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Monette, John W. History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi, by the Three Great European Powers, Spain, France and Great Britain, and the Subsequent Occupation, Settlement, and Extension of Civil Government by the United States, Until the Year 1846, in two volumes, Volume II . New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1846. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures, Aurora University
Argument William C. C. Claiborne Governor-general of the Province of Louisiana. General James Wilkinson Commander-in-chief of the Army. Emigrants from the United States. Governor Claiborne's judicious Administration. Territorial Government provided for the "Territory of Orleans." Plan of Government obnoxious to the People. Volunteer Companies patronized by the Governor. Expressions of popular Discontent by the French Population. Territorial Government instituted. First Territorial Legislature. First Bank created. Territorial Legislature modified. Discontent in Baton Rouge District. Abduction of the Kempers. Their Release. Spanish Exactions on the Mobile River, and Aggressions West of the Mississippi in 1805. Spanish Officers in New Orleans. They contemplate the Mississippi south of Red River as their eastern Boundary. Re-enforcements in Texas and Florida. Policy of the Federal Government. Advance of the Spanish Troops to Red River. Movements of United States Troops. Spanish Troops on the Bayou Pierre and Arroyo Hondo. Remonstrances of Governor Claiborne. General Wilkinson advances the Army to Natchitoches. His Negotiation with General Herrera. Spaniards retire West of the Sabine. Wilkinson proceeds to New Orleans to intercept Burr's Operations. His energetic Measures against the Conspirators. Zealous cooperation of Governor Claiborne. His Proclamation. Arrest of Dr. Bollman and others. Great popular Excitement. Conflict of the civil and military Authorities. Affected Zeal of Judges Workman and Hall for the Supremacy of the civil Power. Efforts made by Persons clothed with civil Authority to embarrass General Wilkinson, and to protect the Conspirators. Burr utterly circumvented in the Mississippi Territory. Lieutenant Pike's exploring Party returns from Santa Fe. Object of his Exploration. Wilkinson's Position relative to Burr's Enterprise not criminal. The Organization of the Territorial Government completed. Great Mortality of the Troops under General Wilkinson. Revolt in District of Baton Rouge in 1810. Spanish Authority expelled. A Provisional Government established by the People. The Baton Rouge District annexed to the Territory of Orleans. Revolt among Slaves above New Orleans in 1811. State Government authorized. Constitution adopted. Some of its Features. "State of Louisiana" admitted into the Union. Baton Rouge District annexed. State Government organized. General Wilkinson acquitted by a Court of Inquiry. Advance of American Population into Louisiana. General Wilkinson's Activity in providing for maritime Defense of Louisiana against British Invasion. Louisiana threatened by a powerful Armament. General Jackson Commander-in-chief. He arrives at New Orleans. His extraordinary Efforts for the effectual Defense of the City. Suppresses a Spirit of Despondency by efficient Measures. The Enemy advances by Way of the Lakes. Encounters American Gun-boats. Martial Law proclaimed. The Enemy advances through Bayou Bienvenu. American Army concentrated at New Orleans. Active Hostilities commence. Efforts of the Enemy previous to January 8th. Patriotic Devotion of American Citizens in New Orleans. Grand Attack upon the American Lines on the 8th. Repulse of the Enemy's bombarding Squadron at Fort St. Philip. The British Army retires from the Scene of its Disasters. The Watchword "Booty and Beauty." Arbitrary Exercise of civil Authority by Judge Hall. The unjust Fine disclaimed by the American People after thirty Years. Population of Louisiana in 1815. Extent of Settlements. Agricultural Resources Governors until 1846.
[A.D. 1804.] AFTER the transfer of Louisiana, Governor Claiborne entered upon the duties of his office as governor-general
general of the province, invested with nearly the same powers and prerogatives which pertained to the former Spanish governor-general, until Congress should have provided a regular form of territorial government. Meantime, the former authorities in the several departments of the civil government continued to retain their situations, and to perform the duties of their offices, until their places were otherwise supplied by Governor Claiborne. The different military posts were taken possession of by the troops of the United States, under the immediate command of Brigadier-general James Wilkinson, commander-in-chief of the army. 526
From the first extension of the Federal authority over the province, emigrants by hundreds, from the Atlantic and Western States, advanced into the settlements of both Upper and Lower Louisiana. Many had arrived in New Orleans with the American commissioners, and large numbers had preceded them in anticipation of the transfer.
Trade and speculation had brought many to New Orleans, during the period which had elapsed since the treaty of Madrid, in order to avail themselves of the privileges secured by its articles. These were ready to accept office and employment under the authority of the United States, and hence but little delay was encountered by the governor in substituting American citizens for the former Spanish authorities where prudence dictated a change. A wide field for enterprise and speculation was thrown open to the people of the United States, and not a few were eager to share the advantages which so abundantly presented.
Governor Claiborne, from his first entrance upon the duties of his office, had devoted himself with assiduity to the arduous labors of his station, in which he was cordially supported by the patriotic Americans who had taken up their residence in the province. On the 10th of April a temporary government had been organized by the governor, and the approbation of the people was manifested in a public dinner given in honor of himself and General Wilkinson as American commissioners. The sentiments of the people were elegantly expressed by Dr. Watkins, 527 presiding on the occasion, when, with patriotic fervor, he remarked, that "the eagle of Liberty has extended its
flight to Louisiana, and will cover its virtuous inhabitants with its protecting wings. We hail a new and enterprising people as friends, brothers, and fellow-citizens. The seeds of agriculture, commerce, and the arts are already sown among them, and will grow, unrestrained by the hands of Wisdom, into wealth, power, and national greatness." Relative to the acquisition of Louisiana, he continued: "The prudence which has governed the latter part of this great transaction has been equal to the wisdom which originally planned it. To execute with ability and address important trusts is the particular privilege of exalted minds; and you, gentlemen, are entitled to all the praise and all the recompense due to distinguished and arduous services. Your manly, dignified conduct; your firmness and perseverance in a difficult, troublesome transaction; your affable, conciliating manners; and, above all, your constant scrupulous attention to the interests of your country, entitle you to the love of all honest men, and the approbation and confidence of the United States. The 20th of December last will ever be remembered as the birthday of the liberties of Louisiana, and will be celebrated by the lovers of freedom and equal rights as long as time shall last. The names of Claiborne and Wilkinson will be consecrated in the annals of Louisiana, and command the respect of posterity."
