Posts tagged ‘Andrew Jackson’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 18-January 24, 1815)

Where are the British?
January 18-24

Major General Andrew Jackson (Photo: U.S. Marshals Service)

Major General Andrew Jackson
(Photo: U.S. Marshals Service)

All is quiet outside the small American fort at a bend in the Mississippi River 80 miles south of New Orleans. The cannon fire has stopped after nine days of shelling from a small British naval task force anchored downstream.

The siege of Fort St. Philip is over and the five-ship British squadron sails downstream January 18 to rejoin the rest of the British invasion fleet at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Like Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the garrison of Fort St. Philip has persevered under heavy bombardment and outlasted the British. Unlike Fort McHenry, however, no song like the “Star Spangled Banner” emerges from this little-known engagement – although the U.S. flag over the fort is shot down and replaced under heavy fire by a U.S. sailor who climbed to the top of a new flagstaff to unfurl the Stars and Stripes.

Upstream, Major General Andrew Jackson is worried the British may attack again despite their heavy losses on the morning of January 8. From his headquarters in the battered but still standing Macarty Planation He orders a constant cannonade to harry the British camp at the Villere Plantation nearly two miles away.

Some of Jackson’s subordinates, especially the commanders of his small cavalry and dragoon detachments want to mount a counterattack. But Jackson opts to stand pat, mindful that the enemy still has more than 5,000 experienced troops to his barely 4,000-man force scattered over a wide area around New Orleans.

The British soldiers, sailors and Marines still on U.S. soil are battle-tested veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. Jackson’s army is a pick-up force of regular Army infantry and artillery, sailors from the Navy and local merchant ships, a small contingent of U.S. Marines, Jean Lafitte’s pirates, Choctaw Indians, New Orleans volunteers (black and white) and militiamen from Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – many of them ill-trained and poorly armed. Jackson wonders if the British are changing tactics and preparing to attack from the north. Or have they found a different way through the swamps to attack him from behind? Jackson orders his cavalry and scouts to learn what the British are planning. Reinforcements are sent to other possible approaches to the city.

Sir John Lambert (UK National Portrait Gallery)

Sir John Lambert
(National Portrait Gallery, London)

Meanwhile, British Major General John Lambert – pretty much the last man standing among the senior British commanders after the disastrous assault on Jan. 8 – meets with his officers that night to assess their situation: more than 2,000 dead, wounded and missing; morale low after weeks of cold rainy nights in the Louisiana swamps with the Tennesseans and Choctaws sneaking out of the dark to kill and capture sentries; no shelter and little food available from a supply line that stretches over a nearly two-day slog through the swamps and bayous back to a fleet blocked by sandbars from getting any closer.

Lambert decides further assaults on New Orleans’ defenders are futile and so he orders the invasion force to withdraw back to the fleet. Like George Washington’s evacuation of Brooklyn Heights in 1776, it’s a masterful withdrawal under difficult conditions without tipping off the Americans.

U.S. Military Academy History Dept. (Click on image to enlarge)

U.S. Military Academy History Dept.
(Click on image to enlarge)

It takes nine days for the British to prepare a way through swamps infested with alligators, snakes and quicksand. Wide ditches and streams in the cypress swamps have to be bridged with branches and reeds because there aren’t enough trees for lumber. On the night of the 18th, the withdrawal begins, moving the wounded, weapons and remaining supplies to the fleet. Ten heavy guns have to be abandoned. Once through the swamps the troops have to wait on the shore of Lake Borgne for the Navy to row them out to the fleets. Each trip takes hours.

On the morning of January 19, peering through his spyglass on the top floor of the bomb-shattered Macarty mansion, Andrew Jackson notices a strange lack of activity in the British camp. A cavalry patrol reports back that the British have departed.

The Americans discover the British path of retreat late that night and some enterprising Louisiana militiamen begin ambushing the slow moving longboats transferring the British troops. Forming small convoys of rowboats to fend off the Americans slows the evacuation process to a crawl as do high winds and rough seas. By January 24, some British units are still waiting and starving on the lakeshore.

January 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (December 14-December 20, 1814)

Prelude to New Orleans.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana. Painting by  Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana.
Painting by Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

Most Americans know little about the War of 1812, except, maybe for the Battle of New Orleans – thanks to two movies (in the 1930s and the 1950s) and the popular song recorded by Johnny Horton in 1959.

