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H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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movement on New Orleans, by the false accounts given by
their prisoners, who slated that the American force amounted
to fifteen thousand men.

Meanwhile general Jackson set to work immediately to
fortify his position. This he effected by the construction of
a simple breastwork, extending from the river to the swamp,
with a ditch (the mill-race above mentioned) in front. To ex-
pedite these works, and to supply the place of earth, of which
there was great scarcity owing to the swampy character of the
ground, an extraordinary expedient was adopted. Bales of cot-
ton, brought from New Orleans, were placed upon the line,
and covered with earth ; and of such materials was the rampart
formed. As the enemy were still annoyed by the Caroline and
the Louisiana, the latter having joined the former, and both
being prevented from escaping up the river by a strong wind,



284 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Affairs of the 28th of December, and of the 1st of January 1815.



batteries were conslructed to attack them. From these, on the
27th, hot shot were thrown, by which the Caroline was set on
fire. She blew up, about an hour after she had been abandoned
by her crew. 'J'he Louisiana next sustained the fire of their
batteries, until she was in imminent datiger oi' sharing the fate
of the Caroline. In losing her, the whole co-operative naval
force would have been lost; but her commander, lieutenant
Thompson, after encountering many obstacles, finally suc-
ceeded in extricating her from her perilous situation, and an-
choring her on the right flank of general Jackson's position.
After the destruction of the C-aroline, sir Edward Packenham,
the British commander-in-chief, having landed the main body
of his army and a sufficient train of artillery, superintended, in
person, the arrangements for attacking the American intrench-
ments. On the 28lh, he advanced up the levee, as the narrow
strip between the river and the swamp is called, with the in-
tention of driving Jackson into the city ; and at the distance of
lialf a mile commenced the attack with rockets, bombs and
cannon. When he came within reach, the L-ouisiana, and the
batteries on the American works, opened a fire on him which
was very destructive. At the end of seven hours, during which
he made no attempt at a nearer approach to the American line,
the British general relinquished the attack, and retired. I'he
Joss of the Americans was seven killed and eight wounded,
among the former colonel Henderson of Tennessee; that of the
British was con)puted at a total of one hundred and twenty.

On the morning of the 1st of January 1815, sir Edward
Packenham was discovered to have conslructed batteries near
the American works, and at daylight commenced a heavy fire
from them, which was well returned by Jackson. A bold attempt
was, at the same time, made to turn the left of the Americans ;
but in this the enemy were completely repulsed. About three
o'clock in the afternoon, the fire of tlse British was silenced ;
and, abandoning the batteries, their army returned to the camp.
The loss of the Americans, on this occasion, was eleven killed
and twenty-three wounded. On the 4ih, general Jackson was
joined by two thousand five hundred Kentuckians, under general
Adair ; and on the 6th, the British were reinforced by general
Lambert, at the head of a reserve of four thousand men. The
British force now amounted to little short of fifteen thousand
of the finest troops ; that of the Americans to about six thousand,
chiefly untried militia, a considerable portion unarmed, and
from the haste of their departure, badly provided with clothing.
To supply those who were without weapons, all the private
arms which the inhabitants of New^ Orleans possessed, were



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 285

Position of the American Army Memorable Battle of the 8th of January.

collected ; and the ladies occupied themselves continually in
making clothing for those who were in want of it. The mayor
of the city, Mr Girod, was particularly active at this trying
moment.

The British general now prepared for a serious attempt on
the American works. With great labour he had completed,
on the 7lh, a water communication from the swamp to the
Mississippi, by widening and deepening tlie canal on which
the troops had originally effected their disembarkation. He
was thus enabled to transport a number of his boats to the
river. It was his intention to make a simultaneous attack on
the main force of general Jackson on the left bank, and, cross-
ing the river, on the troops and fortifications which defended
the right bank. The works of the American general on the
left bank of the river, were by this time completed. Ilis
front was a breastwork of about a mile long, extending from
the river into tlie swamp, till it became impassable, and for
the last two hundred yards taking a turn to the left. The whole
was defended by upwards of three thousand infantry and artil-
lerists. The ditch contained five feet water ; and the ground in
front, having been ttood'.nl by wciicrintrodurfid from the rivpr and
by frequent rains, was slippery and muddy. Eight distinct bat-
teries were judiciously disposed, mounting in all twelve guns
of different calibres. On the opposite side of the river, there
was a strong battery of fifteen guns, and the intrenchments
which had been erected were occupied by general Morgan,
with some Louisiana militia, and a strong detachment of Ken-
tucky troops.