As one of the duties imposed upon the governor-general by the Federal government, it was expected that he "should obtain all the information in his power relative to the customs, habits, and dispositions of the inhabitants of the said territory, and communicate the same from time to time to the President of the United States." This duty he performed with such fidelity and discretion as gained for him the most unbounded confidence of the Federal executive, and exalted him in the estimation of his friends and all admirers of American liberty.
Meanwhile, the Federal authorities had been anxiously preparing a form of territorial government adapted to the peculiar condition of the people of Louisiana. An act of Congress, approved March 26th, provided for erecting the whole province into two territorial governments. The first section of the act declared, that "all that portion of country ceded by France to the United States under the name of Louisiana, which lies south of the Mississippi Territory, and of an east and west line to commence on the Mississippi River at the thirty-third
degree of north latitude, and extending westward to the western boundary of said cession, shall constitute a territory of the United States, under the name of the ‘Territory of Orleans.’" The formation of the same was similar to that of the Northwestern Territory under the provisions of the ordinance of July, 1787, with such modifications as the peculiar condition of the people of Louisiana seemed to require, they being altogether of foreign origin and language, while those of the Northwestern Territory were principally native Americans.
The plan of government provided for the Territory of Orleans, and promulgated for the information of the people, was, accordingly, less democratic than that of the Northwestern Territory. Instead of conferring upon the people the privilege of electing the Legislative Assembly, the act provided that the legislative power should be confided to the governor and a legislative council; the latter to consist of "thirteen of the most fit and discreet persons in the territory, nominated by the governor annually to the president for his appointment, from among the resident inhabitants holding real estate therein, and holding no office of profit under the territory or the United States."
This feature was objectionable, especially to the native American citizens, because it deprived them of one of the rights guarantied by the Constitution of the United States, in excluding them from the advantages of popular suffrage in the election of their Legislature. Hence the act created active opponents, who exerted every effort to prevent the provisions from being enforced. On this account, Governor Claiborne subsequently met with much difficulty in procuring persons willing to serve as members of the Legislative Council.
The French population were dissatisfied with the act for a different reason. They had expected to be admitted speedily into all the rights and privileges of citizens of an independent state, and deprecated the division of the province, because, by dividing the people between two territorial governments, the period of their admission into the Union would necessarily be delayed, which would be contrary to the stipulation in the treaty of cession. They also objected to extending over them those laws of the United States which prohibited the introduction of African slaves into the territory. This they deemed a blow at the agricultural prosperity of the province. At length public
meetings were held and remonstrances were adopted against the provisions of the act, and demanding immediate admission into the Federal Union as an independent state. A deputation of three Frenchmen, MM. Derbigny, Detrehen, and Sauve, was dispatched to Washington to protest against these grievances, and to urge their favorite measure.
No militia system existing in the province, Governor Claiborne was active in his efforts to encourage the formation of numerous volunteer military companies composed of American citizens, and chiefly of such as had recently arrived from the Western States. By means of these companies he had been able to give character and efficiency to his government; but the measure was unpopular with the Creole French, who viewed it as an invidious distinction drawn between the American and French citizens; and hence a portion of the prejudice which many of the Creoles of Louisiana entertained against the patriotic governor.
Meantime, the 1st of October arrived, and the territorial government was organized, agreeably to the stipulations of the act of March 26th. William C. C. Claiborne was reappointed governor; Dr. Samuel Brown was secretary of the territory; Duponceau, Kirby, Prevost, and Dominic A. Hall were territorial judges; Mahlon Dickinson was district attorney; and Le Breton d'Orgeney marshal.
Members of the Legislative Council were nominated and appointed by the president, but, from some latent dissatisfaction, a majority of them declined serving. After various delays and embarrassments, Governor Claiborne succeeded in completing the organization of the Legislative Council by means of blank commissions forwarded by the president. It was on the 4th of December that the legislative body, duly formed, convened in the city of New Orleans. The members entered upon the arduous duties before them with zeal and energy, until the civil authority was fully established according to the act of Congress.
[A.D. 1805.] During this first session the Territory of Orleans was divided into twelve counties, with a county court organized in each. A code of judicial proceeding, for the regulation of the inferior and superior courts, was enacted, similar to that of the Mississippi Territory, besides many wholesome laws and provisions for the good government of the people. 528
Among other creations of this Legislature was that of the first bank in Louisiana, with a capital of six hundred thousand dollars, with the privilege of increasing it to two millions, with a legal existence of sixteen years, and known as the "Bank of Louisiana." The successful operation of this bank greatly relieved the embarrassments caused by a depreciated paper currency in the shape of liberanzas, or government scrip, left in circulation by the Spaniards; yet the French inhabitants, having suffered severely by paper circulation, were distrustful of the new expedient for relief. 529
Meantime, Congress having duly considered the grounds of dissatisfaction with the former act for organizing the territory, repealed the obnoxious law and substituted another, agreeably to the provisions of the ordinance of 1787, and which gave to the people the right of electing their representatives in the General Assembly. This act was approved March 2d, 1805, and placed the people of the Orleans Territory upon the same footing with others.
The first Legislature under the new act convened for business on the 20th of June, 1805, in the city of New Orleans. During this session the territorial laws and judicial proceedings were greatly modified, and received the impress of the leading features of the Louisiana code, which were retained for forty years afterward, until superseded by the new Constitution in 1845.