“The Battle of New Orleans” was written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school history teacher in 1936, to make learning history more palatable for his students. But at 4GWAR we’ve come to learn that there was no single battle of New Orleans but a series of engagements on land and water between mid-December 1814 and early January 1815.

This week’s post marks the bicentennial of the first engagement, on the swampy waters of Louisiana’s Lake Borgne (thanks to years of erosion, a lagoon now instead of a lake).

December 14

The Americans spot British warships just outside Lake Borgne southeast of New Orleans on December 13. Entry to the lake is guarded by five small U.S. Navy ships — gunboats really — with the awe-inspiring names of Number 5, Number 23, Number 65, Number 162 and Number 163. They are manned by less than 200 sailors under the command of Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. The lake waters are too shallow to accommodate the 50 warships of the British fleet which arrived a few days previously from Jamaica. So the British pile 1,200 sailors and Royal Marines into 45 longboats and barges, most armed with a cannon in the bow, and row furiously at Catesby Jones’ flotilla.

The lieutenant orders his tiny fleet to withdraw to the Western side of the lake to block a channel into Lake Pontchartrain and lure the British boats under the guns of a small U.S. strongpoint, Fort Petites Coquilles. But in the early hours of December 14, the wind dies and the ebb tide pushes the Americans the wrong way, leaving them becalmed as the faster moving longboats and barges approach.

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne (Courtesy of National Park Service)

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne
(Courtesy of National Park Service)

Beyond the protective range of the Fort Petite Coquilles’ guns, Catesby Jones decides to fight anyway. His U.S. ships open fire around 11 a.m., taking a heavy toll on the open boats, which are firing back. Eventually the British swarm the American ships, clamber aboard and after fierce hand-to-hand fighting, capture all five ships. The Americans suffer six killed and 35 wounded (including Catesby Jones). The toll is even greater for the British: 94 killed and wounded.

The British are now even closer to New Orleans, although the 8,000-man attack force will have to be ferried by rowboats from the entrance of Lake Borgne some 36 miles to the far Western shore where a makeshift British base is set up in an unhealthy, marshy area for the big push against New Orleans about 15 miles away.

*** *** ***

With the loss of the Lake Borgne flotilla, Major General Andrew Jackson has lost his “eyes” on the lake approaches to New Orleans. But that same day, he receives word from Major General William Carroll that he is in Natchez (Mississippi Territory) heading for New Orleans with about 3,000 Tennessee militia and 1,400 muskets and ammunition. He is accompanied by more than 100 Mississippi dragoons under Major Thomas Hinds. On December 20, Brigadier John Coffee arrives from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with some 1,200 mounted infantry. Carroll’s troops arrive the next day. It’s beginning to look like Jackson will have enough troops to hold off the British after all.

Please click on the photos to see a larger image.

December 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (December 7-December 13, 1814)

Enter the Pirate.

Anonymous portrait claimed to be of Jean Lafitte in the early 19th century. (Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas)

Anonymous portrait claimed to be of Jean Lafitte in the early 19th century.
(Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas)

U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson is scrambling to find the men, weapons, ships and supplies to defend New Orleans from a pending British invasion — that may outnumber his 1,500 troops 10-to-1 — when he encounters the pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, on a New Orleans street corner in early December.

Since August, when first approached by the British to join their efforts against the United States, Lafitte has been trying to get a similar offer, first from Louisiana officials, and then, United States authorities.  After years of smuggling into New Orleans untaxed goods, mostly taken from captured Spanish ships by Lafitte and his fellow privateers, the so-called “pirate” wants to clear his record, help Jackson and the United States and — perhaps most of all — get about 80 of his men out of jail.

They were captured when the U.S. Navy attacked their hideout on Grand Terre Island in Barataria Bay, about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans, in September. The incarcerated pirates include Dominque You, a pirate captain who may be Lafitte’s eldest brother (historians disagree) and also may have been an expert cannoneer in Napoleon’s Grand Army. As the reader may surmise, little is known for sure about Lafitte. He may have been born around 1780 in France or in the French colony that became Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. He may or may not have been a pirate but he is certainly a smuggler of duty-free goods. And the new state of Louisiana (entered the union in 1812) as well as the federal government are looking to put Lafitte out of business after they collect the taxes owed them.

