we must fight them to-night!’”
JACKSON RALLIES HIS ARMY.
Jackson’s words, “Gentlemen, the British are below, we must fight them to-night!” decided the fate of New Orleans.
“Never was there a bolder conception,” claims Judge Walker. “Never was there one which indicated greater courage and resolution. Here was the practiced, professional and experienced soldier, who had fought under Abercrombie, Moore and Wellington, against the renowned veterans of Napoleon, receiving reproof and lesson of inestimable value from a farmer-lawyer-general, who had never commanded a regiment of regular soldiers in his life.
“Here was a master stroke of a native military genius. Had Keane been a Jackson he would not have waited for the attack the latter now prepared to make upon his camp. Had Jackson been a Keane, or almost any other man, he would as soon have thought of attempting to scale the heavens as of instantaneously marching with his raw and weak forces against the heroes of Vittoria, of Badajoz and Salamanca.”
To see what forces Andrew Jackson had to oppose the invaders we must go with Walker to Latour and from this engineer’s carefully compiled lists enroll the army that marched from the city. On the 18th of December when Jackson reviewed his army he had the Louisiana militia and the regulars, the latter numbering 884 men, including the artillery under Col. McRea. The regulars were the 44th, commanded by Col. Ross and the 7th under Major Peire.
From the 18th however, Jackson’s “army” increased. First came a troop of horse from the southern part of the Territory of Mississippi, but which included many Louisianians, under the command of Major Hinds. Then came the gallant Coffee, Jackson’s “right arm,” with the Tennessee troops that had served with Jackson in the Indian wars and which had marched overland from Fort Jackson on the Alabama after the capture of Pensacola, which took them around the lake to the Mississippi river just above Baton Rouge. Here a messenger from Jackson had met Coffee commanding him to finish the march at all possible speed, which the Tennessean answered by marching one hundred and fifty miles in two days.
Coffee had hardly arrived at the old Avart plantation just above the city where his men went into camp, when the Second Brigade of the Tennessee troops under Carroll arrived after an exciting journey down the Father of the Waters from Nashville on flat boats; they left the capitol Nov. 19th, arriving in New Orleans Dec. 22nd.
Jackson was, in a measure relieved — he had his “dirty shirts.” They were, contrary to appearances, admirable soldiers who had been hardened by long service in Indian wars, possessed of remarkable endurance and that useful quality of soldiers of taking care of themselves in any emergency. They were all practiced marksmen, we are told, who thought nothing of bringing down a squirrel from the top of the loftiest tree with their rifles. Their appearance, however, was not very military. They wore woolen hunting shirts of dark and dingy color and copperas-dyed pantaloons made, both cloth and garments, at home by their wives, mothers and sisters, with slouching wool hats, some composed of the skins of racoons and foxes, the spoils of the chase, to which they were addicted almost from infancy. About their shirts were belts of untanned deerskin, in which were stuck hunting knives and tomahawks. With their long, unkempt hair and unshorn faces, the Tennessee riflemen were not calculated to please the eyes of the military martinet, but Andrew Jackson heaved a sigh of relief when they slouched into the city.
This was Jackson’s whole force when the startling announcement came that the British were but a few miles away and when the alarm guns sent forth their re-echoing discharges and the bells in the St. Louis Cathedral pealed their warning notes. This small force was scattered in all directions. Plauche’s division battalion was at fort St. John, at the mouth of the bayou of that name, now known as Spanish Fort, six and a quarter miles from headquarters; Coffee and Carroll were at their camp five miles away; the Louisiana militia and half of the free men of color were out on Gentilly Road, three miles off; while the regulars were at Fort St. Charles, in the city, (where the present mint stands) and in the barracks.
Jackson’s first act was to send Carroll to the head of Bayou Bienvenu and stop the invaders if they were trying to reach the city by following this water course. Governor Claiborne was placed in charge of the state militia and sent out Gentilly Road to guard against attack from that quarter and Coffee’s brigade, Plauche’s and Daquin’s battalions, Hinds’ dragoons and the Orleans riflemen were ordered to join the regulars and attack the enemy on the plantations where they had surprised Major Villere.
The bells in the Cathedral were striking the hour of three when the first of the troops Jackson’s galloping riders had summoned came pouring through the narrow streets in the direction of Fort St. Charles. Although immediately after giving his orders the commander had lain down and sought repose, knowing what the night had in store for him, he was the first on the scene when the troops commenced arriving at the general rendevouz and lined up for inspection.
Jackson’s force that engaged the British that night was headed by the 44th regulars, under Captain Baker, numbering 285 muskets. As they wheeled and disappeared down the road that lined the levee the 7th regulars, under Major Peire, and numbering 450 men, followed. The two six-pounders and twenty-two artillerists, under Col. McRea and Lieutenant Spotts, had already gone forward to occupy the road below the city, and with them were the 66 marines under Lieutenant Bellevue.
As the regulars moved off a strange military contingent swung past the major-general. Its members carried long rifles, some had hunting shirts, but more had the ruffed front and high collar and black stock of the citizen, and nearly all had a citizen’s hat of some shade or shape on top of their head. This corps that advanced with unusual vivacity and rapidity was the famous Beale’s Rifles, composed of 60-odd picked men — leading merchants, lawyers and other professional meft of the community who had banded themselves together and solicited a post of responsibility and danger in the defense of the city. One of the officers of this corps was Judge Joshua Lewis, of the first Judicial Court of New Orleans, who laid aside the judicial robe to fulfill the duties of the patriot and soldier. Other names on this roster include those of Benjamin Story, for many years one of the most respected and prosperous bankers of the city; William Flower, a leading merchant; John Lynd and Kenny Laverty, well-known lawyers; Dennis Prieur, several times mayor of New Orleans; Alex. McGillivray, a well-known Scotchman; A. W. Gordon, afterwards cashier of the Bank of Mobile; John Mitchell and many others.
Then came the Tennessee riflemen, the handsome Coffee at their head, 563 determined men they totaled as they swung past the general astride his horse outside the gates of old Fort St. Charles. Behind them marched Captain Pierre Jugeat, Jackson’s invaluable half-breed, with his 18 Choctaw Indians.
There was a pause in the review and Jackson looked down the street anxiously. Soon, however, Judge Walker tells us, “a dark and varie-colored mass of men was seen moving rapidly down one of the cross-streets.
“‘Ah, there come the brave Creoles!’ exclaimed Jackson to one of his aids, whose handsome countenance lit up with a proud and joyful expression at this compliment to his own race, one of whose noble traits the gallant and enthusiastic Devezac was a fine embodiment. This was Plauche’s battalion, which had run the whole distance from the fort at Bayou St. John to join the column of attack. Many of the battalion were delicate young Creoles, mere boys in age and strength, yet they bore their heavy muskets and knapsacks with as much alacrity as practiced veterans.” How long it took this command to run the rough and muddy road that lay between the starting point on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to the reviewing place history does not tell us, but we can get a fair estimate of the time every 8th of January when the youth of the city replicate that run, starting their race from the old fort and finishing at the square 6 1-2 miles away that honors the name of Andrew Jackson by housing his statue and bearing his name.
(A complete roster of this famous New Orleans battalion, made at Fort St. John before their run to the battle ground, will be found on page 249.)
Then came Hinds’ Mississippi Dragoons, numbering 107 men, and bringing up the rear were 210 free men of color, preceded by their white commander, Major Daquin. This, according to Major Latour, makes Jackson’s force 2,131 men altogether. The Louisiana Gazette of June 10th, 1815, says that the forces were:
So the defenders of the city left New Orleans not to return until they had seen a solid month of the fiercest kind of fighting. “As they advanced along the levee hundreds of snowy handkerchiefs were waved towards them,” we are informed by Judge Walker, “and bright eyes from every window and balcony cheered their hearts and warmed their courage. Unlike the females in most beleagured cities, the women of New Orleans, instead of ‘flying into the country for protection and safety against an approaching army of invaders, whose shameful excesses on the Peninsula and the Chesapeake gave but little hope that they would be restrained within any bounds of decency and humanity, remained at home to share the perils and sufferings of their husbands, sons and brothers, and to give them their aid, their cheering presence and their gentle consolation in the great emergency.”
“On that very day a number of the ladies of the city met at the residence of Mrs. Cenas for the purpose of plying their needles in the noble task of preparing clothing for the Tennessee soldiers of Jackson’s army, many of whom arrived on the levee in a very ragged and destitue condition. While they were thus busily engaged the news was brought into the room that the enemy had just landed and were marching on the city. A message was dispatched by the ladies to the General, inquiring ‘what they were to do in case the city was attacked?’ ‘say to the ladies,’ Jackson promptly replied, ‘not to be uneasy. No British soldier shall enter the city as an enemy — unless over my dead body.’
“Never was pledge more faithfully or literally kept. British soldiers did enter the city, but it was in such a plight as gave full employment for the noble charity of these ladies, who nursed and comforted them with the same care and kindness which they extended to their own wounded countrymen.”
With his troops started, Jackson put spurs to his horse and, accompanied by his aids, Captains Butler, Reid, Chotard, and the volunteers, Edward Livingston, John R. Grimes, Abner L. Duncan, Auguste Devezac, and P. L. B. Duplessis, galloped rapidly down the road that had been followed by his little army.
Undoubtedly he had already planned his attack. “It was simple, judicious and practical,” says Judge Walker. “The Carolina was ordered to drop down the river, gain a position in front of the British camp, and, anchoring at musket-shot, to open her batteries upon them at half-past seven o’clock. At this signal, the right, under Jackson, con-. sisting of the regulars, 7th and 44th, Plauche and Daquin’s batallions, McRea’s artillery and the marines, was to push forward, being guided by Major Gabriel Villere, who volunteered for the occasion, and attack the enemy near the river. While they were thus engaged, Coffee, under the guidance of Colonel De la Konde, was ordered with his brigade, Hind’s dragoons and Beale’s rifles, to scout the edge of the swamp and, advancing as far as was safe, endeavor to cut off the communications of the enemy with the lake, and thus hem them in, and, if possible, capture or destroy them.”
When Jackson arrived in New Orleans he found the military force of the city to consist of two small military regiments and a gallant but weak battalion of uniformed volunteers organized and commanded by Major J. B. Plauche, a firm, sedate, gallant Creole, who for many years lived in New Orleans, respected and honored by all his fellow citizens. This battalion was composed chiefly of young Creoles who were full of military ardor and courage. The companies were variously uniformed and highly disciplined and drilled. They marched with the port and precision of regular soldiers to the music of a fine band.
This battalion — ever to be remembered in New Orleans as “Le Battalion d’Orleans,” had been formed about a month before the arrival of Jackson. It originated with a company of “Carabiniers d’Orleans,” the first independent volunteer corps organized in New Orleans after the cession of Louisiana to the United States, and had been in existence, when the invasion came, about two years. When Captain Plauche proposed, in view of the threatening aspect of affairs, to form other companies in numbers sufficient to make a battalion, he was elected the major on the 15th of December. Lieutenant Pierre Roche succeeded him as commander of the Carabiniers.
The four other companies organized were the “Hulans,” or Foot Dragoons under Captain Henry St. Geme; “Francs,” Captain Jean Hudry; “Louisiana Blues,” Captain Maunsel White; “Chasseurs,” Captain A. Guibert. The rank and file of the battalion amounted to 372 men on December 20th.
THE FIGHT IN THE DARK.
In all the war history of the United States there is no battle that presents so much of the spectacular, so much of the truly dramatic than a recital of the armed encounter that took place a few miles below New Orleans on the night of December 23rd, 1814.
As has already been stated there can be no doubt that this terrific hand-to-hand conflict fought on the narrow strip of soggy land that lies close to the levee holding the mighty Mississippi in check, did more to save New Orleans from capture one hundred years ago than the more historic clash of arms on January 8th.
In this fight all of the viciousness of human nature came to the fore and men fought as beasts rather than soldiers trained to certain modes of warfare. The members of the invading army were forced to engage in a “rough and tumble,” as Captain Cooke, of that army, characterized it, and every individual had to fight for himself. In the morning many a British soldier who was found dead on the field, “with heavy gashes on his forehead or deep stabs in bosom, and who was buried under the conviction that he came to his death by that military and chivalric weapon, the sword, fell, in fact, beneath those more barbarous instruments — the tomahawk and hunting-knife, wielded by the Tennessee and Kentucky backwoodsmen.”
Many authors have written of that engagement in the utter darkness, but none have written more graphically than Major A. Lacarriere Latour, in his excellent historical memoir of that war. Aside from being a participant he was Jackson’s chief engineer, and what he has written has been accepted as the textbook of that campaign by the British authorities as well as our own.
He tells us, when writing of the engagement of December 23rd: “Governor Claiborne was ordered, with the first, second, and fourth regiments of the Louisiana militia and the volunteer company of horse, under Captain Chauveau, to take a position between the Colson and Darcantel plantations, in the plain of Gentilly, in order to cover the city on the side of Chef-Menteur.
“Below the city at about four o’clock a picket of five mounted riflemen, who had been sent to reconnoitre the road, was assailed by a discharge of musketry from a British outpost concealed behind the fence on the boundary of Laronde’s and Lacoste’s plantations by which the reconnoitring party, too weak and too rash, lost a horse killed, and had two men wounded. Colonel Haines, inspector-general of the division, went forward shortly after with one hundred men to reconnoitre the enemy; but he had no opportunity to form a correct estimate of their number which he made to amount to no more than two hundred men; an error probably proceeding from his having taken the advance on the road for the troops drawn up in column some hours before, as reported by the officer who had first seen them.
“A negro was apprehended who had been sent by the British with printed copies of a proclamation in French and Spanish, nearly in the following terms: ‘Louisianians! remain quiet in your houses; your slaves shall be preserved to you, and your property respected. We make war only against Americans.’ Signed by Admiral Cochrane and Major General Keane. An hour before these papers were seized the British had stuck up the same proclamation on the fences all along the road below Laronde’s plantation.
“The troops now moved forward, General Coffee took the command of the left composed of a part of his brigade, the Tennessee mounted riflemen, the Orleans company of riflemen under Captain Beale forming the extremity of the left, a part of the Mississippi dragoons and mounted riflemen amounting in all to seven hundred and thirty-two fighting men.
“Colonel de la Ronde, the owner of the plantation on which the troops were formed, after having about noon escaped from the British at Villere’s and crossed the river, had come to town and joined Captain Beale’s company as a volunteer. From his knowledge of the ground he was now ordered by General Jackson to accompany General Coffee as a guide.
“About nightfall, the left entered on La Ronde’s plantation and took a position in the back of it on its boundary with Lacoste’s. The right formed on a line almost perpendicular to the river stretching from the levee to the garden of La Ronde’s plantation, and on its principal avenue. The artillery occupied the high road supported by the detachment of marines. On the left of the artillery were stationed the seventh and forty-fourth of the line, Plauche’s and Daquin’s battalions and eighteen Choctaw Indians, commanded by Captains Jugeaut and Allard, forming the extremity of the right wing towards the woods. The superior command of the battalions of militia was given to Colonel Ross.
“The boats that had landed the first division of the British troops returned down the bayou and at eight o’clock passed the village on their way to take in the second division which had been embarked in small vessels and was already in the lake. About four in the afternoon that division consisting of the twenty-first, forty-fourth and ninety-third regiments, with a division of artillery in all, two thousand five hundred men arrived at the village. At half after seven in the evening, they were disembarking when the firing was first heard from the schooner Carolina, which now opened on the division encamped on the river bank.
“Admirals Cochrane and Malcolm with several officers of the army and navy had remained at the village to hasten the landing of the troops and had there passed the whole day during which time they frequently conversed with the prisoners endeavoring to persuade them that the British army came with no hostile intent against the inhabitants of the country who, being mostly Frenchmen and Spaniards by birth or descent, must naturally prefer the British government to that of the United States. They told them that their intentions were to obtain and keep possession of the country and to penetrate far up the Mississippi to make the upper country the theater of war; that to convince the inhabitants of their friendly intentions they had brought with them three natives of Louisiana serving in the troops of his catholic majesty in Pensacola and accordingly those three persons alluded to, Messrs. Guillemard, Regio and Grand Pre were seen shortly after in company with the British officers but fortunately were not able to give them any great assistance.
“On the arrival of the second division at the village, the prisoners were embarked on board one of the boats to be conveyed to their own homes. They landed at half past seven with the second division who, on hearing the report of the cannon, made all haste to repair to the scene of action where they arrived in less than an hour, long before the action was over so that several corps of that division were engaged in it.
“The first division of British troops having encamped, or rather bivouacked, as I have already observed at the angle formed by the road on the highest part of Villere’s plantation in irregular order, some on the side of the levee, and others on the plain, out-posts had been stationed at different places in an oblique line extending from the boundary between La Ronde’s and Lacoste’s plantations running along the negro huts of the latter on the back of a dwelling house, as far as a cluster of live oaks on Villere’s canal near the wood. There was stationed a strong detachment to cover the communication with the rest of the army by the road on the right bank of the canal. Through the plain ran a chain of out-sentries very closely posted. A detachment of fifty men was stationed at Jumonville’s bridge on the border of the canal on the road. One company had advanced as far as the bank of the river behind the levee and to the angle forming Mr. Villere’s inclosed batture probably in order to prevent all surprise by the river. The detachment of the rocket brigade was stationed behind the levee to use that diabolical invention against such vessels as might endeavor to annoy the camp. A few pieces of cannon had already arrived and were mounted in the court near Villere’s sugar-works. A strong detachment of about five hundred men was stationed on the left bank of Villere’s canal near the negro huts. General Keane and his officers, among whom was Colonel Thornton, had established their headquarters in Mr. Villere’s house.
“The British general, having thus with little difficulty succeeded in bringing his troops to the banks of the Mississippi and there establishing his camp in the belief that his arrival and position could not be known at New Orleans until late in the night, expected to meet with little or no resistance. Such was the security and confidence of the British army that part of the troops had lain down in their bivouacs, and some pickets of the out-posts had lighted up large fires, at which the men were cooking their suppers, when they were surprised. It appears, indeed, not unlikely that the opinion they had of their superior military skill, the expectation with which they had been deluded, that the old population of the country would hail their arrival with joy and the cheering thoughts of their having arrived on the banks of the Mississippi within nine miles of New Orleans without having had occasion to fire a musket contributed to make the British believe themselves in perfect security from any attack.
“About seven o’clock the Carolina came to anchor on the brink of Villere’s batture, opposite the center of the British encampment, within musket-shot. Such was the security of the British that taking that vessel for a common boat plying on the Mississippi numbers of them went on the levee to examine her more closely. At half after seven the Carolina opened on them a dreadful fire, which continued for ten minutes before they could recover from the consternation with which they were struck by that sudden attack; so that they had not yet run to their arms when the guns of the schooner had already killed or wounded upwards of a hundred of their men. The British at last extinguished the fires in their camp and attempted to answer the schooner with a fire of musketry, from which the crew sustained no injury. Some Congreve rockets were tried with as little effect and those who discharged them were forced to conceal themselves behind the levee. In less than half an hour the schooner drove the enemy from his camp.
“At this moment a company of the seventh commanded by Lieutenant McClelland under Colonel Piatt, quarter-master general, advanced from the gate of La Ronde’s plantation on the road to the boundary of Lacoste’s at a distance of fifteen paces where the detachment was received with a discharge of musketry from one of the enemy’s outposts stationed on the road. Though this outpost consisted of a considerable number of men that gallant company attacked them vigorously and forced them to retire and Colonel Piatt with a few men of the detachment advanced to the ground from which they had just driven the enemy. The latter having received a reinforcement of two hundred men, and being now about three hundred strong, returned to resume their former position and kept up a brisk fire of musketry against the detachment who as briskly returned it. In this affair Colonel Piatt received a wound in the leg, Lieutenant McClelland and a sergeant were killed, and a few men wounded.
“Meantime the seventh regiment advanced by heads of companies parallel to the right, appuye on the high road to the distance of 150 yards where it formed in battalion before the enemy with whom it instantly engaged in a very brisk and close fire. The forty-fourth came up at the same time, formed on the left of the seventh and commenced firing. The artillery having now arrived, the two pieces were put in battery on the road, the marines being drawn up on the right of the artillery on the river bank. The engagement now became general on both sides; the front of the British line greatly outflanked our line on the left and the enemy, seeing that he could not make our troops give way, caused some of his to file off on the old levee by a gate three hundred yards from the river with intent to turn our flank. The forty-fourth had already been obliged to oblique on the left to avoid being turned when Major Plauche’s battalion, with that of Major Daquin and a very small number of Indians, advanced at the moment when their left was appuye on the angle of Laronde’s garden, and the right a little in the rear of the forty-fourth. The enemy’s columns advancing silently in the dark to endeavor to turn the troops of the line, fell suddenly almost within pistol-shot of the extremity of Daquin’s battalion and instantly commenced a brisk firing. Plauche’s battalion now forming the center advanced in close column and displayed under the enemy’s fire which was kept up by his whole front from the bank of the river to La Ronde’s garden forming an angle or curve in the center. Already had our troops, animated with martial ardour, forced the enemy to give way and they continued to advance keeping up an incessant fire; the cry of “charge! charge! push on with the bayonet!” ran from rank to rank on the left, when the enemy thought proper to retire favored by the darkness which was increased by the fog and by the smoke which a light breeze from the south blew full in the faces of our men. The artillery had all this time been playing upon the enemy who made an attempt to seize it but the fire from the right of the seventh regiment and from the marines frustrated his intent. At last when the smoke dispersed the enemy had already retired within the limits of Lacoste’s plantation.”
Major Latour’s recital can here be interrupted to insert a more detailed account of the near loss of the two six-pounders in that fight. When the artillery advanced along the road it was covered by the marines under Lieutenant Bellevue and the men serving it were blazing away at the enemy with great vigor. Jackson, urging his men to the attack, was near the cannon when the British at this point were suddenly reinforced and they made a bold push for the guns. Their heavy fire caused the marines to recoil, and as some of the horses drawing the artillery were wounded and unmanageable, one of the pieces was upset in the ditch.
Jackson, with his staff, rode swiftly to the point of danger, and indifferent to the shower of bullets which whistled around him, the commander cried out — “Save the guns, my boys, at every sacrifice!” Aided by Captain Butler and Captain Chotard of his staff, he succeeded in repairing the momentary disorder and rallying the marines and a company of the seventh, and soon had the guns safely protected.
Jackson used to say, familiarly, when complimented on the gracefulness of his bow that he learned the art on the night of the 23rd of December when, though the British thought differently, he never wasted so much politeness in his life as in bowing to their bullets as they whistled around his head.
“In the meantime General Coffee’s division had advanced towards the back of Laronde’s plantation in order to fall on the enemy’s rear according to the advice of Colonel Laronde, the owner of the premises,” continues Major Latour. “General Coffee ordered his riflemen to dismount on the edge of the ditch separating the two plantations where we left about one hundred men to take charge of the horses and have them ready when wanted. The division crossed the boundary line and .pushed forward in a direction perpendicular to that line. Captain Beale’s company, which had advanced near the wood within a short distance of one of the enemy’s advanced guards, followed the movements of General Coffee who drew up his division almost on the limits between the grounds of Lacoste and Villere. The detachment of cavalry under the command of Major Hinds, not being able to manoeuvre in fields cut up with ditches at very close intervals, remained drawn up on the edge of a ditch in the middle of the plantation. Coffee’s division extended its front as much as possible and the General ordered it to advance in silence and fire without order, taking aim with the utmost skill. Long practice had enabled these riflemen to keep up a very brisk fire the more destructive, as not a man discharged his piece without doing execution. The division continued to advance, driving the enemy before it, and took its second position in front of Lacoste’s plantation, where was posted the eighty-fifth, which, on receiving the first discharge, fell back behind the old levee towards the camp. Captain Beale’s company advanced on the left within Villere’s plantation almost in the midst of detachments of the enemy incessantly coming up on the side. It was principally engaged with a corps of the enemy near the old levee, which it forced to fall back. About the same time Coffee’s division discovered that several parties of the enemy were posted among Lacoste’s negro huts. On this the General ordered his men to move forward to the right to drive the enemy from that position, which was soon effected.
“Some British soldiers were killed or taken prisoners in endeavoring to escape towards the woods near the huts in a direction opposite to that of their camp; so true it is that the British troops were struck with consternation on being attacked that night in so vigorous, judicious and unexpected a manner.
“Captain Beale’s company, after having penetrated into the very camp of the enemy and made several prisoners, pushed forward to the right following the movement of General Coffee; but unfortunately a party of twenty-two of those brave and most estimable men, through a mistake owing to the darkness, fell among a corps of one hundred and fifty of the British who were moving on rapidly towards the camp, taking them for a part of Coffee’s division and were made prisoners.” (Twenty-four captured according to one of them, Benjamin Story, in his manuscript of that fight. S. C. A.)
“Coffee’s division at last took a position in front of the old levee near Laronde’s boundary where it continued to keep up a destructive fire on the troops that had been repulsed towards the right as they were endeavoring to escape.
“It was now about half after nine when the enemy, having learned by experience that he could not hope to obtain any advantage over our troops and persuaded that he would greatly endanger his own safety by continuing the combat in which he had already suffered so much, fell back to his camp where all the troops passed the night under arms and without fire.
“During the engagement the second division arrived; and a considerable part of it was in the thickest of the fire. The fear of being cut off from the sole communication which he had with the fleet made the enemy take every precaution to prevent such a disaster. His posts were in continual alarm the whole night and such were his apprehensions that he posted double lines of sentinels so that as the one turned it was crossed by the other walking in a contrary direction.
“General Jackson, seeing that the darkness rendered it impossible for him to follow up victory any farther, was forced to content himself for the present with having convinced the British that Americans were not to be intimidated by the martial renown of the heroes of Wellington. He, therefore, led back his troops to their former position from the principal entrance to the building of Laronde’s plantation where they remained until four in the morning. General Coffee took his position for the night in front of Laronde’s garden on the left of the other troops.
“From the most accurate information that could be obtained the enemy lost in this affair 400 men. Their official report acknowledges 310 killed including officers.” (Two hundred and seventy-four — 46 killed; 167 wounded and 64 missing, including officers, etc., were official British returns. S. C. A.)
“The loss on our side was 24 killed, 115 wounded, officers included, and 74 prisoners, in all 213 men.
“The loss of Colonel Lauderdale of General Coffee’s brigade of mounted riflemen, was particularly regretted; he was a brave and accomplished officer; his death is lamented by all who knew him and their only consolation is that he died at the post of honor, fighting for the defense of his country.
“Though the precise amount of the enemy’s forces in this action cannot be exactly ascertained, it is well known that half of General Keane’s division was encamped on the banks of the Mississippi at the beginning of the attack and that the remaining half of the division which had embarked at the encampment on Isle-aux-Pois in light vessels, several of which had run aground in the lake, had got on board of the barges that returned after having landed the first half and were disembarking when the cannon began to fire; that the greater part of these troops set out immediately from the landing place two miles and a half from the Mississippi, and ran towards the field of battle where their first platoons had already arrived before Coffee’s division began to fire and where they all successively arrived long before the action was over as it lasted till ten o’clock at night.
“That division composed of the regiments we have already mentioned could not amount to less than four thousand five hundred men, as we know the strength of each regiment.
“The first disembarkation consisted of the light brigade commanded by Colonel Thornton, composed of:
“On the supposition that each regiment left a party on board the vessels to take care of the baggage as is sometimes the case, there would still remain 4,500 effective men landed on the 23rd before nine o’clock in the evening and indeed several accounts from Jamaica, Providence and Bermuda make the number amount to five thousand.”
Jackson’s force in all, was, as Major Latour estimates, 2,131 men. The Louisiana Gazette (see page 102) says 2,325 men marched to the battlefield; General Jackson’s letter to the Secretary of War says “less than 1,500.”
“Of this number it is to be observed that the Mississippi dragoons were not in the action but were, all the time it lasted, in the background of Lacoste’s plantation,” he says. “Two companies of Coffee’s brigade had been left on the border of Laronde’s plantation to hold the horses whose riders had all dismounted; which reduces the number of fighting men to about 1,800 effective men. Plauche’s battalion being composed of companies wearing each a distinct uniform the enemy took those several companies for so many battalions and represented them as such. I have thought proper to rectify this misrepresentation by stating the number of each particular company.
“This inconsiderable number of men, strangers to the art of war and of whom few had even seen an engagement, but animated with that martial ardour which is soon excited in the breasts of men enjoying freedom and indignant at seeing the soil of their country, the land of liberty, invaded by a mercenary soldiery who came to renew in Louisiana the scenes of devastation and pillage recently exhibited on the banks of the Potomac and the shores of the Chesapeake, advanced against the enemy with eager alacrity. Several of the corps, particularly Plauche’s battalion, continued running as they advanced till they arrived on the field of battle. All impatiently longed to be engaged and all were inspired with an auspicious presentiment of victory. In the heat of the action the enemy was making towards the center a movement which seemed to indicate that he designed to charge with bayonets. Instantly the desire of anticipating him electrified our ranks and they all expressed a wish to be ordered to charge. This impetuosity, however, the officers thought proper to restrain.
“Major Plauche’s battalion of volunteers coming into the line at the moment when the enemy was pressing hard upon the left of the forty-fourth and endeavoring to turn it, proved by two or three brisk and well directed fires that it is worthy to be stationed by the side of veteran troops. This corps, though composed of several independent companies, has ever been exemplary for perfect union, harmony and subordination. Several of its officers who had formerly followed the military profession enjoyed the unlimited and well-deserved confidence of their men. These were ready to follow wherever those might lead the way, and to speak to the former (all of whom were citizens of New Orleans) of marching against the enemy, was sufficient to exhilarate their spirits and fill their hearts with exultation. Almost the whole of them were Frenchmen by birth or descent and bore an inveterate hatred to Great Britain from whose government most of them had suffered wrongs which they wished to avenge. On this trying occasion they flew to the defense of the country which had kindly received them and of which they were becoming citizens with the ardour and enthusiasm so characteristic of the French nation. Persuaded that musketry is often destructive without producing any decided effect, the men of this battalion longed to charge with bayonets and they expressed their wishes by loud acclamations. Already had the drums of the battalion begun to beat in compliance with their desire and the men waited only for the word of command to fall on the enemy with their national weapon when Colonel Ross, who had the superior command of the two battalions of volunteers, came up to restrain their ardour. vYet, had that manoauvre been made, had Plauche’s battalion advanced to the charge the enemy’s retreat would have been cut off on his right, and he would have been completely surrounded by General Coffee’s brigade which was advancing in his rear, Plauche’s battalion on his left, Daquin’s in front and Laronde’s great hedge of orange trees on the right; so that most of that column would have been forced to lay down their arms.
“It would not be proper for one whose name has appeared in general orders to make particular mention of the several individuals who distinguished themselves on this occasion; he might expose himself to be taxed with partiality or even to be reproached with injustice. I, therefore, refer the reader for such details to the general orders and to the major general’s letters to the secretary of war.
“But I cannot decline paying the tribute of justice to General Jackson, to say that no man could possibly have shown more personal valor, more firmness and composure than was exhibited by him through the whole of this engagement on which depended, perhaps, the fate of Louisiana. I may say without fearing to be taxed with adulation, that on the night of the 23rd, General Jackson exposed himself rather too much. I saw him in advance of all who were near him at a time when the enemy was making a charge on the artillery, within pistol shot in the midst of a shower of bullets and in that situation I observed him spiriting and urging on the marines and the right of the seventh regiment who, animated by the presence and voice of their gallant commander-in-chief, attacked the enemy so briskly that they soon forced him to retire.”
In one way the night battle of December 23rd must be considered a draw, in another it must be considered a victory for the Americans. There is no doubt that Jackson’s rough blow on the British landing force convinced General Keane that the army defending New Orleans was larger than it really was, and Keane’s hesitation at this time to bring up reinforcements lost him his opportunity to fling the force he had into the city before Jackson could erect works to stop him.
THE ENGLISH SIDE OF THE NIGHT BATTLE.