On the memorable morning of the 8th of January, general
Packenham, having detached colonel 'J'hornton with at least
five hundred men, to attack the works on the right bank of the
river, moved with his whole force, in two columns commanded
by major-generals Gibbs and Keane. 'I'lie right and principal
division, under the former of these officers, was to attack the
centre of the works. The British deliberately advanced to the
assault in solid columns, over the even plain in front of the
American intrenchments, the men carrying, besides their mus-
kets, fascines made of sugar cane, and some of them ladders.
A dead silence prevailed until they approached within reach
of the batteries, when an incessant and destructive cannonade
commenced. Notwithstanding this, they continued to advance
in tolerable order, closing up their ranks as fast as they were
opened by the fire of the Americans, until they came within
reach of the musquetry and rifles, when such dreadful havock
was produced, that they were instantly thrown into the utmost



286 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of the 8th of January Death of General Packenham.

confusion. Never was there so tremendous a fire as that
kept up Iroin the American lines. It was a continued stream ;
those behind, heading for the men in front, and enabling them to
fire with scarcely an intermission. 'I'he British columns were
literally swept away : hundreds fell at every discharge. Broken,
dispersed, disheartened, they retreated. The most active efi'orts
were made to rally them. General Packenham was killed in
front of his troops, animating them by his presence and example ;
and probably not less than a thousand men, dead and wounded,
were lying beside him. Generals Gibbs and Keane succeeded
in bringing them up again ; but the second approach was more
fatal than the first. The continued roll of the American fire re-
sembled peals of thunder ; it was such as no troops could with-
stand. The advancing columns again broke; a few platoons
reaching the edge of the ditch, only to meet certain destruction.
An unavailing attempt was made to lead them to the attack a
third time by their officers, whose gallantry, on this occasion,
deserved a better fate, in a better cause. Generals Gibbs and
Keane were carried from the field, the latter severely, the for-
mer mortally wounded. The narrow field of strife between
the British and the Ampripan lines wna ouevved with dead.
So dreadful a carnage, considering the length of time and the
numbers engaged, has seldom been recorded : two thousand,
at the lowest estimate, pressed the earth, besides such of the
wounded as were not able to escape. The loss of the Ameri-
cans did not exceed seven killed, and six wounded. Military
annals do not furnish a more extraordinary instance of disparity
in the slain, between the victors and vanquished. The de-
cided advantage of the Americans, which may be acknow-
ledged without detracting from their praise, gave to the conduct
of the enemy more of tlie character of madness than of valour.
By the fall of general Packenham, the command devolved on
general Lambert, who was the only general officer left upon the
field, and to whom had been consigned the charge of the re-
serve. He met the discomfited troops in their flight, and, being
unable to restore the fortune of day, withdrew them from the
reach of the guns, and finally from the field of battle.

In the meantime, the detachment under colonel Thornton
succeeded in landing on the right bank of the river, and imme-
diately attacked the intrench ments of general Morgan. The
American right, being outflanked, abandoned its position. The
left maintained its ground for some time; but, finding itself
deserted by the right and outnumbered by tlie enemy, spiked
its guns, and also retired. In the course of the contest, colonel
Thornton was severely wounded, and the command of the Bri-



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 287

Louisiana evacuated bj' the British Bombardment of Fort St Philip.

tish devolved on colonel C4ubbins. As soon as these disasters
were made known to general Jackson, he prepared to throw
reinforcements across the river, to dislodge the enemy. This
measure was rendered unnecessary, however, by their voluntary
retreat across the river, in obedience to the order of general
Lambert.

On the 9th, general Lambert determined to relinquish the
hopeless enterprise ; and immediately commenced the necessary
preparations, which were conducted with great secrecy. It was
not until the night of the 18th, however, that the British camp
was entirely evacuated. From the nature of the country, and
the redoubts which the enemy had erected to cover their retreat,
it was deemed unadvisable to pursue them. They left eight of
their wounded, and fourteen pieces of artillery, behind them.
Returning by the same route along which so short a time
before they had advanced with hope and confidence, tiiey reach-
ed the fleet w ilhout annoyance. 'I'lieir loss in this fatal expe-
dition was injmense. Besides their generals and a number of
valuable officers, their force was diminished by at least three
thousand men. It was undertaken too at a time when peace,
unknown to them, had been actually concluded ; and its suc-
cessful issue therefore could have led to no permanent results.

Commodore Patterson despatched five boats, under Mr
Shields, purser on the New Orleans station, in order to annoy
the retreat of the British fleet. This active and spirited oflicer
succeeded in capturing several boats and taking a number of
prisoners.

The British fleet on the coast was not inactive during these
operations. It was intended that a squadron should enter the
Mississippi, and, reducing the works at Fort St Philip, ascend
the river, and co-operate in the attack on New Orleans. The
bombardment of the fort commenced on the 11th of January,
and was continued with more or less activity for eight days.
At the end of this time, the enemy, finding they had made no
serious impression, dropped down the river, and put to sea.
The fort was garrisoned and bravely maintained by three hun-
dred and sixty-six men under the command of major Overton.