When first approached by the  Lafittes’ attorney, Edward Livingston a prominent member of New Orleans society, who also happened to be Jackson’s private secretary and adviser, the general balked at enlisting the help of shameless bandits (Jackson called them “hellish banditti).  But the surprisingly genteel and articulate Lafitte (he spoke English, Spanish, French and Italian) made his case again to Jackson at his headquarters on Royal Street (Rue de Royale). Lafitte explained he could supply gunpowder, shot, flints and cannon – which Jackson badly needed — as well as experienced gun crews that could man batteries on land or sea. Jackson relented. The jailed pirates were released and pardoned — if they enlisted in the defense force — and Jackson made Lafitte a member of his personal staff.

As we’ve said already, the facts of Lafitte’s life are hard to nail down beyond what he did during the Battle of New Orleans. However, there was enough swashbuckling to it, that Hollywood has made two fictionalized feature films about Lafitte. Click here to see a trailer (preview) of the second one, produced by Cecil B. DeMille in 1958.

We’ll have more on Monsieur/Capitane Lafitte in coming weeks as we approach the climactic battle of the New Orleans campaign.

BritAdvanceNewOrleans

December 12

Jackson closes his deal with Lafitte just in time. On December 12, the sails of the British invasion fleet are spotted approaching Lake Borgne (see map) 30 miles or so East of New Orleans.

December 8, 2014 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 30-December 6, 1814)

Jackson Returns.

Major General Andrew Jackson (Photo: U.S. Marshals Service)

Major General Andrew Jackson
(Photo: U.S. Marshals Service)

December 1

U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson arrives in New Orleans after a hasty march from New Orleans. The arrival of Jackson and his “army” of less than 2,000 troops calms the uneasy populace of the Crescent City.

Even though New Orleans is the major seaport of the western United States, President James Madison’s administration has done next-to-nothing to secure the important port other than sending three under strength regiments to regulars south to aid in defending the city.

Although sick with dysentery, still weakened from arm wounds sustained in a duel the year before and exhausted from marching from New Orleans to Pensacola in Spanish Florida and back again over the past few months, Jackson plunges into preparing the defenses of New Orleans.

Only a few small units of wealthy creoles and free black men (free men of color, as they were called then), have been mustered for the city’s defense. Complicating matters, most of the city’s squabbling inhabitants speak French or Spanish and many speak no English at all. To assist him, Jackson appoints an influential American lawyer, politician and longtime New Orleans resident, Edward Livingston, as his personal aide and private secretary. Livingston translates Jackson’s speech to the nervous locals in which he pledges “to drive their enemies into the sea, or perish in the effort.”

He sends small units of his troops and engineers to assess the fortifications East, North and South of the city and reinforce them where necessary.

British Advance on New Orleas (Map: U.S. Military Academy, Department of History)

British Advance on New Orleas
(Map: U.S. Military Academy, Department of History)

*** *** ***

Cockburn remains

Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn

Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn

December 6

Meanwhile, far to the north, Virginia militia drive off a British raiding party in a skirmish at Farnham Church, up the Rappahannock River from Chesapeake Bay. The British forces are commanded by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, the man who burned Washington and had been raiding up and down the bay since 1813.

Bullet and shell holes from the Royal Navy’s bombardment, remain in the walls of the old church to this day.

November 30, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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

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.

.

 

 

 

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

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 9-November 15, 1814)

Objective: New Orleans

Major General Andrew Jackson

Major General Andrew Jackson

After driving the British out of Pensacola in Spanish Florida (Nov. 7-8), Major General Andrew Jackson heads back to Mobile, in what is now Alabama, but in 1814 it was part of the Territory of Mississippi or Spanish West Florida — depending on who you talked to.

Jackson fears the small British fleet that evacuated Pensacola may be headed to Mobile to set up a base for a larger invasion of New Orleans.

The British aren’t there when he arrives in Mobile on November 11 but here is word that thousands of British troops are heading for New Orleans from bases in Bermuda and the Bahamas. So Jackson marches out, headed for the Crescent City on the lower Mississippi River.

*** *** ***

McArthur’s Raid

With more than 1,000 British soldiers and Canadian militia on his tail, U.S. Brigadier General Duncan McArthur and his raiding party of some 700 mounted Kentucky and Ohio riflemen are making their way back to Fort Detroit about 100 miles away.