Captain John Henry Cooke, a British officer, who wrote a narrative of this unexampled campaign, gives a lively picture of the battle at the time when Coffee was fighting his way across the plain:
“Lumps and crowds of American militia who were armed with rifles and long knives for close quarters, now crossed the country,” he says, “and by degrees now getting nearer to the headquarters of the British they were met by some companies of the rifle corps and the eighty-fifth light infantry, and here again such confusion took place as seldom occurs in war, the bayonet of the British and the knife of the American were in active opposition at close quarters during this eventful night and, as pronounced by the Americans, it was ‘rough and tumble.’
“The darkness was partially dispelled for a few moments now and then by the flashes of fire-arms, and whenever the outlines of men were distinguishable, the Americans called out, ‘Don’t fire, we are your friends!’ Prisoners were taken and retaken. The Americans were litigating and wrangling and protesting that they were not taken fairly and were hugging their fire-arms and bewailing their separation from a favorite rifle that they wished to retain as their lawful property.
“The British soldiers likewise, hearing their mother tongue spoken, were captured by this deception; when such mistakes being detected, the nearest American received a knock-down blow; and in this manner prisoners on both sides, having escaped, again joined in the fray, calling out lustily for their respective friends. Here was fighting and straggling flashes of fire darting through the gloom like the tails of so many comets.
“At this most remarkable night-encounter the British were fighting on two sides of a ragged triangle, their left face pounded by the fire from the sloop and their right face engaged with the American land forces. Hallen was still fighting in front at the apex.
“At one time the Americans pushed round Hallen’s right and got possession of the high road behind him, where they took Major Mitchell and thirty riflemen going to his assistance. But Hallen was inexorable and at no time had more than one hundred men at his disposal, the riflemen coming up from the rear by twos and threes to his assistance when he had lost nearly half his picket in killed and wounded, and behind him was such confusion that an English artillery officer declared that the flying illumination encircling him was so unaccountably strange that had he not pointed his brass cannon to the front at the beginning of the fight he could not have told which was the proper front of battle (as the English soldiers were often firing one upon the other as well as the Americans) except by looking towards the muzzle of his three-pounder, which he dared not fire, from the fear of bringing down friends and foes by the same discharge, seeing, as he did, the darkness suddenly illuminated across the country by the flashing of muskets at every point of the compass.”
The incidents attending the capture of Major Mitchell are amusingly related by the author of “Jackson and New Orleans.” “As the 93rd Highlanders,” says this diligent writer, “were expecting every moment to reach the camp, Major Mitchell was strongly impressed with the belief that Coffee’s men, who wore hunting-shirts, which in the dark, were not unlike the Highland frock, were the men of the 93rd, and greatly needing their aid, he eagerly advanced, calling out, ‘Are those the men of the 93rd?’ ‘Of course,’ shouted the Tennesseans, who had no particular number. Mitchell thereupon pushed boldly forward within a few feet of the men, when Captain Donaldson stepped in front and slapped the astounded Briton on the shoulder, calling out, ‘You are my prisoner!’ and requested the Major’s sword. This request was enforced by half a dozen long rifles which covered his body at every assailable point. With infinite mortification the gallant Major surrendered and with several other prisoners was borne off by the Tennesseans. Though at the moment of his capture and subsequently Major Mitchell was treated with kindness and generosity due to a gallant foe, he never recovered his good humor and embraced every opportunity of exhibiting his spleen and disgust. The oblique movement of Coffee’s brigade to the right produced some disasters which were sorely lamented by the Americans.”
The Subaltern’s narrative of this fearful and glorious night is singularly interesting. He says truly that no man could know much of what passed except the event that occurred in his immediate presence, and therefore he confines his narrative to what he himself did and saw.
“My friend Grey (Captain Grey of the 85th) and myself had been supplied by our soldiers with a couple of fowls taken from a neighbor1ng hen-roost and a few bottles of excellent claret, borrowed from the cellar of one of the houses near. We had built ourselves a sort of hut by piling together in a conical form a number of large stakes and broad rails torn up from one of the fences, and a bright wooden fire was blazing at the door of it. In the wantonness of triumph, too, we had lighted some six or eight wax candles, a vast quantity of which had been found in the store-rooms of the chateaux hard by and having done ample justice to our luxurious supper we were sitting in great splendor and high spirits at the entrance of our hut when the alarm of the approaching schooner was communicated to us. With the sagacity of a veteran, Grey instantly guessed how matters stood; he was the first to nail the suspicious, stranger, and on receiving no answer to his challenge he was the first to fire a musket in the direction of her anchorage. But he had scarcely done so when she opened her oroadside, causing the instantaneous abandonment of fires, viands and mirth throughout the bivouac.
“As we contrived to get our men tolerably well around us, Grey and myself were among the first who rushed forth to support the pickets and check the advance of the enemy upon tne right. Passing as rapidly as might be through the ground of encampment amidst a shower of grape shot from the vessel we soon arrived at the pond, which being forded, we found ourselves in front of the farm-house of which I have already spoken as composing the headquarters of General Keane. Here we were met by a few stragglers from the outposts who reported that the advance companies were all driven in and that a numerous division of Americans was approaching. Having attached these fugitives to our little corps we pushed on and in a few seconds reached the lower extremity of a sloping stubblefield at the other end of which we could discern a long line of men, but whether they were friends or foes the darkness would not permit us to determine. We called aloud, for the purpose of satisfying our doubts, but the signal being disregarded we advanced. A heavy fire of musketry instantly opened upon us, but so fearful was Grey of doing injury to our own troops, that he would not permit it to be returned. We accordingly pressed on our men dropping by ones and twos on every side of us, till having arrived within twenty or thirty yards of the object of our curiosity it became to me evident enough that we were in front of the enemy. But Grey’s humane caution still prevailed; he was not convinced and till he should be convinced it was but natural that he should not alter his plans. There chanced to be near the spot where we were standing a huge dungheap or rather a long solid stack of stubble behind which we directed our men to take shelter whilst one of us should creep forward alone for the purpose of more completely ascertaining a fact of which all except my brave and nobleminded comrade were satisfied. The event proved that my sight had not deceived me; I approached within saber’s length of the line and having ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt that the line was composed of American soldiers I returned to my friend and again urged him to charge. But there was an infatuation upon him that night for which I have ever been unable to account. He insisted that I must be mistaken; he spoke of the improbability which existed that any part of the enemy’s “army should have succeeded in taking up a position in rear of the station of one of our outposts and he could not be persuaded that the troops now before him were not the 95th rifle corps. At last it was agreed between us that we should separate; that Grey with one-half of the party should remain where he was whilst I with the other half should make a short detour to the right and come down upon the flank of the line from whose fire we had suffered so severely. The plan was carried into immediate execution. Taking with me about a dozen or fourteen men, I quitted Grey and we never met again.
“How or when he fell I know not but judging from the spot and attitude in which I afterwards found his body I conceived that my back could have been barely turned upon him when the fatal ball pierced his brain. He was as brave a soldier and as good a man as the British army can boast of, beloved by his brother officers and adored by his men. To me he was a brother; nor have I ceased even now to feel as often as the 23rd of December returns that on that night a tie was broken, than which the progress of human life will hardly furnish one more tender or more strong. But, to my tale.
“Leaving Grey — careless as he ever was in battle of his own person and anxious as far as might be to secure the safety of his followers — I led my little party in the direction agreed upon and fortunately falling in with about an equal number of English riflemen, I caused them to take post beside my own men and turned up to the front. Springing over the paling we found ourselves almost at once upon the left flank of the enemy and we lost not a moment in attacking it. But one volley was poured in and then bayonets, musket butts, sabers, and even fists came instantly into play. In the whole course of my military career I remember no scene at all resembling this. We fought with the savage ferocity of bulldogs and many a blade which ‘till to-night had not drunk blood became in a few minutes crimsoned enough.
“Such a contest could not, in the nature of things, be of very long continuance. The enemy, astonished at the vigor of our assault, soon began to waver, and their wavering was speedily converted into flight. Nor did we give them a moment’s time to recover from their panic. With loud shouts we continued to press upon them and, amidst the most horrible din and desperate carnage, drove them over the field and through the little village of huts. Here we found a number of our own people prisoners and under a guard of Americans, but the guard fled as we approached and our countrymen catching up such weapons as came first to hand joined in the pursuit.
“In this spot I halted my party, increased by the late additions to the number of forty, among whom were two gallant young officers of the 95th. We had not yet been joined, as I expected to be joined, by Grey, and feeling that we were at least far enough in advance of our own line, we determined to attempt nothing further except to keep possession of the village should it be attacked. But whilst placing the men in convenient situations another dark line was pointed out to us, considerably to the left of our position. That we might ascertain at once of what troops it was composed, I left my brother officers to complete the arrangements which we had begun and walking down the field demanded in a loud voice to be informed who they were that kept post in so retired a situation. A voice from the throng made answer that they were Americans, and begged me not to fire upon my friends. Willing to deceive them still further, I asked to what corps they belonged; the speaker replied that they were the second battalion of the first regiment and inquired what had become of the first battalion. I told them that it was upon my right, and assuming a tone of authority commanded him not to move from his present situation till I should join him with a party of which I was at the head.
“The conversation ended here and I returned to the village, when, communicating the result of my inquiries to my comrades, we formed our brave little band into line and determined to attack. The men were cautioned to preserve a strict silence and not to fire a shot till orders were given, and they observed these instrutcions and with fixed bayonets and cautious tread advanced along the field. As we drew near I called aloud for the commanding officer of the second regiment to step forward, upon which an elderly man, armed with a heavy dragoon saber, stepped out of the ranks. When he discovered by our dress that we were English, this redoubtable warrior lost all self-command; he resigned his sword to me without a murmur and consented at once to believe that his battalion was surrounded and that to offer any resistance would but occasion a needless loss of blood. Nor was he singular in these respects; his followers, placing implicit reliance in our assurance that they were hemmed in on every side by a very superior force, had actually begun to lay down their arms and would have surrendered in all probability at discretion, but for the superior gallantry of one man. An American officer, whose sword I demanded, instead of giving it up, as his commander had done, made a cut at my head which with some difficulty I managed to ward off and a few soldiers near him, catching ardor from his example, discharged their pieces among our troops. The sound of firing was no sooner heard than it became general, and as all hope of success by stratagem might be laid aside we were of necessity compelled to try the effect of violence. Again we rushed into the middle of the throng and again was the contest that of man to man, in close and desperate strife, till a panic arising among the Americans they dispersed in all directions and left us masters of the field.
“In giving a detail so minute of my own adventures this night I beg to repeat what has been stated already, that I have no wish to persuade my readers that I was one whit more cool or more daring than my companions. Like them, I was driven to depend from first to last upon my own energies, and I believe the energies of few men fail them when they are satisfied that on them alone they must depend. Nor was the case different with my comrades. Attacked unexpectedly and in the dark; surrounded, too, by a numerous enemy and one who spoke the same language with ourselves, it is not to be wondered at if the order and routine of civilized warfare were everywhere set at naught. Each man who felt disposed to command was obeyed by those who stood near him without any question being asked as to his authority, and more feats of individual gallantry were performed in this single night than many regular campaigns might furnish an opportunity to perform.
“The night was far spent and the sound of firing had begun to wax faint when, checking the order of our brave followers, we collected them once more together and fell back into the village. Here, likewise, considerable numbers from other detachments assembled, and here we learned that the Amreicans were repulsed on every side. The combat had been long and obstinately contested; it began at eight o’clock in the evening, and continued till three in the morning, but the victory was ours. True, it was the reverse of a bloodless one, not fewer than two hundred and fifty of our best men having fallen in the struggle; but even at the expense of such a loss we could not but account ourselves fortunate in escaping from the snare in which we had confessedly been taken.
“To me, however, the announcement of the victory brought no rejoicing, for it was accompanied with the intelligence that my friend was among the killed. I well recollect the circumstance under which this sad news reached me. I was standing with a sword in each hand, my own and that of the officer who had surrendered to me, and, as the reader may imagine, in no bad humor with myself or with the brave fellows about me, when a brother officer stepping forward, abruptly told the tale. It came upon me like a thunderbolt, and casting aside my trophy I thought only of the loss which I had sustained. Regardless of every other matter, I ran to the rear and found Grey lying behind the dung-heap motionless and cold. A little pool of blood which had coagulated under his head pointed out the spot where the ball had entered and the position of his limbs gave proof that he must have died without a struggle. I cannot pretend to describe what were then my sensations but, of whatever nature they might be, little time was given for their indulgence; for the bugle sounding the alarm I was compelled to leave him as he lay and to join my corps. Though the alarm proved to be a false one it had the good effect of bringing all the troops together, by which means a regular line was now for the first time since the commencement of the action formed. In this order, having defiled considerably to the left, so as to command the highway, we stood in front of our bivouac till dawn began to appear, when, to avoid the fire of the schooner, we once more moved to the river’s bank and lay down” (under the proctection of the levee, doubtlessly.) “Here, during the whole of the succeeding day, the troops were kept shivering in the cold frosty air without fires, without provisions, and exhausted by fatigue, nor was it till the return of the night that any attempt to extricate them from their comfortless situation could be made.”
JACKSON’S FAMOUS DITCH.
When daylight came after the fearful battle in the dark it found Jackson’s meager handful of fighters drawn up in line along the boundary of the Chalmette and Rodriguez plantations. This was marked by a long-abandoned canal, scarcely more than a shallow depression in the earth, extending from the levee at the river to the impassable swamp land about a mile away.
Jackson’s keen eye at once recognized the value of this strip of firm land, that it was the narrowest that lay between the city and the place where the British had landed, and with a bulwark of some kind in front, the swamp on one end and the river on the other, would keep the enemy from executing any flanking movement.
Jackson and his staff, including of course Major Latour, walked along this “ditch”. As the story goes, Jackson turned to his advisers and aids, and pointing to the canal said: “Here we will plant our stakes and not abandon them until we drive these red-coat rascals into the river or the swamp!”
However, exactly what did occur must be told later by Major Latour who, as chief engineer, directed the construction of what earthworks Jackson’s forces fought behind during the whole campaign. But what is more to the point in this century-after recital of what occurred during that memorable time, is the fact that while Jackson was ordering up the earthworks that proved the undoing of England’s gallant array of invasion, eight men in the Hotel des Pays Bas, Ghent, Belgium, were affixing their signatures and seals to a document of considerable length.
These eight men were Admiral Lord Gambier, Henry Goulbourn, M. P., William Adams, doctor of civil laws; John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, Jonathan Russel and Albert Gallatin, and the document they were signing and sealing in triplicate was the Treaty of Ghent.
As to whether the two countries were actually at peace at this time will be dealt with more fully in a later chapter, so we will turn again to Latour’s admirable-recital of the field activities and learn of the construction of the earthworks that have gone down in history as the “immortal ditch” of Chalmette.
“Before I proceed to relate the event of the 8th of January, a day of ever-glorious memory in the annals of America, and especially in those of Louisiana,” Major Latour tells us, “I think it not unseasonable here to describe those lines, before which was performed the most important military exploit of the whole war and, considering local circumstances and the respective forces contending, that which reflects on America the highest glory.
“Jackson’s lines, within five miles of the city of New Orleans and running along the limits of Rodriguez’s and Chalmette’s plantations, formerly the property of the United States, were but one of those ancient mill-races so common in Louisiana, extending from the bank of the river to the cypress swamp. Owing to the form of the soil in Lower Louisiana and from its shelving from the river towards the swamps when the Mississippi is swelled to its greatest height, the level of the surface of its waters is some feet above that of the contiguous soil and from twelve to fifteen feet above that of the prairies and bayous, which at these periods receive the water flowing from the river. To add to the mass and the force of the water, the planters dig canals a few feet deep, throwing the earth on both sides so as to afford a mass of water from eight to eleven feet deep; and at the head of these canals, which are commonly twentyfive feet wide, are constructed saw-mills.
“The canal on which Jackson’s lines were formed had long been abandoned, having no longer any mill to turn, so that its banks had fallen in and raised its bottom, which was covered with grass, presenting rather the appearance of an old draining ditch rather than of a canal. On the 24th of December General Jackson had taken this position; and,that it was well chosen will sufficiently appear on an inspection of the map
I will only observe that those lines leave the least possible space between the river and the wood, and that from the lines to Villere’s canal the depth of the high-land continually increases, and is at Laronde’s plantation nearly three times as great as at the lines. As soon as this position was chosen, the troops began to raise a parapet, leaving the ditch as it was, except that by cutting the road it was laid under water, as there was then a temporary rise of the river. Earth was fetched from the rear of the line and thrown carelessly on the left bank, where the earth had been thrown when the canal was originally dug. The bank on the right side being but little elevated above the soil, formed a kind of glacis. All the pales of the fences in the vicinity were taken to the line parapet and prevented the earth from falling into the canal.
“All this was done at various intervals and by different corps, owing to the frequent mutations in the dispositions of the troops. This circumstance, added to the cold and incessant rain, rendered it impossible to observe any regularity as to the thickness and height of the parapet, which in some places was as much as twenty feet thick at the top, though hardly five feet high; whilst in other places the enemy’s balls went through it at the base. On the 1st of January there was but a very small proportion of line able to withstand the balls; but on the 8th of January the whole extent, as far as the wood, was proof against the enemy’s cannon. The length of the line was eight hundred and fifteen toises, or about a mile, somewhat more than half of which ran from the river to the wood, the remainder extending into the depth, where the line took a direction towards the left, which rested on a cypress swamp almost impassable. On that part of the line which was in the wood, the breastwork was not thicker than was necessary to resist musketry; it was formed of a double row of logs, laid one over the other, leaving a space of two feet, which was filled up with earth. Along one part of the line ran a banquette (sidewalk); in some parts, the height of the breastwork above the soil Was hardly sufficient to cover the men. The earth thrown up to form the breastwork had been dug out at various intervals and without any order, the rainy weather not admitting of the work’s being carried on with regularity, as observed before.”
THE COTTON BALE QUESTION.
For almost 100 years the question, “Were cotton bales used as breastworks by Jackson’s forces?” has been argued pro and con by historians, military experts and many others’ who have written of the battle of New Orleans. To say that cotton bales were not used would be wrong, but to say that cotton bales were used in the battle of January 8th, known as the battle of New Orleans, is also an error. The truth of the matter is, cotton bales were used and they were not. To prove this we have two historians who are fighters more than writers; both took an active part in the defense of the city over 75 years ago; they cleared this beclouded question conclusively; but histories, particularly those used in schools, have trained the average American mind to believe that cotton bales formed the sole breastwork for Jackson’s ragged army, when they were merely an incident of the general defense.
Vincent Nolte, a German cotton merchant, who was the principal exporter of this commodity in New Orleans in 1815, as the representative of an English firm, wrote an interesting memoir some time afterwards, entitled, “Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres.” This author served in the battle of New Orleans and the parts of his book dealing with this conflict abound in curious and not ill-told anecdotes. As Parton says, the book has but one fault — you cannot believe a word it says, that is, implicitly. Nolte exaggerates and perverts and takes great joy in dwelling on the bravery of those who were his friends and supporters in a business way, and charges those who were in competition, with him in the business life of the city with every brand of cowardice known. That part of his memoir must necessarily be taken with a plentiful supply of salt. However, Nolte was the principal buyer and shipper of cotton then in New Orleans, so what he says regarding the use of cotton bales we must accept, and a perusal of the newspapers of that date bears out to a great degree what he says:
“The use of cotton bales as an adjunct of field fortification was a failure,” wrote Nolte. “Jackson adopted that plan because he was anxious to lose no time. He knew that in the city he could procure plenty of baled cotton for seven or eight cents a pound, the market then being at a standstill on account of the blockade and lack of freights. But it would take a day or two to bring it from the city. He was informed that not far from the camp, just in the rear of his position, lay a bark in the stream laden with cotton from Havana. The name of this vessel was the ‘Pallas.’” (Nolte was in error here, newspapers of a later date, giving an account of a lawsuit, name the vessel as the “Sumatra.) “Her cargo consisted of 245 bales which I had shipped just before the invasion, and sixty-odd bales belonging to Senor Fernando Alzar, a Spanish cotton merchant of New Orleans” (277, as was brought out in the court proceedings).
“The first I knew of the seizure was when the bales began to arrive at camp and were ordered to be placed on the redoubt, and the shipping-marks on them struck my attention They were my own property. Adjutant Livingston, who was my usual legal counsel in New Orleans, that same evening inspected Battery No. 3, where the men were placing some of my own bales. And I, too, was in charge of the working party!
“Somewhat vexed at the idea of the General taking the best sort of cotton, worth ten or eleven cents a pound, out of a ship already loaded and on the point of sailing when a lower grade and not loaded on board ship could be had for seven or eight cents a pound, I said as much to Mr. Livingston. He, who was never at a loss for repartee, said, laughing: ‘Well, Nolte, old fellow, if this is your cotton, I don’t know of anyone better able to defend it!’
“This incident gave rise to the story afterwards widely told, that Jackson, when a merchant complained to him of the seizure of his cotton, ordered a sergeant to place a rifle in the gentleman’s hands, with the remark: ‘No one can defend those cotton bales better than their owner can. I hope you will stand by them!’
“But the cotton bales, in lieu of earth-filled gabions, did not meet the General’s expectations. At their first exposure to cannonade (January 1st) the balls from the British batteries knocked them about in all directions. Some were set on fire by the wads of our own guns or by the blasts of flame from their muzzles and fell in the ditch outside, where they smouldered with much smoke and most annoying stench. After that bombardment all the bales were taken away from the works and thrown in the rear, where they were broken open by the men to make beds on the ground, and all was ruined.
“Mr. Livingston mentioned our little conversation to the General, who assured him he would see to it after the thing was over that his client, as he called me, ‘suffered no loss.’ But I did, nevertheless.”
After the battle Nolte tells us he found the General a hard man to deal with. “My claim,” says the German merchant, “was a double one; first, for seven hundred and fifty woolen coverings, taken out of my warehouse; second, for two hundred and fifty bales of cotton, taken from the brigantine. For the first I received the price that was current on the day that the landing of the English was announced — eleven dollars per pair. All settlements required the General’s ratification and signature. On this occasion he gave both, but with the remark that as my goods had been taken to cover the Tennessee troops, I should be paid in Tennessee bank notes, upon which there was a discount of nearly ten per cent. I was silent.”
But with regard to the price of the cotton, Nolte and the General could not agree at all; Nolte demanding the price the cotton was worth then, the General offering only the price at which the cotton was held when it was used in fortifying the lines. “I made a written protest,” says Nolte, “but the General would not notice it. Then I determined to call on him in the hopes of awakening a sense of justice in him. He heard me, but that was all. ‘Are you not lucky,’ he asked, ‘to have saved the rest of your cotton by my defense?’ ‘Certainly, General,’ I said, ‘as lucky as anybody else in this city whose cotton has thus been saved, but the difference between me and the rest is, that all the others have nothing to pay and that I have to pay all the loss.”
“‘Loss!’ said the General, getting excited, ‘why, you have saved all!’ I saw that argument was useless with so stiff-necked a man and remarked to him that I only wanted compensation for my cotton, and that the best compensation would be to give me precisely the quantity that had been taken from me and of the same quality; that he might name one merchant and I another, who should buy and deliver to me the cotton, and that he should pay the bill. ‘No, no, sir,’ he answered, ‘I like straightforward business, and this is too complicated. You must take six cents for your cotton. I have nothing more to say.’ As I again endeavored to explain, he said: ‘Come, sir, come — take a glass of whiskey and water; you must be damned dry after all your arguing.’”
Happily, the other writer and fighter of that period who gives us the answer of the cotton-bale question is a minister of the Gospel. He was John Richard Ogilvy, a student of Transylvania College when the Indian wars started in 1811. He enlisted with the volunteers from Kentucky, under the leadership of Adair, fought at Tippecanoe and the rest of Harrison’s campaigns in the Northwest. When the call to New Orleans came, he again joined Adair’s command. After the war he became a Presbyterian clergyman and in 1838 he wrote in his pamphlet entitled “Kentucky at New Orleans”:
“A great deal has been said about the defensive qualities of cotton-bales since the battle of New Orleans. An attempt had indeed been made to use them, but it proved a failure, and by the time we got there” (The Kentuckians under Adair did not begin to arrive until nightfall, January 4) “all had been taken off the works and thrown in the rear, where the men broke them open and used the layers of which they were composed for mattresses. They were by no means a failure for that purpose, as I know from experience, having curled up many a night with one of them between my body and the wet ground and nothing between my sleeping form and heaven except a well-worn blanket, which, if it had possessed ears, might have heard the yells of Tecumseh’s savages three years before at Tippecanoe.
“But the joke was not all upon our side. Our British friends made an equally amusing blunder. They tried to use hogsheads of sugar for a similar purpose, of which they found abundance on the lower river plantations. In the bombardment our cannon-balls knocked many of these hogsheads open and then the constant drizzling rain dissolved their contents, making where they lay, soft, sticky and sweet mud-holes.
“It may be positively asserted that cotton bales cut no figure in the defense of our soil in the great battle of January 8th.” So, while we may say with truth and assert as positively as did Ogilvy that cotton bales cut no figure in the defense of New Orleans on the battle of January 8th, it would not be fair to assert as positively that cotton bales were not used during that campaign.
The Americans used one of the great staples of the South when cotton bales were tried and found wanting. The British, not satisfied with the “Gumbo” soil they found on the ground alongside of the river, used another great staple of the South — sugar — for their embankments. Both were doomed to failure, and only went to prove things that are great in peace and necessities to humanity, have no place in war. When the British began the planting of their batteries they could not dig without encountering water within two feet or so of the surface, and for this reason the defenses, or “Epaulements,” for these batteries were mostly made of hogsheads, some of them filled with earth, but most of them with sugar, which the British soldiers, with almost incredible toil, rolled into position over the damp and spongy ground covered with cane stubble and ridged with the planting-rows. “The Subaltern” computed that sugar to the value of many thousand pounds sterling was thus disposed of. “But it did not meet our expectations,” said he, “the hogsheads filled with sugar proved to be of little or no value as defenses against cannon shot.”
Not only did the hogsheads of sugar fail to stop the American shot, but it did a duty as valuable as that done by the Creoles behind the earthworks. The soldiers of the English army encamped on a land that did not, much to their surprise, provide them with great quantities of fresh provisions, ate freely of the sweet substance contained in the hogsheads, and many of them became very sick, incapacitating them from active service for days.
Of the cotton that was used there were 277 bales taken from the Sumatra. The court that settled Nolte’s claim reviewed the evidence that 230 bales were used in the construction of a powder magazine in the garden of the Macarte home. It was near this magazine Judah Touro received his wound, as will be told later. The remaining bales, which could only number 47, were divided one part on each end of the line and the rest on what was called the half-moon battery.
Latour does not even mention cotton bales; General Jackson, in a personal letter to President Monroe, say only earth and logs were used; Ogilvey and Nolte, in what has been recounted above, are quite definite in what they say. Lacotte, one of Latour’s engineers, however, show them as composing the whole scheme of entrenchment in his drawing, which is reproduced on
page 175, and this we know is absolutely wrong.
CHRISTMAS DAY ON THE BATTLEFIELD.
On December 25th, Christmas Day, the headquarters of General Jackson were at a mansion-house about two hundred yards behind the American lines, the plantation home of Augustus Macarty. From an upper window of this house, above the trees in which it was embosomed, the General surveyed the scene below; the long line of men at work upon the entrenchments; Hinds’ dragoons maneuvering and galloping to and fro between the two armies; the Carolina and Louisiana in the stream vomiting their iron thunder upon the foe. With the aid of an old telescope, lent by an aged Frenchman, which appears to have been almost the only instrument of the kind procurable in the place, he scanned the British position anxiously and often.
He was surprised, puzzled, and perhaps a little alarmed at the enemy’s prolonged inactivity. What could they be doing down there behind the plantation house? Why should they, unless they had some deep scientific scheme on foot, quite beyond the penetration of a backwoodsman, allow him to go on strengthening his position, day after day, without the slightest attempt at molestation?
It was not in the nature of Andrew Jackson to wait long for an enemy to attack, Parton tells us in his excellent life of this great American. Too prudent to trust his raw troops in an open fight with an army twice his number, it occurred to him, on the afternoon of the 24th, that there might be another and a safer way to dislodge them from their covert; at least, to disturb them in the development of whatever scheme they might be so quietly concocting. He sent for Commodore Patterson. Upon the arrival of the Commodore at headquarters a short conference took place between the naval and the military heads. Then the gallant Commodore hurries off to New Orleans. His object to ascertain whether a few of the merchant vessels lying idle at the levee cannot be instantly manned and armed each with two thirty-two-pounders from the navy yard and. if possible, set them floating down the river toward the British position where, dropping anchor, they shall join in the cannonade, and sweep the plain from side to side with exploding cannon balls. No plantation houses, no negro huts, no shallow ditches, no attainable distance will then avail the invading host.
Commodore Patterson could not succeed in his errand in time. But he bore in mind the General’s hint, and, in due time, acted upon it in another way with most telling effect, as shall shortly be shown.
There was generalship in Jackson’s idea. If it could have been carried out that night the enemy’s position would have been utterly untenable. With the dawn of the 27th, instead of doing what they did, they must have either advanced upon the lines and taken New Orleans or beaten a swift retreat to their shipping. Captain J. H. Cooke, in his involved, half-comic manner, remarks:
“General Jackson, throughput the operations displayed the art of the engineer, combining at the same time the talent of the wary politician and the polish of the finished negotiator, wielding the weapons of war with vigorous decision and with his pen finally transmogrifying an after defeat to his own advantage. He had amused the British generals for the space of four days and nights with the blustering fire from the sloop, he had turned every moment to his own account, brought up cannon to the barricades, and caused planking to be laid down for heavy artillery behind the ditch. And, although the profile of the crescent battery and the long line of the naked barricade and its rough exterior face was not chiseled by the mason, and might have been laughed at by Vauban, yet the sight of its smoking face caused the British general to halt.”
All was bustle and animation along Rodriguez Canal — what were the spirits of the invading hosts on the day of “peace on earth, good will toward men”?
The light of that Christmas morning found the English army disheartened, almost to the degree of despair, we are told. “I shall eat my Christmas dinner in New Orleans,” Admiral Cochrane had said on the day of the landing. The remark was reported by a prisoner to General Jackson, who allowed himself the luxury of a grim smile. “Perhaps so;” he said to this aid, “but I shall have the honor of presiding at that dinner.” As usual when affairs go wrong, the General in command was the scapegoat. By every British campfire, in every hut, at every outpost the conduct of General Keane was severely criticized. Why hadn’t they pushed right on to New Orleans? Why this delay in the wet sugar fields of Villere’s plantation?
“Why, Wilky,” asked an officer, who arrived Christmas day — some days after the landing of the British advance — “why, Wilky, how is it that you have not provided us with good quarters in New Orleans, as we expected? Why, what the devil have you been about?”
“At this question,” says the British Captain Cooke, who tells the story, “Wilkinson looked exceedingly vexed and, clapping his hands to his forehead and coloring up deeply, he turned away, stamping his foot, according to his usual custom when put out, and giving his arm a peculiar swing, answered:
“‘Oh! say no more about it.”
“And then, placing his arm within mine, we paced up and down for a long time, when he opened such a budget of astounding information; concerning the hesitation shown for the previous days, as to make the very military blood curdle in one’s veins. And, on being further questioned by myself as to the great stoppage, answered:
“‘Bullets stopped us — bullets — that’s all!’
“But he declared that the lines in front were not grown formidable and the only chance of taking them was by a well-concerted and simultaneous rush when, should the ditch prove too deep in front of these lines, short-planked ladders would be the only means to cross the ditch and then for the assailants to run over them.”
Though this was the habitual feeling of the British troops from the night of the twenty-third until the end yet an event on this Christmas morning occurred which, for the time, dispelled the prevailing gloom. This was the sudden arrival in camp, to take command of the troops, of Major Sir Edward M. Pakenham, and with him, as second in command, Major General Samuel Gibbs; besides several staff officers of experience and distinction. In a moment hope revived and animation reappeared.