Great rejoicing took place throughout the United States,
and especially in New Orleans, in consequence of these events;
and every honour was bestowed upon the commander-in-chief.
It is to be regretted, however, that some unpleasant occurrences
(the merit of which it is not within the plan of this work to
discuss) tended to alloy the brilliancy of success. Whether
these are to be ascribed to the ksc, or abuse of martial law, we
will leave to others to determine.



288 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Depredations of Admiral Cockburn Peace Terms of the Treaty.



While these bloody affairs transpired on the Mississippi,
admiral Cockburn was pursuing a more lucrative and less dan-
gerous warfare along the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia.
He took possession of Cumberland inland, and menacing
Charleston and Savannah, sent out detachments which met
with various success ; but his chief and more interesting occu-
pation was plundering the inhabitants of tlie products of the
soil, and of their merchandize and household furniture. The
letters of some of his officers to their companions, which were
intercepted, displayed the spirit of petty and dishonourable
cupidity and plunder by which these gentlemen were actuated.
The most usual topics of these epistles were the amount and
species of plunder which they procured ; and desks, looking
glasses, bureaus and cotton bales were exultingly enumerated,
as if they had been the ultimate and glorious end of war.

The momentous intelligence of the defeat of the British at
New Orleans, had scarcely ceased to operate upon the feelings
of the people of the United States, when they received the
welcome news of peace. If the declaration of war gave rise,
at the time, to partial rejoicing, the announcement of its ter-
mination was celebrated with a pleasure that was universal.
Peace w^as proclaimed by the president on the 18th of Febru-
ary 1815; and not long afterwards, a day of thanksgiving to
the Almighty was set apart throughout the nation, by the same
authority, for its blessed restoration.

The treaty was concluded on the 24th of December 1814, at
Ghent, by lord Gambler, Henry Goulburn and William Adams,
on the part of Great Britain ; and by John Quincy Adams, James
A. Bayard, Henry Clay, Jonathan Russel and Albert Gallatin,
on behalf of the United Slates. It stipulated a mutual restora-
tion of all places and possessions taken during the war, or which
might be taken after the signing of the treaty. It further de-
clared that all captures at sea should be relinquished, if made
twelve days thereafter, in all parts of the American coast from
the twenty-third to the fiftieth degree of north latitude, as
far east as thirty-six degrees of longitude west from Greenwich ;
thirty days thereafter, in all other parts of the Atlantic north of
the equator; the same time, for the British and Irish Channels,
the Gulf of Mexico, and the West Indies ; forty days, for the
North Seas, the Baltic, and all parts of the Mediterranean;
sixty days, for the Atlantic Ocean, south of the equator, as far
as the Cape of Good Hope ; ninety days, for every other part of
the work! south of the equator; and one hundred and twenty
days, for all other parts without exception. It was further
agreed that the parlies should mutually put a stop to Indian



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 289



Terms of the Treaty of Peace Conclusion.

hostilities, and use their best endeavours to extinguish the traffic
in slaves. But much the greater part of the treaty related to
the adjustment of the boundaries between the British possess-
ions and those of the United States, which had been imperfectly-
adjusted by the treaty of 1783. The subjects of impressment,
of paper blockade and of orders in council, and the rights of
the neutral flag, were passed over without notice.

Thus terminated an eventful war of two years and eight
months, or, as it is commonly called, three years. It is related
of the wise Franklin, that, hearing some one term our first
war with Great Britain, the war of independence^ he reproved
him : " Sir," said he, " you mean of the revolution ; the war
of independence is yet to come." That war is now over ;
and every hope on the part of Great Britain to bring us back to
the state of colonies, has fled for ever. By the seizure, during
peace, of a thousand of our merchantmen and of seven thou-
sand of our fellow citizens, she drove us into a war with her;
whereby two thousand of her merchantmen were lost, and many
millions added to the sum of her already immense national debt.
Still more : the frequent captures of her public vessels, by the
ships of our small but gallant navy, have established the painful
truth, that she has an equal on the ocean. We have at last in-
duced her to treat us with respect; and, into whatever portion
of the globe his fortune may lead him, an American may now
own his country with pride. We have no wish to be otherwise
than on terms of friendship with Great Britain. We have a
common origin, a common language, institutions nearly similar,
and, to use the elegant language of Milton, we draw light from
the same fountain. Should she ever need a friend, notwith-
standing the past, she will find a sincere one in the United
States of North America.

To us the war is pregnant with important lessons. We
have acquired a knowledge of our weakness and of our
strength. We have been tauglit that our best policy is hon-
ourable peace, and the preference, in our intercourse with all
nations, of justice to profit. We have been taught, and the
lesson is worth the sum we paid for the war, that we are weak
in conquest, but sufficiently strong for defence.



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Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 32 of 32)