McArthur is burning settlements — especially flour mills and other sources of food and supplies for the British and Canadian troops — along the Lake Erie shoreline. On November 6, McArthur’s troops defeated a smaller force of Canadian militia and Mohawk Indian allies at  Malcolm’s Mills. It will be the last battle with an invading army fought on Canadian soil.

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)

November 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 2-November 8, 1814)

Fires in the North.

November  5

Defense of Fort Erie late summer 1814

Defense of Fort Erie late summer 1814

At the Eastern end of Lake Erie, U.S. troops end their occupation of Canada’s Fort Erie. After setting off a series of explosive charges within the post, they cross the Niagara River and take up winter quarters in Buffalo, New York.

The blasts destroy the fort’s walls and set the buildings ablaze.

November 5-7

At the other end of Lake Erie, Brigadier General Duncan McArthur’s raiding party of 700 mounted infantry from Kentucky and Ohio, encounters about 100 Canadian militia and their Mohawk allies at Brant’s Ford on the Grand River. The Canadians hold the high ground and after a brief exchange of fire, McArthur decides to find an easier place to cross and return to U.S. territory.

The next day McArthur’s troops drive off  about 550 British and Canadian troops at the Battle of Malcom’s Mills in what is now Ontario Province. On November 7th, he burns the fmills, depriving British and Canadian troops of a key source of flour.

Learning that more than 1,000 reinforcements of Canadian militia are heading his way, McArthur orders his horsemen back to Detroit, Michigan Territory. He burns every significant settlement on Canada’s Lake Erie shore along the way. His troops suffer only one killed and six wounded. The British and Canadians lose 18 dead, nine killed and about 100 captured.

Storm Clouds over the Gulf

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

November 6-8

Almost 1,000 due South of McArthur’s raiders, Major General Andrew Jackson is preparing to drive the British out of Florida. Without authorization from Washington, leads about 4,000 U.S. troops and militiamen from what is now Alabama into the Florida panhandle (known as Spanish East Florida in 1814).

At this time, Spain is a neutral country in the war between the United States and Britain. What is now the State of Alabama is part of the U.S. Territory of Mississippi, extending from Georgia and the Spanish colony of Florida west to the Mississippi River and the State of Louisiana.

After a year of bloody warfare, Jackson has crushed the anti-American “Red Stick” faction of the Creek Indian nation at Horseshoe Bend and pressed tribal leaders to accept the Treaty of Fort Jackson  forcing the devastated Creeks to surrender 23 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama.

Map created by Dystopos via Wikipedia Click on image to enlarge

Map created by Dystopos via Wikipedia
Click on image to enlarge

Concerned that the British have designs on Mobile (Alabama) as a base of operations and may be enlisting recalcitrant Creek warriors and fugitive black slaves from America to join their ranks for an attack on New Orleans, Jackson decides to strike first.

Spooked by Jackson’s bellicose warning letters, to allow U.S. troops into Florida — or else — the Spanish governor actually invites the British into Florida to bolster his tiny force of 500 soldiers. The Spanish man Fort San Miguel at Pensacola and a small British garrison holds Fort San Carlos 14 miles to the West. The Spanish fort and Pensacola fall quickly to Jackson’s larger force but the British blow up Fort San Carlos and withdraw before Jackson can attack. Shortly thereafter, Jackson learns the British are about to land near New Orleans and he begins marching West to defend the city.

 

 

November 3, 2014 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (September 21-September 27, 1814)

Seven Odd Facts About the War of 1812.

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown (Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown
(Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

After the American victories at Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain and the unsuccessful siege of Fort Erie and attack on Baltimore by the British, things are mercifully quiet just about everywhere on the North American continent this week in 1814. So your 4GWAR editor would like to share seven little known oddities about the War of 1812.

Major General Jacob Brown

Major General Jacob Brown

1. Friendly Persuasion. U.S. Major General Jacob Brown was one of the few successful military leaders on the American side.  In 1813 his troops repulsed a British attack on Sacket’s Harbor, New York, a major U.S. supply base on Lake Ontario. He led the last invasion of Canada in 1814, capturing Fort Erie. He defeated British-Canadian-First Nations forces at Chippawa Creek and fought them to a standstill at Lundy’s Lane. He also oversaw the successful defense of Fort Erie during a 48-day siege. Ironically, Jacob Brown was born and raised a Quaker, a Christian sect famous for their opposition to war and violence.