General Pakenham, the brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, a favorite of the Duke and of the army, was of North of Ireland extraction, like the antagonist with whom he had come to contend. Few soldiers of the Peninsular war had won such high and rapid distinction as he. At Salamanca, at Badajoz — wherever in fact, the fighting had been fiercest — there had this brave soldier done a man’s part for his country, often foremost among the foremost. He was but thirty-eight years of age and the record of his bright career was written all over his body in honorable scars. Conspicuous equally for his humanity and for his courage, he had ever lifted his voice and his arms against those monstrous scenes of pillage and outrage which disgraced the British name at the capture of the strongholds of Spain; hanging a man upon one occasion upon the spot, without a trial of law thus, according to Napier, “nipping the wickedness in the bud.”
Surely this young captain, whose name is associated with victory, will speedily relieve his troops from their uncomfortable position. Like so many other British soldiers, his ruling idea of warfare was to close with the enemy at the first moment possible and achieve everything by that “simultaneous rush,” of which the irate Wilkinson spoke and in which, a few days later, he lost his life being one of the very few hostile Britishers to reach the American embankment.
“The British service seems to develop every high and noble quality of man and soldier, except generalship,” says Parton in comparing the two commanders. “Up to the hour when the British soldier holds an independent command he is the most assured and competent of men. Give him a plain, unconditional order — ‘Go and do that’ — and he will go and do it with a cool, self-forgetting pertinacity of daring that can scarcely be too much admired. All of the man, below the eye-brows, is perfect. The stout heart, the high purpose, the dexterous hand, the enduring fame, are his. But the work of general in command demands a head, a cool, calculating head, fertile in expedients; a head that is the controlling power of the man. And this article of head, which is the rarest production of nature everywhere, is one which the brave British soldier is apt to be signally wanting in; and never so much as when responsibility rests upon him. To such men as Andrew Jackson, responsibility is inspiration — to others it is paralysis.”
General Pakenham inherited General Keane’s erroneous information respecting Jackson’s strength. Keeping this fact in view, his first measure seems judicious enough. Let us quote the Subaltern’s account of Christmas day in the British camp:
“Hoping everything from a change of leaders,” says this entertaining soldier-writer, “the troops greeted their new leader with a hearty cheer; whilst the confidence which past events had tended in some degree to dispel returned once more to the bosoms of all.
“It was Christmas day and a number of officers, clubbing their little stock of provisions, resolved to dine together fn memory of former times. But at so melancholy a Christmas dinner I do not recollect at any time to have been present. We dined in a barn; of plates, knives and forks, there was a dismal scarcity, nor could our fare boast of much either in intrinsic good quality or in the way of cooking. These, however, were mere matters of merriment; it was the want of many well-known and beloved faces that gave us pain; nor were any other subjects discussed besides the amiable qualities of those who no longer formed part of our mess and never would again form part of it.
“A few guesses as to the probable success of future attempts alone relieved this topic, and now and then a shot from the schooner (the Carolina) drew our attention to ourselves; for, though too far removed from the river to be in much danger, we were still within cannon-shot of our enemy. Nor was she inactive in her attempts to molest. Elevating her guns to a great degree, cannon balls contrived occasionally to strike the wall of the building within which we sat; but the force of the ball was too far spent to penetrate and could, therefore, produce no serious alarm.
“Whilst we were thus sitting at table, a loud shriek was heard after one of these explosions, and on running out we found that a shot had taken effect in the body of an unfortunate soldier. I mention this incident, because I never beheld in any human being so great a tenacity of life. Though fairly cut in two at the lower part of the belly, the poor wretched man lived for nearly an hour, gasping for breath, and giving signs of pain.
“But to return to my narrative: as soon as he reached the camp, Sir Edward (Pakenham) proceeded to examine with a soldier’s eye every point and place within view. Of the American army nothing whatever could be perceived except a corps of observation, composed of five or six hundred mounted rifle-men, which hovered along our front and watched our motions. The town itself was completely hid, nor was it possible to see beyond the distance of a very few miles, either in front or rear, so flat and unbroken was the fact’ of the country. Under these circumstances, little insight into the state of affairs could be obtained by reconnoitering. The only thing, indeed, which we could learn from it was, that while the vessels kept their present station upon the river, no advance could be made, and as he felt that every moment’s delay was injurious to us and favorable to the enemy, General Pakenham resolved to remove these incumbrances, and to push forward as soon as possible.”
To blow the Carolina out of the water, then, is the British commander’s first resolve. Until that is done he thinks no movement of the troops is possible. His orders go back to the ships beyond the swamps and with incredible toil, nine field pieces, two Howitzers, one mortar, a furnace for heating cannon balls, and a supply of the requisite implements and ammunition, were brought from the fleet and dragged to the British camp. By the evening of the 26th they have all arrived and are ready to be placed in position on the levee as soon as darkness covers the scene of operations and silences the Carolina’s exasperating fire.
The little schooner lay near the opposite shore of the river, just where she had dropped her anchor after swinging away from the scene of the night action of the 23rd. There she had remained immovable ever since, firing at the enemy as often as he showed himself. A succession of northerly winds and dead calms rendered it impossible for Captain Henly to execute his purpose of getting nearer the British position, nor could he move the vessel higher up against the strong current of the swollen Mississippi. In a word, the Carolina was a fixture, a floating battery.
But what is very remarkable, considering the great annoyance caused by the fire of this schooner, she had but one gun, a long twelve, as Captain Henly reports, which could throw a ball across the river!
THE LAST OF THE CAROLINA.
On Dec. 27th it was all over with that glorious little vessel, the Carolina. At dawn of that day the American troops were startled by the report of a larger piece of ordnance than they had yet heard from the enemy’s camp. The second shot from the great guns placed by the British on the levee during the night, white hot, struck the Carolina, pierced her side and lodged in the main hold under a mass of cables, where it could neither be reached nor quenched. And this was but the prelude to a furious cannonade which sent the bombs and hot balls hissing and roaring about her, penetrating her cabin, knocking away her bulwarks, bringing down rigging and spars about the ears of the astonished crew. Captain Henly replied as best he could with his single long-twelve, while both armies lined and thronged the levee, watching the unequal combat with breathless interest.
No; not breathless. As soon as the schooner was hit cheers from the British troops rent the morning air; and whenever a well-aimed shot from the Carolina drove the British gunners for a moment under the shelter of the levee, shouts from the Americans applauded the devoted crew. General Jackson was at his high window spying the combat. Perceiving from the first how it must end, he sent an emphatic order to Lieutenant Thompson, of the Louisiana, to get that vessel out of range if it was in the power of man to do it. General Pakenham stood on the levee near his guns cheering on the artillerymen.
Half an hour of this work was enough for the Carolina. “Finding,” says Captain Henly, in his report to Commodore Patterson, with the blunt pathos of a sailor mourning for the loss of his vessel, “that hot shot were passing through her cabin and filling-room, which contained a considerable quantity of powder, her bulwarks all knocked down by the enemy’s shot, the vessel in a sinking condition, the fire increasing, and expecting every moment that she would blow up, at a little after sunrise I reluctantly gave orders for the crew to abandon her, which was affected with the loss of one man killed and six wounded. A short time after I had succeeded in getting the crew on shore I had the extreme mortification of seeing her blow up.”
The explosion was terrific. It shook the earth for miles around; it threw a shower of burning fragments over the Louisiana, a mile distant; it sent a shock of terror to thousands of listening women in New Orleans; it gave a momentary discouragement to the American troops. The English army, whom the schooner’s fire had tormented for four days, raised a shout of exaltation, as though the silencing of that single gun had removed the only obstacle to their victorious advance. Captain Hill of that army tells us that “among the crowd of spectators collected to witness the attack on the schooner were the Indian chiefs, who appeared deeply interested in the proceedings; and no sooner was the destruction effected than the prophet, in a fit of inspiration, commenced a palaver with his countrymen, foretelling the complete success of our pale faces on the following day. This was soon made known to us by Colonel Nicholls, who endeavored to impress upon us that we might depend on the prediction of this gifted seer.”
“But the Louisiana was still above water,” writes Parton, “and apparently as immovable as the Carolina had been. Upon her the British guns were immediately turned. To avail himself of a light breeze, or intimation of a breeze, from the east, Lieutenant Thompson spread all his sails. But against that steady, strong, deep current it availed not even to slacken the ship’s cable. Red-hot balls fell hissing into the water about her, and a shell burst upon her deck, wounding six of the crew. ‘Man the boats!’ thundered the commander. A hundred men were soon tugging at the oars, struggling, as for more than life, to tow the ship up the stream. She moved, the cable slackened and was let go. She moved slowly, steadily and, ere long, was safe out of the deadly tempest at anchor under the western shore opposite the American lines.
“Then it was the Americans’ turn to lift the exulting shout and cheer upon cheer saluted the rescued ship. The English soldiers heard the cheers as they were ‘falling in,’ three miles below. Every trace of discouragement was gone from both armies. The British now formed upon the open plain, without let or hindrance. The Americans could coolly estimate the success of the cannonade at its proper value. They had lost just one available gun and saved a ship which, at one broadside, could throw eight twelve-pound balls a mile and a half. That was the net result of a cannonade for which the British army had toiled and waited a day and two nights.
“If the English had directed their fire first upon the Louisiana they could have destroyed both vessels. How astonishing that any man, standing where General Pakenham stood that morning, could have failed to perceive a fact so obvious! The Louisiana had only to go a mile up the river to be out of danger. Half a mile made her comparatively safe. The Carolina was fully two miles below the point of safety. The half hour expended upon the schooner would have blown up the ship and then, at their leisure, they could have played upon the smaller vessel. And even if Captain Henly had slipped his cable and dropped down the stream past the British camp, the vessel would have been as effecually removed as she was when her burning fragment floated by.”
After the excitement of the morning the 27th of December was a busy day in the American lines. They were still far from complete and every man now felt that his strength would soon be put to the test. In the course of the day a twelve-pound howitzer was placed in position, so as to command the high road. In the evening a twenty-four was established further to the left, and early next morning another twenty-four. The crew of the Carolina hurried around to the lines to assist in serving these guns; and on the morrow the Baratarians, under Dominique You and Bluche, were coming down from Fort St. John to lend a powerful hand. The two regiments of Louisiana militia were added to the force behind the lines.”
All day long the shovel and the spade are vigorously plied; the embankment rises; the canal deepens. The lines nearest the river are strongest and best protected, and, besides, are concealed from the view of an approaching foe by the buildings of the Chalmette plantation, a quarter of a mile below them. These buildings which have served hitherto as the quarters of Hind’s dragoons, will protect the enemy more than they protect us, thinks General Jackson, and orders them to be fired when the enemy advances. It was a mistake and the order, luckily, was only executed in part. Far to the left, near the cypress swamp, the lines are weakest, though there Coffee’s Tennesseeans had worked as only Coffee’s Tennesseeans could work, to make them strong. But there is a limit to the powers of even such stalwart and indomitable heroes as these and there may be trouble to-morrow at the extreme left.
How it fared with the English troops that day, and during the night that followed, the graphic and modest Subaltern shall relate:
“Having thus removed all apparent obstacles to his future progress, General Pakenham made dispositions for a speedy advance. Dividing the army into two columns, he appointed General Gibbs to the command of one, and General Keane to the command of the other. The left column, led on by the latter officer, consisted of the ninety-fifth, the eighty-fifth, and ninety third, and one black corps; the right, of the fourth, twenty-first, forty-fourth, and the other black corps. The artillery, of which we had now ten pieces in the field, though at present attached to the last column, was designed to act as circumstances and the nature of the ground would permit; while the dragoons, few of whom had as yet provided themselves with horses, were appointed to guard the hospitals and to secure the wounded from any sudden surprise or molestation from the rear.
“But the day was too far spent in making these arrangements, and in clearing the way for future operations, to permit any movement before the morrow. The whole of Dec. 27th was therefore spent in bringing up stores, ammunition, and a few heavy guns from the ships, which being placed in battery upon the banks of the river, secured against the return of our floating adversary. All this was done quietly enough, nor was there any cause of alarm till after sunset; but from that time till towards dawn we were kept in a constant state of anxiety and agitation. Sending down small bodies of riflemen, the American general harrassed our pickets, killed and wounded a few of the sentinels and prevented the main body from obtaining any sound or refreshing sleep. Scarcely had the troops laid down, when they were roused by a sharp firing at the outposts, which lasted only till they were in order and then ceased; but as soon as they had dispersed and had once more addressed themselves to repose, the same cause of alarm returned, and they were again called to their ranks. Thus was the entire night spent in watching, or at best in broken and disturbed slumbers, than which nothing is more trying, both to the health and spirits of an army.
“With the pickets, again, it fared even worse. For the outposts of an army to sleep is at all times considered as a thing impossible; but in modern and civilized warfare they are nevertheless looked upon as in some degree sacred. Thus, while two European armies remain inactively facing each other, the outposts of neither are molested, unless a direct attack upon the main body be intended; nay, so far is this tacit good understanding carried, that I have myself seen the French and English sentinels not more than twenty yards apart. But the Americans entertained no such chivalric notions.
“An enemy was to them an enemy, whether alone or m the midst of five thousand companions; and they therefore counted the death of every individual as so much taken from the strength of the whole. In point of fact, they no doubt reasoned correctly, but to us at least it appeared an ungenerous return to barbarity. Whenever they could approach unperceived within proper distance of our watch fires, six or eight riflemen would fire amongst the party that sat around them, while one or two, stealing as close to each sentinel as a regard to their own safety would permit, acted the part of assassins rather than that of soldiers, and attempted to murder them in cold blood. For the officers, likewise, when going their rounds, they constantly lay in wait, and thus, by a continued dropping fire, they not only wounded some of those against whom their aim was directed but occasioned considerable anxiety and uneasiness throughout the whole line.
“Having continued this detestable system of warfare till towards morning the Americans retired and left us at rest. But as soon as day began to break our pickets were, called in and the troops formed in order of attack. The right column, under General Gibbs, took post near the skirts of the morass, throwing out skirmishers half way across the plain, whilst the left column drew up upon the road covered by the rifle corps which, in extended order, met the skirmishers from the other. With this.last division went the artillery, already well supplied with horses, and at the signal given, the whole moved forward.”
(Dec. 28, 1814.)
GENERAL PAKENHAM MAKES A GRAND RECONNOISSANCE.
The morning of the 28th of December was one of those perfect mornings of the southern winter, to enjoy which it is almost worth while to live twenty degrees too near the tropic of Cancer. Balmy, yet bracing; brilliant, but soft, inviting to action, though rendering mere existence bliss. The golden mist that heralded the sun soon wreathed itself away and vanished into space, except that part of it which hung in glittering diamonds upon the herbage and the evergreens that encircled the stubbled covered plain. The monarch of the day shone out with that brightness that neither dazzles nor consumes, but is merely beautiful and cheering. Gone and forgotten were now the lowering clouds, the penetrating fogs, the disheartening rains, that for so many days and dreary fearful nights had hung over the dark Delta. The river was flowing gold. “The trees,” we are told in Alexander Walker’s enjoyable history, “were melodious with the noisy strains of the ricebird, and the bold falsetto of that pride of southern ornithology, the mocking-bird, who, here alone continues the whole year round his unceasing notes of exultant mockery and vocal defiance.”
“It was one of Homer’s mornings, or Boccaccio’s or Tasso’s, or Shakespeare’s, who all so loyed the dawning day and wrote of it with its own diamond-drops and sunbeams and let the morning air blow over the page which it still exhales,” writes Parton.
“Fly away, noisy rice-bird, and defiant mocking-bird. Music more noisy and more defiant than yours salutes the rising sun — the rolling drum and ringing bugle that call twelve thousand hostile men to arms. This glorious morning General Pakenham is resolved to have at least one good look at the wary and active foe that for five days has given pause to the invading army and has not yet been so much as seen by them. With this whole force he will march boldly up to the lines and, if fortune favors and the prospect pleases, he will leap over them into New Orleans and the House of Lords. A grand reconnoissance is the order of the day.
“The American General has not used his telescope in vain; he is perfectly aware that an early advance is intended. Five pieces of cannon he has in position. The crew of the Carolina, under Lieutenant Crawley and Lieutenant Norris, Captain Humphrey and his artillerymen, are ready to serve them. Before the sun was an hour on his diurnal way, Jackson’s anxious glances toward the city had been changed into expressions of satisfaction and conndence by tho spectacle of several straggling bands of redshirted, bewhiskered, rough and desperate looking men, all begrimmed with smoke and mud hurrying down the road towards the lines. These proved to be Baratarians under Dominique You and Bluche who had run all the way from the Fort St. John, where they had been stationed, since their release from prison. They immediately took charge of two of the twenty-four pounders. And what is of as much importance the Louisiana, saved the day before by the resolution and skill of Lieutenant Thompson, is ready at a moment’s warning to let out cable and swing round so as to throw her balls obliquely across the plain.”
And all this is hidden from the foe, who will know nothing of what awaits them till they have passed the plantation houses of Chalmette and Bienvenu, only five hundred yards from the lines!
General Jackson was not long in suspense. The spectacle of the British advance was splendid in the extreme. “Forward they came,” says the author of “Jackson and New Orleans,” “in solid columns, as compact and orderly as if on parade, under cover of a shower of rockets and a continual fire from their artillery in front and their batteries on the levee. It was certainly a bold and imposing demonstration, for such as we are told by British officers, it was intended to be. To new soldiers like the Americans, fresh from civic and peaceful pursuits, who had never witnessed any scenes of real warfare it was certainly a formidable display of military power and discipline. Those veterans moved as steadily and closely together as if marching in review instead of ‘in the cannon’s mouth.’ Their muskets catching the rays of the morning sun nearly blinded the beholder with their brightness, whilst their gay and various uniforms, red, gray, green and tartan, afforded a pleasing relief in the winter-clad field and somber objects around.”
Thus appeared the British host to the gazing multitude behind the American lines; for the author of the passage quoted learned his story from the lips of men who saw the dazzling sight. The Subaltern tells us how the American lines looked to the advancing army and what reception greeted it.
“The enemy’s corps of observation” (Hind’s dragoons) “fell back as we advanced without offering in any way to impede our progress and it was impossible to guess, ignorant as we were of the position of the enemy’s main body, at what moment opposition might be expected nor, in truth, was it a matter of much anxiety. Our spirits, in spite of the troubles of the night, were good and our expectations of success were high; consequently many rude jests were bandied about and many careless words spoken; for soldiers are, of all classes of men, the freest from care and on that account perhaps the most happy. By being continually exposed to it, danger with them ceases to be frightful: of death they have no more terror than the beasts that . perish, and even hardships such as cold, wet, hunger, and broken rest, lose at least part of their disagreeableness by the frequency of their recurrence.
“Moving on in this merry mood we advanced about four or five miles without the smallest check or hindrance when at length we found ourselves in view of the enemy’s army posted in a very advantageous manner. About forty yards in their front was a canal which extended from the morass to within a short distance of the high road. Along their line were thrown up breastworks, not completed, but even now formidable. Upon the road and at several other points were erected powerful batteries whilst the ship with a large flotilla of gun-boats flanked the whole position from the river.
“When I say that we came in sight of the enemy, I do not mean that he was gradually exposed to us in such a manner as to leave time for cool examination and reflection. On the right he was seen for some time; but on the left (near the river) a few houses built at a turning in the road entirely concealed him; nor was it till they had gained that turning and beheld the muzzles of his guns pointed towards them that those who moved in this direction were aware of their proximity to danger. But that danger was near they were quickly taught, for scarcely had the head of the column passed the houses when a deadly fire was opened from both the battery and the shipping.
“That the Americans are excellent marksmen, as well with artillery as with rifles, we have had frequent cause to acknowledge; but, perhaps on no occasion did they assert their claim to the title of good artillerymen more effectually than on the present. Scarce a ball passed over or fell short of its mark but all striking full into the midst of our ranks occasioned terrible havoc. The shrieks of the wounded, therefore, the crash of firelocks, and the fall of such as were killed, caused at first some little confusion and what added to the panic was, that from the houses beside which we stood bright flames suddenly burst out. The Americans expecting this attack had filled them with combustibles for the purpose and directing against them one or two guns loaded with red-hot shot in an instant set them on fire. The scene was altogether very sublime. A tremendous cannonade mowed down our ranks and deafened us with its roar whilst two large chateaux and their outbuildings almost scorched us with the flames and blinded us with the smoke which they emitted.
“The infantry, however, was not long suffered to remain thus exposed, but being ordered to quite the path and to form line in the fields, the artillery was brought up and opposed to that of the enemy. But the contest was in every respect unequal since their artillery far exceeded ours, both in numerical strength and weight of metal. The consequence was that in half an hour two of our field-pieces and one field-mortar were dismounted, many of the gunners were killed and the rest, after an ineffectual attempt to silence the fire of the shipping, were obliged to retire.
“In the meantime the infantry, having formed line, advanced under a heavy discharge of round and grape-shot till they were checked by the appearance of the canal. Of its depth they were of course ignorant and to attempt its passage without having ascertained whether it could be forded might have been productive of fatal consequence. A halt was accordingly ordered and the men were commanded to shelter themselves as well as they could from the enemy’s fire. For this purpose they were hurried into a wet ditch of sufficient depth to cover the knees where leaning forward they concealed themselves behind some high rushes which grew upon its brink and thus escaped many bullets which fell around them in all directions.
“Thus fared it with the left of the army whilst the right, though less exposed to the cannonade, was not more successful in its object. The same impediment which checked one column forced the other likewise to pause and after having driven in an advance body of the enemy and endeavored without effect to penetrate through the marsh it also was commanded to halt. In a word all thought of attacking was for this day abandoned and it now only remained to withdraw the troops from their present perilous situation with as little loss as possible.
“The first thing to be done was to remove the dismounted guns;. Upon this enterprise a party of seamen was empbyed who, running forward to the spot where they lay, lifted them in spite of the whole of the enemy’s fire and bore them off in triumph. As soon as this was effected, regiment after regiment stole away, not in a body but one by one under the same discharge which saluted their approach. But a retreat thus conducted necessarily occupied much time. Noon had, therefore, long passed before the last corps was brought off and when we again began to muster, twilight was approaching.”
Our lively friend Hill adds a few curious and interesting particulars to the British version of this affair. The unfortunate blacks forming the West India regiments suffering most dreadfully from the change of climate and alterant of fare they were positively not only useless, but absolutely in the way. Several of these poor devils were observed huddled together and exposed to fire; they were desired to get under cover, to which they replied.
“‘No, tank you, massa, rader stay here and get killed at once; never see de day go back to Jamaica, so me die now, tank you. No stand dem d——n cold and fog — no house to lib in — not warm clothes, so poor nigger him die ’ike dog!’
“There was too much truth in these words; it was an absolute cruelty to bring them on such a service, and evinced little judgment on the part of the adviser of such a measure.
“The troops were ordered to retain the line they now occupied and no further demonstration of advance was made. Close to the left of our line stood the house and plantation of Monsieur Bienvenu. It was an elegant mansion; much of the furniture had been removed but enough remained to mark the taste of the proprietor. In the hall, which was floored with variegated marble, stood two magnificent globes and a splendid orrery. One room contained a vast collection of valuable books. On entering a bedroom, lately occupied by a female of the family as was apparent by the arrangement of toilet, etc., I found that our advance had interrupted the fair one in her study of natural history, a volume of Buffon was lying open on her pillow; and it was evident that her particular attention had been directed to the domestic economy of the baboon and monkey tribe, slips of paper marking the highly colored portraits of these charming subjects for a lady’s contemplation.
“In spite of our sanguine expectation of sleeping that night in New Orleans, evening found us occupying our negro hut at Villere’s, nor was I sorry that the shades of night concealed our mortification from the prisoners and slaves. As for our allies, the Indians, they had not increased in number; the countless tribes promised by Colonel Nicholls had not yet appeared, the five or six red skins I have already named still hung about headquarters. The prophet to avoid censure at the fallacy of his predictions, contrived to get gloriously drunk nor was the king of the Muscogies in a much more sober state; his majesty had consoled himself for the ill-fortune of the day by going from hut to hut imploring rum and asserting that he, ‘hungered for drink.’”
What a day for the heroes of the Peninsula and the stately 93d Highlanders; lying low in wet ditches some of them for seven hours under that relentless cannonade and then slinking away behind fences, huts, and burning houses or even crawling along on the bottom of ditches, happy to get beyond the reach of those rebounding balls that “knocked down the soldiers,” says Captain Cooke, “and tossed them into the air like old bags.” And what a day for General Jackson and his few thousand who saw the magnificent advance of the morning, and not without misgivings, then behold the most splendid and imposing army they had ever seen sink, as it were, into the earth and vanish from their sight! This reconnoissance cost General Pakenham a loss of 59 killed and wounded. The casualties of the American side were nine killed and eight wounded.
The ship Louisiana was the immediate cause of this day’s signal triumphs, claimed Commodore Patterson, who gave a simple but interesting account in his dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy of what transpired on board:
“At twenty-five minutes past 8 a. m., the enemy opened their fire upon the ship, with shells, hot shot and rockets,” wrote the commodore, “which was instantly returned with great spirit and much apparent effect and continued without intermission until one p. m., when the enemy slackened their fire and retreated with a part of their artillery from each of their batteries, evidently with great loss. Two attempts were made to screen one heavy piecee of ordnance mounted behind the levee with which they threw hot shot at the ship and which had been a long time abandoned before they succeeded in recovering it, and then it must have been with very great loss, as I distinctly saw, with the aid of my glass, several shot strike in the midst of the men (seamen) who were employed dragging it away. At 3 p. m., the enemy were silenced; at 4 p. m. ceased firing from the ship, the enemy having retired beyond the range of her guns. Many of their shot passed over the ship and their shells burst over her decks which were strewed with their fragments; yet, after an incessant cannonading of upward of seven kours, during which time eight hundred shot were fired from the ship, one man only was wounded slightly by the piece of a shell, and one shot passed between the bowsprit and heel of the jib-boom.
“The enemy drew up his whole force evidently with an intention of assaulting General Jackson’s lines under cover of his heavy cannon; but his cannonading being so warmly returned from the lines and ship Louisiana caused him, I presume to abandon his project as he retired without making the attempt. You will have learned by my former letters that the crew of the Louisiana is composed of men of all nations (English excepted) taken from the streets of New Orleans not a fortnight before the battle, yet I never knew guns better served, or a more animated fire than was supported from her. Lieutenant C. C. B. Thompson deserves great credit for the discipline to which in so short a time he had brought such men, two-thirds of whom do not understand English.”
At the extreme left of Jackson’s lines, a mile away from the river where the ditch could be leaped and the embarkment easily surmounted, there was a moment which rightly improved what might have given a different issue to the day. Upon getting sight of the rude line of defense, General Gibbs, instead of ordering the “simultaneous rush,” which would have carried them, was obliged to remember that the affair was only a
reconnoissance, and so halted his eager column. A detachment under Colonel Rennie advanced, however, drove in the American outposts, and drew up in a sheltered position one hundred yards from General Carroll’s division. Carroll’s men clamoring for a share in the day’s work, their General permitted Colonel Henderson to lead a column of two hundred Tennesseans along the borders of the swamp, with the design of getting to the rear of Rennie’s detachment and cutting it off. The attempt failed. A body of British troops concealed in the woods, opened fire upon the column, killed Colonel Henderson and five of his men, wounded a few more, and compelled the rest to retreat behind the lines in confusion. At this moment, when Rennie, elated by the result, was advancing on Carroll’s division and about to close with it, an imperative order from General Gibbs obliged him to retire. It is beyond question that a vigorous attack upon the left at that time would have given General Jackson more serious trouble than he had yet experienced during the campaign.
“It was in the midst of the confusion and alarm caused by the retreat of the Tennesseans and the threatened advance of Colonel Rennie,” writes Parton, “that a circumstance occurred which greatly added to the prevailing excitement and had a lasting effect upon the fame and peace of General Jackson.
“It was not to be expected in any circumstances that such a body of men as the Legislature of Louisiana would stand very high in the regard of such a man as Andrew Jackson and the less since he derived his impressions of their character from men who were opposed to them politically and otherwise. To save New Orleans seems to have been the ruling desire of a majority of that body, whereas Jackson’s first and great concern was to defeat and destroy the British expedition, even though that should involve the total destruction of the city.
“‘What did you design to do,’ Major Eaton once asked the General, a year or so after the battle, ‘provided you had been forced to retreat?’
“‘I should have retreated to the city,’ replied Jackson, ‘fired it and fought the enemy amidst the surrounding flames. There were with me men of wealth, owners of considerable property, who in such an event would have been among the foremost to have applied the torch to their own buildings, and what they had left undone, I should have completed. Nothing for the comfortable maintenance of the enemy would have been left in the rear. I would have destroyed New Orleans, occupied a position above the river, cut off all supplies, and in this way compelled them to depart from the country.”
“This being the temper of the General he had given a somewhat rough welcome to a committee of the Legislature, who had visited him a day or two before, to ask what course he intended to take in case he were compelled to retreat.
“‘If,’ replied the General, ‘I thought the hair of my head could divine what I should do, forthwith I would cut it off! Go back with this answer; say to your honorable body that if disaster does overtake me and the fate of war drives me from my line to the city, they may expect to have a very warm session!’
“Such an answer could not be satisfactory to the more conservative and timid members of the Legislature. Still, it lead to no action on their part, nor even remonstrance. Indeed, there had been no session of the Legislature since the 23rd, or, if any, only a meeting of a few members followed by immediate adjournment. In a conversation in a private house where seven or eight members chanced to meet, the speaker of the House openly said, that for his part, he thought the arrival of General Jackson a calamity.
“‘He seems to me,’ added the speaker, ‘to be a desperado, who will war like a savage and bring destruction and fire on the city and its neighboring plantation,’ Chas J. Ingersoll claims in his pamphlet, ‘Gen Jackson’s Fine.”
“In such exciting times as these rumor is busy enough: nor at any time does she need a better foundation than this for the most extravagant and incredible tale,” continues Parton. “And so it happened that on this morning of thunder and alarm (Dec. 28th) one of Rumor’s thousand tongues whispered it into the ear of a certain Creole, Colonel Declouet, that the Legislature were meditating a scheme for surrendering the city to the enemy! Pale with excitement Colonel Declouet rushed to the field, and there meeting Mr. Abner L. Duncan, a Philadelphian who was one of the numerous corps of Jackson’s volunteer aids, told him the dread news and entreated him to lose not a moment in informing General Jackson.
“‘It cannot be possible!’ exclaimed Duncan, aghast at the thought.
“Declouet solemnly repeated his statement; declared that he would be personally answerable for its truth, and urged Duncan for God’s sake to tell the General. Duncan then advised Colonel Declouet to go to the General himself, and offered to accompany him.
“‘No,’ said Declouet; ‘I will go to town and inform Governor Claiborne. Do you go and tell the General.”
“Whereupon he put spurs to his horse and rode away towards New Orleans, having imparted to Duncan all his own excitement and alarm. Duncan had already met on his way from New Orleans people hurrying from the camp to the city with the news that the lines had been forced and that the enemy were gaining the day. Distracted with the double apprehension of treason and defeat, he hastened to headquarters before which he found Major Plauche posted with his battalion of uniformed companies. Running up to the major, he asked with frantic eagerness:
“‘Where is the General?’
“Major Plauche, alarmed at his manner, asked him what was the matter. To which Duncan replied that he had just been told the Legislature were about to capitulate.
“‘It is impossible!’ cried Plauche, as he pointed out the General riding swiftly along the lines.
“Jackson was just returning from ordering General Coffee to strengthen the extreme left, where the disorder had occurred. As Duncan ran up, the General perceiving his agitation, and supposing he brought important news of the enemy’s movements, reined in his horse when the following conversation, as far as can be gathered from the various depositions, occurred between them:
“‘What is the matter, Colonel Duncan?’ cried the General.
“‘I am the bearer of a message from Governor Claiborne,’ said Duncan, ‘to the effect that the Assembly are about to give up the country to the enemy!’
“‘Have you a letter from the Governor?’ inquired Jackson.