In the mean time, the Anglo-Americans residing in the Baton Rouge District, and government of West Florida, had become greatly dissatisfied with their condition, being subjects of Spain, although inhabitants of a portion of Louisiana as claimed by the United States, under the cession from France. Although claiming the rights of American citizens, they were compelled to submit to the colonial authority of a despotic and foreign power. Thus, disappointed in their expectation that the District of Baton Rouge would have been included in the surrender of Louisiana, and impatient of the Spanish authority, many became discontented and vindictive. Believing the Spanish government at Baton Rouge weak and isolated, and confidently expecting the sympathy, if not the co-operation, of the Americans in the adjoining territories of Orleans and Mississippi, they determined to resist by force of arms. The entire population of the Baton Rouge District, at this time known
as "New Feliciana," was about twelve hundred persons. They were chiefly the descendants of the former British colonists, consisting of English, Irish, and Scotch emigrants, together with many who had emigrated recently from the United States. 530 A design was formed to expel the Spanish garrison from Baton Rouge, and with them to drive the civil authorities from the district.
A few resolute men, who were resolved to throw off the Spanish yoke, endeavored to stir up a spirit of rebellion among the people, and several prominent leaders, having armed themselves, traversed the country in order to engage volunteers in the enterprise. About two hundred men were at length collected; but a difference between the principal leaders caused the failure of the entire scheme, and brought upon them the vengeance of the Spanish governor.
Those who had taken an active part in the abortive attempt to subvert the Spanish power, having become obnoxious to the constituted government, were compelled to seek safety beyond the Spanish jurisdiction. Among the most prominent of these offenders were three brothers by the name of Kemper, who were citizens of the Mississippi Territory, residing near Pinckneyville, in Wilkinson county. To seize and punish these men, the Spanish authorities neglected no opportunity and spared no effort.
At length, on the 3d of September, in order to secure their victims, they did not hesitate to violate the American territory in a forcible and unlawful manner. The Kempers, in their own houses, and at the hour of midnight, were seized by a party of armed men in disguise, and after severe personal violence and abuse, were forcibly carried off, in close confinement, across the line of demarkation, and delivered to a troop of Spanish light-horse, acting under orders from Governor Grandpre, of Baton Rouge. Having been placed on board a boat at Tunica Bayou, they were conveyed down the river as far as Point Coupee, when the party was discovered and arrested by Lieutenant Wilson, of the United States army, stationed at that point. Having captured the whole party, he sent them under guard to answer before the proper tribunals at Washington, in the Mississippi Territory. 531
On the west side of the Mississippi, similar violations of territory and outrages upon the rights of American citizens had been perpetrated by armed patrols under the Spanish authorities. Claiming all the region west of Natchitoches, the Spanish armed patrols prohibited all travel and intercourse of American citizens beyond that point. Early in the year, an exploring expedition of the United States, under the command of Major Thomas Freeman, had been intercepted on Red River, above Natchitoches, by a detachment of Spanish troops, and compelled to return, leaving the object of the expedition unaccomplished.
Spain had been compelled reluctantly to surrender Louisiana into the hands of the French prefect, for the use of the United States. She still held the Floridas, and thus controlled the ports, harbors, and rivers east of the Mississippi, and still looked forward to some change of fortune which might yet restore Louisiana, and thus preserve the integrity of her North American possessions. Hence the Spanish officials of Louisiana continued to delay their departure from New Orleans for more than eighteen months after its formal transfer to the American commissioners; and finally retired reluctantly only when compelled, in obedience to instructions from the Federal government. As late as the 7th of August, 1805, Governor Claiborne says, "The Spaniards are so wedded to Louisiana, that necessity alone will induce them to depart." The Marquis de Casa Calvo, after he had been informed by Governor Claiborne that "so many Spanish officers continuing in Louisiana so long beyond the right occasion for it was viewed by the general government with disapprobation," still claimed further indulgence, and desired his property and his attendants to be exempted from municipal taxation. 532 On the 20th of August, Governor Claiborne wrote to the president "that he had been informed by the Marquis de Casa Calvo that the court of Spain desired to make the Mississippi River the boundary line, and that in time this object would be obtained."
It was in the same communication that Governor Claiborne desired authority to compel the Spanish officers and troops to leave the country immediately, as they were insidiously exerting themselves to raise up a Spanish party. He proceeds, "The prospect of a retrocession of the west bank of the Mississippi is
now, and has always been, the theme of the Spanish officers who remain in this territory; and many citizens seem to view it as an event likely to happen: an impression which I greatly regret, since it tends to lessen their confidence in the American government, and to cherish a Spanish party among us. Next, therefore, to a final adjustment of limits with the Spanish government, I most desire to see every Spanish officer removed from the ceded territory. There certainly must be a power somewhere vested, to cause to be executed the clause in the treaty which directs ‘the Spanish forces to be withdrawn in three months from the ceded territory.’ I should, indeed, be pleased to have it hinted to me that, in my character as ‘commissioner’ or governor, I could on this occasion (if necessary) use compulsory measures." 533
At length the Marquis de Casa Calvo, in September, 1805, having embarked the Spanish troops under his control for Pensacola, took his departure by land westward, through the Mexican provinces, to Chihuahua. Yet many of the remaining Spaniards, as well as some others, could not believe that the country was lost to Spain, but had only been conveyed to the United States in trust until the close of the European wars, when they hoped for its restoration.
Meantime, every effort had been made by the Spanish authorities of Mexico to extend their settlements east of the Sabine. The village and settlement of Adaes, fourteen miles west of Natchitoches, was one of the oldest in this part of Louisiana, and was coeval with Natchitoches itself; and as late as the summer of 1805 it was the most important one west of Alexandria. To maintain the influence of the Spanish viceroy, and to confirm the people in the Catholic faith, the Bishop of New Leon, Don Feliciano Mariro, made his annual visit, and having performed high mass, and consecrated a graveyard, administered the ordinance of baptism to two hundred neophytes.
Subsequently, during the summer and autumn, several additional colonies of Spanish settlers were located in the eastern portion of Texas, and new military posts were established west of the Sabine. The first of these colonies had arrived at San Antonio on the 5th of July, and consisted of five hundred
Spanish emigrants and one hundred and fifty troops. Soon afterward, a similar colony arrived at Nacogdoches for the extension and security of the settlements in that quarter.