2.   The Admiral’s Grudge. Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, commander of the Royal Navy’s North America Station, was commander-in-chief of the sailors and soldiers that burned Washington, attacked Baltimore and raided up and down the Chesapeake Bay. He had a distinguished record but he did not like America or Americans. He once likened them to a whining spaniel who needed a “good drubbing” every now and then. It’s never been determined why the admiral bore America a grudge. Many believe, however, that it stemmed from the death of his brother, Charles, a British Army officer, at the Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, who was struck and killed by an American canon ball during the last big battle in the War for Independence.

3. War? What War? Given the bloodshed on the high seas, Great Lakes and all along the U.S.-Canadian border, its surprising to learn that for much of the war, farmers in northern New York and some of the New England states sold food, livestock and grain to the British in Canada. Some of this was smuggling, but a lot of the cross-border trade was licensed by one side or the other. Equally surprising, some American merchant ships had license to ship food to the Duke of Wellington’s army in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars and that didn’t stop once Congress declared war on Great Britain. In 1814, Vice Admiral Cochrane put a stop to licensed trade between Nova Scotia and the New England states.

Zachary Taylor organizes defense of Fort Harrison in this contemporary woodcut.

Zachary Taylor organizes defense of Fort Harrison in this contemporary woodcut.

4. Presidential Training Ground. Several prominent young men rose to greater prominence during and after the war and others rose from obscurity to the highest office in the land. They included Secretary of War and Secretary of State James Monroe, who became the fifth president in 1817. John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president and one of the U.S. negotiators in Ghent, Belgium who hammered out a treaty ending the war, became the sixth president in 1825. Andrew Jackson, a Tennesee militia officer who rose to major general of regulars and defeated the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend and the British at New Orleans, was elected the 7th president in 1828. William Henry Harrison, a major  general who retook Detroit and defeated the British and Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames, was elected the 9th president in 1841. Until Ronald Reagan, he was the oldest man elected president.  And the last hero of the war elected president was Zachary Taylor, an Army major who spent most of the war fighting Indians in the West, including holding Fort Harrison in the Indiana Territory with a paltry force against hundreds of Native American warriors. After victories in the Black Hawk, Seminole and Mexican wars, Taylor was elected the 12th president in 1849.

5. Everywhere a Battleground. For a little remembered conflict, the War of 1812 certainly cut a swath of bloodshed and property damage in many of the 18 states in the union at the time. In addition to Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Vermont, where significant battles were fought, the British raided or threatened ports and seacoast towns in South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee sent many militiamen and volunteers to fight, especially in the frontier battles of the South and Old Northwest.  Several battles were fought against the British, Canadians or their Indian allies in territories that later became the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  Additionally, U.S. Navy ships battled the Royal Navy or raided maritime commerce off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America, in and around Jamaica and other British possessions in the Caribbean and in the English Channel.

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney's flotilla men. (DC War of 1812 blog)

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney’s flotilla men.
(DC War of 1812 blog)

6. Commodore Barney — Joshua Barney, one of the few heroes at the Battle of Bladensburg had also been a naval hero in the American Revolution, rising through the ranks and even escaping from a British prison when he was captured. But he was technically not a naval officer during his heroic service in the War of 1812. Frustrated by the lack of advancement in the early American Navy, Barney resigned and accepted a commission in the French Navy. This posed a problem when America and France fought an undeclared naval war (1798-1800).  Barney left French service and returned to America but some in the Navy no longer trusted his loyalty. When war with Britain broke out, Barney came up with the idea of protecting the Chesapeake Bay from British raids with a fleet of shallow draft gunboats. He and his flotilla drove the British crazy in early 1814. Barney didn’t quite fit into the Navy’s promotion schedule due to his years of absence and slipping him in would have ruffled a lot of feathers, so President Madison and Navy Secretary William Jones made him a commodore in command of the U.S. Flotilla Service.

