Posts tagged ‘War of 1812 in Alabama’

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.

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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.

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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 (September 14-September 20, 1814) UPDATE

Silent Emblem.

September 14, Baltimore

UPDATES with final action in Fort Erie Siege September 17

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by Peter Rindlisbacher (Courtesy of Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by Peter Rindlisbacher
(Courtesy of Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Some 20 Royal Navy ships – bomb and rocket vessels, frigates and troop-carrying barges – continue their futile assault on Fort McHenry and the outer defenses of Baltimore. The ships, blocked by sunken hulks, a chain boom and batteries on either side of the channel east of the fort leading to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, are forced to bombard McHenry from two miles out – beyond the range of the American guns.

An amphibious assault at an area west off the fort in the wee hours of the 14th is repulsed when Americans manning two fortifications outside McHenry, spot the British barges carrying infantry and open fire with deadly effect.

Meanwhile, Colonel Arthur Brooke, leading the land forces facing the Americans near heavily fortified Hampstead Hill in Baltimore finally receives a note from Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane. Cochrane, the expedition’s overall commander, explains that his ships in the Patapsco River won’t be able to offer supporting fire for any land attack on the other side of the city. It was up to Brooke to decide if he could take Baltimore with his force of less than 5,000 men. If not, Cochrane writes, it “would be only throwing the men’s lives away” and keep the expedition from performing other missions.

Brooke, has been planning a 2 a.m. attack on American General Samuel Smith’s 15,000-man force of soldiers, sailors, flotilla men, Marines, militia and volunteers spoiling for a little payback after the burning of Washington. But the note gives him pause – and an honorable out from an attack likely to end in failure. After a council of war with his officers, Brooke’s army slips away leaving campfire burning to fool the Americans into thinking the British were still there.

Francis Scott Key notes "that our flag was still there." Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Francis Scott Key notes “that our flag was still there.” Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

At daybreak on the 14th Cochrane calls off the bombardment. Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key, stuck on a boat downstream from Fort McHenry during the attack, is thrilled to see the fort’s huge American flag still flying in the morning light. Fifty-years later, American General William Tecumseh Sherman will call it “the silent emblem of [our] country” but thanks to Key, the amateur poet, his opus “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” will immortalize the national flag as The Star Spangled Banner.

Brooke and his troops march back to where they first came ashore two days earlier and re-board the transports. Cochrane’s fleet eventually weighs anchor and heads for Canada. The Battle of Baltimore is over. Here is the seldom sung fourth, and final, verse of the poem that becomes the U.S. National Anthem …

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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War Moves South

September 14-16, Mobile Bay

British leaders in London still have their eye on New Orleans and plan to send an invasion force there as part of the strategy to attack the United States from the north and south.

Maj. William Lawrence (War of 1812 Alabama, Facebok page)

Maj. William Lawrence
(War of 1812 Alabama, Facebok page)

In preparation for that operation, the British plan to attack Fort Bowyer overlooking Mobile Bay on the Gulf Coast. Major General Andrew Jackson, expecting a British thrust from Pensacola (in what was then Spanish Florida) has beefed up the earth and timber fortification with 160 Army regulars and 20 canon under the command of Major William Lawrence of the 2nd U.S. Infantry Regiment..

If the British capture the small fort, it will enable them British to move on Mobile, and then head overland to Natchez in Mississippi Territory and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cutting off New Orleans from the north.

Four British ships under Captain William Percy land 60 Royal Marines, 60 pro-British Indians and a small canon nine miles from the fort, but they are repulsed by the Americans September 14. The British ships attack the fort the next day but canon fire from the fort damages one ship which runs aground. That ship is set afire by the British after the beached ship’s crew is rescued. The other three ships sail away on September 16 after losing 34 killed and 35 wounded in the land and sea attacks. American casualties are only four killed and four wounded.

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Fort Erie Sortie

September 17, Canada

The British siege of Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the Niagara River continues after 42 days.