Again, during the autumn strong military re-enforcements from Mexico and Havana were sent to West Florida and Texas. The first arrival at Pensacola, on the 24th of October consisted of four hundred troops; and on the 30th an additional force of three hundred arrived at the same port and were ordered to the District of Baton Rouge, to strengthen the garrisons in that quarter. About the same time Spanish agents from Mobile had contracted for four thousand barrels of flour, besides other supplies for the army in Florida and Texas. The number of regular troops at the different points in Texas, west of the Sabine, at this time amounted to eight hundred. 534
Such was the state of affairs on the frontiers of the Territory of Orleans until the beginning of the year 1806. Every indication presaged a speedy rupture between the United States and Spain, and the whole West was impatient for the collision.
But it was not the policy of the Federal government to engage in open war with the waning power of Spain. Although Mr. Jefferson, as early as 1786, had expressed a belief that the United States were ultimately to occupy all North America, yet he deemed it the best policy to permit the Spaniards peaceably to occupy the immense territories until the American population, by its constant increase, should advance and occupy the country gradually as it might be required for new states. In one of his letters at that early period he says, "Our confederacy must be received as the hive from which all America, north and south, is to be peopled. We should take care, too, not to think it for the interest of that great continent to press too soon upon the Spaniards. Those countries can not be in better hands. My fear is that they are too feeble to hold them until our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece. The navigation of the Mississippi we must have soon. This is all we are as yet ready to receive." Such was the policy of this great American statesman in 1786; and the same policy has been regularly pursued by the Federal authorities ever since. Such were the views of Mr. Jefferson in 1805, when directing the affairs of the national government. At that time the population was rapidly advancing over
the great Valley of the Mississippi. The Federal government had, by a cautious perseverance in amicable negotiations, acquired all the territory claimed by Spain east of the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Ohio to the thirty-first degree of north latitude; it had also secured the free navigation of the Mississippi for American commerce as early as 1798. Again, in 1803, it had obtained the actual occupancy of both banks of the Mississippi, including the port of New Orleans, together with an indefinite claim to all the country west of the Mississippi and east of the Rio Bravo del Norte. Why press the final adjustment of the western boundary so long before the American population were ready to take actual possession? It was evidently for the interest of the United States to hold possession of what they already occupied east of Natchitoches, leaving the remainder, with its unsettled limits on the west, for the time, wholly with the Spaniards.
Hence it was the policy of the Federal government to avoid, by all means, a war with Spain, by running a conventional line west of the American settlements, leaving the whole subject of the actual and rightful boundary on the west open to future discussion. Such was the policy which prompted its course in restraining the western people, as well as the troops of the United States, from actual hostilities against the Spaniards during the events which subsequently transpired.
The Spaniards had become exasperated at the rapid advance of the Anglo-Americans, and the destiny which seemed to threaten them unless the tide were arrested. Instead of provoking further irritation, the government of the United States had omitted no effort in its attempts to insure an amicable adjustment of all old difficulties with Spain, as well as the establishment of a temporary boundary west of the Mississippi. In order to settle the controversy relative to the Feliciana parishes of Florida, the United States proposed a friendly negotiation for the purchase of both the Floridas entire, connected with a permanent arrangement for the western confines of Louisiana; yet all efforts at agreement on this point were unsuccessful, and the president, in his annual message, announced to Congress that "with Spain our negotiations for a settlement of differences have not had a satisfactory issue. On the Mobile, our commerce passing through that river continues to
be obstructed by arbitrary duties and vexatious searches. Propositions for adjusting amicably the boundaries of Louisiana have not been acceded to. While, however, the right is unsettled, we have avoided any change in the state of things by taking new posts, or strengthening ourselves on the disputed territories, in the hope that the other power would not, by a contrary course of conduct, oblige us to meet the example, and endanger conflicts of authority, the issue of which may not be easily controlled. But in this hope we have now reason to lose our confidence."
Meantime, the president had caused a military post to be erected at Natchitoches, with a garrison of two hundred men, to restrain any advances of the Spaniards east of that place. Major Porter, commanding at Natchitoches, was instructed to observe closely the movements of the Spanish troops on the western frontier.
[A.D. 1806.] On the first of January following, after an absence of less than three months, the Marquis de Casa Calvo returned to Louisiana on his route to Pensacola. As he advanced, he tarried several days in the vicinity of Natchitoches, in social intercourse with the Spaniards of that settlement, and friendly communication with the officers of the American garrison. But, his object being suspected, the commandant, Major Porter, extending to him the courtesy due his rank, refused to admit him into the fort. His object was, doubtless, to assure the Spanish inhabitants of the efforts in contemplation for the restoration of the Spanish authority to the west bank of the Mississippi, and to ascertain the condition of the American defenses.
Soon after his departure for Pensacola, a small garrison of Spanish troops proceeded from the Sabine to the town of Adaës, fourteen miles from Natchitoches, for the purpose of establishing a post at that place. Rumor likewise gave notice of the advance of six hundred men under Don Antonio Codero, governor of Texas, as far as the Trinity River. This force, accompanied by a detachment of militia and a few Indian auxiliaries, well supplied with stores and munitions of war, remained several weeks upon the Trinity, awaiting the arrival of re-enforcement, under Don Simon Herrera, from New Leon, when they continued to the town of Nacogdoches, on the head waters of the Neches. The march of such a force toward
the frontier of the Territory of Orleans in time of peace was ample ground for apprehension on the part of the American government of a design in the Spanish officer to interrupt the amicable relations between the two powers.