“‘No, General,’ replied Duncan.
“‘Who gave you the intelligence?’ Jackson asked.
“‘Colonel Declouet,’ was the reply.
“‘Where is Colonel Declouet?’ asked the General. ‘He ought to be arrested, and, if the information is not true, he ought to be shot. I don’t believe it.”
“‘Declouet is gone back to New Orleans,” said Duncan. ‘He requested me to give you the information.”
“Upon hearing this the General loosed the reins and was about to gallop on. Duncan called out to him, ‘The Governor expects your orders, General.”
“Whereupon the General said as he rode away, ‘I don’t believe the intelligence; but tell the Governor to make strict inquiry into the subject and, if they persist, to blow them up!’
“The soldiers standing near caught the last words and the shout ran along the line ‘Blow them up!’
“The cannonade continued and the General thought no more of the Legislature until the retreat of the enemy gave him leisure for further reflection. He then wrote a hasty note to the Governor directing him to observe closely the movements of the Legislature and the moment any project of capitulation should be disclosed to place a guard at the door of their chamber. ‘My object in this,’ Jackson afterwards explained to his friend Eaton, ‘was, that when they would be able to proceed with their business without producing the slightest injury, whatever schemes they might entertain would have remained with themselves, without the power of circulating them to the prejudice of any other interest than their own. I had intended to have had them well treated and kindly dealt by; and, thus abstracted from everything passing without doors, a better opportunity would have been afforded them to enact good and wholesome laws.”
“Governor Claiborne, however, misunderstanding General Jackson’s communication, and perhaps not unwilling to silence a body that had not shown itself very complaisant to his wishes, placed a guard at the door of the chamber before the Legislature met; and thus, instead of shutting them in, shut them out. The feeling of an august Legislature can be imagined when, on approaching the door of their chamber, they found their entrance opposed by armed men who, on being interrogated by them, gave rude and uncompromising replies. This was the beginning of General Jackson’s long embroilment with the Legislature of Louisiana. Originating in the casual conversation of a group of members, magnified in the excited imagination of Cplonel Declouet, misrepresented in the bewilderment of the moment by Mr. Duncan, misunderstood by Governor Claiborne, the affair grew into importance and had results, the last of which was not reached until General Jackson was on the brink of the grave.
“Leaving the Legislature bandying loud epithets with the uncivil guard, we returned for a moment to the scene of conflict. The exultation, the gay confidence of the American troops at the close of this day was beyond description. The enemy was feared no longer and the rest of the campaign was but a kind of keen, exciting sport.”
His plan of frightening the “civilian general” and his amature soldiers by a great show of trained force failing, the commander of the invading army was forced to figure a new scheme of operation. This planning was done with due deliberation and four days elapsed before the next attack and fifth battle for the capture of New Orleans waged.
There was little activity in either camp for the soldiers. While the British lay on their arms, the restless Americans left their camp for what fighting was waged, as the next chapter will explain.
From the day that Pakenham “tried out” Jackson’s earthworks on the 28th of December, there was a season of inactivity for the British forces. On the American’s side there was no lying on arms and waiting for something to turn up, but the Indians, the frontier fighters of Tennessee and Kentucky, who by nature were bush-fighters, and who were habituated to the Indian mode of warfare, kept the Veterans of Wellington from any feeling of ennui.
“These wily frontiersmen never missed a chance of picking off the straggler or sentinel,” Walker tells us. “Clad in their dusky brown homespun, they would glide unperceived through the woods, and taking a cool view of the enemy’s lines, would cover the first Briton who came within range of their long, small-bored rifles. Nor did they waste their ammunition. Whenever they drew a bead on any object it was certain to fall. The cool indifference with which they would perform the most daring acts of this nature was amazing.
“One of these bush-fighters, having obtained leave to go on a ‘hunting party,’ one night, stole along towards the British camp, over ditches and through underwood, until he got near a British sentinel, whom he immediately killed, and seizing his arms and accoutrements, laid them at some distance from the place where the sentinel had stood, and then concealing himself, waited quietly for more game.
“When it was time to relieve the sentinel, the corporal of the guard finding him dead, posted another in his place, which he had hardly left, before another victim fell before the unerring rifle of the Tennesseean. Having conveyed his arms and accoutrements to the place at which he left those of the first victim, the remorseless hunter took a new position and a third sentinel, posted in the same place, shared the fate of the two others. At last the corporal of the guard, amazed to see three sentinels killed in one night, at the same spot, determined to expose no more men in so dangerous a spot. The Tennessean, seeing this, returned to camp with the spoils of the slain, and received the congratulations of his comrades on the success of his night’s hunt. Many instances of a similar character, illustrative of the daring, the skill, and love of adventure of these hardy riflemen, are related by the survivors of that epoch. Indeed, the whole army, after the events of the 23rd, 25th and 28th, seemed to be animated by a spirit of personal daring and gallant enterprise.
“In these little ‘hunting parties’ Jugeat’s Choctaws naturally excelled. One of them, a half-breed named Poindexter, being authentically credited with the killing of five British pickets in three nights. The Subaltern says, that ‘Not less than fifty British soldiers were killed, and many more severely wounded, by this method of assassination.’”
Ogilvy in his pamphlet devoted quite a little space to the half-breed Poindexter, and says: “Poindexter was the object of great interest when he came up into the main camp after the great battle. He was a slender, wiry fellow, a little above medium height, nearly white, and unlike the other Choctaws, wore his hair quite short, and dressed like a white hunter. His features were youthful and he did not look to be over twenty years old. He was the son of a trader whose name he bore and his mother was said to be the daughter of a chief. Young as he was, he had been through the Creek war and in the expedition to Pensacola. His visit to the main camp was for the purpose of selling two rifles he had taken from British riflemen whom he killed on picket-post, with some other small articles of plunder. When asked what he had done with their scalps he replied most seriously in perfect English: ‘Captain Jugeat has forbid scalping,’ as if that was the only reason why he refrained.
“The British rifles he had for sale were different from ours. They were short, only thirty inches in the barrel, with round barrels quite thick and heavy and they carried a ball 22 to the pound or three-quarters of an ounce. One of our fellows, looking them over, remarked that ‘it would be mighty hard luck to be killed with a blunderbuss like that!’ Some of the officers bought Poindexter’s trophies, giving him among other things, a small flask of whiskey and he went back to the swamp rejoicing — no doubt intent on resuming his pleasant pastime of still-hunting for British pickets.”
THE BATTLE NEW YEAR’S DAY.
The second Sunday of this strange mutual siege had come round. The light of another New Year’s day had dawned upon the world!
The English soldiers had not worked so silently during the night upon their new batteries but that an occasional sound of hammering, dulled by distance, had been heard in the American lines. The outposts, too, had sent in news of the advance of British troops, who were busy at something, though the outposts could not say what. The veterans of the American army, that is, those who had smelt hostile gunpowder before this campaign, gave it as their opinion that there would be warm working again at daybreak.
Long before the dawn the dull hammering ceased. When the day broke, a fog so dense that a man could discern nothing at a distance of twenty yards covered all the plain. Not a sound was heard in the direction of the enemy’s camp, nor did the American sentinels nearest their position hear or see anything to excite alarm. At eight o’clock the fog was still impenetrable and the silence unbroken. At late even as nine, the American troops saw little prospect of the fog’s breaking away, still less of any hostile movement on the part of the foe. The veterans begin to retract their opinion. We are to have another day of waiting, think the younger soldiers; the gay Creoles not forgetting, be it known, that the day is the first of a new year.
The General — conceding something to the pleasureloving part of his army — permitted a brief respite from the arduous toil of the week and ordered a grand review of the whole army on the open ground between the lines and his own headquarters. Today too, for the first time in several days, the Louisiana remained at her safe anchorage above the lines and a large number of her crew went ashore on the western bank and took post in Commodore Patterson’s new battery there. But this was not for holiday reasons. A deserter came in the night before and informed the Commodore that the enemy had established two enormous howitzers in a battery on the levee, where balls were kept red-hot, for the purpose of firing the obnoxious vessel the moment she should come within range again. So the Commodore kept his vessel safe, landed two more of her great guns and ordered ashore men enough to work them.
Toward ten o’clock the fog rose from the American position and disclosed to the impatient enemy the scene behind the lines. A gay and brilliant scene it was, framed and curtained in fleecy fog. “The fog disappeared,” remarks the British Captain Hill, “with a rapidity perfectly surprising; the change of scene at a theater could scarcely be more sudden and the bright sun shone forth, diffusing warmth and gladness.”
“Being at this time,” says the Subaltern, “only three hundred yards distant, we could perceive all that was going on in the American lines with great exactness. The different regiments were upon parade, and being dressed in holiday suits, presented really a fine appearance. Mounted officers were riding backwards and forwards through the ranks, bands were playing, and colors floating in the air; — in a word, all seemed jollity and gala.” General Jackson had not yet appeared upon the ground. He had been up and doing before the dawn and was now lying on a couch at headquarters before riding over to review the troops.
“In a moment how changed the scene!” exclaims Parton. “At a signal from the central battery of the enemy, the whple of their thirty pieces of cannon opened fire full upon the American lines and the air was filled with the red glare and hideous scream of hundreds of Congreve rockits! As completely taken by surprise as the enemy had been on the night of the twenty-third, the troops were thrown into instantaneous confusion.”
“The American ranks were broken,” continues the Subaltern, “the different corps dispersing, fled in all directions, while the utmost terror and disorder appeared to prevail. Instead of nicely-dressed lines, nothing but confused crowds could now be observed; nor was it without much difficulty that order was finally restored. Oh, that we had charged at that instant!”
“‘The enemy, having learned which house was the headquarters of the General,” Parton goes on to tell us, “directed a p1odigious fire upon it and the first news of the cannonade came to Jackson in the sound of crashing porticoes and outbuildings. During the first ten minutes of the fire one hundred balls struck the mansion but, though some of the General’s suite were covered with rubbish and Colonel Butler was knocked down, they all escaped and made their way to the lines without a scratch.
Major-General Andrew Jackson.
This portrait by John Vanderlyn hangs in the City Hall, New York, and represents him on the field of Chalmette.
“The Subaltern is mistaken in saying that the troops fled in all directions. There was but one direction in which to fly either to safety or to duty; for, on that occasion, the post of duty and the post of safety were the same, namely, close behind the line of defense. For ten minutes, however, the American batteries, always before so prompt with their responsive thunder, were silent, while the troops were running in the hottest haste to their several posts.”
Ten guns were in position in the American lines, besides those 1n the battery on the other side of the river. Upon Jackson’s coming to the front he found his artillerymen at their posts, waiting with lighted matches to open fire upon the foe, as soon as the dense masses of mingled smoke and mist that enveloped their batteries should roll a away. “Jackson’s first glance,” as Mr. Walker informs us, “when he reached the line, was in the direction of Humphrey’s battery. There stood this right arm of the artillery, dressed in his usual plain attire, smoking that eternal cigar, cooly leveling his guns and directing his men.
“‘Ah!’ exclaimed the General, ‘all is right; Humphrey is at his post, and will return their compliments presently.”
“Then, accompanied by his aides, he walked down to the left, stopping at each battery to inspect its condition, and waving his cap to the men as they gave him three cheers.
“‘Don’t mind those rockets, they are merely toys to amuse children,’ said Jackson as the fiery Congreves took the air.”
Colonel Butler, whom the General h.ad seen prostrated at headquarters, came running up the lines covered with dust.
“Why, Colonel Butler,” roared the General, “is that you? I thought you were killed.”
“No General; only knocked over.”
“Captain Humphrey soon caught a glimpse of the British batteries,” continues Walker, “structures of narrow front and slight elevation, lying low and dim upon the field; no such broad target as the mile-long lines of the American position. Adjusting a twelve-pounder with the utmost exactness, he quietly gave the word.
“‘Let her off!’
“And the firing of the American lines began. The other batteries instantly joined in the strife. Ere long the British howitzers on the levee and the battery of Commodore Patterson on the opposite bank exchanged a vigorous fire. For the space of an hour and a half a cannonade so loud and rapid shook the delta as had never been heard in the western world. Vain are all words to convey to the unwarlike reader an idea of this tremendous scene. Imagine fifty piece of cannon, of large caliber, each discharged from once to thrice a minute; often a simultaneous discharge of half a dozen pieces; an average of two discharges every second; while plain and river were so densely covered with smoke that the gunners aimed their guns from recollection chiefly and knew scarcely anything of the effect of their fire.
“Well aimed, however, were the British guns, as the American lines soon began to exhibit. Most of their balls buried themselves harmlessly in the soft, elastic earth of the thick embankment. Many flew over its summit and did bloody execution on those who were bringing up ammunition, as well as on some who were retiring from their posts. Several balls struck and nearly sunk a boat laden with stores that was moored to the levee two hundred yards behind the lines. The cotton bales of the batteries nearest the river were knocked about in all directions and set on fire, adding fresh volumes to the already impenetrable smoke. One of Major Plauche’s men was wounded in trying to extinguish this most annoying flame. A thirty-two pounder in Lieutenant Crawley’s battery was hit and damaged. The carriage of a twenty-four was broken. One of the twelves was silenced. Two powder-carriages, one containing a hundred pounds of the explosive material, blew up with a report so terrific as to silence for a moment the enemy’s fire and draw from them a faint cheer. And still the lines continued to vomit forth a fire that knew neither cessation nor pause, until the guns grew so hot that it was difficult and dangerous to load them. And after an hour and a half of such work as this no man in Jackson’s army could say with certainty whether the English batteries had been seriously damaged.”
Vincent Nolte, the New Orleans cotton merchant, was behind the lines during this desperate cannonade and favors his readers with his recollection of it.
“The largest British battery,” says Mr. Nolte, “had directed its fire against the battery of the pirates Dominique You and Beluche, who had divided our company into two parts and were supplied with ammunition by it. Once, as Dominique was examining the enemy through a glass, a cannon shot wounded his arm; he caused it to be bound up, saying, ‘I will pay them for that!’ and resumed his glass. He then directed a twenty-four pounder, gave the order to fire, and the ball knocked an English gun carriage to pieces, and killed six or seven men.
“Our company lost that day but one man, a French hatter, called Laborde. For predestinarians I would mention that the young notary, Philippe Peddesclaux, was standing exactly in front of Laborde, and the latter would not have been hit had he not been bending forward at the moment to light a cigar by my neighbors, St. Avit’s. When the latter turned he saw Laborde’s scattered brains and prostrate body. The flash of a gun reaches the eye long before the report gets to the ear and thus the-ball can sometimes be avoided. I have watched both the flash and the report and I have seen the best tried soldiers, both officers and men, even the utterly fearless Jackson himself, getting put of the way of the Congreve rockets, which were sent in great quantities from the British camp. Others, again, either actuated by a different principle, or less prudently observant of danger and less anxious to avoid it, like my friend St. Avit for instance, remained confident in their fate in the same position, and stood quietly as if all the roar of the cannon and the hissing of missiles about their ears was entirely without interest to them.
“On this day, which saw our whole line except the batteries exposed” to fire, my worthy friend, Major Carmick, who commanded the volunteer battalion and was near the pirates’ battery, was struck by a Congreve rocket on the forehead, knocked off his horse and had both his arms injured. I asked leave to accompany him to the guardhouse and as we reached the low garden wall behind Jackson’s headquarters, I saw, to my great amazement, two of the General’s volunteer adjutants, Duncan, the lawyer, and District Marshal Duplessjs, lying flat on the ground to escape the British balls. Livingston was invisible — writing and reading of proclamations kept him out of sight. The General during this cannonade was constantly riding from one wing to another, accompanied by his usual military aids, Reid and Butler and the two advocates, Grymes and Davezac. The munitions were in charge of Governor Claiborne, who was so frightened that he could scarcely speak. On the 1st of January ammunition was wanting at batteries Nos. 1 and 2. Jackson gent in a fury for Claiborne, who was with the second division, and said to him, ‘By the Almighty God, if you do not send me balls and powder instantly, I shall chop off your head, and have it rammed into one of those field pieces!’”
Of this tale of Nolte’s the reader may believe as much as he thinks fit. The General, Parton reminds us, did not mount his horse till the fortune of the day was decided. To have done so would have been simply suicidal. And Governor Claiborne was with his detachment out Gentilly road.
While the first cannonade was still at its height, word was brought to Jackson that a body of the enemy was approaching the left of his line along the edge of the swamp. Coffee was upon them while they were struggling with the difficulties of the ground and drove them back to the main body.
It was nearly noon when it began to be perceived that the British fire was slackening. The American batteries were then ordered to cease firing for the guns to cool and the smoke to roll away. What a scene greeted the anxious gaze of the troops when at length the British position was disclosed! Those formidable batteries, which had excited such consternation an hour and a half before, were totally destroyed and presented but formless masses of soil and broken guns; while the sailors who had manned them were seen running from them to the rear and the army that had been drawn up behind the batteries, ready to storm the lines as soon as a breach had been made in them, had again ignominiously “taken to the ditch.”
“Never,” remarks the author of “Jackson and New Orleans,” who obtained his material first hand from eye witnesses and participants in these events, “was work more completely done — more perfectly finished and rounded off. Earth and heaven fairly shook with the prolonged shouts of the Americans over this spectacle. The British infantry would now and then raise their heads and peep forth from the ditches in which they were so ingloriously ensconced. The level plain presented but a few knolls or elevations to shelter them and the American artillerists were as skillful as riflemen in picking off those who exposed ever so small a portion of their bodies. Several extraordinary examples of this skill were communicated to the Writer (Judge Walker) by a British officer who was attached to Pakenham’s army. A number of the officers of the 93d having taken refuge in a shallow hollow behind a slight elevation, it was proposed that the only married officer of the party should lie at the bottom, it being deemed the safest plaice. Lieutenant Phaups was the officer indicated and laughingly assumed the position assigned him. This mound had attracted the attention of the American gunners and a great quantity of shot was thrown at it. Lieutenant Phaups could no+, resist the anxiety to see what was going on in front and peeping forth, with not more than half of his head exposed, was struck by a twelve-pound shot and instantly killed. His companions buried him on the spot on which he fell in full uniform. Several officers and men were picked off in a similar manner.”
Those hogsheads of sugar were the fatal mistake of the English engineers. They afforded absolutely no protection against the terrible fire of the American batteries; the balls going straight through them and killing men in the very center of the works. Hence it was that in little more than an hour the batteries were heaps of ruins and the guns dismantled, broken and inmovable. The howitzer, too, on the levee, after waging an active duel with Commodore Patterson on the other side of the river, was silenced and overthrown by a few discharges from Captain Humphrey’s twelve-pounders. Nothing remained for the discomfited invading army but to make the best of their way to their old pos1tion and, so incessant was the American fire during the afternoon, that it was only when night spread her mantle over the plain that all the army succeeded in withdrawing.
“Once more,” says the Subaltern, “we were obliged to retire, leaving our heavy guns to their fate, but as no attempt was made by the Americans to secure them, working parties were again sent out after dark and such as had not been destroyed were removed.
“Of the fatigue undergone during those operations by the whole British army, from the General down to the meanest sentinel, it would be difficult to form an adequate conception. For two whole nights and days not a man had closed an eye, except such as were cool enough to sleep amidst showers of cannon ball and during the day scarcely a moment had been allowed in which we were able so much as to break our fast. We retired, therefore, not only baffled and disappointed, but in some degree disheartened and discontented. All our plans had as yet proved abortive; even this, upon which so much reliance had been placed, was found to be of no avail; and it must be confessed that something like murmuring began to be heard through the camp. And, in truth, if ever an army might be permitted to murmur it was this. In landing the soldiers had borne great hardships, not only without repining, but with cheerfulness; their hopes had been excited by false reports as to the practicability of the attempt in which they were embarked and now they found themselves entangled amidst difficulties from which there appeared to be no escape except by victory.
“In their attempts upon the enemy’s line, however, they had been twice foiled; in artillery they perceived themselves to be so greatly overmatched that their own could hardly assist them; their provisions, being derived wholly from the fleet, were both scanty and coarse and their rest was continually broken. For not only did the cannon and mortars from the main of the enemy’s position play unremittingly upon them both by day and night, but they were likewise exposed to a deadly fire from the opposite bank of the river, where no less than eighteen pieces of artillery were now mounted, and which swept the entire line of our encampment. Besides all this, to undertake the duty of a picket was as dangerous as to go into action. Parties of American sharpshooters harrassed and disturbed those appointed to that service from the time they took possession of their post until they were relieved; whilst to light fires at night was impossible, because they served but as certain marks for the enemy’s gunners, I repeat, therefore, that a little murmuring could not be wondered at. Be it observed, however, that there were not the murmurs of men anxious to escape from a disagreeable situation by any means. On the contrary, they resembled rather the growling of a chained dog when he sees his adversary and cannot reach him, for in all their complaints no man ever hinted at a retreat, whilst all were eager to bring matters to the issue of a battle — at any sacrifice of lives.”
Another British officer writes: “Five guns were left behind” (which afterwards fell into Jackson’s hands), “rendered useless, it is true, but it cannot be said that the British army came off without the loss of some of its artillery. During three days and three nights I had never closed an eye. My food, during all that space, consisted of a small quantity of salt beef, and a sea biscuit or two, and a little rum; and even that I could hardly find time or leisure to Consume. When pork and beans ran short, it was no uncommon thing for both officers and men to appease the cravings of hunger by eating sugar out of the casks and moulded into cakes.”
The British loss on the 1st of January was about thirty killed and forty wounded; the Americans, eleven killed and thirty-three wounded. Most of the American slain were not engaged in the battle, but were struck down at a considerable distance behind the lines, while they were looking in as mere spectators.
Jackson at this time had but 16 guns, on both sides of the river, while the British had, according to James and Gleig, between 20 and 30. Jackson’s long guns were one 32-pounder, four 24-pounders, one 18-pounder, five 12 pounders and three 6-pounders, throwing in all 224 pounds of shot. The British had ten long 18-pounders, two long 3-pounders and from six to ten long 9 and 6-pounders, throwing between 228 and 258 pounds of shot. Of the smaller guns, General Jackson had one howitzer and one carronade to oppose 4 carronades, 2 howitzers, two mortars and 12 rocket guns; so, in both number and weight of guns, as Roosevelt points out, the British were greatly superior.
Among the wounded there was one whose memory the author of “Jackson and New Orleans” has nobly embalmed in his excellent work — Judah Touro, the far-famed and farbeloved philanthropist of New Orleans, who on this day served his country in a capacity much more daring than that of combatant.
“After performing other severe labors as a common soldier in the ranks, Mr. Touro, on the first of January, volunteered his services to aid in carrying shot and shell from the magazine to Humphrey’s battery. In this humble but perilous duty he was seen actively engaged, during the terrible cannonade with which the British opened the day, regardless of the cloud of iron missiles which flew around him, when many of the stoutest-hearted clung closely to the embarkment or sought some shelter. But in the discharge of duty this good man knew no fear and perceived no danger. It was while thus engaged that he was struck on the thigh by a twelve-pound shot, which produced a ghastly and dangerous wound, tearing off a large mass of flesh. Mr. Touro long survived this event, never marrying because of this wound, living a life of unostentatious piety and charity, and setting an example of active philanthropy which merited the fervent gratitude and warm affection in which he was held by a community, which justly regarded him as the patriarch — the ‘Israelite without guile.’
“No charitable appeal was ever made to him in vain. His contributions to philanthropic and pious enterprises exceeded those of any other citizen. The same patriotism which prompted him to expose his life on the plains of Chalmette dictated that handsome donation of ten thousand dollars for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument and had characterized a thousand other deeds of like liberality, performed ‘by stealth’, which were no less commendable for their generosity than their entire freedom from sectarian feeling or selfish aim.
“An incident illustrative of the beauty of friendship and gratitude, the noble and gentle traits of humanity, may serve an agreeable relief in this narrative of strife and bloodshed.
“Judah Touro and Rezin D. Shepherd, two enterprising merchants, the one from Boston and the other from Virginia, had settled in New Orleans at the commencement of that century. They were intimate, devoted friends, who lived under the same roof and were scarcely ever separated. When the State was invaded, both volunteered their services and were enrolled among its defenders. Mr. Touro was attached to the regiment of Louisiana militia and Mr. Shepherd to Captain Ogden’s horse troop.
“Commodore Patterson, who was an intimate friend of Mr. Shepherd, solicited General Jackson to detach him as his aid and assist him (the Commodore) in the erection of his battery on the right bank of the river and in the defense of that position. It was while acting as Patterson’s aid that Mr. Shepherd came across the river on the 1st of January with orders to procure two masons to execute some work on the Commodore’s batteries. The first person Mr. Shepherd saw, on reaching the left bank, was Reuben Kemper, who informed him that his old friend Touro was dead. Forgetting his urgent and important mission, Mr. Shepherd eagerly inquired whither they had taken his friend. He was directed to a wall of an old building which had been demolished by the British battery in the rear of Jackson’s headquarters, and on reaching it found Mr. Touro in an apparently dying condition. He was in charge of Dr. David C. Ker who had dressed his wound, but who, shaking his head, declared that there was no hope for him. Mr. Shepherd, with the devotion of true friendship, determined to make every effort to save his old companion. He procured a cart and, lifting the wounded man into it, drove to the city. He administered brandy very freely to his fainting and prostrate friend, and thus in a great degree kept him alive. (The good man used to say afterward that this was the only time he ever drank to excess.) On reaching the city, Mr. Shepherd carried Touro into his house, obtained the services as nurses of some of those noble ladies of the city, who devoted themselves with so much ardor to the care and attendance of the sick and wounded of Jackson’s army, and, seeing that Touro was supported with every comfort and need, Shepherd hastened to discharge the important duty which had been confided to him, and which he had nearly pretermitted, in responding to the still more sacred calls of friendship and affection.
“It was late in the day before Shepherd, having performed his mission, returned to Patterson’s battery. The cloud of anger was gathering on the brow of the Commodore when he met his delinquent or dilatory aid, but it soon dispersed when the latter promptly and frankly exclaimed,
“‘Commodore, you can hang or shoot me and it will be all right, but my best friend needed my assistance, and nothing on earth could have induced me to neglect him.’ He then stated the circumstances of Mr. Touro’s misfortune and the causes of his dilatory execution of the duty assigned to him. Commodore Patterson was a man — he appreciated the feelings of his aid and thought more of him after this incident than before. They continued warm friends throughout the campaign and ever afterwards.
“Shepherd and Touro, with a friendship thus tested and cemented, were ever afterwards inseparable in this world. Death alone could sever them and tuen only in a material sense. Such fidelity deserved the rich reward which fortune showered on them. They became millionaires and, as the most valuable of their possessions retained the esteem and regard of the community of which they were patriarchs.”
Mr. Touro died in 1854, leaving one-half of his immense estate for charitable purposes, and the other half to the friend to whom he was indebted for his life on the 1st of January, 1815.
READY FOR THE FINAL STRUGGLE.
“In order to give a correct narrative of the affairs of the 8th, I must previously make the reader acquainted with the respective position of the different corps stationed at the lines; that he may perceive, that if a considerable part of the troops exhibited no active valor, it was owing to the attack’s not being made on their position; for had it been general, there can be no doubt but all would have equally vied in ardour and bravery.” writes Engineer Latour.
“The artillery was distributed on the lines in the following manner. On the soil of the road within the levee was Battery No. 1, commanded by Captain Humphreys, of the United States Artillery. It consisted of two brass twelvepounders, and a six-inch howitzer, on field carriages; these pieces enfiladed the road towards that side where the enemy was posted, and their fire grazed the parapet of the flank of redout, towards the right. Battery No. 1, was seventy feet from the bank of the river. The two twelvepounders were served by soldiers belonging to the regular artillery and the howitzer by dragoons of Major St. Geme’s company.
“Battery No. 2, which had a twenty-four-pounder, was commanded by Lieutenant Norris of the navy, and served by part of the crew of the late schooner Carolina; its distance from No. 1 was ninety yards. This battery was the most elevated above the soil.”
“Battery No. 3, commanded by Dominique You and Beluche, commanders of the privateers, had two twentyfour-pounders, which were served by French mariners; its distance from No. 2 was fifty yards.
“Battery No. 4, commanded by Lieutenant Crawley, of the navy, and served by part of the crew of the Carolina, had a thirty-two-pounder; its distance from No. 3 was twenty yards.
“Battery No. 5, commanded by Colonel Perry and Lieutenant Ker of the artillery, had two six-pounders; its distance from No. 4 was one hundred and ninety yards.
“Battery No. 6, commanded by General Garrigues Flaujeac, and served by a detachment of the company of Francs under the immediate command of Lieutenant Bertel, had a brass twelve-pounder; its distance from No. 5 was thirty-six yards.
“Battery No. 7 had a long brass eighteen-pound culverine, and a six-pounder, commanded by Lieutenant Spotts and Chaveau, and served by gunners of the United States artillery; its distance from No. 6 was one hundred and ninety yards.
“The 8th battery had a small brass carronde which rendered very little service on account of the ill condition of its carriage; it was commanded by a corporal of artillery, and served by militia-men of General Carroll’s command; its distance from No. 7 was sixty yards.
“Next to this piece the line formed a receding elbow, as laid down in the draught of the affair of the 8th — enormous holes in the soil made impassable by their being full of water from the canal, rendered this bend in the line unavoidable.
(See map, page 181.)
“From this bend, where the wood began, to the extremity of the line, the ground was so low, and so difficult to be drained, that the troops were literally encamped in the water, walking knee deep in mud, and the several tents were pitched on small isles or hillocks, surrounded with water or mud.
“It was here that the brave troops of Generals Carroll and Coffee, from the 24th of December 1814, and part of those of Kentucky from the 6th, until the 20th of January, 1815, gave an example of all the military virtues. Though constantly living, and even sleeping, in the mud those worthy sons of Columbia never uttered a complaint, nor showed the least symptoms of discontent or impatience. Those who have not seen the ground, cannot form an idea of the deplorable condition of the troops encamped on the left of the line. But it was necessary to guard that quarter against the attacks of the enemy; it was necessary that troops should be stationed there, to repulse him on the edge of the breastwork, if, under cover of the bushes, he advanced to our intrenchments. Those brave men supported all their hardships with resignation, and even with alacrity. The safety of the country was at stake, and their desire to chastise insolent invaders, operated too stronerly on hearts inflamed with patriotic ardour, to suffer them to perceive the uncomfortableness of their situation. Such conduct is so much superior to any eulogy I could bestow on it, that I must be content to admire it in silence.
“The redoubt on the river, in front of the extremity of the line on the right, was guarded by a company of the Seventh Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Ross. The artillery was served by a detachment of the 44th, under the command of Lieutenant Marant. Within the line, at the extremity of the right, between Battery No. 1 and the river, was stationed the New Orleans volunteer company of riflemen, under Captain Thomas Beale, about thirty men strong.
“The 7th regiment covered from that battery to Battery No. 3, taking in the powder-magazine, built since the 1st of January, as also Battery No. 2, commanded by Lieutenant Norris. This regiment, four hundred and thirty men strong, was commanded by Major Piere.
“The interval between that battery and No. 4, command°d by Lieutenant Crawley. was occupied by Major Plauche’s batallion of volunteer uniform companies, and by Major Lacoste’s battalion of Louisiana men of color. The former was two hundred and eighty-nine men strong and the latter two hundred and eighty.
“From Battery No. 4. to Colonel Perry’s, No. 5. the line was defended by Major Daquin’s battalion of St. Domingo men of color, one hundred and fifty men strong, and from that out by the 44th. two hundred and forty men strong, commanded by Cautain Baker. All the corps, from the 7th regiment to the 44th, inclusively, were under the command of Colonel Ross.
“Two-thirds of the remaining length of the line, were guarded by the troops commanded by Major-General Carroll. On the right of Battery No. 7. commanded by Lieutenants Spotts and Chauveau, were stationed fifty marines, under the command of Lieutenant Bellevue.
“On the preceding: day, part of the Kentucky troops under the command of General Adair, had gone to re-enforce that part of the line. The order in which thev were ranged may be seen on the plan (Page 181).
All those troops formed a force of about sixteen hundred men.