On September 17, two columns of American troops totaling 1,600 men sortie from the fort and sneak up on three British artillery batteries under cover of a heavy rain. One column, commanded by Brigadier General Peter Porter, consists of volunteers from the New York and Pennsylvania militia and elements of the 23rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Porter’s men capture Battery Number 3. The other column, commanded by Brigadier General James Miller, includes detachments from the 9th, 11th and 19th U.S. Infantry regiments. Miller’s group captures Battery Number 2.

But there is fierce fighting after the British regroup and counter attack. The Americans are driven out of batteries 2 and 3 and are unable to take Battery Number 1. Three of the six siege guns in Battery Number 3 are destroyed, but the Americans are unable to spike the guns in Battery Number 2 before retreating following the two-hour engagement in the trenches.

In the often hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans suffer 79 killed, 216 wounded and 170 captured. The British losses are 49 killed, 178 wounded and 382 captured. A few days later, the British commander, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, decides to break off the siege.

East Bastion and barracks of Fort Erie today. (photo by Ernest Mettendorf via Wikipedia)

East Bastion and barracks of Fort Erie today.
(photo by Ernest Mettendorf via Wikipedia)

September 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm 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

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 1814)

January 27 – Calabee Creek

The pro-British Red Stick faction of the Creek Indian Nation are emboldened by the withdrawal a week earlier of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s failed retaliatory expedition against their stronghold at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River in what is now Alabama. (Then part of the Mississippi Territory).

Creek War 1813-14 (PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

Creek War 1813-14
(PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

On Jan. 27, the Red Sticks launch a night attack on a force of Georgia volunteers and friendly Yuchi Indians under the command of Gen. John Floyd at Calebee Creek about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Fort Mitchell on the Alabama-Georgia border.

Floyd’s force of 1,200 infantry, a company of cavalry and 400 Yuchi repulsed the attacking Creeks. But afterward Floyd immediately withdrew to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

January 29-30 New Brunswick, Canada

Meanwhile, far to the north, officials in Canada are nervous about the disposition of their army and naval forces scattered along the frontier with the United States. While the Creeks battle U.S. forces in the South, and Army posts along the upper Mississippi River are threatened by the Sac, Fox and other Midwestern tribes, Canada’s Native American allies in the Great Lakes region have been crushed at the Battle of the Thames, which saw the death of charismatic Shawnee leader, Tecumseh.

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames (Photo courtesy Canadian government War of 1812 Website)

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames
(Photo courtesy Canadian government War of 1812 Website)

The British build defenses on Bridge Island in what was then called Upper Canada to shelter supply boats traveling the St. Lawrence River. A 90-man cavalry barracks is constructed on a key road midway between St. Jean on the Richelieu River and the outskirts of Montreal in Lower Canada.

On January 10 an American patrol is captured by militia in Lower Canada near Missisiquoi Bay. A few days later British troops raid Franklin County in New York State.

Also in January, 217 men dispatched to crew two ships being built at Kingston, Upper Canada (in what is now the Province of Ontario) arrive at Saint John, New Brunswick by ship from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The citizens of Saint John respond overwhelmingly to a request for sleighs and sleds to convey the sailors to Fredericton on their way to their ships farther up the St. Lawrence. The Royal Navy men depart by land on January 29 and 30.

January 26, 2014 at 11:27 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 20 – January 25, 1814)

Retaliation Reversed

The Battle of Enotachopo Creek January 24, 1814 (Tennessee State Library Photograph Collection)


(Tennessee State Library Photograph Collection)

After units of his 2,000-man Tennessee Volunteers army defeated the Creek Indians on November 3 at Tallushatchee in eastern Mississippi Territory (today’s Alabama) and at Talladega six days later, Major General Andrew Jackson was in trouble.

He was short on supplies, most of his troops’ enlistments were up and winter was coming on. He had twice put down mutiny and mass desertion by sheer will and a few well-placed cannon. Jackson was also ill, suffering from a lack of sleep, dysentery and a still-throbbing shoulder wound received in a gunfight/duel with personal enemies a few months earlier back in a Nashville hotel.