Accordingly, on the 24th of January, Major Porter, in obedience to instructions, dispatched a messenger to the Spanish commander at Nacogdoches, requiring from him assurances that all inroads of Spanish troops, and all violence and restraint toward American citizens east of the Sabine, should cease forthwith; and informing him that, in case such assurances were withheld, he should proceed to protect the citizens of the United States in the lawful pursuit of business within the Territory of Orleans westward to the Sabine; that, agreeably to his instructions, he should distribute patrols through the country east of the Sabine, and prevent armed men, not under the authority of the United States, from advancing east of that stream; repel invasion by pursuing and arresting the invaders, always avoiding the effusion of blood, unless absolutely necessary; that in case those assurances were given in good faith, he should not interrupt the peaceable intercourse between the settlements of the Bayou Pierre and those of Nacogdoches; but otherwise he should cut off all communication. 535
To this message Don Rodriguez promptly made answer, that no encroachment had been intended, nor had any violence been offered by his troops, except so far as was requisite for the suppression of contraband trade and the exportation of horses. He added, that duty forbade him to give the assurances required, and that he had ordered his parties to patrol as far as the Arroyo Hondo; and that, in obedience to instructions from the Spanish commander, he had established a frontier post, garrisoned by fifteen men, with directions to observe the Arroyo Hondo as the provisional boundary between Louisiana and the Spanish possessions. 536 At the same time, he sent
an order to the people on the Bayou Pierre, reminding them of their allegiance to his Catholic majesty, who required them to join his standard whenever commanded by his officers. He also gave them assurances of the protection of his Catholic majesty, and that Red River would soon be made the boundary between Louisiana and the Spanish provinces. 537
Upon the reception of this intelligence, Major Porter detached sixty men under Captain Turner, with orders forthwith to remove the Spanish garrison from Adaës to the west side of the Sabine. This object having been effected, Captain Turner established his patrol on the east side of the Sabine.
Meantime, General Wilkinson was instructed to take the necessary measures to prevent the invasion of the Territory of Orleans by the troops of Spain. Lieutenant Kingsbury, from Fort Adams, was accordingly ordered to advance with a detachment of three companies and four field-pieces to Natchitoches, to re-enforce the garrison at that post.
The Spanish minister at Washington city had been formally notified that, while negotiations were pending relative to the boundaries of Louisiana, the military posts of each power should remain as they were; that neither power should make any military operation, or advance any posts beyond their former positions; that the United States designed no movement which would change the existing state of things, and that any attempt on the part of Spain to occupy new posts east of the Sabine would be viewed as an invasion, and as such resisted.
Early in June, the Spanish army, to the number of twelve hundred men, under the command of General Herrera, took position near the Bayou Pierre settlement, about twenty miles from Natchitoches. General Herrera continued to occupy this station without any hostile movement until the 20th of September, when he retired with his command to the east bank of the Sabine, upon the approach of the Federal troops under General Wilkinson, 538
Upon the first advance of the Spanish troops to the vicinity of Nacogdoches, Governor Claiborne had opened a spirited correspondence with the Spanish authorities, and remonstrated against the unwarrantable intrusion upon the limits of the territory under his jurisdiction. Receiving no satisfactory
assurance of a disposition to retire, the governor called out a portion of the militia to strengthen the garrison at Natchitoches.
Meantime, Colonel Cushing, with the first regiment of United States infantry, had proceeded to Natchitoches, and taken charge of that post, under instructions to act strictly on the defensive until offensive measures were unavoidable. Hence the two armies remained several months within a few miles of each other without collision.
During this time General Wilkinson prosecuted his military preparations actively in the city of New Orleans. The forts were put in a complete state of defense, and several stockades near the city were nearly completed; nine gun-boats had arrived from the Ohio; and additional troops having been ordered from the northwestern posts, were concentrating in the vicinity of Fort Adams and New Orleans, 539 and detachments of militia advanced from the Mississippi Territory, and also from the Territory of Orleans, to re-enforce the army at Natchitoches.
It was on the 24th of September that General Wilkinson arrived at this place, and assumed the chief command of the army. Without delay he dispatched Colonel Cushing with a communication to Governor Codero, at Nacogdoches, demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Spanish troops to the west side of the Sabine. Codero, in reply, informed him that he would transmit his communication to the captain-general, without whose orders he could not act in the matter. General Wilkinson rejoined, and informed him that the troops of the United States would march to the Sabine, but without any hostile intention against the troops or territory of his Catholic majesty; that his sole object was to settle the western boundary of the United States, and to observe the movements of the Spanish forces near that river.
It was after the middle of October when the secret emissaries of Burr made a visit to the headquarters of General Wilkinson, at Natchitoches, to sound his views and feelings upon the subject of the contemplated enterprise. The general with great circumspection, elicited from them much information relative to the proposed movements of Burr, and then dismissed them with promises and evasive answers. Scarcely half satisfied with the result of their mission, they retired to the settlements in the Mississippi Territory, near Fort Adams, to await further developments.
On the 22d of October General Wilkinson took up the line of march from Natchitoches to the Sabine, where he designed to establish his headquarters. As he advanced, he received notice from the Spanish commander that he should endeavor to prevent the occupation of the east bank of the Sabine River by the American army; yet General Wilkinson, regardless of this threat, continued his march, and reached the Sabine on the 24th, when he found the Spaniards encamped on the west side of the river.
The American army took position upon the left bank of the Sabine, while the Spanish occupied the right. These positions were held by the respective armies until about the 6th of November, when both commanders agreed to withdraw their forces and submit the settlement of the boundary question to the friendly action of their respective governments. This is the first time that the Sabine was ever considered as a limit of the Mexican provinces on the east.
General Wilkinson made no delay in opening a negotiation with Governor Codero relative to the establishment of a provisional boundary between the province of Texas and the Territory of Orleans. For this purpose, Major Walter Burling was dispatched as a special agent to treat with the governor for the peaceable settlement of the existing difficulties. The specific object of this mission has remained a mystery; but its general tenor and object was the amicable arrangement for a provisional boundary, and the voluntary withdrawal of the Spanish forces from the territory east of the Sabine. 540 From subsequent events, it was strongly believed that the mission had been instituted by General Wilkinson as much for his own pecuniary emolument as for the peaceable adjustment of a boundary. It was impossible for him to divest himself of the suspicion which settled over him, that he had extorted money from the Spanish governor by exciting his fears as to the powerful invasion contemplated by Burr, and which could be arrested only by the most energetic movements of the American commander-in-chief, with the whole of the army and means at his disposal. 541
Having completed his arrangements with the Spanish governor and General Herrera for the mutual withdrawal of the troops from the Sabine, General Wilkinson prepared to concentrate his forces upon the Mississippi, and the following order was issued to the American troops:
"His Excellency General Herrera, the military chief immediately opposed to this corps, having agreed to withdraw his troops to Nacogdoches, and to prohibit their re-crossing the Sabine River pending the negotiations between the United States and Spain, the objects of this expedition are accomplished,
and the camp will be, of course, evacuated tomorrow or next day, and Colonel Cushing will lead the troops to Natchitoches.