“The troops under the command of General Coffee occupied the rest of the length of the line, as also that part which turned off towards the left into the wood; their number was about five hundred men.
“Captain Ogden’s company of cavalry was stationed behind headquarters, and a detachment of the Attakapas dragoons was posted within the court-yard, together about fifty men strong.
“During the attack, Captain Chauveau’s company of horse volunteers, about thirty men strong, hastened from town and drew up in the same court-yard, to be ready for a sortie, should it be thought expedient.
“The Mississippi calvary, commanded by Major Hinds, one hundred and fifty men strong, was encamped in the rear, on Delery’s plantation. Our outposts extended about five hundred yards in front of the line.
“Different detachments, making an aggregate of two hundred and fifty men of Colonel Young’s regiment of Louisiana militia, were stationed at convenient intervals, on the skirts of the wood, behind the line, as far as Piernas canal.
“Four hundred yards behind the line, a guard was posted on the road to prevent anyone’s going out of camp; and a line of sentinels extended from that post to the wood for the same purpose.
“Although the above details show the number of our troops to have amounted to about four thousand men, including one hundred artillerists who did not belong to any corps, it is nevertheless true that General Jackson’s line was defended by only three thousand, two hundred men, the remaining eight hundred having been distributed into various detachments, and posted behind to guard the camp, for the defense of the Piernas Canal, and on the outskirts of the wood.”
So waited Jackson and his force of citizen-soldiers for the attack that was to come — the supreme endeavor on the part of the invaders.
On the morning of the 4th of January the whole American army had exhibited signs of high elation at the news of the arrival of two thousand, two hundred and fifty Kentuckians under Major-General John Thomas and BrigadierGeneral John Adair. But when the ragged, foot-sore backwoodsmen limped into Jackson’s camp below the city the cheers melted into groans of apprehension. Of these fighters but 550 of them were properly armed!
Not only were these long-looked for Kentuckians without arms but they were practically destitute of clothing. Again was the commander-in-chief left upon his own resources and his rough but ready genius. The invaded state and the women of the city were with him, however, at this crisis for the legislature appropriated a sum of money for the purchase of blankets and woolens which were distributed among the women of the city to be made into clothes.
Swiftly the needles were plied and within a week twelve hundred blanket coats, two hundred and seventy waistcoats, eleven hundred and twenty-seven pairs of pantaloons, eight hundred pair of shirts, together with shoes, mattresses, and other apparel were distributed among the men lined behind the mud earthworks waiting the final desperate attack.
Pakenham, for the final movement, had decided upon naked steel and while he spent the intervening week between the day of the disastrous artillery duel and the everto-be-remembered Eighth arranging for the charge he hoped would overwhelm the gallant defenders he also arranged for a flank movement on Jackson’s lines. Like Jackson, he too, had received reinforcements for Major General Lambert with a whole ship-load had disembarked — these men, however, were all well armed and clothed.
Pakenham’s flank movement was very well planned in theory — botched in its execution. It was to throw a force across the river, where it was surmised (or known, for that matter), that Jackson’s forces were not entrenched and this position gained the American position in front of the main British army could be raked from end to end.
To put a force there the Villere canal, the one that allowed the invaders to reach the banks of the Mississippi from the lake, was extended into the river itself. To accomplish this the canal swarmed with sailors and soldiers, who with the greatest of toil prepared a water-way deep enough to make a passage for the boats of the fleet. But the soil through which the canal was dug continually caved and the boats had to be dragged by main force. Some stuck fast in the muddy bottom and those that reached the Mississippi were not sufficient to carry the original force Pakenham intended to throw over on the other side under Colonel Thornton (who proved, by the way, to be the ablest commander the British had in point of accomplishment).
Curtailed to six hundred men and eight hours late in getting started, Thornton’s force still had to reckon with another unlocked for factor — the swift current of the Mississippi. Instead of rowing directly across, as Pakenham had planned he should do, Thornton finally landed his soldiers almost a mile lower down, at daybreak instead of the middle of the night, after the main battle had started.
(January 8, 1815)
“THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS.”
At one o’clock on the morning of this memorable day, on a couch in a room of the Macarty mansion-house, General Jackson lay asleep, in his worn uniform. Several of his aids slept upon the floor in the same apartment, all equipped for the field, except that their sword-belts were unbuckled and their swords and pistols laid aside. A sentinel paced the adjacent passage. Sentinels moved noiselessly about the building, which loomed up large, dim and silent in the foggy night, among the darkening trees. Most of those who slept at all that night were still asleep and there was as yet little stir in either camp to disturb their slumbers.
Commodore Patterson was not among the sleepers that night, Parton tells us: “Soon after dark, accompanied by his faithful aid, Shepherd, the friend of Judah Touro, he again took his position on the western bank of the river, directly opposite to where Colonel Thornton was struggling to launch his boats into the stream, and there he watched and listened till nearly midnight. He could hear almost everything that passed and could see, by the light of the campfires, a line of red-coats drawn up along the levee. He heard the cries of the tugging sailors, as they drew the boats along the shallow, caving canal, and their shouts of satisfaction as each boat was launched with a loud splash into the Mississippi.
“From the great commotion, and the sound of so many voices, he began to surmise that the main body of the enemy were about to cross and that the day was to be lost or won on the right side of the river. There was terror in the thought, and wisdom too; and, if General Pakenham had been indeed a general, the Commodore’s surmise would have been correct. Patterson’s first thought was to drop the ship Louisiana down upon them. But no; the Louisiana had been stripped of half her guns and all her men and had on board, above water, hundreds of pounds of powder: for she was then serving as powder-magazine to the western bank. To man the ship, moreover, would involve the withdrawal of all the men from the river batteries which, if the main attack were on Jackson’s side of the river, would be of vital importance to him. Oh, for the little Carolina again, with Captain Henly and a hundred men on board of her!
“Revolving such thoughts in his anxious mind, Commodore Patterson hastened back to his post, again observing and lamenting the weakness of General Morgan’s line of defense. All that he could do in the circumstances was to dispatch Mr. Shepherd across the river to inform General Jackson of what they had seen, and what they feared, and to beg an immediate reinforcement.
“Informing the captain of the guard that he had important intelligence to communicate, Shepherd was conducted to the room in which the General was sleeping.
“‘Who’s there?’ asked Jackson, raising his head, as the door opened.
“Mr. Shepherd gave his name and stated his errand, adding that General Morgan agreed with Commodore Patterson in the opinion that more troops would be required to defend the lines on the western bank.
“‘Hurry back,’ replied the General, as he rose, ‘and tell General Morgan that he is mistaken. The main attack will be on this side and I have no men to spare. He must maintain his position at all hazards.”
“Shepherd recrossed the river with the General’s answer, which could not have been very reassuring to Morgan and his inexperienced men, not a dozen of whom had ever been in action.
“Jackson looked at his watch. It was past one. ‘Gentlemen,’ said he to his dozing aids, ‘we have slept enough. Rise. The enemy will be upon us in a few minutes. I must go and see Coffee.”
“The order was obeyed very promptly. Sword belts were buckled; pistols resumed; and in a few minutes the party was ready to begin the duties of the day. There was little for the American troops to do but to repair to their posts.”
Another intimate story of this eventful morning is to be found in the following account of one of Jackson’s active aids:
“About three o’clock, or as soon as the modification of positions on the left of our line was completed,” said General William 0. Butler, in a reminiscence related to A. C.
Buell, then (in 1874) a newspaper reporter, “I went as fast as I could toward the Macarty house to report. I met the General, with a group of staff-officers, just descending from the porch. I reported simply — ‘It is done, sir. General Adair is in the designated position.”
“‘Anything particular going on?’ General Jackson inquired in a careless way.
“‘Nothing, sir; except that the outposts report some signs of activity in their front,’ I replied.
“‘Yes, yes,’ he rejoined quickly and with great animation, ‘they mean to attack in force this morning But I think they will wait for the fog to scale up. They will hardly come on till they can see where they are going. Our fellows or the Indians would think this fog a good thing if they wanted to make an attack but it would be contrary to the rules the English fight by.”
“No one offered any suggestion. The General gave directions in a low tone to each member of the staff and they went away in different directions. He himself walked from the Macarty house to the nearest point on the line, which was Battery No. 3, about two hundred yards. He was accompanied by Captain Humphrey, chief of artillery, Mr. Livingston and myself. His orderly, Billy Phillips, also followed, leading the General’s horse in readiness for him to mount instantly, should occasion require. When we reached the battery, which was the one held by the Baratarian smugglers, General Jackson observed that they were making coffee in an iron pot over a small fire.
“‘That smells like better coffee than we can get,’ the General remarked. Then, turning to Dominique You, he inquired: ‘Where do you get such fine coffee? Maybe you smuggled it?’
“‘Mebbe so, Zehnerale,’ rejoined Dominique with a grin. The Baratarian chief then offered the General a small tin-cupful from the pot. It was black as tar and its aroma could be smelled twenty yards away. Jackson drank it with gusto, thanked Dominique and then walked slowly towards the left of the line. ‘I wish I had fifty such guns on this line, with five hundred such devils as those fellows are at their butts,’ he said, as soon as we were out of earshot of Battery No. 3.
“The General walked slowly along the line, stopping often to talk with officers and men. It was about threequarters of a mile from Battery No. 3 to the place where our line went into the swamp. He was nearly an hour going over it. After some talk with General Coffee, who: was atthe edge of the swamp, General Jackson started back toward the right. When he reached a point where Adair’s and Carroll’s lines joined, which was near the last battery — No. 8 — he stopped, sat down,on a. log and dictated some orders which Mr. Livingston and I wrote down,, At this time the men were getting their breakfast.”
(At this point, as this was a newspaper interview, the author asked General Butler what the men had for breakfast the morning of the 8th of January.)
“Oh,” he replied, “they had plenty, such as it was: bacon, corn-bread and some of them sweet potatoes. The Creole soldiers mostly had coffee. It was not a ration then and, since the blockade became effective, it and tea also were scarce and high-priced. But the Creoles managed to get some. It was sent or brought to them by their friends in the city. The Tennesseeans and Kentuckians did not have much coffee — but there was plenty of whiskey and they drank grog with their breakfasts.
“It was astonishing to see how many men — private soldiers — the General could call by name. He knew every Tennesseean and at least half the Kentuckians. His manner with them was easy — a modern general would call it familiar. Still he was dignified and they all seemed to understand him. I remember his rallying one of the young Robertsons — grandson of the old pioneer. Robertson was quite young. He belonged to Folk’s company (of Carroll’s command). ‘Joe,’ said the General, ‘how are they using you? Wouldn’t you rather be with Aunt Lucy (meaning his mother) than with me?’
“‘Not by a damned sight, General,’ young Joe stoutly replied. ‘But I wouldn’t mind if Aunt Lucy was here a little while!’ Jackson laughed, patted the boy on the shoulder and said : ‘stick to ’em Joe, We’ll smash hell out of ‘em and then you can go home to Aunt Lucy.’ This was one of many similar scenes that morning — or any other time when he went along the line.
“By this time, according to the almanac, it ought to have been a broad daylight, but the fog was so dense you couldn’t see more than forty yards in any direction. It was a wierd scene. The little fires the men had made behind the breastwork smouldered. The men themselves in gray mist looked like ghosts. At this moment Major Latour joined us, coming to report to Jackson that the new work he had ordered done on the redoubt was finished and that the works on the other side of the river were in defensible condition. Latour, like most civil engineers, was a weather-prophet, and familiar with that country. He said the fog would lift in an hour and explained the signs that caused him to think so.
“The General then sent his orderly, mounted, to the Macarty house to fetch Commodore Patterson’s pilot glass, which he had forgotten when he came away. Quite a breeze from the northwest now sprang up and, as the works ran about northeast and southwest, drifted the fog toward the enemy. All at once two shots were heard in quick succession, sounding muffled-like through the fog, from the edge of the swamp some distance in front of the lines. They were not repeated. After listening a few minutes, Jackson said: ‘some of my Choctaws, I reckon. That’s where they ought to be now.’
“This afterwards turned out to be right. Two Indians crawling on their bellies, where they could see for some distance under the fog, caught sight of the legs of two British soldiers on double-picket and fired at them. No one seemed to be hurt, as the pickets ran away. Finally, just as Orderly Phillips got back with the pilot-glass, the fog began to lift rapidly. In a few minutes the head of the British column could be dimly seen. It appeared about two hundred files long — that would, for regiments the size of theirs, be a formation four ranks deep. They were about six hundred to six hundred and fifty yards away; too long a range for our small-bore rifles which, as you know, carried round bullets of forty-five or even sixty to the pound of lead and were not effective more than four hundred yards at the outside.
“General Jackson, Carroll and Adair and Major Latour, Mr. Livingston and I got up on the parapet. In a minute or two the enemy began to move. Two rockets were fired, one toward us and one toward the river. ‘That is their signal for advance, I believe,’ General Jackson said. He then ordered all of us down off the parapet but stayed there himself and kept his long glass to his eye sweeping the enemy’s line with it from end to end. In a moment he ordered Adair and Carroll to pass word along the line for the men to be ready, to count the enemy’s files down as closely as they could, and each to look after his own file-man in their ranks, also, that they should not fire until told and then to aim above the cross-belt plates.
“Then men were tense, but very cold. A buzz of low talk ran along the line for some minutes. The enemy’s front line was . now within five hundred yards, and the center of their formation was almost exactly opposite Carroll’s left company or Adair’s right one. Then — boom! went our first gun. As well as I can remember after so many years, it was fired from the long brass 12-pounder in Battery No. 6, which was commanded by Old General Fleaujeac, a French veteran who had served under Napoleon and came to Louisiana about 1802 or 1803.
“Then all the guns opened. The British batteries, formed in the left rear of their storming column near the river, were still concealed from us by the fog, but they replied, directing their fire by the sound of our guns. It was a grand sight to see their flashes light up the fog — turning it into the hues of the rainbow.
“Still the enemy came on, but no sound from the rifleline; no fire but that of artillery on either side. Our Batteries Nos. 7 and 8 were on the rifle-line. Number 7 had an old Spanish 18-pounder and a 6-pounder. Number 8 had but one gun — a 6-pounder. The smoke from these hung in front of the works or drifted slowly toward the enemy without lifting much in the damp air. Adair noticed this and said it was worse than the fog; that the smoke would spoil the aim of the riflemen when their turn came. Carroll agreed with him. Then General Jackson ordered these two batteries to cease firing, whereupon the smoke soon lifted and the head of the enemy’s column appeared not more than three hundred to three hundred and fifty yards off and coming on at quickstep, with men in front carrying a few scaling-ladders.
“Suddenly one rifle cracked a little to the left of where I stood. A mounted officer on the right and a little in front of the British head of column reeled in his saddle and fell from his horse headlong to the ground. What followed in an instant I cannot attempt to describe. The British had kept right on, apparently not minding the artillery fire much, though it was rapid and well-directed. They were used to it. But now, when every hunter’s rifle from the right of Carroll’s line to the edge of the swamp where Coffee stood, was searching for their vitals, the British soldiers stopped! That was something new, something they were not used to!
“They couldn’t stand it. In five minutes the whole front of their formation was shaken as if by an earthquake. Not one mounted officer could be seen. Either rider or horse, or both, in every case, was down — most of them dead or dying. I had been in battle where rifles were used up on the northwest frontier under Harrison. But, even so, I had never seen anything like this.
“In less than ten minutes the first line of the enemy’s column had disappeared, exposing the second, which was about a hundred yards in its rear. You see, their formation was columns or brigade in battalion front and there were three batallions — or regiments — in the column, each formed four ranks deep. The plain was so level and their formation in line so dense that to a certain extent the front or leading battalion afforded some cover to the one following, and so on.
“When their leading battalion, which we now know to have been the Forty-fourth Regiment, was practically destroyed, the next one, which was the Seventh Regiment, had been already a good deal shaken by the halt and carnage in the first and by the headlong flight of the survivors around or through its ranks, and so the Seventh Regiment broke almost as soon as they got their full weight of our riflefire. This left exposed in turn their third regiment of the column which was the Fourth or King’s Own Foot, and they, too, succumbed after a very brief experience. Almost, as incredible as it may seem, this whole column, numbering, I should say, 2,500 or 2,600 men, was literally melted down by our rifle-fire. To put it another way, this column had been to all intents destroyed and the work was done in less than twenty minutes from the first rifle-shot. No such execution by small arms was ever done before, and I don’t believe it ever will be done again.”
We may now listen to Ogilvy, who saw things from the ranks:
“After the other officers got down off the breastwork,” he says, “General Jackson stood up there alone, surveying the enemy, then nearly half a mile off, through a long spyglass. There was no firing anywhere on our line, but the cannon to our right were thundering right along. The enemy’s cannon began to fire, too, through the fog at first and their flames lit it up in a wonderful way, though their guns themselves could not be seen. The enemy’s infantry did not fire a shot but came on with fixed bayonets.
“During the few minutes’ wait for them to get close enough a comical thing occurred. In the left company of Carroll’s Tennesseeans was a grizzly old sergeant named Williams — Sam Williams. He was, I believe, the oldest man in the Tennessee line, being over fifty, and when quite a boy he had been under Shelby at King’s Mountain, thirtyfive years before. Old Sam was celebrated all through West Tennessee as a singer of darkey songs and often enlivened camp with them. On this occasion, when he saw General Jackson’s tall, slender form standing straight as a ramrod alone on top of the breastwork, he struck up a camp-meeting song well known in those days. It was this:
“Dah Gaberil stannin’ by de gate;
Hy’m a-watchin’ down be-loh-h,
Dah jis one a’ minnit foh tuh wait,
Foh tuh heah dat Trumpet blow-w!
“Den oh, Honey, we’s a-cumin’ — a-cumin’;
Goody Lawdy! a-cumin’ for shoh!
We’s ebery one a-cumin’, a-cumin’,
When we heah dat Trumpet blow!”
“Old Sam didn’t get any further. Jackson, turning half around, looked at him benignantly. But Carroll, who stood near him, exclaimed: ’shut up, Sam! If the redcoats ever hear you trying to sing they’ll run — run like hell! And we wan’t ‘em to come on!’ Old Sam was silenced. But he had spoken — or sung — the truth. We were ‘ebery one, a-comin,’ when we heard the trumpet blow!’ In a minute or two, General Jackson got down off the breastwork.
“‘They’re near enough now, gentlemen,’ he said to Carroll and Adair. An officer in gay regimentals and riding a splendid gray charger was near the center and a little in front of the British line. General Adair walked a few steps to where a man — the ensign of his right company — stood with his thumb on the lock of his rifle, and said to him:
“’Morg, see that officer on the gray horse?’
“’Snuff his candle!’
“The officer was then about forty rods (220 yards) off. Before the words were quite out of Adair’s lips, Morg’s rifle cracked like a stage-driver’s whip. The officer leaned forward, grasped the mane of his horse, then toppled sideways and fell head-first to the ground.
“Then, as quickly as one can draw a breath, the order, ‘Fire! Fire!!’ rang along the whole line and the breastwork, from the extreme right of Carroll’s Tennesseans to the swamp, was almost one solid blaze. We were formed four deep, in open order, with plenty of room to move to and fro. As fast as one line fired, its men would step back to the rear and load. But the time the fourth line had fired the first one would be ready again, and so on. There were nearly two thousand rifles in the whole line — 1,986, I belive, was the exact number who could see the enemy. A few of Coffee’s men were deployed out into the swamps where the thick cypress trees and long moss completely hid the enemy from their view.
“However, their fire was not needed. The enemy’s column did not last much more than fifteen minutes. By that time half of them or more lay dead or wounded on the ground, no officer on horseback could be seen and such as had escaped death or wounds were running as fast as their legs could carry them to the rear — anywhere to get out of reach of those awful rifles! Some of our men got excited and talked about leaping over the breastwork to follow them. But these were sternly suppressed by all the officers and by the more sensible and prudent men in the ranks also. To have gone out in the open field then, with their second column and all their reserves unhurt, would have been the undoing of us!
“The man who fired first was Morgan Ballard. The British officer was afterwards ascertained to be Brigade-Major John Anthony Whittaker, of the 21st Foot in General Gibb’s Brigade.”
Not long after the hour when the American general had been roused from his couch, General Pakenham, who had slept an hour or two at the Villere masion, also arose, and rode immediately to the bank of the river, where Thornton had just embarked his diminished force. He learned of the delay and difficulty that had there occurred and lingered long upon the spot listening for some sound that should indicate the whereabouts of the force sent across the river. But no sound was heard, as the swift Mississippi had carried the boats far down out of hearing. Surely Pakenham must have known that the vital part of his plan was, for that morning, frustrated. Surely he will hold back his troops from the assault until Thornton announced himself. The doomed man had no such thought. The story goes that he had been irritated by a taunt of Admiral Cochrane, who had said that, if the army could not take those mud-banks, defended by ragged militia, he would do it with two thousand sailors armed only with cutlasses and pistols and then the soldiers could bring up the baggage. Besides, Pakenham believed that nothing could resist the calm and determined onset of the troops he led. He had no thought of waiting for Thornton, unless, perhaps, till daylight.
Before four o’clock the British troops were up and in the several positions assigned them. Parton has noted, as accurately as possible, the following distribution of the British forces, claiming the official statements of the adjutant general aided but little, for, as an English officer observed, nothing was done on this awful day as it was intended to be done. The actual positions of the various corps at four o’clock in the morning, and duty assigned to each as he gathered after the study of about thirty narratives of the battle, were as follows:
First, and chiefly. On the borders of the cypress swamp, half a mile below that part of the lines where Carroll commanded and Adair was ready to support him, was a powerful column of nearly three thousand men, under the command of General Gibbs. This column was to storm the lines where they were supposed to be weakest, keeping close to the wood as far as possible from the enfilading fire of Commodore Patterson’s batteries. This was the main column of attack. It consisted of three entire regiments — the fourth, and twenty-first, and forty-fourth, with three companies of the ninety-fifth rifles. The forty-fourth, an Irish regiment which had seen much service in America, was ordered to head this column and carry the fascines and ladders, which having been deposited in a redoubt near the swamp over night, were to be taken up by the forty-fourth as they passed to the front.
Secondly, and next in importance. A column of light troops, something less than a thousand in number, under the brave and energetic Colonel Rennie, stood upon the high road that ran along the river. This column, at the concerted signal, was to spring forward and assail the strong river end of Jackson’s lines. That isolated redoubt, or horn-work, lay right in their path.
Third. About midway between these two columns of attack stood that magnificent regiment of praying Highlanders, the ninety-third, mustering that morning about nine hundred and fifty men, superbly appointed, and nobly led by Colonel Dale. Here General Keane, who commanded all the troops on the British left, led in person. His plan was, or seems to have been, to hold back his Highlanders, until circumstances should invite or compel their advance, and then go to the aid of whatever column should appear most to need support.
Fourth. There was a corps of about two hundred men, consisting of some companies of the ninety-fifth rifles and some of the fusileers who, according to Captain Oooke, had been employed at the battery all night and were now wandering, lost, and leaderless in the fog. They were designed to support the Highlanders, but never found them. Such adventures as they had and such sights as they saw, Captain Cooke, in his rough graphic way, shall describe to us in due time.
Fifth. One of the black regiments, totally demoralized by cold and hardship, was posted in the wood on the very skirts of the swamp (for the purpose of “skirmishing,” says the British official paper; to amuse General Coffee, let us say). The other black corps was ordered to carry the ladders and fascines for General Keane’s division and fine work they made of it.
Sixth. On the open plain, eight hundred and fifty yards from Dominique You’s post in the American lines, was the English battery, mounting six eighteen-pounders and containing an abundant supply of Congreve rockets.
Seventh. The reserve corps consisted of the greater part of the newly-arrived regiments, the seventh and the forty-third, under the officer who accompanied them, General Lambert. This column was posted behind all, a mile, perhaps, from the lines, and stood ready to advance when the word came.
Such was the distribution of the British army on this chill and misty morning. What was the humor of the troops? As they stood there, performing that most painful of all military duties — waiting — there was much of the forced merriment with which young soldiers conceal from themselves the real nature of their feelings. But the older soldiers augured ill of the coming attack. Colonel Mullens, of the forty-fourth, openly expressed his dissatisfaction.
“My regiment,” said he, “has been ordered to execution. Their dead bodies are to be used as a bridge for the rest of the army to march over.”
And, what was worse, in the dense darkness of the morning he had passed the redoubt where’ were deposited the fascines and ladders and marched his men to the head of the column without picking up one of them. Whether this neglect was owing to accident or design we do not know but for that, and other military sins, Mullens was afterwards cashiered.
Colonel Dale, too, of the 93d Highlands, a man of far different quality from Colonel Mullens, was grave and depressed.
“What do you think of it?” asked Dr. Dempster, the physician of the regiment, when word was brought of Thornton’s detention.
Colonel Dale made no reply in words. Giving the doctor his watch and a letter, he simply said: “Give these to my wife; I shall die at the head of my regiment.”
Soon after four, General Pakenham rode away from the bank of the river, saying to one of his aids: “I will wait my own plans no longer.”
He rode to the quarters of General Gibbs, who met him with another piece of ominous intelligence. “The forty-fourth,” Gibbs said, “has not taken the facines and ladders to the head of the column, but I have sent an officer to cause the error to be rectified, and I am expecting every moment a report from that regiment.” General Pakenham instantly dispatched Major Sir John Tylden to ascertain whether the regiment could be got into position in time. Tylden found the forty-fourth just moving off from the redoubt, “in a most irregular and unsoldier-like manner, with the fascines and ladders. I then returned,” said Tylden in his evidence at Mullen’s court-martial, “after some time, to Sir Edward Pakenham and reported the circumstances to him; stating that by the time which had elapsed since I left them they must have arrived at their situation in column.”
This was not half an hour before dawn. Without waiting to obtain absolute certainty upon a point so important as the condition of the head of his main column of attack, the impetuous Pakenham ordered, to use the language of one of his own officers, “that the fatal, ever-fatal rocket should be discharged as a signal to begin the assault on the left.” A few minutes later a second rocket whizzed aloft — the signal of attack on the right.
If there was confusion in the column of General Gibbs, there was uncertainty in that of General Keane — at least, in that lost fraction of it where Captain Cooke was stationed with the 43rd fusileers.
“The mist,” says Cooke, “was slowly clearing off and objects could only be discerned at two or three hundred yards distant, as the morning was rather hazy; we had only quitted the battery two minutes when a Congreve rocket was thrown up, but whether from the enemy or not we could not tell. For some seconds it whizzed backwards and forwards in such a zigzag way that we all looked up to see whether it was coming down upon our heads. The troops simultaneously halted, but all smiled at some sailors dragging a two-wheeled cart a hundred yards to our left, which had brought up ammunition to the battery who, by common consent as it were, let go the shaft and left it the instant the rocket was let off. (This rocket, although we did not know it, proved to be the signal to begin the attack.) All eyes were cast upwards, like those of so many philosophers, to descry, if possible, what would be the upshot of this noisy harbinger, breaking in upon the solemn silence that reigned around. During all my military services I never remember seeing a small body of troops thrown at once into such a strange configuration, having formed themselves into a circle and having halted, both officers and men, without any previous word of command, each man looking earnestly as if by instinct of his own imagination to see in what particular quarter the anticipated firing would begin. Canopied over as these soldiers were with a concave mist, beyond the distance of two hundred yards it was impossible to see.
“The Mississippi was not visible, its waters likewise being covered with the fog, nor was there a single soldier, save our own little phalanx, to be seen, or the tramp of a horse or a single footstep to be heard, by way of announcing that the battle scene was about to begin before the vapory curtain was lifted or cleared away for the opposing forces to get a glimpse one of the other. So we were completely lost, not knowing which way to bend our footsteps, and the only words which now escaped the officers were, ‘steady, men,’ ‘steady, men,’ these precautionary warnings being quite unnecessary, as every soldier was, as it were, transfixed like fox-hunters, waiting with breathless expectation and casting significant looks one at the other before Reynard breaks cover.
“All eyes seemed anxious to dive through the mist, and all ears were attentive to the coming moments, as it was impossible to tell whether the blazing would begin from the troops who were supposed to have already crossed the river, or from the great battery of the Americans on the right bank of the Mississippi, or from their main lines. From all these points we were equidistant and within point-blank range and were left, besides, totally without orders and without knowing how to act or where exactly to find out our own corps, just as if we had not formed part and parcel of the army.
“The rocket had fallen probably into the Mississippi. All was silent nor did a single officer or soldier attempt to shift his foothold, so anxiously was the mind taken up for the first intonation of the cannon to guide our footsteps, or, as it were, to pronounce with loud peals where was the point of our destination.”
Captain Cooke’s suspense was soon over. Daylight struggled through the mist. About six o’clock both columns were advancing at the steady, solid, British pace to the attack — the forty-fourth, upon which much depended, straggling in the rear with the facines and ladders. The column soon came up with the American outposts, Hind’s dashing dragoons, who at first retreated slowly before it, but soon quickened their pace, and raced in, bearing their great news, and putting every man in the works intensely on the alert; each commander anxious for the honor of first getting a glimpse of the foe, and opening fire upon him.
Lieutenant Spotts, of Battery No. 6, was the first man in the American lines who descried through the fog the dim red line of General Gibbs’ advancing column, far away down the plain, close to the forest. The thunder of his great gun broke the dread stillness. Then there was silence again — for the shifting fog, or the altered position of the enemy, concealed him from view once more. The fog lifted again and soon revealed both divisions, which, with their detached companies, seemed to cover two-thirds of the plain and gave the Americans a repetition of the splendid military spectacle which they had witnessed on the 28th of December.
Steadily and fast the column of General Gibbs marched toward the batteries numbered six, seven and eight, which played upon it, at first with but occasional effect, often missing, sometimes throwing a ball right into its midst, and causing it to reel and pause for a moment. Promptly were the gaps filled up; bravely the columns came on. As they neared the lines the well-aimed shot made more dreadful havoc, “cutting great lanes in the column from front to rear” and tossing men and parts of men aloft, pr hurling them far on one side. At length, still steady and unbroken, they came within range of the small arms, the rifles of Carroll’s Tennesseeans, the muskets of Adair’s Kentuckians — those four lines of sharpshooters, one behind the other, coolly waiting the word — “fire!”
At first with a certain deliberation, afterwards, in hottest haste, always with deadly effect, the riflemen plied their terrible weapon. The summit of the embankment was a line of spurting fire, except where the great guns showed their liquid, belching flash. The noise was peculiar and altogether indescribable we are told; a rolling, bursting, echoing noise, never to be forgotten by a man who heard it. Along the whole line it blazed and rolled; the British batteries showering rockets over the scene; Patterson’s batteries on the other side of the river joining in the hellish concert.
The column of General Gibbs, mowed by the fire of the riflemen, still advanced, Gibbs at its head. As they caught sight of the ditch, some of the officers cried out; “Where is the 44th? If we get to the ditch, we have no means of crossing and scaling the lines!”
“Here comes the 44th! Here comes the 44th!” shouted General Gibbs, adding that if he lived till to-morrow he would hang Mullens on the highest tree in the cypress wood.
Reassured, these heroic men again pressed on, in the face of that murderous, slaughtering fire. But this could not last. With half its number fallen, and all its commanding officers disabled except the general, its pathway strewed with dead and wounded, and the men falling ever faster and faster, the column wavered and reeled (so the American riflemen thought) like a red ship on a tempestuous sea. At about a hundred yards from the lines the front ranks halted, and so threw the column into disorder, Gibbs shouting in the madness of vexation for them to re-form and advance. There was no re-forming under such a fire. Once checked, the column -could but break and retreat in confusion.
Captain Hill says of this first repulse: “Hastily galloping to the scene of confusion, we found the men falling back in great numbers. Every possible means were used to rally them; the majority of the retreating party were wounded, and one and all bitterly complained that not a single ladder or fascine had been brought up to enable them to cross the ditch. A singular illusion, for which I have never been able to account, occurred on our nearer approach to the American line: the roar of musketry and cannon seemed to proceed from the thick cypress-wood on our right, whilst the bright flashes of fire in our front were not apparently accompanied by sound. This strange effect was probably produced by the state of the atmosphere and the character of the ground; but I leave the solution of the mystery to time and the curious.”
