THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 16-November 22, 1814)

November 17, 2014 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

A Race to New Orleans.

The Southern Frontier 1812-1815 (Map: U.S. Army Office of Military History)

The Southern Frontier 1812-1815
(Map: U.S. Army Office of Military History)

Major General Andrew Jackson, back from capturing Pensacola in Spanish Florida, receives a letter in Mobile (now Alabama/ back then, West Florida) from Washington advising him not to do what he has just done. Whoopsie. President James Madison and Secretary of War James Monroe (who is also serving as Secretary of State) are worried that such a rash act could lead to war with neutral Spain. [Click on he map above to enlarge image.]

Luckily, it doesn’t come to that. Anyway Jackson’s network of spies throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea inform him that British troops are setting sail from Jamaica directly to New Orleans. It doesn’t make sense, Jackson believes. To his way of thinking, Mobile would be the perfect port and jumping off place for an overland march on New Orleans. But feeling he can’t take chances with the security of the Lower Mississippi Valley, he marches out heading west on November 22. But he leaves about 2,000 troops behind in Mobile — in case the spies are wrong, or lying.

Jackson only has about 2,000 men with him, regulars, volunteers from Tennessee and some Indians — mostly Cherokees and some Creeks. About 2,000 fresh British troops have been sent from Britain to rendezvous with the army-navy task force that burned Washington and failed to take Baltimore. The British will number between 4,000 and 6,000 before they reach Louisiana.

Madison has promised to send more troops — from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, plus friendly Indians — to defend New Orleans, a city of 25,000 along a bend of the river about 120 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi.

Jackson doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time and how willing the natives of New Orleans, a predominantly French-speaking city, are to shed their blood for the United States of America, which purchased Louisiana from Napoleonic France in 1803 — just 11 years earlier.

Then here are the pirates — robbers, smugglers and slave traders — based in the bayous south and west of the city in a freebooting place called Barataria and ruled by Jean Lafitte and his brothers, Alexandre and Pierre.

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Entry filed under: Army, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812. Tags: , , , , , .

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