By late December 1813, his forward base, called Fort Strother, was nearly deserted. The few troops remaining were set to march home in a few days when their enlistments were up.

But on January 14, without warning, nearly 900 raw recruits marched into the fort. Jackson didn’t waste any time and marched them right out again to attack the stronghold of the anti-American Creek faction known as the Red Sticks, at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River. Jackson had been spoiling to retaliate against the Creeks ever since they raided a small community on the Duck River in Tennessee, killing several people and taking a woman captive in 1812.

By January 21 Jackson’s force was camped at Emuckfaw Creek — just three miles from the Creek stronghold. But the Creeks attacked Jackson the next day. While his men drove the Red Sticks off, the element of surprise was lost and rather than face another assault, Jackson ordered a retreat back to Fort Strother.

Creek War Campaign (via CensusFinder.com)

Creek War Campaign
(via CensusFinder.com)

But the Red Sticks followed his retreating army and attacked again while the troops were strung out fording Enotachopco Creek. Jackson ordered the rear guard to attack while other troops were summoned to cross back over the creek and surround the Red Sticks. But the green troops of the rear guard panicked and ran. Jackson rallied his forces and the other units crossed over and held off the Creeks, who withdrew.

After returning to Fort Strother, Jackson drilled his green troops for more than a month to prepare them for his next crack at the Horseshoe Bend stronghold in the Spring.

January 20, 2014 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: War of 1812, Collision Course in Alabama

On the Warpath

Creek War 1813-14 (PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

Creek War 1813-14
(PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

All is quiet during the winter of 1813-1814 along the U.S.-Canadian border where U.S. Army regulars and state militiamen have been battling British troops, Canadian militia and Native American warriors since the summer of 1812.

But Army regulars and state volunteers are still battling the Creek Indians of the Southeastern United States in what has become known as the Creek War. That struggle erupted within the the Creek nation (also known as the Muskogee) — which inhabited parts of what is now Alabama and Georgia — over whether to join Shawnee leader Tecumseh‘s campaign against whites of the United States. The “Red Sticks” faction favored war with white America. Indian leaders from what was known as the Lower Creek towns were against war with the whites, with whom many had intermarried. They were known as the “White Sticks.”

In July 1813 at Burnt Corn Creek, Mississippi militiamen attacked and were defeated by members of the pro-British Red Sticks returning from Spanish Florida where they had gone to obtain arms and ammunition. On August 30, 1813, hundreds of Red Sticks attacked a poorly defended stockade known as Fort Mims in southern Alabama, killing more than 200 whites, black slaves and White Stick Creeks.

That led Tennessee Gov. Willie Blount to call for 3,500 volunteers to fight the Creeks, widening a tribal civil war into one between Indians and whites. After defeating the “Red Sticks” on November 9, 1813 at the Battle of Talladega, the Tennessee commander, Major General Andrew Jackson, was plagued by supply shortages and discipline problems among his rowdy frontier troops who had only signed short term enlistments.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s mounted rifles commander, General John Coffee, who had returned to Tennessee for fresh horses, wrote Jackson that his troops had deserted. By the end of 1813, Jackson was down to a single regiment whose enlistments were due to expire in mid January.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Although Gov. Blount ordered up another 2,500 troops, Jackson would not be up to full strength until the end of February. By the time 900 raw recruits arrived unexpectedly on January 14, Jackson’s original force of 2,500 had dwindled to 103 soldiers.

Since the new men had signed on for only 60 days, Jackson decided to get going before their enlistments ran out. He departed Fort Struther on January 17, and marched toward the village of Emuckfaw to support the Georgia Militia. But it was a risky strategy: a long march through difficult terrain against a numerically superior force. Making matters worse, Jackson’s  volunteers were green and insubordinate. By January 21, they had marched to within a few miles of the Red Stick settlement of Emuckfaw, setting the stage for another battle.

NEXT WEEK: The Return of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812

The weekly feature, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, returns on Monday, January 20.

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SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

January 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment


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