Just as the troops began to falter, General Pakenham rode up from his post in the rear towards the head of the column.
Meeting parties of the 44th running about distracted, some carrying fascines, others firing, others in headlong flight, their leader nowhere to be seen, Pakenham strove to restore them to order, and to urge them on the way they were to go.
“For shame,” he cried bitterly, “recollect that you are British soldiers.
This is the road you ought to take!” pointing to the flashing and roaring hell in front.
Riding on, he was soon met by General Gibbs, who said “they will not obey me. They will not follow me.”
Taking off his hat, General Pakenham spurred his horse to the front of the wavering columns, amid a torrent of rifle balls, cheering on the troops by voice, by gesture, by example. At that moment, a ball shattered his right arm, and it fell powerless to his side. The next, his horse fell dead upon the field. His aid, Captain M’Dougall, by a strange coincidence the same officer into whose arms General Ross had fallen in the advance on Baltimore, dismounted from his black Creole pony and Pakenham, apparently unconscious of his dangling arm, mounted again and followed the retreating column, still calling upon them to halt and re-form. A few gallant spirits ran in toward the American lines, threw themselves into the ditch, plunged across it, and fell scrambling up the sides of the soft and slippery mud breastworks.
Once out of the reach of those terrible rifles, the column halted and regained its self-possession. Laying aside their heavy knapsacks, the men prepared for a second and more resolute advance. They were encouraged, too, by seeing the superb Highlanders marching up in solid phalanx to their support with a front of a hundred men, their bayonets glittering in the sun, which had then begun to pierce the morning mist. Now for an irresistible onset! At a quicker step, with General Gibbs on its right, General Pakenham on the left, the Highlanders, in clear and imposing view, the column again advanced into the fire. Oh! the slaughter that then ensued! There was a moment when that thirty-two pounder, loaded to the muzzle with musket balls, poured its deadly charge at point-blank range, right into the head of the column, literally levelling it with the plain; laying low, as was afterwards computed, two hundred men. The American line, as one of the British officers remarked, looked like a row of fiery furnaces!
The heroic Pakenham had not far to go to meet his doom. He was three hundred yards from the lines when the real nature of his enterprise seemed to flash upon him; and he turned to Sir John Tylden and said: “Order up the reserve.”
Then, seeing the Highlanders advancing to the support of General Gibbs, he, still waving his hat, but waving it now with his left hand, cried out, amidst the deafening din of musketry: “Come on the tartan! Hurrah, brave Highlanders!”
At that moment “I heard a single rifle shot from a group of country carts we had been using,” wrote General Jackson, in a personal letter to President Monroe, “and a moment thereafter I saw Pakenham reel and pitch out of his saddle. I have always believed he fell from the bullet of a free man of color, who was a famous rifle shot and came from the Attakapas region of Louisiana. I did not know where General Pakenham was lying or I should have sent to him, or gone in person, to offer any service in my power to render. I was told he lived two hours after he was hit. His wound was directly through the liver and bowels.”
Captain McDougall caught the general in his arms, as he toppled from his horse, and was supporting him upon the field when a second shot struck the wounded man in the groin, depriving him instantly of consciousness. He was borne to the rear and placed in the shade of four large live-oaks beyond reach of the American guns and there, after gasping a few minutes, yielded up his life without a word, happily ignorant of the sad issue of all his plans and toils. The old oaks under which Pakenham died still stand, bent and twisted by time and many tempests just below the present Chalmette Cemetary on the Colomb plantation.
A more painful fate was that of General Gibbs. A few moments after Pakenham fell Gibbs received his death wound, and was carried off the field writhing in agony and uttering fierce imprecations. He lingered all that day and the succeeding night, dying in torment on the morrow in the de la Ronde mansion. Nearly at the same moment General Keane was painfully wounded in the neck and thigh, and was also borne to the rear. Colonel Dale, of the Highlanders, fulfilled his prophecy and fell at the head of his regiment. The Highlanders, under Major Creagh, wavered not, but advanced steadily, and too slowly, into the very tempest of General Carroll’s fire until they were within one hundred yards of the lines. There, for cause unknown, they halted and stood, a huge and glittering target, until five hundred and forty-four of their number had fallen, then they broke and fled in horror and amazement to the rear. The column of General Gibbs did not advance after the fall of their leader. Leaving heaps of slain behind them, they, too, forsook the bloody field, rushed in utter confusion out of the fire, and took refuge at the bottom of the wet ditches and behind trees and bushes on the borders of the swamps.
But not all of them! Major Wilkinson, the “Wilky” of a previous page, followed by Lieutenant Lavack and twenty men, pressed on to the ditch, floundered across it, climbed the breastworks and raised his head and shoulders above its summit, upon which he fell riddled with balls. The Tennesseeans and Kentuckians defending that part of the lines, struck with admiration at such heroic conduct, lifted his still breathing body and conveyed it tenderly behind the works.
“Bear up, my dear fellow,” said Major Smiley, of the Kentucky reserve, “you are too brave a man to die.”
“I thank you from my heart,” whispered the dying man. “It is all over with me. You can render me a favor; it is to communicate to my commander that I fell on your parapet and died like a soldier and a true Englishman.”
Lavack reached the summit of the parapet unharmed, though with two shot holes in his cap. He had heard Wilkinson, as they were crossing the ditch, cry out: “Now, why don’t the troops come on? The day is our own.”
With these last words in his ears, and not looking behind him, he had no sooner gained the breastwork than he demanded the swords of two American officers, the first he caught sight of in the lines.
“Oh, no,” replied one of them, “you are alone and, therefore, ought to consider yourself our prisoner.”
“Now,” Lavack would say, as he told the story afterwards to his comrades, “conceive my indignation on looking round to find that the two leading regiments had vanished as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up.”
The earth had swallowed them up, or was waiting to do so, and the brave Englishman was a prisoner.
So fared the British attack on the weakest part of the American position. Let us see what success rewarded the enemy’s efforts against the strongest.
Colonel Rennie, of the 21st, who commanded the British troops nearest the river, when he saw the signal rocket ascend, pressed on to the attack with such rapidity that the American ou’tposts along the river had to run for it — Rennie’s vanguard close upon their heels. Indeed, so mingled seemed pursuers and pursued, that Captain Humphrey had to withhold his fire for a few minutes for fear of sweeping down friend and foe. As the last of the Americans leaped down into the isolated redoubt, British soldiers began to mount its sides. A brief hand-to-hand conflict ensued within the redoubt between the party defending it and the British advance. In a surprisingly short time, the Americans, overpowered by numbers, and astounded at the suddenness of the attack, fled across the plank and climbed over into safety behind the main lines. Then was poured into the redoubt a deadly and incessant fire, which cleared it of the foe in less time than it had taken them to capture it; while Humphrey, with his great guns mowed down the still advancing column; and Patterson, from the other side of the river, added the fire of his powerful batteries.
Brief was the unequal contest. Colonel Rennie, Captain Henry, Major King — three only of this column — reached the summit of the rampart near the river’s edge.
“Hurrah, boys!” cried Rennie, already wounded, as the three officers gained the breastwork, “Hurrah, boys! the day is ours.”
At that moment Beale’s New Orleans sharpshooters, who defended this part of the line, withdrawing a few paces for better aim, fired a volley and the three heroic Britains fell headlong into the ditch.
While this terrible slaughter was being enacted on the extreme right and left of the American lines, the center remained inactive. A few men on the right of Plauche’s battalion fired without orders, when Rennie and his men stormed the breastworks, but they were quickly silenced by their officers as the enemy was too far off and they only wasted ammunition. From Plauche’s division to the left of the 44th United States Regulars, including Daquin’s and Lacoste’s and Plauche’s battalions and the 44th regulars, in all at least 800 men, not a gun was fired during the engagement.
That was the end of it. Flight, tumultous flight — some running on the top of the levee, some under it, others down the road; while Patterson’s guns played upon them still with terrible effect. The three slain officers were brought out of the canal behind the lines, when, we are told, a warm discussion arose among the Rifles for the honor of having “brought down the Colonel!” Wm. Withers, a merchant of New Orleans, and the crack shot of the company, settled the controversy by remarking: “If he isn’t hit above the eyebrows, it wasn’t my shot.”
Upon examining the lifeless form of Rennie, it was found that the fatal wound was, indeed, in the forehead, although five balls in all struck him. To Withers, therefore, was assigned the duty of sending the watch and other valuables found upon the person of the fallen hero to his widow, who was in the fleet off Lake Borgne. “Billy” Withers, so a tradition goes, seized the rifle belonging to John Mitchell, who afterwards built the United States Mint and the first part of the Chalmette monument, and brought down the brave Briton.
A pleasanter story, connected with the advance of Colonel Rennie’s column, is related by the same author, Judge Walker: “As the detachments along the road advanced, their bugler, a boy of fourteen or fifteen, climbing a small tree within two hundred yards of the American lines, straddled a limb and continued to blow the charge with all his power. There he remained during the whole action while the cannon balls and bullets plowed the ground around him, killed scores of men, and tore even the branches of the tree in which he sat. Above the thunder of the artillery, the rattling of fire, the musketry, and all the din and uproar of the strife, the shrill blast of the little bugler could be heard and, even when his companions had fallen back and retreated from the field, he continued true to his duty and blew the charge with undiminished vigor. At last, when the British had entirely abandoned the ground, an American soldier, passing from the lines, captured the little bugler and brought him into camp, where he was greatly astonished when some of the enthusiastic Creoles, who had observed his gallantry, actually embraced him and officers and men vied with each other in acts of kindness to so gallant a little soldier.”
The British reserve, under General Lambert, was never ordered up. Major Tylden obeyed the last order of his general, and General Lambert had directed the bugler to sound the advance. A chance shot struck the bugler’s uplifted arm and the instrument fell to the ground and the charge was never sounded. General Lambert brought forward his division far enough to cover the retreat of the broken columns and to deter General Jackson from attempting a sortie. The chief command had fallen upon Lambert and he was overwhelmed by the unexpected and fearful issue of the battle.
It remains to allow Captain Cooke to complete his narrative of the adventures of his party of two hundred.
“At a run we neared the American lines. The mist was now rapidly clearing away, but owing to the dense smoke, we could not at first well distinguish the attacking column of the British troops to our right.
“We now also caught a view of the seventh and the forty-third regiments in echelon on our right, near the wood, the royal fusileers being within about three hundred yards of the enemy’s lines, and forty-third deploying into line two hundreds yards in echelon behind the fusileers. These two regiments were every now and then almost enveloped in the clouds of smoke that hung over their heads and floated on their flanks, for the echo from the cannonade and musketry was so tremendous in the forests that the vibration seemed as if the earth was cracking and tumbling to pieces, or as if the heavens were rent asunder by the most terrific peals of thunder that ever rumbled; it was the most awful and the grandest mixture of sounds to be conceived; the woods seemed to crack to an interminable distance, each cannon report was answered one hundredfold, and produced an intermingled roar surpassing strange. And this phenomenon can neither be fancied nor described, save by those who can bear evidence of the fact. And the flashes of fire looked as- if coming out of the bowels of the earth, so little above its surface were the batteries of the Americans.
“We had run the gauntlet from the left to the center in front of the American lines under a cross fire, in hopes of joining in the assault and had a fine view of the sparkling musketry and the liquid flashes from the cannon. And melancholy to relate, all at once many soldiers were met wildly rushing out of the dense clouds of smoke lighted up by a sparkling sheet of fire which hovered over the ensanguined field. Regiments were shattered, broke and dispersed — all order was at end. And the dismal spectacle was seen of the dark shadows of men, like skirmishers, breaking out of the clouds of smoke which slowly and majestically rolled along the even surface of the field. And so astonished was I at such a panic that I said to a retiring soldier: ‘Have we or the Americans attacked?’ for I had never seen troops in such a hurry without being followed. ‘No,’ replied the man, with the countenance of despair and out of breath, as he ran along, ‘we attacked, sir.’ For still the reverberation was so intense towards the great wood that anyone would have thought the great fighting was going on there instead of immediately in front.
“Lieutenant Duncan Campbell, of our regiment, was seen to our left running about in circles, first staggering one way, then another, and at length fell on the sod hopelessly, upon his face, and in this state several times recovered his legs and again tumbled. When he was picked up he was found to be blind from the effects of a grape-shot that had torn open his forehead, giving him a slight wound in the leg, and which had also ripped the scabbard from his side and knocked the cap from his head. While being borne insensible to the rear he still clenched the hilt of his sword with a convulsive grasp, the blade thereof being broken off close at the hilt with grape-shot, and in a state of delirium and suffering he lived for a few days.
“The first officer we met was Lieutenant Colonel Stovin, of the staff, who was unhorsed, without his hat, and bleeding down the left side of his face. He at first thought the two hundred men were the whole regiment, and he said: ‘Forty-third, for God’s sake, save the day!’ Lieutenant Colonel Smith of the rifles and one of Pakenham’s staff, then rode up at full gallop from the right, (he had a few months before brought to England the despatches of the capture of Washington), and said to me: ‘Did you ever see such a scene? There is nothing left but the seventh and forty-third! Just draw up here for a few minutes to show front, that the repulsed troops may re-form.’ For the chances now were, as the greater portion of the actually attacking corps were stricken down and the remainder dispersed, that the Americans would become the assailants. The ill-fated rocket was discharged before the British troops moved on, the consequence was that every American gun was warned by such a silly signal to be laid on the parapets ready to be discharged with the fullest effects.
“The misty field of battle was now inundated with wounded officers and soldiers, who were going to the rear from the right, left and center; in fact, little more than one thousand soldiers were left unscratched. With the exception of two hundred soldiers under my orders, in the center, there was hardly a man formed all the way to the bank of the Mississippi, or any reserve ready to resist, for nearly the space of half a mile of ground, which was immediately in front of the whole of the right and the center of the American barricade, or to hinder them from dashing up the high road to the canal and the place where Colonel Thornton had embarked with his force, for the passage of the river.
“Had the Americans only advanced, the probability would have been by this movement that they would have got one mile behind the seventh and the forty-third regiments and the fugitives that had retired into the swampy wood.
“As soon as the action was over and some troops were formed in our rear, we then, under a smart fire of grape and round-shot, moved to the right and joined our own corps, which had been ordered to lie down at the edge of a ditch, and some of the old soldiers, with rage depicted on their countenances, were demanding why they were not led on to the assault.
“The fire of the Americans from behind their barricade had been indeed most murderous and had caused so sudden a repulse that it was difficult to persuade ourselves that such an event had happened — the whole affair being more like a dream, or some scene of enchantment, than reality.”
The scene behind the American works during the fire can be easily imagined. One half of the army never fired a shot. The battalions of Plauche, Daquin and Lacoste, the whole of the forty-fourth regiment, and one-half of the Coffee’s Tennesseeans, had nothing to do but to stand still at their posts and chafe with vain impatience for a chance to join in the fight. The Creoles could only with difficulty be restrained from stealing from their post to the right or left to have a shot at the capotes rouges. The batteries alone at the center of the works contributed anything to the fortunes of the day. Yet, no; that is not quite correct. The moment the British came into view, and their signal rocket pierced the sky with its fiery train, the band of the Battalion d’Orleans struck up “Yankee Doodle;” and thenceforth, throughout the action, it did not cease to discourse all the national and military airs in which it had been instructed.
At eight-thirty, there being no signs of a renewed attack and no enemy in sight, an order was sent along the lines to cease firing with the small arms. The General, surrounded by his staff, then walked from end to end of the works, stopping at each battery and post, and addressing a few words of congratulation and praise to their defenders. It was a proud, glad moment for these men, when, panting from their two hours’ labor, blackened with smoke and sweat, they listened to the General’s burning words, and saw the light of victory in his countenance. With particular warmth he thanked and commended Beale’s little band of riflemen, the companies of the seventh, and Humphrey’s artillerymen, who had so gallantly beaten back the column of Colonel Rennie. Heartily, too, he extolled the wonderful firing of the divisions of General Carroll and General Adair; not forgetting Coffee, who had dashed out upon the black skirmishers in the swamp and driven them out of sight in ten minutes.
This joyful ceremony over, the artillery, which had continued to play upon the British batteries, ceased their fire for the guns to cool and the dense smoke to roll off. The whole army crowded to the parapet, and looked over into the field. What a scene was gradually disclosed to them! That gorgeous and imposing military array, the two columns of attack, the Highland phalanx, the distant reserve, all had vanished like an apparition. Far away down the plain, the glass revealed a faint red line still receding. “Nearer to the lines, we could see,” says Nolte, “the British troops concealing themselves behind the shrubbery, or throwing themselves into the ditches and gullies. In some of the latter, indeed, they lay so thickly that they were only distinguishable in the distance by the white shoulder belts, which formed a line along the top of their hiding place.”
The American army, to their credit be it repeated, were appalled and silenced at the scene before them. The writhings of the wounded, their shrieks and groans, their convulsive and sudden tossing of limbs, were horrible to see and hear. Three hundred killed, twelve hundred wounded, five hundred prisoners, were the dread result of that twenty-five minutes’ work. Jackson’s loss, in the action just described was but 6 killed and 7 wounded, according to his report to the secretary of war. His entire loss of the day, including the other side of the river and a sortie after the main action was 13 killed, 39 wounded and 19 missing, according to Adjutant General Butler’s report.
“The field,” says Mr. Walker, “was so thickly strewn with the dead, that from the American ditch you could have walked a quarter of a mile to the front on the bodies of the killed and disabled. The space in front of Carroll’s position, for an extent of two hundred yards, was literally covered with the slain. The course of the column could be distinctly traced in the broad red line of the victims of the terrible batteries and unerring guns of the Americans. They fell in their tracks; in some places, whole platoons lay together as if killed by the same discharge. Dressed in their gay uniforms, cleanly shaved and attired for the promised victory and triumphal entry into the city, these stalwart men lay on the gory field, frightful examples of the horrors of war. Strangely, indeed, did they contrast with those ragged, unshorn, begrimed and untidy, strange-looking, long-haired men, who, crowding the American parapet, surveyed and commented upon the terrible destruction they had caused. There was not a private among the slain whose aspect did not present more of the pomp and circumstance of war than any of the commanders of the victors.
“In the ditch there were no less than forty dead, and at least a hundred who were wounded or who had thrown themselves into it for shelter. On the edge of the woods there were many who, being slightly wounded or unable to reach the rear, had concealed themselves under the brush and in the trees. It was pitiable, indeed, to see the writhings of the disabled and mutilated and to hear their terrible cries for help and water, which arose from every quarter of the plain. As this scene of death, desolation, bloodshed and suffering came into full view of the American lines a profound and melancholy silence pervaded the victorious army. No sounds of exultation or rejoicing were now heard. Pity and sympathy had succeeded to the boisterous and savage feelings which a few minutes before had possessed their souls. They saw no longer the presumptuous, daring and insolent invader, who had come four thousand miles to lay waste a peaceful country. They forgot their own suffering and losses and the barbarian threats of the enemy, and now only perceived humanity, fellowcreatures in their own form, reduced to the most helpless, miserable and pitiable of all conditions of suffering, desolation and distress. Prompted by this motive, many of the Americans stole without leave from their positions, and with their canteens proceeded to assuage the thirst and render other assistance to the wounded. The latter, and those who were captured in the ditch, were led into the lines, where the wounded received prompt attention from Jackson’s medical staff. Many of the Americans carried their disabled enemies into the camp on their backs, as the pious Eneas bore his feeble parent from burning Troy.”
Others, again, of the victorious army wandered over the f1eld in search of trophies and mementos of the victory. Pakenham’s glass, now in the State museum, Keane’s sword, which Jackson returned to him, the bugles of General Gibbs’ and General Keane’s division, a thousand stand of arms, belts, swords, scabbards, chapeaus, accouterments of all descriptions, were hastily gathered and brought in.
But all this was soon over. It was still possible to annoy the enemy with cannon balls, as large numbers of the soldiers were still lying in the ditches and among the shrubbery, not daring to run out of range. The cannonade recommenced.
“For five hours,” says Captain Cooke, “the enemy plied us with grape and round shot. Some of the wounded, lying in the mud or on the wet grass, managed to crawl away; but every now and then some unfortunate man was lifted off the ground by round shot, and lay killed or mangled. During the tedious hours we remained in front it was necessary to lie on the ground to cover ourselves from the projectiles.”
General Jackson had no sooner finished his round of congratulations and beheld the completeness of his victory on the eastern bank, than he bagan to cast anxious glances across the river, wondering at the silence of Morgan’s lines and Patterson’s guns. Soon, however, they flashed and spoke. Jackson with his staff and generals, hurried to the river side and across the muddy Mississippi, saw Thornton’s column advancing to the attack and saw Morgan’s men open fire upon them vigorously.
“Take off your hats and give them three cheers!” shouted Jackson, though Morgan’s division was a mile and a half distant.
The order was obeyed and many of the main army watched the action with intense interest, not doubting that the gallant Kentuckians and Louisianians on the other side of the river would soon drive back the British column, as they themselves had just driven back those of Gibbs and Keane. Having become used to seeing British columns recoil and vanish before their fire, not a thought of disaster on the western bank crossed the elated minds of those who fought immediately under Jackson.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER
Yet Thornton carried the day on the western bank. Even while the men were in the act of cheering, Genral Jackson saw, with mortification and disgust never forgotten by him while he drew breath, the division under General Morgan abandon their position and run in headlong flight toward the city. Clouds of smoke soon obscured the scene. The flashes of the musketry advanced up the river, disclosing to General Adair and his men the humiliating fact that their comrades had not rallied but were still in swift retreat before the foe. In a moment the elation of General Jackson’s troops was changed to anger and apprehension.
Fearing the worst consequences, and fearing them with reason, the General leaped down from the breastworks, made instant preparations for sending over a powerful reinforcement. At all hazards the western bank must be regained. All is lost otherwise. Let but the enemy have free course up the western bank with a mortar and a twelvepounder and New Orleans will be at their mercy in two hours! Let Commorode Patterson but leave one of his guns unspiked and Jackson’s lines, raked by it from river to swamp, are untenable! All this, which was immediately apparent to the mind of General Jackson, was understood also by all of his army who had reflected upon their position.
“The story of the mishap is soon told,” says Parton in his excellent work. “At half-past four in the morning Colonel Thornton stepped ashore on the western bank at a point about four miles below General Morgan’s lines. By the time all his men were ashore and formed the day had dawned, and the flashing of guns on the eastern bank announced that General Pakenham had begun his attack. At double-quick step Thornton began his march along the levee, supported by three small gun-boats in the river, that kept abreast of his column. He came up first with a strong outpost consisting of 120 Louisianians, under Major Arnaud, who had thrown up a small breastwork in the night and then fallen asleep, leaving one sentinel on guard. A shower of grape-shot roused Arnaud’s company from their ill-timed slumber. These men, taken by surprise, made no resistance, but awoke only to fly towards the main body. And this was right. There was nothing else for them to do. To place them in such a position was absurd enough but being there, their only course was to retreat on the approach of the enemy in such order as they could.
“Thornton next described Colonel Davis’ two hundred Kentuckians; the Kentuckians who were to be immortalized by an act of hasty injustice on the part of the commander-in-chief. These men, worn out by hunger and fatigue, reached Morgan’s lines about the hour of Colonel Thornton’s landing. Immediately, without rest or refreshment, they were ordered to march down the river until they met the enemy; then engage him; defeat him if they could; retreat to the lines if they could not. This order, ill-considered as it was, was obeyed by them to the letter. Meeting the men of Major Arnaud’s command running breathlessly to the rear, they still kept on, until, seeing Thorton’s column advancing, they halted and formed in the open field to receive it. Upon being attacked they made a better resistance than could have been reasonably expected. The best armed among them fired seven rounds upon the enemy; the worst armed, three rounds. Effectual resistance being manifestly impossible, they obeyed the orders they had received and fell back (in disorder, of course) to the lines, having killed and wounded several of the enemy and, for a few minutes, checked his advance. On reaching the lines they were ordered to take post on the right, where the lines consisted merely of a ditch and of earth that had been thrown out of it, a work which left them exposed to the enemy’s fire from the waist upwards.
“Colonel Thornton having now arrived within seven hundred yards of General Morgan’s position, halted his force for the purpose of reconnoitring and making his last preparations for the assault. He saw at once the weakness of that part of the lines which the Kentuckians defended. And not only that — beyond the Kentuckians there was a portion of the swampy wood, practicable for troops, wholly undefended! The result of this reconnoitring, therefore, was a determination, as Thorton himself says in his dispatch, ‘to turn the right of the enemy’s position. Observe his words: ‘I accordingly detached two divisions of the eighty-fifth, under Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Gubbins, to effect that object,’ (of turning the right); ‘while Captain Money of the royal navy, with one hundred sailors, threatened the enemy’s left, supported by the division of the eighty-fifth under Captain Schaw.’ The brunt of the battle was therefore, to be borne by our defenceless Kentuckians, while the strong part of the lines was to be merely ‘threatened’ with a squad of sailors and a party of the eighty-fifth.
“The result was precisely what Thornton expected and what was literally inevitable. The bugle sounded the charge. Under a shower of screaming rockets, the British troops and sailors advanced to the attack. A well-directed fire of grape-shot from Morgan’s guns made great havoc among the sailors on the right and compelled them first to pause and then recoil, Captain Money, their commander, falling wounded. But Colonel Gubbins, with the main strength of Thornton’s force, marched towards the extreme left, firing upon the Kentuckians and turning their position, according to Thornton’s plan. At the same moment, Thornton, in person, rallying the sailors, led them up to the battery. The Kentuckians, seeing themselves about to be hemmed in between two bodies of the enemy and exposed to a fire both in front and rear, fired three rounds and then took to flight. Three minutes more and they would have been prisoners. Armed as they were, and posted as they were, the defense of their position against three hundred perfectly armed and perfectly disciplined troops was a moral impossibility, and almost a physical one. They fled as raw militia generally fly, in wild panic and utter confusion, and never stopped running until they had reached an old mill-race two miles up the river, where they halted and made a show of forming.
“The flight of the Kentuckians was decisive upon the issue of the action. The Louisianians held their ground until they saw that the enemy, having gained the abandoned lines, were about to attack them in the rear. Then, having fired eight rounds and killing and wounding a hundred of the enemy, they had no choice but to join in the retreat. In better order than the Kentuckians, they fell back to a point near which the Louisiana was anchored, half a mile behind the lines, where they halted and assisted the sailors to tow the Louisiana higher up the stream.
“Commodore Patterson, in his battery on the levee, three hundred yards in the rear of Morgan’s position, witnessed the flight of the Kentuckians and the retreat of the Louisianians with fury. As he had retained but thirty sailors in his battery, just enough to work the few guns that could be pointed down the road, the retreat of Morgan’s division involved the immediate abandonment of his own batteries — the batteries of which he had grown so fond and proud, and with which he had done so much for the success of the campaign. In the rage of the moment, he cried out to Acting Midshipman Philibert, standing near a loaded gun with a lighted match —
“‘Fire your piece into the damned cowards!’
“The youth was about to obey the order — he had previously done great execution on Thornton’s men with this same cannon — when the Commodore recovered his self-possession and arrested the uplifted arm. With admirable calmness, he caused every cannon to be spiked, threw all his ammunition into the river, ordered the valuable Louisiana warped up the river, and then walked to the rear with his friend Shepherd, now cursing the Kentuckians, now cursing the British — the worst-tempered Commodore then extant.
“Colonel Thornton, severely wounded in the assault, had strength enough to reach Morgan’s redoubt; but there, overcome by the anguish of his wound, he was compelled to give up the command of the troops to Colonel Gubbins. Ignorant as yet of General Pakenham’s fall, he sent over to him a modest dispatch announcing his victory and soon after, was obliged to re-cross the river and go into the hospital.
“And thus, by ten o’clock, the British were masters of the western bank, although, owing to the want of available artillery, their triumph, for the moment, was a fruitless one. In a tent behind the lines they found the ensign of one of the Louisiana regiments, which still hangs in Whitehall, London, bearing these words: ‘Taken at the Battle of New Orleans, Jan. 8th, 1815.’”
The result of the engagement while the Americans retreated, was almost proportionally as great in the losses on each side as the main battle; the British lost 125 killed and wounded and the Americans, 1 killed and 5 wounded.
General Lambert, stunned by the events of the morning, was morally incapable of improving this important success. And it was well for him and for his army that he was so. Soldiers there have been who would have seen in Thornton’s triumph the means of turning the tide of disaster and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. But General Lambert found himself suddenly vested with the command of an army which, besides having lost a third of its effective force, was almost destitute of field officers. The mortality among the higher grade of officers had been frightful. Three major-generals, eight colonels and lieutenant-colonels, six majors, eighteen captains, fifty-four subalterns were among the killed and wounded. In such circumstances, Lambert, instead of hurrying over artillery and reinforcement, and marching on New Orleans, did a less spirited, but a wiser thing — he sent over an officer to survey General Morgan’s lines, and ascertain how many men would be required to hold them. In other words, he sent over an officer to bring him back a plausible excuse for abandoning Colonel Thornton’s conquest. And during the absence of the officer on his errand the British General resolved upon a measure still more pacific.
General Jackson, meanwhile, was intent upon dispatching his reinforcements. It never, for one moment, occurred to his war-like mind that the British General would relinquish so vital an advantage without a desperate struggle and, accordingly, he prepared for a desperate struggle. Organizing promptly a strong body of troops, he placed it under the command of General Humbert, a refugee officer of distinction, who had led the French revolutionary expedition into Ireland in 1798, and was then serving in the lines as a volunteer. Humbert, besides being the only general officer that Jackson could spare from his own position, was a soldier of high repute and known courage, a martinet in discipline, and a man versed in the arts of European warfare. About eleven o’clock the reinforcement left the camp, with orders to hasten across the river by the ferry at New Orleans, and march down towards the enemy, and, after effecting a junction with General Morgan’s troops, to attack him and drive him from the lines Before noon Humbert was well on his way. Jackson next signalled John R. Grymes who, with Jordan’s huge battle drum for a desk, penned under the commander’s dictation, that remarkable letter now a treasured relic in the Louisiana State Museum, which reads:
Headquarters 7th Military District.
8th Jan’y, 1815.
The Major General commanding has heard with astonishment and regret of the retreat of that part of the forces stationed on the right bank of the Mississippi before an enemy greatly inferior in numbers.
This regret is more poignant as it was totally unexpected. The General did believe that men who had left their homes and traversed a great expanse of territory for the purpose of defending their sacred soil at its very shores, would not have been the first to set an example of timidity encouraging to the enemy and destruction of the very object for which they have left their homes. Although the Gen’l feels himself bound to animadvert upon the conduct of that portion of the troops who have set so bad an example, he feels the firmest confidence of which that corps is composed and does believe that before to-morrow morning the error of today will be rectified, and that he will have an opportunity of hailing them as brothers in arms worthy to be ranked with those who have so gloriously distinguished themselves in the defence of their country and their honour on this side of the river.
Soon after midday, some American troops who were walking about the blood-stained field in front of Jackson’s position, perceived a British party of novel aspect approaching. It consisted of an officer in full uniform, Major Sir Harry Smith, aid-de-camp to General Lambert, a trumpeter and a soldier bearing a white flag. Halting at a distance of three hundred yards from the breastwork, the trumpeter blew a blast upon his bugle, which brought the whole army to the edge of the parapet, gazing with eager curiosity upon this unexpected but not unwelcome spectacle. Col. Robert Butler was immediately dispatched by General Jackson to receive the message thus announced. After an exchange of courteous salutations, the British officer handed Col. Butler a letter directed to the American Commander-in-Chief, which proved to be a proposal for an armistice of twenty-four hours, that the dead might be buried and the wounded removed from the field. The letter was signed “Lambert,” a device, it has been claimed, to conceal from Jackson the death of the British general-incommand.