(Signed) "WALTER BURLING, Aid-de-camp."
Thus terminated the Sabine expedition. The object in view by the Federal government was the withdrawal of the Spanish army from within the present limits of the State of Louisiana. This object was certainly effected by General Wilkinson; and his friends congratulated the country "that all the noise and trouble on the western frontier had been settled quietly, by the intelligence, temper, and firmness of the general, without bloodshed." 542 Yet his troops retired indignantly from the Sabine, many of them fully convinced that they had been robbed of their anticipated laurels by the cupidity of their commander, who had entered into dishonorable negotiations, and that money, and not the sword, had terminated the campaign.
Ten days afterward, General Wilkinson dispatched Colonel Burling to Mexico upon a secret mission, avowedly to apprise the viceroy of the danger which menaced the dominions of his Catholic majesty west of the Mississippi, but, as he subsequently alleged, for a different purpose. 543
Leaving the troops to be advanced to Fort Adams under their respective commanders, General Wilkinson, with his staff, proceeded to New Orleans, to make such arrangements as prudence and circumstances might dictate for the defense of the city against the revolutionary designs of Aaron Burr and his confederates.
On the 24th of November he arrived in the city of New Orleans, and immediately commenced the most active measures for employing the resources of the country and the government in the defense of the nation against the contemplated movements for the invasion of Florida and Mexico. Of these, General Wilkinson had been apprised by the special agents sent from Burr himself, urging his active co-operation with the troops under his command. These confidential agents were Samuel Swartwout and Dr. Erick Bollman, who had obtained an interview at Natchitoches, and who renewed their
efforts with the general again in more than one interview in New Orleans.
During the early part of December, the commander-in-chief was actively employed in the arduous duties devolving upon him for the defense of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. As a part of the measures for this purpose, he assumed the responsibility of dispatching Lieutenant Swan to Jamaica, ostensibly to apprise the several British commanders at that station of the designs of Burr, in which he professed to expect aid from the British naval forces, and against which the commander-in-chief entered his formal protest.
On the 9th of December, Governor Claiborne, in view of the alarming danger which appeared to threaten the country from an unlawful combination on the Ohio, called a meeting of the principal citizens of New Orleans, which was assembled at the government house. At this meeting, Governor Claiborne and General Wilkinson personally attended, and announced to the people the imminent peril which required the active military preparations in progress for the defense of the city, in order to protect it against a powerful conspiracy of seven thousand men, who designed the subversion of the government, the dissolution of the Union, and the plunder of the city, preparatory to the establishment of a new government under the direction of one of the most influential and designing men in the Union. 544
General Wilkinson spoke of the intended co-operation of the British navy in accomplishing the ultimate designs of Aaron Burr against the Spanish provinces of Mexico. The contemplated invasion, he asserted, had been communicated to him, by a special messenger from the conspirators, on the 18th day of October, at the moment when he was preparing to proceed to the Sabine. The object in making him acquainted with the plot, he said, was the hope of his co-operating with them; and that, without disclosing his determination, he set out for the Sabine, settled the Spanish affairs, and, with all expedition, repaired to New Orleans, where he intended to concentrate his forces for its defense or perish in its ruins; that, while at Natchitoches, he received a message on the same subject from New Orleans, and added, that there were several persons in the city who were concerned in the plot, and who were known to him, and whom he should have arrested long
since had he been duly authorized. He informed them that his object in entering the city was to prepare for its security; but subsequent advices had determined him to change his plans, and attack the conspirators before they arrived, as their numbers were much greater than he had expected. To this end, he was preparing the flotilla to meet the foe above Natchez, compel them to land, and thus cut them off; to effect which, it was requisite that immediate measures should be taken, as the enemy, by all advices, was to arrive at Natchez on the 20th of December, with two thousand men. He also informed them that the leaders of the plot were supported by some of the first characters in the Union, that it was extensive in its object, and that, more effectually to accomplish its execution, armed vessels in disguise would enter the river to serve as convoys to the expedition to the port of Vera Cruz. To protect the mouth of the river, vessels were procured to occupy the passes, and he concluded by pledging his life in defense of the city and country. 545
On the 10th of December the troops from Natchitoches arrived in the city; martial law was declared and rigorously enforced throughout the military district. Guards and patrols were distributed through the city, and upon the principal roads leading to the Mississippi Territory; and men who were known to belong to Burr's party, as well as those who were suspected, were unceremoniously arrested, and held in the custody of the commander-in-chief. Fort Adams, on the Mississippi, was placed in a state of complete military defense, and commanded the descent of the river. The officers of detachments and patrols were required to arrest, examine, and deliver to the civil authorities for further trial all strangers and suspicious persons not having passports from the commander-in-chief or some commissioned officer.
Rumors of the most alarming description were daily received from the Ohio River, magnifying the force and the resources of the conspirators in proportion to the fears and apprehensions of the informant. Nor were these rumors idle fabrications. The whole West was in a feverish excitement, and thousands were ready to embark in any enterprise against the Spanish power in the southwest, and not a few were willing to enlist in any undertaking which their leaders might require. New Orleans
was certainly in imminent danger, and was infested with hundreds of Burr's emissaries and adherents, who were distributed through the city and the country adjacent to the Mississippi, from the Walnut Hills to New Orleans. Suspicion fastened upon every emigrant from the Ohio or Western States, and every man who could not satisfactorily explain his arrival in the South. Hence arrests, discharges, and vexatious delays were frequent, even to the great annoyance of peaceable citizens. Those who at heart were favorably inclined to Burr's undertaking, as well as those who were secret emissaries and agents, complained bitterly of the intolerable annoyance, and dealt out wholesale denunciations against the useless precautions and the arbitrary conduct of General Wilkinson (although he was known to be acting under the orders of the President of the United States) as violations of individual rights secured by the Federal Constitution. Nor was it strange that they should charge him with a desire to promote his own aggrandizement in the substitution of martial law and arbitrary rule for the civil jurisdiction guarantied by the Constitution, seeing they alone were obnoxious to its operation.