7. Black Men in Arms — Many of the flotilla men who served with Barney on the Chesapeake, the Patuxent River and the Battle of Bladensburg were free black men. They stood and fought when most of the white militia men fled at Bladensburg. In fact, one — Charles Bell — stuck with Barney after he was wounded and ordered his men to retreat. After Washington was burned, the flotilla men marched to Baltimore and manned several gun emplacements that guarded the city and the approaches to Fort McHenry. Free black men also joined the American forces defending New Orleans. Vice Admiral Cochrane issued a proclamation while his fleet held sway in the Chesapeake Bay urging American slaves to flee their masters and join the British, either as soldiers or paid workers. Hundreds of blacks fled Virginia and Maryland plantations for freedom. About 600 of the men were trained as soldiers in the Corps of Colonial Marines. They surprised the British with their courage at Bladensburg and other battles. Most returned to Canada with the British when they left the Chesapeake. Not odd, but remarkable.

September 29, 2014 at 12:36 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (May 25-May 31, 1814)

Jackson promoted.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

May 28 — With the resignation of William Henry Harrison, the U.S. Army has room for another major general in its ranks and Brigadier Andrew Jackson is promoted to the two-star rank. Jackson has become nationally famous after crushing the pro-Tecumseh/pro-British Red Sticks faction of the Creek (Muskogee) Indian nation at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814.

Jackson is put in command of the 7th Military District, which includes Tennessee, Louisiana and the Territory of Mississippi (which becomes the states of Alabama and Mississippi after the war).

Jackson will soon lead an army to Mobile on the Gulf Coast to resist the British massing in Florida (then owned by Spain, a British ally in the recently completed war with Napoleon).

– – –

War Comes to the Chesapeake

rear Adm. George Cockburn (Royal Museums Greenwich)

Rear Adm. George Cockburn
(Royal Museums Greenwich)

With Napoleon vanquished, the British government decides to take the gloves off in its dealings with the Americans, a British fleet steps up its activities in Chesapeake Bay in April under Rear Admiral George Cockburn and begins a series of raids and skirmishes up and down the bay from Virginia to Baltimore.

Cockburn’s superior, Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane issues a proclamation inviting American slaves to flee their masters and join the British Army or otherwise assist British military actions against the Americans. Cochrane is hated by the locals because of the proclamation and the destruction of private as well as government property by his troops.

May 30 – The British launch a successful amphibious attack on U.S. artillery battery dug in on a bluff overlooking Pongoteague Creek in Virginia by militia.

– – –

Skirmish at Sandy Creek, New York

May 30 – The war in the North is not over yet.

Oneida warrior

Oneida warrior

U.S. forces ambush several British ships loaded with 153 sailors and marines patrolling the south shore of Lake Ontario between Oswego and Sackets Harbor, N.Y.  The British are pursuing an American supply convoy bound for Sackets Harbor. The U.S. boats move inland on Sandy Creek to avoid detection. The pursuing British are surprised by gunfire from the creek bank coming from about 250 U.S. regulars and militia plus more than 100 Oneida Indians allied with the Americans.

After 10 minutes of gunfire, 13 British are dead and the remaining 140 surrender. Two Americans (one of them an Oneida) are wounded.

 

 

May 29, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 23-March 29, 1814) UPDATE

UPDATES with new final item: court martial of Brig. Gen.  Hull returns guilty verdict.

A Widening War

From the cane bottoms of Alabama to the Pacific Coast of South America, military and naval actions in March 1814 illustrate how the war between the United States and Great Britain has spread far beyond the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. U.S. Navy ships and privateers raid British commerce in the Caribbean Sea and around the British Isles. The Royal Navy sends more and more ships to tighten the blockade of most U.S. ports along the Atlantic Coast. In Mississippi Territory, Major General Andrew Jackson confronts the pro-British Red Stick faction of the Creek Indian Nation … and the American frigate USS Essex is raiding the English whaling fleet in the South Pacific.

Sharp Knife’s Revenge: Horseshoe Bend

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

March 27, 1814: With more than 3,000 troops, including regulars from the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment and 700 Native American allies – mostly friendly Cherokees and about 100 Creeks – Andrew Jackson prepares to attack the Creek Indian stronghold, Tohopeka, at a bend in the Talapoosa River known to the whites as the Horseshoe.

Politically, the Red Sticks are more anti-American than pro-British, but the Brits, looking to offset their limited resources in the Americas while fighting Napoleon, give the Indians ammunition, supplies and encouragement. The 1813 massacre of American settlers and friendly Creeks at Fort Mims on the Mississippi-Spanish Florida border incensed Jackson and other Americans in the western states intent “on a single purpose: the destruction of the Creek Nation as a potential threat to the safety of the United States,” according to historian Robert V. Remini.