The sprinkling of canny Scotch blood that flowed in Jackson’s veins asserted itself on this occasion. Time was now an all-important object with him, since Humbert and his command could not yet have crossed the river, and Jackson’s whole soul was bent to the regaining of the western bank.
General Jackson replied that he was ready to treat with the commander-in-chief of the British army and that it was a matter of surprise to him that the letter he had received was not directly from that officer.
The flag departed, but returned in half an hour, with the same proposal, signed, “John Lambert, Commander-inChief of the British forces.” Jackson’s answer was prompt and ingenious, claims Parton. Gen. Humbert, by this time, he thought, if he had not crossed the river, must be near crossing and might, in a diplomatic sense, be considered crossed. Jackson, therefore, consented to an armistice on the eastern bank, expressly stipulating that hostilities were not to be suspended on the western bank of the river and that neither party should send over reinforcements until the expiration of the armistice! A cunning trick, but not an unfair one, considering the circumstances and the less unfair as some reinforcements on the English side had already gone over the river.
When this reply reached General Lambert he had not yet received the report from the western bank and was still, in some degree, undecided as to the course he should pursue there. With the next return of the flag, therefore, came a request from Lambert for time to consider General Jackson’s reply. Tomorrow morning, at ten o’clock, he would send a definite answer. The cannonade from the lines continued until two in the afternoon, Latour tells us, and the troops stood at their posts, not certain that they would not again be attacked.
Early in the afternoon the British officer returned from his inspection of the works on the western banks and gave it as his opinion that they could not be held with less than two thousand men. General Lambert at once sent an order to Colonel Gubbins to abandon the works and to recross the river with his whole command! The order was not obeyed without difficulty for, by this time, the Louisianians, urged by a desire to retrieve the fortunes of the day and their own honor, began to approach the lost redoubts in considerable bodies. Our friend, the Subaltern, who served this day on the western bank, was the officer designated to cover with a strong picket to the rear of the retiring column and keep off those threatening parties.
“As soon,” he says, “as the column had got sufficiently on their way, the picket likewise prepared to follow. But in doing so, it was evident that some risk must be run. The enemy, having rallied, began again to show a front, that is to say, parties of sixty or a hundred men approached to reconnoitre. These, however, must be deceived, otherwise a pursuit might be commenced and the reembarkation of the whole corps hindered or prevented. It so happened that the picket in question was this day under my command and as soon as I received information that the main body had commenced its retreat, I formed my men and made a show of advancing. The Americans, perceiving this, fled. Then wheeling about, we set fire to the chateau and, under cover of the smoke, destroyed the bridge and retreated. Making all haste toward the rear, we overtook our comrades just as they had begun to embark. The little corps, being once more united, entered their boats and reached the opposite bank without molestation.”
The Subaltern performed his duty so well as to conceal from the Americans the departure of the English troops until the following morning. Commodore Patterson and General Morgan then reoccupied their redoubts and batteries; the sailors bored out the spikes of the guns, toiling at the work all the next night; and the troops labored to strengthen the lines.
The dead in front of Jackson’s lines, scattered and heaped upon the field, lay all night, gory and stiff, a spectacle of horror to the American outposts stationed in their midst. Many of the wounded succeeded in crawling or tottering back to their camp. Many more were brought in behind the lines and conveyed to New Orleans, where they received every humane attention. But, in all probability, some hundreds of poor fellows hidden in the wood or lying motionless in ditches, lingered in unrelieved agony all that day and night until late in the following morning — an eternity of anguish. As soon as night spread her mantle over the scene, many uninjured soldiers, who had lain all day in the ditches and shrubbery, rejoined their comrades in the rear.
The Subaltern describes the feelings of the discomfited British troops when he and the rest of Thornton’s command reached the camp: “The change of expression,” he says, “visible in every countenance, no language can portray. Only twenty hours ago and all was life and animation; wherever you went you were enlivened by the sound of merriment and raillery; whilst the expected attack was mentioned in terms indicative not only of sanguine hope, but of the most perfect confidence as to its results. Now gloom and discontent everywhere prevailed. Disappointment, grief, indignation and rage succeeded each other in all bosoms; nay, so completely were the troops overwhelmed by a sense of disgrace, that for a while they retained their sorrow without so much as hinting as to its cause Nor was this dejection occasioned wholly by the consciousness of laurels tarnished. The loss of comrades was to the full as afflicting as the loss of honor; for out of more than five thousand men, brought on this side into the field, no fewer than fifteen hundred had fallen. Among these were two Generals (for Gibbs survived his wound but a few hours) and many officers of courage and ability; besides which, hardly an individual survived who had not to mourn the loss of some particular and well-known companion.”
“BEAUTY AND BOOTY.”
A vexing question, and one that has never, even to this day, been positively settled, is whether or not the British invading army used for their watchword “Beauty and Booty.” It has been claimed by those who participated in the battle of New Orleans on the American side that this watchword was positively used; on the other side, five British officers who served before in New Orleans formally and emphatically denied that this was so. One hundred years afterwards, a careful perusal of the newspapers of New Orleans published during the two months following the decisive battle show this watchword was used and these columns quote “Beauty and Booty” in a manner that shows at that time, 1815, there was not the slightest doubt of its being the countersign of the English army before New Orleans.
“In that age of war and siege, it was common for soldiers investing a town to give, in convivial moments,” the historian Parton tells us in his study of this vexing question, “the toast, ‘Beauty and Booty.’ It was also common for the same soldiers, when they had taken a town, to comport themselves in the spirit of that infamous sentiment; rioting for days and nights in the streets and houses, deaf to the cry of pleading innocence, and wallowing in every species of debauchery. And the nobler the defense of the town had been, the more devlish and protracted were such scenes likely to be. For particulars, see that candid and eloquent work,
‘Napier’s History of the Peninsular War,’
in which both the heroic and the diabolical deeds of the very men that besieged New Orleans are set forth with truth and vividness. From the same work we learn that General Pakenham was conspicuous among the officers that served in the Peninsular war for the resolution with which he strove, wherever he commanded, to prevent the misconduct of the men after the capture of fortified places. Officers lost their lives in the Peninsular war in rescuing women from the clutches of men maddened with fury, wine and lust, and still the riot went on, till the soldiers were satiated and exhausted.
“The ladies of New Orleans had heard of this toast of ‘Beauty and Booty.’ It appears, according to a confused story of Nolte’s, which probably had some foundation in truth, that a Creole planter, the owner of one of the estates occupied by the enemy, visited the British camp a few days before the last battle, pretending to be, or thought to be, inimical to the American cause. Invited to dine with a party of officers, he heard one of them offer the toast, ‘Beauty and Booty,’ and also gathered some intimations of General Pakenham’s plans. During the succeeding night he made his escape, reported to General Jackson what he had heard, and mentioned, doubtless, to his friends the ominous toast, which was soon whispered about among the ladies of the city. Hence, or in some similar way, arose the thousand times reiterated lie, that the watchword given out by General Pakenham for the eighth of January was the language of this camp-fire toast.”
“There was no watchword on that day,” declares James’ Military Occurrences, “nor need of any.” In 1833 five British officers who served before New Orleans, Generals Keane, Lambert, Thornton and Blakeney, and Colonel Dickson, published a formal denial in the London Times of this odious charge, then, for the first time, brought to their notice by an English traveler.
After stating the charges, these officers said:
“We, the undersigned, serving in that army, and actually present, and through whom all orders to the troops were promulgated, do, in justice to the memory of that distinguished officer who commanded and led the attack, the whole tenor of whose life was marked by manliness of purpose and integrity of view, most unequivocally deny that any such promise (of plunder) was ever held out to the army, or that the watchword asserted to have been given out was ever issued. And, further, that such motives could never have actuated the man who, in the discharge of his duty to his king and country, so eminently upheld the character of a true British soldier.”
“Nevertheless, in its essential meaning, the charge was just; that is to say, if the British had taken New Orleans, the women of the place would not have been safe from the insults and violence of the soldiers,” is the historian Parton’s summing up.
“That the ladies had cause for alarm in this particular, I am enabled to adduce the confirmatory opinion of an English officer who was in the army of New Orleans. The story about to be told was kindly related to me by one who was an inmate, during the whole campaign, of the house in which the events transpired, the hospitable house of Edward Livingston, General Jackson’s friend and most confidential aid, and from what occurred in that house, on this day and on preceding days, the reader may judge what was felt and feared, what was done and suffered in many houses.
“The day after the night battle of December 23d, General Jackson sent Edward Livingston to New Orleans to see, first, that the wounded of both armies were well cared for in the hospitals, and secondly, that effectual measures were taken for preventing the wounded prisoners from holding communication with the British camp. The latter was a most vital point, since nothing prevented the enemy’s immediate advance but his ignorance of General Jackson’s real strength, or rather, General Jackson’s deplorable weakness. While employed at one of the hospitals, Livingstone saw an English officer brought from the field on a plank, badly wounded and insensible. There was something in the appearance of this officer that strongly excited the compassion of the aid-de-camp, who was the most amiable of human beings. The thigh of the wounded man had been horribly torn by a cannon ball; the loss of blood left his handsome young countenance as pallid as death itself; it was evident that nothing but immediate dressing of the wound and the most assiduous attention could save his life. In the hurry and confusion of the hour such treatment could not be afforded in the hospital, and Mr. Livingston ordered the bearers of the wounded officer to carry him to his own house. An hour later, the officer awoke from the swoon to find himself, not on the cold, wet field where he had lain all night, but in a warm, luxurious bed, in a spacious and elegant apartment, with lovely women around him looking with tenderest pity into his opening eyes. His first languid, delicious thought was that he had died last night and was then in heaven among the angels. So, at least, he would afterwards say, when pouring out his heartfelt thanks to his generous and beautiful benefactress.
“But in removing this officer to his own house the good aid-de-camp had very seriously transcended his authority, an act which General Jackson was not the man to overlook, oven in his best friend. There was a little family consultation held upon the matter, the result of which was that Mrs. Livingston undertook the task of procuring the General’s consent: ‘For, you know, the General can refuse nothing to a lady or a child.”
“In her lively French way, Mrs. Livingston wrote a note to the General, stating what her husband had done, and asking, as a reward for his faithful services, the privilege ol’ retaining and restoring the wounded officer. ‘I will be,’ said she in substance, ‘both the nurse and guard of
Not the smallest scrap of paper shall leave or reach the house without my reading it, nor shall anyone have a moment’s access in his presence except ourselves. And the captain, who is evidently a gentleman, has given me his sacred word of honor that he will not attempt any communication with his comrades in camp. And, besides, dear General, how can he, poor fellow? as he is so weak that he can not lift his arm, nor speak above a whisper. In short, General, we have set our hearts upon keeping the captain. You will not refuse this confidence to the wife of Edward Livingston.’
“In words like these, but better than these, Mrs. Livingston addressed the General, who freely granted her request. And later in the siege, when the hospitals became overcrowded, and wounded prisoners were necessarily placed in private houses, and all such houses had a guard before them night and day, the house of Mrs. Livingston was not guarded — the General permitting her to be both guard and nurse, as she had petitioned. The privilege of having a wounded prisoner in their houses was eagerly sought by the ladies, and not merely for humane reasons. It was supposed that the presence of an English soldier would be a protection against outrage if the city were sacked. During some of the nights of terror, when the city was thought to be in unusual peril as many as thirty of Mrs. Livingston’s female friends would come to her house, hoping to find safety under the roof which had given its hospitable shelter to a wounded officer of rank.
“The morn of the day of decisive battle came and with it the roar of the cannon from the Chalmette field and the crackle and volleys of the Kentucky and Tennessee rifle. As the morning hours wore away, and rumors of defeat became frequent, Mrs. Livingston went alone to the chamber of her sick officer, who was now fast recovering his strength.
“‘Captain ,’ said she, ‘I have come to ask you a serious question, and I beg you to give me a candid answer. If the city is taken to-day, we have the means of leaving, and we are ready to leave. Shall we be safe if we remain?’
“‘Madame,’ was his reply, ‘if the sacrifice of my own life could protect you and your family, I would gladly promise you protection. But I cannot answer for the violence of the soldiery. If you have the means of going, I advise you, GO!’”
Mrs. Livingston acted upon this advice so far as to have everything in perfect readiness for flight. The horse was harnessed to the chaise. A hundred doubloons, which Mr. Livingston had bought just before going to the field on the 23rd of December, were taken from their hiding place. The General’s fair little friend was equipped. Provisions were prepared. At the first authentic signal of disaster the family would have begun a long journey up the river to Baton Rouge; to Natchez, if necessary. But such a signal never came; the alarm subsided and was changed, at length, into delirious joy.
For through Rue Royale and Rue Chartres and Rue Burgundy and all the other narrow streets of New Orleans, horsemen, dashing from the field on exhausted horses, sent the cry of “VICTOIRE” echoing and re-echoing throughout the city.
The author of “Jackson and New Orleans” describes in his lively and picturesque manner the change that came over the city as the news of the victory became certain. “The anxious spectators and listeners in the rear, quickly comprehending the glorious result, caught up the sounds of exultation and echoed them along the banks of the river, until the glad tidings reached the city, sent a thrill of joy throughout its limits, and brought the whole population into the streets to give full vent to their extravagant joy. The streets resounded with hurras. The only military force in the city, the veterans, under their indefatigable commander, the noble old patriot soldier, Captain DeBuys, hastily assembled, and with a drum and fife paraded the streets amid the salutes and hurras of the people, the waving of the snowy handkerchiefs of the ladies, and the boundless exultation and noisy joy of the juveniles.
“Every minute brought forth some new proof of the great and glorious victory. First, there came a messenger, whose horse had been severely taxed, who inquired for the residences of the physicians of the city, and dashed madly through the streets in pursuit of surgeons and apothecaries. All of the profession, whether in practice or not, were required to proceed to the lines, as their services were needed immediately. ‘For whom?’ was the question which agitated the bosom of many an anxious parent and devoted wife and for a moment clouded and checked the general hilarity. Soon it was known, however, that this demand for surgeons was on account of the enemy. All who possessed any knowledge of the curative art, who could amputate or set a limb, or take up an artery, hurried to the camp. Next there came up a messenger from the camp to dispatch all the carts and other vehicles to the lines. This order, too, was fully discussed and commented on by the crowd, which gathered in the streets and in all public resorts. But, like all Jackson’s orders, it was also quickly executed.
. “It was late in the day before the purpose of this order was clearly perceived, as a long and melancholy procession of these carts, followed by a crowd of men, was seen slowly and silently wending its way along the levee from the field of battle.” (Forty cart-loads and ten boat-loads, says one letter.) “They contained the British wounded; and those who followed in the rear were the prisoners in charge of a detachment of Carroll’s men. Emulating the magnanimity of the army, the citizens pressed forward to tender their aid to their wounded enemies. The hospitals being all crowded with their own sick and wounded, these unfortunate victims of English ambition were taken in charge by the citizens, and by private contributions were supplied with mattresses and pillows, with a large quantity of lint and old linen for dressing wounds, all of which articles were then exceedingly scarce in the city. Those far-famed nurses, the quadroon women of New Orleans, freely gave their kind attentions to the wounded British, and watched at their bedsides night and day. Several of the officers, who were grievously wounded, were taken to private residences of citizens and there provided with every comfort.”
THE DAY AFTER THE BATTLE
The ninth of January was the day on which General Jackson really felt himself the victor — felt that he had done what he came to New Orleans to do. Before the day was far advanced the flag of truce returned again, bringing General Lambert’s assent to the terms of the proposed armistice.
A melancholy scene ensued. A line was marked off three hundred yards below the American position, near to which detachments of both armies were drawn up. The bodies of the heroic men who had fallen on or within the rampart were first conveyed to the line and delivered to their comrades. The dead that lay upon the field were next carried in, the ladders that were made for the scaling of the lines being used as biers. “I was present,” says Nolte, “for a while, when they were trying to recognize the bodies, and when they found that of Major Whittaker the soldiers burst into tears, saying: ‘Ah, poor Major Whittaker! he is gone, the worthy fellow.”” Some of the American troops it appears, could not conceal their exultation, even then. “An American officer,” says the Subaltern, “stood by smoking a cigar, and apparently counting the slain, with a look of savage exultation, and repeating over and over to each individual that approached him that their loss amounted to eight men killed and fourteen wounded. I confess that when I beheld the scene I hung down my head, half in sorrow and half in anger. With my officious informant I had every inclination to pick a quarrel, but he was on duty and an armistice existed, both of which forbade the measure. I could not, however, stand by and repress my choler and since to give it vent would have subjected me to a more serious inconvenience than a mere duel, I turned my horse’s head and galloped back to the camp.”
The collection of the dead and the digging of the graves consumed the day. In the evening, by the light of torches, in the presence of the whole British army, with brief impressive ceremonial, the dead were laid in their wet and shallow graves. So numerous were they, and buried so imperfectly, that the place was not approachable during the succeeding summer.
How terrible the scenes in the British hospitals the day after the battle! Says Captain Hill: “The scene presented at de la Ronde’s was one I shall never forget; almost every room was crowded with the wounded and dying. The dead bodies of two gallant generals lay close to each other” (Pakeriham and Gibbs) “and another was severely hurt” (Keane). “Mortifying defeat had again attended the British arms and the loss in men and officers was frightfully disastrous.”
The old way of annoying the enemy by cannonade in the daytime and by “hunting parties” during the night, was kept up while the armies still faced each other. How effective it was, the English narratives attest. “Of the extreme unpleasantness of our situation,” says the Subaltern, “it is hardly possible to convey any adequate conception. We never closed our eyes in peace, for we were sure to be awakened before many minutes elapsed by the splash of a round shot or shell in the mud beside us. Tents we had none, but lay, some in the open air, and some in huts made of boards, or any materials that could be procured. From the first moment of our landing, not a man had undressed excepting to bathe and many had worn the same shirts for weeks together. Besides all this heavy rains now set in, accompanied with violent storms of thunder and lightning which, lasting during the entire day, usually ceased towards dark and gave place to keen frosts. Thus we were alternately wet and frozen; wet all day and frozen all night. With the outposts, again, there was constant skirmishing. With what view the Americans wished to drive them in I cannot tell; but every day were they attacked and compelled to maintain their ground by dint of hard fighting. In one word, none but those who happened to belong to this army can form a notion of the hardships which it endured, and the fatigue which it underwent.
“Nor were these the only evils which tendered to lessen our numbers. To our soldiers every inducement was held out by the Americans to desert. Printed papers, offering lands and money as the price of desertion were thrown into the pickets, whilst individuals made a practice of approaching our posts and endeavored to persuade the very sentinels to quit their stations. Nor could it be expected that bribes so tempting would always be refused. Many desertions began daily to take place and became before long so frequent that the evils rose to be of a serious nature.
“A round shot knocked the cooking kettle off a fire which was encircled by officers’ servants without, doing further damage than spilling the soup, which in these hard times was a very serious inconvenience; for owing to adverse winds and the necessity of carrying the wounded down to the shipping by Lake Borgne, a distance of sixty miles, and bringing up in return provisions, the sailors were quite exhausted. They had been exposed for more than a month in the depth of winter to all kinds of weather, sweating on the oars by day, or perishing with cold in the open boats by night. The consequence was that the consumption was beyond the produce; on some days we did not taste food, and when we did it was served out in small quantities as only to tantalize our voracious appetites, so that between short rations and a perpetual cannonade we passed ten days after the repulse in as uncomfortable manner as could fall to the lot of most militaires to endure.”
“One morning before daylight we were disturbed (having been kept awake half the night by the usual salutations of shot and shell) by the water pouring into our huts,” writes Captain Cooke, “and as soon as objects could be discerned what a dreary prospect presented itself to view! The Mississippi had overflowed its banks and nothing but a sheet of water was to be seen, except a few straggling huts and one house, the lines of the Americans, and the forest trees. It was nearly dark before the water subsided. The whole day the troops were enveloped in muddy blankets, shivering with cold, and hungry as hunters, and looked like polar bears standing on their hind legs. The enemy who were as badly off as ourselves, ceased firing, being as we afterwards understood, up to their knees in mire. One day, being in advance on picket, in a fort constructed by the parings of the black-loam for some twenty or thirty yards around, and within a few hundred yards of the enemy, I distinctly saw with my telescope a motley group of Americans traversing and elevating a gun, for the purpose of throwing lob-shot over our heads into the principal bivouac. One of these civil artillery-men was capped with a red woolen cap, a second wore the hat of a miller, and so on.”
Men so situated need not be attacked. Generals January and February, as the Emperor Nicholas once remarked, will suffice for them.
And while the British army fared so ill on land, part of the fleet was meeting a disappointing repulse at Fort St. Philip, near the mouth of the Mississippi. Major Overton, the commandant of this post was advised about the first of January, that a portion of the enemy’s fleet was preparing
to ascend the river for the purpose of co-operating with the army, and that his fort was first to be bombarded out of the way.
“On the ground of this informaion,” says the Major in his dispatch to General Jackson, “I turned my attention to the security of my command; I erected small magazines in different parts of the garrison, that if one blew up I could resort to the other; built covers for my men to secure them from the explosion of the shells, and removed the combustible matter without the works. Early in the day of the 8th I was advised of their approach, and on the 9th, at a quarter past 10 a.m., hove in sight two bomb-vessels, one sloop, one brig, and one schooner; they anchored two and a quarter miles below. At half-past three o’clock, p.m., the enemy’s bomb-vessels opened their fire from four sea-mortars, two of thirteen inches, two of ten, and to my great mortification I found they were without the effective range of my shot, as many subsequent experiments proved; they continued their fire with little intermission during the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th. I occasionally opened my batteries on them with great vivacity, particularly when they showed a disposition to change their position. On the 17th, in the evening, our heavy mortar was said to be in readiness. I ordered that excellent officer, Captain Wolstonecraft, of the artillerists, who previously had charge of it, to open a fire, which was done with great effect, as the enemy from that moment became disordered, and at daylight on the 18th commenced their retreat, after having thrown upwards of a thousand heavy shells, besides small shells from howitzers, round shot and grape, which he discharged from boats, under cover of the night.”
Failure, failure everywhere to this imposing expedition.
On the day after the great battle General Jackson prepared his dispatch to the Secretary of War, which communicated to the people of the United States the leading particulars of the event. The passage in it relating to the flight of the Kentuckians caused general surprise, general regret and hard feelings too to the rest of the Union. The words of the General expressed, doubtless, the prevalent feeling of the army at the moment. “The entire destruction of the enemy’s army,” said the General, after briefly narrating the main battle, “was now inevitable, had it not been for an unfortunate occurrence which at this moment took place on the ohter side of the rver. 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 enitre discomfiture was looked for with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky reinforcements ingloriously fled, drawing after them, by their example, the remainder of the forces and thus yielding to the enemy that most fortunate 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.”
These words, penned in haste, and before the circumstances were known, were deeply grievous to the whole of General Adair’s command and to the patriotic State from which they came. A court-martial afterwards pronounced the conduct of the Kentucky detachment “not reprehensible,” whatever the circumstances might be. It was, if possible, more difficult for General Jackson to remove from his mind an opinion which he had strongly held, and to which he was publicly committed, is Parton’s opinion. Hence, it was that the language of his dispatch became, in after times, the occasion of a most angry correspondence and lasting feud between General Jackson and General Adair.
FLIGHT OF THE ENGLISH
How pleasant it would be to dismiss the conqueror now to home, peace and Tennessee. To enjoy the congratulations of his neighbors and the plaudits of a nation whose pride he had so keenly gratified! But this may not be. His work was not done, Parton tells us. The next three months of his life at New Orleans were crowded with events, many of which were delightful, many of which were painful in the extreme.
The trials of the American army, so far as its patience was concerned, began, not ended, with the victory of the 8th of January. The rains descended and the floods came upon the soft delta of the Mississippi, converting both camps into quagmires. Relieved of care, relieved from toil, yet compelled to keep the field by night and day, the greater part of the American army had nothing to do but endure the inevitable miseries of the situation. Disease began its fell work among them; malignant influenza, fever and, worst of all, dysentery. Major Latour computes that during the few weeks that elapsed between the 8th of January and the end of the campaign five hundred of Jackson’s army died from these complaints; a far greater number than had fallen in action. While the enemy remained there was no repining. The sick men, yellow and gaunt, staggered into the hospitals when they could no longer stand to their posts and lay down to die without a murmur.
Some glorious days, however, were vouchsafed to the suffering troops, during which everything was forgotten that was not joyful. That was one bright day, the 18th of January, when a cartel for the exchange of prisoners was carried into effect. The uniform companies of New Orleans, with colors flying and music playing, marched down to the line of British outposts, and drew up in showy array to receive their friends and comrades who had been taken by the enemy in the night battle, nearly a month before. The prisoners, about sixty in number, were escorted by a party of the 95th rifles. The roll was called and found to be correct. “Forward, Americans!” The prisoners marched along the line, saluted as they passed by the troops, and then proceeded to the American camp, where cheers and congratulations greeted them and hundreds of their old friends rushed forward to grasp them by the hand. These prisoners, many of whom were leading citizens of New Orleans, bore grateful testimony to the courtesy and kindness of the British officers in whose charge they had been.
The day following, too, was one of unexpected and joyous triumph, the occasion of which must be more circumstantially related.
For ten days after the battle the English army remained in their encampment, deluged with rain and flood, and played upon at intervals by the American batteries on both sides of the river. They seemed to be totally inactive. They were not so. General Lambert, from the day of the great defeat, was resolved to retire to the shipping. But that had now become an affair of extreme difficulty, as the Subaltern explains.
“In spite of our losses,” he says, “there were not throughout the armament a sufficient number of boats to transport above one-half of the army at a time. If, however, we should separate, the chances were that both parties would be destroyed: for those embarked might be intercepted and those left behind would be obliged to cope with the entire American force. Besides, even granting that the Americans might be repulsed, it would be impossible to take our boats in their presence, and thus at least one division, if not both, must be sacrificed.
“To obviate this difficulty, prudence required that the road which the British had formed on landing should be continued to the very margin of the lake; whilst appearances seemed to indicate the total impracticability of the scheme. From firm ground to the water’s edge was here a distance of many miles, through the center of a morass where human foot had never before trodden. Yet it was desirable at least to make the attempt; for it if failed we should only be reduced to our former alternative of gaining a battle, or surrendering at discretion.
“Having determined to adopt this course, General Lambert immediately dispatched strong working uarties. under the guidance of engineer officers, to lengthen the road, keening as near as possible to the margin of the creek. But the task assigned to them was burdened with innumerable difficulties. For the extent of several leagues no firm footing could be discovered on which to rest the foundation of a path; nor any trees to assist in forming hurdles. All that could be done, therefore, was to bind together large quantities of reeds, and lay them across the quagmire; by which means at least the semblance of a road was produced, however wanting in firmness and solidity. But where broad ditches came in the way, many of which intersected the morass, the workmen were necessarily obliged to apply more durable materials. For these bridges, composed in part of large branches, brought with immense labor from the woods, were constructed; but they were, on the whole, little superior in point of strength to the rest of the path, for though the edges were supported by timber, the middle was filled up only with reeds.”
It required nine days of incessant and most arduous labor to complete the road. The British wounded were then sent on board, except eighty who could not be removed. The abandoned guns were spiked and broken. In the evening of the 18th of January the main body of the army commenced its retreat.
“Trimming the fires,” continues the Subaltern, “and arranging all things in the same order as if no change were to take place, regiment after regiment stole away from the Villere plantation, as soon as darkness concealed their motions; leaving the pickets to follow as a rear guard but with strict injunctions not to retire till daylight began to appear. As may be supposed, the most profound silence was maintained; not a man opening his mouth, except to issue necessary orders and even speaking in a whisper. Not a cough or any other noise was to be heard from the head to the rear of the column; and even the steps of the soldiers were planted with care to present the slightest stamping or echo. In spite of every endeavor to the contrary, a rumor of our intended movement had reached the Americans; for we found them of late watchful and prying, whereas they had been formerly content to look only to themselves.
“For some time, that is to say, while our route lay along the high road and beside the brink of the river, the march was agreeable enough; but, as soon as we began to enter upon the path through the marsh all comfort was at an end. Being constructed of materials so light and resting upon a foundation so infirm, the treading of the first corps unavoidably beat it to pieces; those which followed were therefore compelled to flounder on in the best way they could; and by the time the rear of the column gained the morass all trace of a way entirely disappeared. But not only were the reeds torn asunder and sunk by the pressure of those who had gone before, but the bog itself, which at first might have furnished a few spots of firm footing, was trodden into the consistency of mud. The consequence was that every step sunk us to the knees, and frequently higher, near the ditches, many spots occurred which we had the utmost difficulty in crossing at all; and as the night was -dark, there being no moon, nor any light except what the stars supplied, it was difficult to select our steps, or even to follow those who called to us that they were safe on the opposite side.
“Over roads such as these did we continue our journey during the whole of the night and in the morning reached a place called Fisherman’s Huts upon the margin of the lake. The name is derived from a clump of mud-built cottages, situated in as complete a desert as the eye of man was ever pained by beholding. Here at length we were ordered to halt and perhaps I never rejoiced more sincerely at any order than at this. I threw myself upon the ground without so much as pulling off my muddy garments, and in an instant all my cares and troubles were forgotten. Nor did I wake from that deep slumber for many hours; when I rose I was cold and stiff, and creeping beside a miserable fire of reeds, addressed myself to the last morsel of salt pork which my wallet contained.
“The whole army had now come up, the pickets having escaped without notice or at least without annoyance. Forming along the brink of the lake, a line of outposts were planted, and the soldiers were commanded to make themselves as comfortable as they could. But, in truth, the word comfort is one which cannot in any sense be applied to people in such a situation. Without tents or huts of any description (for the few from which the place is named were occupied by the general and other heads of departments), our bed was the morass, and our sole covering the clothes which had not quitted our backs for upwards of a month. Our fires, upon the size and goodness of which much of the soldier’s happiness depends, were composed solely of reeds; a species of fuel which, like straw, soon blazes up and soon expires again almost without communicating any degree of warmth. But, above all, our provisions were expended and from what quarter to obtain an immediate supply it defied the most inventive genius to discover. Our sole dependence was upon the boats. Of these a flotilla lay ready to receive us, in which were embarked the black corps with the forty-fourth, but they had brought with them only food for their own use. It was, therefore, necessary that they should reach the fleet and return again, before they could furnish us with what we so much wanted. But the distance to the nearest of the shipping could not be less than eighty miles and if the weather should become boisterous, or the winds obstinately adverse, we might starve before any supply could arrive.
“As soon as the boats returned regiment after regiment embarked and set sail for the fleet but, the distance being considerable and the wind foul, many days elapsed before the whole could be got off. Excepting in one trifling instance, however no accident occurred and by the end of the month we were all once more on board our former ships. But our return was far from triumphant. We who only seven weeks before had set out in the surest confidence of glory, and I may add, of emolument, were brought back dispirited and dejected. Our ranks were wofully thinned, our chiefs slain, our clothing tattered and filthy, and even our discipline in some degree injured. A gloomy silence reigned throughout the armament, except when it was broken by the voice of lamentation over fallen friends; and the interior of each ship presented a scene well calculated to prove the short-sightedness, of human hope and human prudence.”
With this ignominious wallow in the mire (“the whole army,” as another narrator remarks, “covered with mud from the top of the head to the sole of the foot”) the Wellington heroes ended their month’s exertion in the delta of the Mississippi. The retreat was so well managed, however, that General Lambert was knighted for it soon after.
The sun was high in the heavens on the following morning when rumors of the retreat began to circulate through the American camp. And when it began to be suspected some further time elapsed before the fact was definitely ascertained for the British camps presented the same appearance it had for many days previous. Sentinels seemed to be posted as before and flags were flying. The American general and his aids, from the high window at headquarters, scanned the position through the glass, and were inclined to think that the enemy were only lying low, with a view to draw the troops out of the lines into the open plain.
General Jackson ordered out a party to reconnoitre. While it was forming a British medical officer, Dr. Wadsdale, approached the line bearing a letter from General Lambert which announced his departure and recommended to the humanity of the American commander the eighty wounded men who were necessarily left behind. There could now be no doubt of the retreat but Jackson was still wary and restrained the exultant impetuosity of the men, who were disposed at once to visit the abandoned camp.