About the same time, the patriotic citizens of New Orleans, as an evidence of their attachment to the Federal government and approval of the measures of General Wilkinson, and the zeal and energy evinced by him in defeating the designs of the conspirators, made a tender of their services for any duty to which he might assign them. To aid the government in suppressing the unlawful enterprise, "the inhabitants, merchants, captains, and supercargoes of vessels in the port evinced great zeal in favor of the efforts of the commander-in-chief, readily agreeing to the most laudable exertions and sacrifices for manning the vessels with seamen, while the citizens generally manifested unequivocal fidelity to the Union, and a spirit of determined resistance to the expected assailants." 546
The patriotic governor of the Orleans Territory was also indefatigable in his efforts to sustain the views and measures of the commander-in-chief; and, to give efficient support, he called into service the militia and volunteers of the city, who were speedily organized into the "Battalion of New Orleans," and continued on duty until March following, when tranquillity was restored to the city.
On the 14th of December General Wilkinson arrested the fearless deliverer of La Fayette, Dr. Erick Bollman, a conspicuous emissary of Burr, and sent him to a place of security below the city. Soon afterward he caused the arrest of Samuel Swartwout, of New York, and Peter V. Ogden, of New Jersey, known adherents of Aaron Burr. These men were retained in the custody of the commander-in-chief until an opportunity presented of sending them to Richmond, Virginia, to stand their trial before the supreme tribunal of the country.
On the 16th of December Governor Claiborne issued his proclamation as "Governor of the Territory of Orleans, and Commander-in-chief of the Militia thereof," in which he denounced the "traitorous project to subvert the authority of the government of the United States over a portion of the territories thereof, and to invade the dominions of the King of Spain, a prince in amity with the United States," and made known the law and the penalty against such an offense. 547
Meantime, great efforts were made by the friends of Dr. Bollman for his release from the military custody of General Wilkinson. In his efforts to effect this object, none was more zealous and indefatigable than James Alexander, Esq., acting as attorney in his behalf. On Tuesday, the 16th of December, having applied to Judge Dominic A. Hall, of the Superior Court of the Territory, upon the affidavits of himself, Leonora d'Avergne, and Edmund Forrestal, relative to the arrest of Dr. Bollman at the command of General Wilkinson, an order was granted "that a writ of habeas corpus, ad subjiciendum, on behalf of Dr. Bollman, do issue, directed to General Wilkinson, returnable to-morrow at eleven o'clock in the morning; it was further ordered, that the general be served with copies of the affidavits filed in this behalf."
Next day the return made thereto was in the following words, viz.:
"The undersigned, commanding the army of the United States, takes to himself all responsibility for the arrest of Errick Bollman, on a charge of misprision of treason against the government and laws of the United States, and has adopted measures for his safe delivery to the executive of the United States. It was after several consultations with the governor and two of the judges of this territory, that the undersigned has hazarded this step for the national safety, menaced to its base by a lawless band of traitors, associated under Aaron Burr, whose accomplices are extended from New York to this city. No man can hold in higher reverence the civil institutions of his country than the undersigned, and it is to maintain and perpetuate the holy attributes of the Constitution against the uplifted hand of violence that he has interposed the force of arms, in a moment of extreme peril, to seize upon Bollman, as he will upon all others, without regard to standing or station, against whom satisfactory proof may arise, of a participation in the lawless combination.
"Headquarters, Army of the United States, New Orleans, December 17, 1806." 548
About the same time, General Wilkinson was served with another
writ of habeas corpus from Judge James Workman, of the court of the county of Orleans, for the release of Peter V. Ogden, in the custody of the general. The prisoner was produced, and the judge, deeming his imprisonment illegal and unconstitutional, ordered his release.
But General Wilkinson persisted in making other arrests of persons suspected to be in the confidence of Burr, and active in their efforts to insure the successful issue of the undertaking. It was not long afterward when he again caused the arrest of Peter V. Ogden, who was immediately sent down the river, beyond the reach of judicial interference. With him was arrested his late attorney and advocate, James Alexander, who was also secured under the custody of a military guard near Fort St. Philip, until an opportunity offered of transmitting them by sea to the port of Baltimore, where they were placed in the custody of the commandant of Fort M'Henry.
While these things were transpiring in the Territory of Orleans as well as in the Mississippi Territory, Governor Grandpre, at Baton Rouge, alarmed at the threatening aspect of affairs, and well apprised that West Florida was one of the Spanish provinces against which the conspirators designed to march, conferred with the officers of his government and the principal inhabitants, to whom he recommended the prompt organization of the militia for active service, ready to march at the first notice. 549
[A.D. 1807.] Such was the state of public anxiety and suspicion until the middle of January following. During this time General Wilkinson had been actively and zealously engaged in giving additional strength to the defenses of the city, and in defeating the plans of the conspirators, by arresting and securing the prominent leaders for a legal investigation before the Supreme Court of the United States. Among those placed under military arrest during this time were James M. Bradford, editor of the New Orleans Gazette, Lewis Kerr, an Irish barrister, a man of enterprise and restless activity, and an ardent advocate for the invasion of Mexico. Many others, who had taken an active part in opposing the prosecution of Burr's adherents, were also arrested by General Wilkinson, and sent to the Federal authorities near the city of Washington. 550
It was on the 14th day of January that General John Adair, of Kentucky, one of the most fearless of men, was arrested at the dinner-table of his hotel by Colonel Kingsbury, at the head of one hundred men, by whom he was taken to the headquarters of General Wilkinson, whence he was removed to Fort St. Philip for security, where he remained until an opportunity offered, when, in company with Peter V. Ogden, he was shipped to Baltimore on board the schooner Thatcher, Ezra Hows master, in charge of Lieutenant Luck and a corporal's guard. General Adair had been an active participant in the enterprise of Burr for the invasion of the Spanish provinces; yet, like all the others who were indicted for the high misdemeanor, he was finally discharged for want of sufficient proof. 551
General Adair had long been known as one of the most active and fearless men in the United States; his courage was proverbial, even in Kentucky ; and no man entertained a stronger aversion to the power of Spain in the South and West. Hence the expulsion of the Spaniards from Florida, and the invasion of Mexico, were not repugnant to his feelings.