Of course, in hindsight, Jackson seems little troubled by the wholesale slaughter his troops committed .

The Horseshoe is a heavily wooded peninsula jutting out into the river above high bluffs. Across the neck of the Horseshoe peninsula, the Red Sticks have built a 350-yard-long barricade of horizontal logs five-to-eight feet high. Behind the wall are some 1,000 warriors and 300 women and children.

Jackson’s two small cannon open fire on the stout log wall at 10:30 a.m. With little effect. The 39th Infantry and Tennessee militiamen face the barricade but Creeks firing through slits in the logs keep them pinned down. On the opposite side of the river, surrounding the rest of the Indian stronghold, are Colonel John Coffee with 700 mounted riflemen and Jackson’s Indian allies. Those Indians cross the river in canoes and begin the climb the bluff, attacking the stronghold from the rear – distracting its defenders on the log barricade.

HorshoeBendMap

Taking advantage of the confusion, Jackson orders a charge. The regulars and militiamen breech the barricade and a killing orgy begins inside the Red Sticks’ encampment. When the fighting ends at sundown, an estimated 800 Red Sticks are dead. Jackson’s losses are 49 killed, 154 wounded – many mortally.

The military power of the Creeks has been crushed and Jackson will pressure their leaders to sign a treaty in August ceding 23 million acres of land. Much of it will form the state of Alabama in 1819. The Indians begin calling Jackson, “Sharp Knife” for his tough tactics on and off the battlefield.

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Valparaiso: USS Essex vs. HMS Phoebe

Frigate USS Essex in 1799 (U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

Frigate USS Essex in 1799
(U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

March 28, 2014: Trapped in Chile’s Valparaiso Harbor for the last six weeks by two Royal Navy ships, American Captain David Porter decides to make a run for it in the USS Essex before more British ships arrive on the scene.

Since rounding South America’s Cape Horn in early 1813 – the first U.S. warship to do so – the Essex has been playing havoc with the British whaling fleet in the Pacific Ocean. Between April and October 1813, Porter captured 12 of the 20 British whalers operating in the Eastern Pacific.

Essex sailed back across the Pacific to Valparaiso, a neutral port, arriving on February 3, 1814. According to author George C. Daughan in his book, 1812, The Navy’s War, Porter was “intent on falling in with an enemy frigate. He knew British hunters were after him, and he meant to accommodate them.”

On February 8, the 36-gun HMS Phoebe and the 28-gun HMS Cherub arrived on the scene. Porter tried to provoke the Phoebe’s captain, Capt. James Hillyar into a one-on-one duel but Hillyar declined to accommodate the American. The took up position at the harbor’s mouth, trapping the Essex.

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Taking advantage of a change in the wind, Porter attempted to outrun the slower British ships on the 28th. But a sudden heavy squall carried away the Essex’s main topmast. Porter tried to slip back into the harbor unscathed but the Phoebe and Cherub headed straight for the Essex. A brutal sea-battle ensued. Essex carried 46 cannon, but only six were long range guns. But the Phoebe carried mostly long range canon that were able to pound the Essex out of the range of the American ship’s 40 heavy – but short range – guns. After failing to close with Phoebe to board her, Porter tried to run Essex aground and destroy her to keep the ship out of enemy hands. But the wind wouldn’t cooperate and Porter finally had to surrender.

The Essex suffered 58 killed, 39 severely wounded, 26 slightly wounded and 312 missing out of a crew of 255. On the Phoebe, five were killed and 10 wounded. Porter and his crew were paroled by Hillyar and allowed to return to the United States in one of the English whalers the Essex had captured.

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A General’s Disgrace

On March 26, 1814, Brigadier General William Hull, is convicted of cowardice and neglect of duty for surrendering Detroit in 1812. The Army court martial, which has been hearing the case since January in Albany, New York, does not convict the general of the most serious charge, treason.
Nevertheless, Hull is sentenced to be shot, although the court recommends clemency because of his distinguished service in the Revolutionary War. On April 25, President Madison upholds the conviction but dismisses the death sentence and cashiers Hull, throwing him out of the Army. Hull, who died in 1825, at age 72, spent his remaining years trying to clear his name and recover his previously sterling reputation.

 

 

 

March 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

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