General Jackson ordered out a party of Hind’s Dragoons to reconnoitre, and while it was forming a flag of truce was seen approaching the lines. It was borne by a medical officer of the British army, Dr. Wadsdale, who announced that he had a letter from General Lambert to General Jackson. It proved to be a courteous one, announcing the departure of the invading army, the abandonment of further attack on the city, and the commander-in-chief of the British solicited the kind attentions of General Jackson to the sick and wounded whom, to the number of eighty, he was compelled to leave behind.
As the news filtered into the American camp the whole loyal force burst into frenzied cheers, but Jackson was still cautious and he ordered Colonel de La Ronde, who understood the country, to proceed with Hinds’ Dragoons and harass the enemy’s rear, and Major Gabriel Villere was sent with a small party to scour the woods about his father’s plantation.
After sending Dr. David C. Ker, surgeon-general of the American army, with the British surgeon to the British field hospital at Jumonville’s, Jackson rode forth, accompanied by his aids, to inspect the camp abandoned by the enemy. He found fourteen pieces of large cannon left behind, many implements of war, and a great quantity of private as well as public property of the British army.
Visiting the wounded English officers at their hospital, he assured them of his sympathy and of every attention their condition needed. One of these wounded officers was Lieutenant d’Arcy, of the 43rd, whose legs were carried away by a connon ball some days after the 8th.
The circumstances of these wounded men being made known in the city a number of ladies rode down in their carriages with such articles as were deemed essential to the comforts of the unfortunates. One of these ladies was a belle of the city, Miss Manette Trudeau, fourth daughter of Jean Laveau Trudeau, a prominent planter of St. James parish, who Was famed for her charms of person and mind. Seeing her noble philanthropy and devotion to his countrymen, Dr. Josiah E. Kerr, one of the British surgeons left behind to care for the wounded, conceived a warm regard and admiration for her which subsequent acquaintance ripened into love.
Dr. Kerr settled in New Orleans after the war, espoused the charming Creole, whose acquaintance he had made under such interesting circumstances, and became one of the leading professional men of the city. His son, Victor Kerr, was one of the party of Orleanians who were killed in Cuba while serving with Colonel Crittenden in the fatal Lopez expedition in 1851. (This Dr. Kerr is not to be confused with Dr. David C. Ker, Jackson’s surgeon-general.)
Satisfied now that the enemy had gone, Jackson set about preparing for the return of his gallant army to the city they had quitted December 23rd, nearly a month before. He advised the Secretary of War of the English retreat and then sent the following letter to Abbe Dubourg:
The signal interposition of Heaven in giving success to our arms against the enemy, who so lately landed on our shores; an enemy as powerful as inveterate in his hatred; while it must excite in every bosom attached to the happy government under which we live, memories of the liveliest gratitude, requires at the same time some external manifestation of those feelings.
Permit me, therefore, to entreat that you will cause the service of public thanksgiving to be performed in the Cathedral in token of the great assistance we have received from the Ruler of all events, and of our humble sense of it.
With the greatest respect,
JACKSON’s TRIUMPHAL RETURN TO THE CITY HE SAVED.
With no doubt remaining of the retreat of the invading army and with General Lambert’s note in his hands that informed him of the new British commander-in-chief’s intention of relinquishing every undertaking against New Orleans and vicinity, General Jackson made necessary dispositions for the protection of the most vulnerable parts of the approaches to the city and on the 20th of January returned to New Orleans.
That his arrival and the arrival of the heroic defenders was a triumph of triumphs Major Latour’s invaluable memoir makes plain. “The non-combatant part of the population of New Orleans,” says this writer, “that is, the aged, the infirm, the matrons, daughters and children, all went out to meet their deliverers, to receive with felicitations the saviours of their country. Every countenance was expressive of gratitude — joy sparkled in every feature on beholding fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, who had so recently saved the lives, fortunes and honour of their families, by repelling an enemy who came to conquer and subjugate the country.
“Nor were the sensations of the brave soldiers less lively on seeing themselves about to be compensated for all their sufferings by the enjoyment of domestic felicity. They once more embraced the objects of their tenderest affections, were hailed by them as their saviours and deliverers, and felt conscious that they had deserved the honourable title. How light, how trifling, how inconsiderable did their past toils and dangers appear to them at this glorious moment! All was forgotten, all painful recollections gave way to the most exquisite sensations of inexpressible joy.
“The 23rd of January having been appointed as a day of thanksgiving for the interposition of Providence, on which “Te Deum” was to be sung, every preparation was made to render the festival worthy of the occasion. A temporary triumphal arch was erected in the middle of the grand square opposite the principal entrance of the cathedral. The different uniform companies of Plauche’s battalion lined both sides of the way, from the entrance of the square toward the river, to the church. The balconies and windows of the city hall, the parsonage house, and all the adjacent buildings, were filled with spectators. The whole square and the streets leading to it were thronged with people.
“The triumphal arch was supported by six columns. Amongst those on the right was a young lady representing J ustice, and on the left another representing Liberty. Under the arch were two young children, each on a pedestal, holding a crown of laurel.
“From the arch in the middle of the square to the church, at proper intervals, were ranged young ladies representing the different States and territories composing the Amercian union, all dressed in white covered with transparent veils, and wearing a silver star on their foreheads.” (In a letter to his aunt, Louis Livingston, son of Jackson’s chief aid, says definitely that there were eighteen such representatives, and at that time the American Union was composed of eighteen States.) “Each of these young ladies held in her right hand a flag inscribed with the name of the State she represented and in her left a basket trimmed with blue ribands and full of flowers. Behind each was a shield suspended on a lance stuck in the ground, inscribed with the name of a State or territory. The intervals had been so calculated that the shields, linked together with verdant festoons, occupied the distance from the triumphal arch to the church.”
“General Jackson, accompanied by the officers of his staff, arrived at the entrance of the square, where he was requested to proceed to the church by the walk prepared for him. As he passed under the arch he received the crowns of laurel from the two children,” (one being Madeline Zoe Cruzat, a granddaughter of Ignace Chalmette, on whose plantation the deciding battle was waged.; the other Celeste Duplessis) “and was congratulated in an address spoken by Miss Carolina Ker.” (Latour neglected to say that she was a sister of Dr. David C. Ker, Jackson’s invaluable surgeon-general) “who represented the State of Louisiana. The General then proceeded to the church amidst the salutations of the young ladies representing the different States, who strewed his passage with flowers.”
The ode that saluted the victorious General’s ears as he trod over the carpet of sweet-scented flowers was found in a little-read life of Jackson by John Reid, one of the General’s aids in this campaign.
“Hail to the chief! who hied at war’s alarms,
To save our threaten’d land from hostile arms;
Preserv’d, protected by his gallant care,
Be his the grateful tribute of each fair:
With joyful triumph swell the choral lay —
Strew, strew with flow’rs the hero’s welcome way.
Jackson all hail! our country’s pride and boast,
Whose mind’s a council, and whose arm’s a host;
Who, firm and valiant, ‘midst the storm of war,
Boasts unstained praise — laurels without a tear;
Welcome, blest chief! accept our grateful lays,
Unbidded homage and spontaneous praise;
Remembrance, long, shall keep alive thy fame,
And future infants learn to lisp thy name.”
At the entrance of the church the victorious General was received by the kindly Abbe Dubourg, who, in measured, resonant tones, addressed the military genius whose brilliant defense of the city brought about the thanksgiving.
“General,” said the administrator apostolic of the diocese of Louisiana, “while the state of Louisiana, in the joyful transports of her gratitude, hails you as her deliverer and the asserter of her menaced liberties — whilst grateful America, so lately wrapped up in anxious suspense on the fate of this important city, the emporium of the wealth of one-half of her territory and the true bulwark of its independence, is now re-echoing from shore to shore your splendid achievements and preparing to inscribe your name on her immortal rolls, among those of her Washingtons — whilst history, poetry, and the monumental arts will vie in consigning to the admiration of the latest posterity, a triumph perhaps unparalleled in their records — whilst raised by universal acclamation to the very pinnacle of fame and ascending clouds of incense, how easy it had been for you, General, to forget the prime Mover of your wonderful success and to assume to yourself a praise which must essentially return to that exalted source whence every sort of merit is derived. But better acquainted with the nature of true glory, and justly placing the summit of your ambition in approving yourself the worthy instrument of Heaven’s merciful designs, the first impulse of your religious heart was to acknowledge the signal interposition of Providence — your first step is a solemn display of your humble sense of His favours.
“Still agitated at the remembrance of those dreadful agonies from which we have been so miraculously rescued, it is our pride also to acknowledge that the Almighty has truly had the principal hand in our deliverance and to follow you, General, in attributing to His infinite goodness the homage of pur unfeigned gratitude. Let the infatuated votary of a blind chance deride our credulous simplicity; let the cold-hearted atheist look up for the explanation of such important events to the mere concantenation of human causes; to us, the whole universe is loud in proclaim- ing a supreme Ruler, who as He holds the hearts of man in His hands, holds also “the threads of all contingent occurrences. ‘Whatever be His intermediate agents,’ says an illustrious prelate, ’still on the secret orders of His all-ruling providence, depend the rise and prosperity, as well as the decline and downfall of empires. From His lofty throne above He moves every scene below, now curbing, now letting loose the passions of men; now confounding their boasted prudence, and spreading upon their councils a spirit of intoxication, and thus executing his uncontrollable judgements on the sons of men, according to the dictates of His own unerring justice.”
“To Him, therefore our most fervent thanks are due for our unexpected rescue, and it is Him we chiefly intend to praise, when considering you, General, as the man of his right hand, whom he has taken ‘pains to fit out for the important commission of our defense; we extol that fecundity of genius, by which, in an instant of the most discouraging distress, you created unforseen resources, raised as it were, from the ground, hosts of intrepid warriors, and provided every vulnerable point with ample means of defense. To Him we trace that instinctive superiority of your mind, which at once rallied around you universal confidence; impressed one irresistible movement to all jarring elements of which this political machine is composed, aroused their slumbering spirits and diffused through every rank that noble ardour which glowed in vour own bosom. To Him in fine, we address our acknowledgements for that consumate prudence which defeated all the combinations of a sagacious enemy, entangled him in the very snares which he had spread before us and succeeded in effecting his utter destruction, without once exposing the lives of our citizens. Immortal thanks be to His supreme majesty for sending us such an instrument of his bountiful designs! A gift of that value is the best token of the continuance of ‘his protection — the most solid encouragement to us to sue for new favours. The first which it emboldens us humbly to supplicate as it is the nearer to our throbbing hearts, is that vou may long enjoy, General, the honour of your grateful country, of which you will nermit us to present you a pledge in this wreath of laurel, the prize of victory, the symbol of immortality. The next is a speedy and honourable termination of the bloody contest in which we are engaged. No one has so efficaciously laboured as you, General, for the acceleration of that blissful period; may we soon reap that sweetest fruit of your splendid and uninterrupted victories.”
He then laid a laurel crown of leaves on the General’s head.
Gazing straight into the eyes of the patriotic and revered abbe, who stood before him on the steps of the cathedral clad in his pontifical robes and supported by a college of priests, the warrior replied in modest but ringing words:
“Reverend Sir,” said Jackson, “I receive with gratitude and pleasure the symbolical crown which piety has prepared. I receive it in the name of brave men who have so effectually seconded my exertions for the preservation of their country — they well deserve the laurels which their country will bestow.
“For myself, to have been instrumental in the deliverance of such a country, is the greatest blessing heaven could confer. That it has been effected with so little loss — that so few tears should cloud the smiles of our triumph and not a cypress leaf be interwoven in the wreath which you present, is a source of the most exquisite enjoyment.
“I thank you, reverend sir, most sincerely for the prayers which you offer up for my happiness. May those your patriotism dictates for our beloved country, be first •heard. As may mine for your individual prosperity, as well as that of the congregation committed to your care, be favourably received — the prosperity, the wealth, the happiness of this city, will then be commensurate with the courage and other qualities of its inhabitants.”
The answer heard, the abbe conducted the soldier to a seat prepared for him near the altar. Te Deum was then chanted in the impressive manner in which melodious outbursts of gratitude are usually rendered by the choirs of the Roman Catholic church. The thanksgiving and praise service ended, a guard of honor attended the General to his quarters in the Faubourg Marigny, a fine old Spanish edifice in the heart of the town, and that evening the city, with its suburbs, was splendidly illuminated.
THE URSULINE NUNS.
When the eighth of January, 1815, dawned, the early roar of artillery from the direction of Chalmette’s fields and its unprecedented violence announced to everyone in New Orleans that the day decisive of the city’s fate had come. The doors of the Ursuline Convent were opened at the usual hour and a few devout Creoles and quadroons went to their usual devotions that Sunday morning, but whispered their prayers with an earnestness unusual. High Mass was performed, with dread accompaniment of distant cannon, to a congregation of shuddering women.
From the windows of the Convent, the Ursulines could see the smoke rising from the battle-field on the plains of Chalmette. The night of January 7th had been spent in prayer before their Blessed Sacrament. Everything seemed hopeless for the Americans; and Jackson himself had sworn that, should he be vanquished, the enemy would find New Orleans a heap of ruins.
In order to assist in averting this imminent peril — for all was in consternation on the morning of January 8th — the Chapel was continually thronged with pious ladies and poor negresses, all weeping and praying at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, which had been placed on the main altar; and the Community, through the Superioress, Mother Ste Marie (in the world, Marie Francoise Victoire Olivier de Vezin), made a vow to have a solemn mass of thanksgiving sung every year, should the Americans gain the victory.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
That morning, January 8,1815, Very Reverend William DuBourg, the Vicar Apostolic (afterwards Bishop of New Orleans), offered up the holy sacrifice of the mass before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. At the moment of communion, a courier entered the chapel to announce the glad tidings of the enemy’s defeat.
After mass, the Abbe DuBourg entoned Te Deum, which was taken up and sung with accents of such lively gratitude that it seemed as though the very vaults of the chapel would open to allow this touching thanksgiving to ascend more freely to the throne of God.
After the battle, the sick and wounded soldiers of both armies were received in the monastery, and lodged in that part of the house in which the day pupils’ classes were held. There were upwards of fifty beds occupied by the soldiers, and the Sisters nursed them with all possible care and devotedness during the space of three months. Their boarding pupils and orphans had left since December 23, 1814, and the Ursulines had, for the time being, become Sisters of Charity.
Like many other historic religious statues it cannot be called beautiful, if judged by the canons of art, but it is, nevertheless, a precious relic in the eyes of the Catholics of New Orleans, this statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and the devotion to it was inspired to Mother St. Michel Gensoul, an Ursuline nun of Montpellier, France, while she was praying for an enterprise in favor of Louisiana, which her bishop deemed impossible. The hopes of this holy religious were realized, so the Ursuline records tell us, and through gratitude of a signal favor so promptly granted she ordered a statue of the Virgin to be sculptured which she brought with her when coming to New Orleans with a band of Ursuline novices in 1809.
It was an object of devotion to the Catholics of the — city from the time it was enshrined in the chapel and in 1812, when a terrible fire threatened to sweep the city its very course of destruction was stopped just outside the walls of the monastery where the nuns were praying. This was hailed by them as an omen of answered prayers.
Each January 8th, in fulfilment of their promise, the Ursuline Sisters caused the sacred mysteries to be offered in the old convent chapel in Chartres Street on the anniversary of the battle. In 1824 when the Ursulines moved their convent to the lower section of the city, close to the Chalmette battle-field, they removed the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. There for almost ninety years they worshiped. In 1851 the Pope authorized the order to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on that anniversary of the battle and in 1895 Pope Leo XIII authorized the crowning of the statue as it now appears in their new convent in State Street where the one hundredth anniversary of their prayers to it is to be solemnized by a reverent Te Deum.
Here, to the old Ursuline Convent came Andrew Jackson, the tall, grizzled victor of the battle, the nuns prayed for. Staunch Presbyterian as he was, “the Savior of New Orleans” came to the nunnery to pay His respects to the members of that pious sisterhood. He thanked the Mother Superior for the prayers the sisters offered while his ragged handful were at death-grapples with the invading army; he thanked them for their unceasing vigil at the bedsides of the wounded defenders of the city; he thanked them for the care and attention they gave the wounded and captured of the enemy. And he did not fail to visit them when he returned to New Orleans in after years. Andrew Jackson was the last great warrior who passed into the cloisters of the old convent in Chartres Street and the only President of the United States who ever stood within its precincts.
THE FORCES AND LOSSES.
A list of the several corps composing the British army at the time of its landing below New Orleans, with an estimate of its respective force, was compiled by Major Latour the summer succeeding the series of events that decided the fate of New Orleans. That this estimate is quite correct is believed by some authorities as Major Latour had exceptional opportunities to make his compilation, careful in what he wrote and free of exaggeration. In the following table he had the assistance of Mr. Robert Morrell, who was detained on the British fleet after he had gone there with Dr. Shields to attend the Americans wounded in the battle of the gunboats.
The invading force, according to Latour’s estimate, consisted of:
While Latour is correct in the designation of the various regiments and commands it is evident that he has overrated their strength. We can find a much better estimate of what the British really landed on our shores in Theodore Roosevelt’s admirable “Naval War of 1812.” Colonel Roosevelt has added to this volume of sea flghts a most excellent, and to me, the best short account of the Battle of New Orleans yet written.
“Pakenham had under him nearly ten thousand fighting men,” is Roosevelt’s computation of the relative forces, a computation arrived at after a most careful study of all existing records. “James (the English historian) says ‘the British ‘rank and file’ amounted to 8,153 men, including 1,200 seamen and marines.’ The only other place where he speaks of the latter is in recounting the attack on the right bank, when he says, ‘about 200’ were with Thornton, while both admirals Cochrane and Codrington, make the number 300; so he probably underestimates their number throughout, and at least 300 can be added, making 1,500 sailors and marines, and a total of 8,453.
“This number is corroborated by Major McDougal, the officer who received Sir Edward’s body in his arms when he was killed, who says that after the battle and the loss of 2,036 men ‘we still had an effective force of 6,400,’ making a total before the attack of 8,436 rank and file. Calling it 8,450 and adding 13.3 per cent” (Roosevelt points out, using James as an authority, that the English, unlike the French and the Americans, never included officers, sergeants, drummers, artillerymen, or engineers, but only “sabers and bayonets,” so to get at the real British force in an action, even supposing there were no artillerymen or engineers present, 13 per cent must be added to the given number) “for the officers, sergeants, drummers, etc. We get about 9,600.”
The loss sustained by this army before New Orleans will probably never be precisely known. In his report to General Jackson, Col. A. P. Hayne, who was designated by the American commander to compute the enemy’s loss, reported on January 13th that it was:
The official British reports on their loss do not vary essentially from this estimate except in the number of killed for it is the regular custom of the British army to include only those who were killed on the field and not those who die shortly after being carried off. Their list of those killed in the engagement before Jackson’s lines include, for instance, but one major-general, yet we know that Gibbs lived only long enongh to be carried to the de la Ronde home and still he is included among the British wounded in the list of casualties furnished by LieutenantColonel Fred. Stoven, Deputy Adjutant General and rendered complete to the 26th of January. From the narratives of the Subaltern, Captains Cooke and Hill, and the others quoted in this account of the battle of New Orleans we find that other officers numbered among the wounded, in the official returns, succumbed to their injuries.
The official British report gives the following as the loss:
Their total killed included therefore, 1 major general, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 2 majors, 5 captains, 2 lieutenants, 2 ensigns, 11 sergeans, 1 drummer and 266 rank and file, or 291.
Their wounded were, 2 major-generals, 3 lieutenant colonels, 2 majors, 18 captains, 38 lieutenants, 9 ensigns, 1 staff officer, 54 sergeants, 9 drummers, 1,126 rank and file, or 1,262.
The missing included 3 captains, 12 lieutenants, 13 sergeants, 4 drummers and 452 rank and file, or 484. A total of 2,237 on both sides of the river.
This official list, compared to that prepared by the adjutant under Jackson’s orders, shows that the latter was very nearly a correct one — or, should we say, far more correct than the one prepared for Lord Bathurst — as far as killed are concerned.
And, what was Jackson’s actual force?
We have been given many estimates, but the American writers have persistently made it smaller than it really was while the English writers have enormously magnified it, some going so far as to declare that Jackson had 25,000 and 30,000 men.
Even Latour, who is the only trustworthy contemporary American historian, has minimized Jackson’s force as are shown by the official returns made to the War Department.
The following figures, copied from two different issues of the Louisiana Gazette, April 29th and June 10th, 1815, total exactly with Butler’s official returns. They show the following troops engaged:
ROSTER OF THE ORLEANS BATTALION.
THE CLOSING SCENES
The battle was over, and the peace which has already lasted one hundred years, had commenced between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of America.
But for Andrew Jackson there was no rest. True, he was crowned and feted by a grateful city that called him savior, but his forces — the same half-clothed, ill-armed, badly-drilled citizen soldiers, were still enrolled and in the trenches with flintlocks in hand. To Andrew Jackson the mere withdrawal of the English forces did not mean the abandonment of their intentions toward New Orleans. He was suspicious of any human, especially so if he wore a red coat, and so he was watchful.
The enemy had gone away, crippled but still powerful — baffled at one point, it is true, but might not he return at another? The commander established his camp in New Orleans and threw his lines about the city in a four-mile circle and strengthened every point where it would be possible for an enemy to penetrate toward the city.
The great army of invasion did not leave without, however, striking a final blow. Fort Bowyer, the same fortification below Mobile that had successfully beat off a boat attack in November, on February 12th, 1815, fell before a combined attack of the army and the fleet as it had no defenses worth considering on the land side, thus making an assault by bayonet an easy matter. After an engagement which resulted in the loss of 31 British and 11 Americans, seeing further resistance useless, Major Lawrence surrendered. Therefore, to Fort Bowyer must be accorded the last actual battle fought on land between England and the United States.
The news that the treaty of peace had been signed came first from the British fleet while the two commanders were exchanging correspondence regarding the return of slaves the invading army was carrying away, and this at once caused rejoicing within the city and a disposition among those enlisted to lay down their arms. On the 19th of February, Jackson issued an address which contained the news brought from the English fleet regarding the signing of the peace treaty, but it warned the people not to “be thrown into false security by hopes that may be delusive. To put you off your guard and attack you by surprise is the natural expedient of one who, having experienced the superiority of your army, still hopes to overcome you by strategem.” He then went on to state that peace articles would not be peace articles until they were ratified by the President of the United States and the Prince Regent and he called upon the Orleanians to be ever alert.
The volunteers had already had too much war. They had tired of the strict military discipline Jackson maintained everywhere — in short they wanted a new diversion after three months of soldiering. All of Jackson’s admonitions, impressive and patriotic as they were, therefore, failed to have the desired effect on the militia and there was open discontent and countless applications for discharge. To all these Jackson turned a deaf ear and, as the city was still under martial law, he was supreme.
In Jackson’s army were many who were French — that is to say not as yet naturalized American citizens, and when many of these could not obtain their discharge in the regular way they made application to the French Consul, the Chevalier de Tousard, for certificates as to their national character. These were taken to General Jackson who countersigned them and permitted the bearers to be discharged. But in a few days so many of these certificates were issued that Jackson suspected them to be improperly granted by the French consul and remonstrated with him. His replies and explanations were deemed so unsatisfactory by Jackson that on February 28th a general order was published commanding all French subjects to retire from the city and not be nearer than Baton Rouge.
Three days were given these subjects to obey the order and then all those remaining would be registered and subject to the commanding general’s orders. This, naturally, created the greatest kind of consternation among the population of the city who were mostly French-speaking. Governor Claiborne refused to intervene claiming that it should be settled by the proper judicial power, as Jackson, while the city was under martial law, was practically judge and jury.
Matters came to a climax when one of the New Orleans papers published a long communication calling on those effected by Jackson’s expelling order to cease to be guided by military tribunals and appeal to the regular courts. Jackson’s ire was aroused, naturally, and he secured the name of the writer from the editor (the communication being unsigned) and ordered the arrest of M. Louaillier, a member of the state legislature who had been particularly active during the defense of the city in the procuring of funds to buy clothing for the fighters in the entrenchments.
General Jackson based this order of arrest on a passage in the Rules and Articles of War, which read: “In time of war all persons not citizens of, or owing allegiance to, the United States, who shall be found lurking as spies in or about the fortifications or encampments of the armies of the United States, or any of them, shall suffer death, according to the laws and usages of nations, by sentence of a general court-martial.”
Louaillier was arrested in Maspero’s Exchange, Sunday, March 5th, and confined in the Barracks. A writ of habeas corpus was immediately applied for by his attorney, Mr. Morel, of Judge Xavier Martin of the Supreme Court. This jurist refused to interfere. Next, application was made to United States District Judge Dominic A. Hall, an Englishman by birth, who granted it.
This produced one of those terrific explosions of wrath that only Andrew Jackson could give vent to, and Col. Arbuckle was ordered to arrest Judge Hall for “aiding, abetting and exciting mutiny” in the encampment of the city. Finding the judicial officer in his home the colonel removed him to the Barracks where he was confined with Mr. Louaillier.
Some days later a court-martial tried Louaillier on the charges of mutiny, exciting mutiny, general misconduct, being a spy, illegal misconduct and disobedience to orders, unsoldierlike behavior and violations of the proclamation of martial law — all charges resting upon this gentleman’s publication printed in the newspaper. The court found for the accused on March 9th, and Jackson, after giving another of his explosions of wrath, disapproved the finding of the court and refused to release the prisoner.
Foreseeing in the decision of this court what the result would be when Judge Hall would be tried, Jackson had this officer removed from the city where he was left with an order “not to return before the ratification of the treaty of peace should be regularly announced, or the British have departed from the Southern coast.” A fac-simile of his famous order sending the judge from the city is here reproduced:
On the 13th, two days after banishing the judge from the city, New Orleans was awakened by the booming of cannon fired at stated intervals. A courier had arrived at dawn bringing to Jackson the President’s information that he had ratified the treaty and instructing Jackson to pardon all military offenders. Louallier was released from custody and Judge Hall and the French consul came back to the city to resume their functions. On the 14th General Jackson began the necessary measures to disband the troops and read to his late companions-in-arms an address dignified in tone, and tender and affectionate in sentiment. Two days later the members of Plauche’s Battalion presented to their commander an address that glowed with their appreciation of his worth, to which Jackson answered with a document that reciprocated their feelings toward him and which, in a great measure, explained his harsh line of action when he considered such a course necessary.
There was a point of law argued by counsel before the 21st day of March when Jackson was summoned before Judge Hall for “contempt of court,” that need not be gone into here, other than to say that the court refused to grant Jackson’s demand for a trial by jury and refused to recognize the plea that the “offense” had not been committed in court.
On the day that Jackson was tried “the excitement was intense in the city,” writes Charles Gayarre in his excellent History of Louisiana. “The timid expected bloodshed and, being haunted by imaginary terrors, confined themselves in their houses. The greater part of the population, however, was not of this disposition and an immense crowd assembled at an early hour around the courthouse. Many were moved by curiosity; others by feelings of sympathy for the General or resentment and indignation toward the judge. Amongst the most ardent against the latter were remarked the Baratarians — they were represented as panting for an opportunity to wreak their vengeance on the magistrate whose inflexible rigor they had experienced to their cost.
“Distinct threats would occasionally burst from the impatient crowd and one voice was heard to exclaim, ‘Let the General say but one word and we pitch into the river the judge, the lawyers and the courthouse itself!’ This sentiment was greeted with fierce shouts of applause.
“At last the long-expected hour had arrived. The General, followed by a numerous escort of officers, entered the hall of judgment which was crowded to suffocation. The dense multitude had opened before him as he advanced and then closed again in deep silence; but when he reached the bar a culprit, and confronted the judge on his seat, one wild yell of defiance, which was echoed by the multitude outside, swept over the building and seemed to shake the roof and walls against which it reverberated.
“Jackson looked around with an expression of calm, august majesty which was long remembered by those who saw his commanding features on that occasion. He only waved his hand in rebuke, and instantly order and silence was re-established.”
After the case was closed only sentence remained to be passed. “The Court said it was becoming to manifest moderation in the punishment of the defendant for the want of it,” continues Gayarre, “and that, in consideration of the services the General had rendered his country, imprisonment should take no part of the sentence, which was limited to a fine of one thousand dollars and costs. It was instantly discharged,” (General Jackson immediately making out his check for the amount) “and the General, on his coming out of the courthouse, entered his carriage. But the horses were removed and the people enthusiastically dragged it to the Maspero’s Exchange coffee-house, where he addressed a large crowd in a manner worthy of himself.
“‘I have,’ he said, ‘during the invasion, exerted every one of my faculties for the defense and preservation of the constitution and the laws. On this day I have been called on to submit to their operation under circumstances which many persons might have thought sufficient to justify resistance. Considering obedience to the laws, even when we think them unjustly applied, as the first duty of the citizen, I did not hesitate to comply with the sentence you have heard pronounced, and I entreat you to remember the example I have given you of respectful submission to the administration of justice.”
The citizens of the city immediately made up a purse of one thousand dollars and insisted upon refunding to the General the amount of his fine. This Jackson refused, and asked that the sum collected should be distributed among the families of those who had lost their lives in defending their city from invasion. Nearly thirty years later, in 1843, the Congress of the United States refunded to Jackson the amount of his fine together with interest, amounting in all to $2,700.
Evidently Jackson’s suggestion to Governor Claiborne that he “blow up” the legislature accused of being willing to surrender to the enemy, and prevent the members from meeting, was responsible for the extreme smallness of this body when, following the retreat of the invaders, the Legislature of the State of Louisiana saw fit to pass resolutions praising unstintingly everyone who had any hand in defending the city excepting Andrew Jackson.
A resolution to present him with a sabre valued at $800 as a testimonial of gratitude on the part of the state he saved by his masterly defense, was passed by the lower house but rejected by the Senate so the omission of his name was no oversight. This glaring slight was noticed by General John Coffee, who with Carroll, Thomas, Adair and others of much lower rank from outside the state, was thanked for his share in the victory. The Tennessee fighter’s keen rebuke of this ungrateful slur done his general is found in his letter to Governor Claiborne thanking the state for its resolution of appreciation for his services and those given by his men.
“To know that we have contributed, in any degree, to the preservation of our common country, is to myself and the brave men under my immediate command the most pleasing reflection,” he wrote. “To have received so flattering and distinguished a testimonial of our services adds to the pleasure which that consciousness alone would have afforded.
“While we indulge the pleasing emotions that are thus produced, we should feel guilty of great injustice — as well as to merit as to our own feelings — if we withheld from the Commander-in-chief, to whose wisdom and exertions we are so much indebted for our success, the expression of our highest admiration and applause. To his firmness, his skill, his gallantry — to that confidence and unanimity among all ranks produced by those qualities, we must chiefly ascribe the splendid victories in which we esteem it a happiness and an honor to have borne a part.”
He stands in grim relief against the dark
And bloody era of his troublous time
Like some stark pine, gaunt and of rugged bark
Etched on the red west of a Southern Clime..
He fought with valor and he fought with brain;
Rough-hewn, but modeled on a hero’s’ plan,
And thus posterity sums up his Fame —
A general — a soldier — and a Man!
— Etta Bentley Arthur.
Nom de guerre. War name — using an assumed name during war to avoid responsibility later.
Nez Coupe. Cut Nose.
There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the identity of the English officer nursed by Mrs. Livingston. Louise Livingston Hunt, who wrote a most entertaining little volume of her great-aunt, entitled “Mrs. Edward Livingston,” says his name was Major Graves. A careful search of the official casualty of the British army returns show that the only officer captured of this name was Lieut. Graves of the 93rd Highlanders, who was wounded January 8th. S. C. A.
— Arthur’s note
Text Prepared by:
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Arthur, Stanley C. The Story of the Battle of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: Louisiana Historical Society, 1915. Internet Archive. MSN, 10 June 2008. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
https:// archive.org/ details/ storyof battlenew 00arth.