In his route through the Indian nations to New Orleans in the autumn of 1806, he traversed the country from Nashville southward to the new settlements, on the Lower Tombigby; thence, by way of Pascagoula and Pearl River, to New Orleans.
During the month of January great excitement prevailed in New Orleans; the troops were kept continually marching through the streets of the city, the volunteer "Battalion of New Orleans" was upon constant duty, and the city and its environs
presented the appearance of a besieged town, with numerous gun-boats and armed vessels in port, and stationed at different points upon the river and adjacent lakes. In all the active measures of defense, Governor Claiborne sustained the commander-in-chief by the whole weight of his influence and authority. The proceedings of both officers were approved by a large majority of the resident inhabitants of the city and the adjacent territories.
Yet there were hundreds of transient persons and a few resident citizens, some holding high offices of trust and honor, who joined in the clamor against the usurpations of the governor and the commanding general.
Such denounced in no measured terms the military arrests as unwarrantable assumptions of power and gross violations of the Federal Constitution, meriting the severest vengeance of the law; they declared that military despotism had superseded the civil authority, and had trampled the Constitution under foot upon the idle pretext of a plot to overthrow the government. Hundreds of emigrants and strangers, comparatively, were suddenly inspired with a deep concern for the inviolability of the Constitution, and a sacred regard for the personal liberty and the right of trial by jury guarantied by that instrument. Even men clothed with the superior judicial authority of the United States were found ready and willing to protect the conspirators with their individual influence in the community, and also with their official power, by means of the writ of "habeas corpus."
Among the violent and vindictive opposers of the measures adopted by Governor Claiborne and General Wilkinson for the suppression of Burr's enterprise, James Workman, judge of the county of Orleans, stands pre-eminent; and second to him may be named Dominic A. Hall, judge of the Superior Territorial Court. Judge Workman was a naturalized Englishman, who had been concerned in the stormy politics of Europe, and had witnessed the scenes which had disgraced Paris during the Reign of Terror, and still retained a bias in favor of revolutionary principles in America. After his collision with General Wilkinson, he omitted no opportunity, and spared no effort, officially as well as in his private capacity, to embarrass his operations for the apprehension of the conspirators and the suppression of the conspiracy, which was then agitating the whole western country.
Such had been the obnoxious character of his opposition early in January, that on the 14th he was himself arrested by a military order, and carried to the headquarters of General Wilkinson, from whose custody he was released next day by a writ of "habeas corpus," issued by Judge Hall of the Superior Territorial Court. From that time he redoubled his efforts, by the exercise of the power of his office, under the guise of imperative duty, and his personal influence, to bring General Wilkinson to condign punishment; but, after weeks of unavailing effort to induce Governor Claiborne to sustain his course, finding that the governor remained firm against his remonstrances, entreaties, and reproaches, in disgust, after a public and undignified appeal to the governor, he adjourned his court sine die, and on the 23d of February, 1807, sent in his resignation; and thus terminated his official authority and his influence in the territory. A few days afterward he was indicted by the grand jury for a high misdemeanor, and charged with being an adherent of Aaron Burr, "in setting on foot a military expedition against the Spanish provinces of Florida and Mexico," for which he was tried on the 4th of March; but the evidence being insufficient for conviction, like his associates, he was discharged. 552
Judge Hall, also an Englishman by birth and predilection, omitted no opportunity to interpose the weight of his official station, as well as his personal influence, to protect the conspirators from the power of the commander-in-chief. The same judge, eight years afterward, as if unconquerably averse to the interests and prosperity of his adopted country, interposed his official authority to arrest the vigorous efforts of Major-general Andrew Jackson in his masterly defense of New Orleans against a powerful British army, thereby contributing to the probable success of the enemy, and facilitating, so far as he was able, their advance against the city.
The result of the conflicting interests, opinions, and feelings of the people, during the excitement of Burr's enterprise, proves the possibility that the judiciary, the great bulwark of freedom, in improper hands, may be converted into a shield for the protection of the most dangerous enemies of the country; far more to be feared than military power itself in virtuous hands. Such had been the use made by unworthy men of the cautious
delay in the administration of justice, as originally provided by American legislators, when brought to bear upon a powerful conspiracy and a popular enterprise. The authority of the highest courts, the forms of making the grand inquest, and the officers of justice for the execution of the laws, may become only so many means of evading the very laws themselves. Courts, judges, attorney-generals, and grand juries may become only so many avenues or instruments for the escape of great offenders. Such might have been observed in the various arrests and discharges, commitments and acquittals, indictments and trials which grew out of the government prosecutions connected with Burr's noted scheme in Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Virginia. Such was the case especially in the city of New Orleans.
Even the grand jury, forgetting that the general safety of the country was a paramount consideration, and that the commander-in-chief was acting under the superior authority and instructions of the President of the United States, attempted to embarrass the operations of General Wilkinson, and to throw censure upon his official conduct, as subversive of the civil authority. Thus, at the January term of the Supreme Court of the territory, holden in the City Hall of New Orleans, the grand jury, 553 among other presentments within the limits of their duties, made one against General Wilkinson for his measures of public safety, which were termed "illegal military despotism," the "forcible suspension of the writ of habeas corpus," contrary to the Constitution of the United States. The fact upon which this presentment was based was the arrest of Samuel Swartwout, Dr. Erick Bollman, Peter V. Ogden, and James Alexander, known agents and emissaries of Aaron Burr. 554
The precaution of the commander-in-chief, in establishing military patrols for the apprehension of suspicious persons
and others who at this time infested the country, and had suddenly appeared from unknown parts, was also presented as a nuisance.
Nor did the malcontents confine themselves to mere verbal remonstrances and denunciations: many, through the press, continued to assail the conduct of the general as arbitrary and despotic, "not required by the exigency of the times," and proceeding from improper motives. To give themselves the semblance of respectability in point of numbers, they were active, indefatigable, and persevering in the clamor raised against the patriotic and faithful execution of the laws.
The mass of the people sustained the governor, as well as the commander-in-chief, although they entered not into the noise and strife of political contention and angry denunciation.
Yet there were many who openly approved his course, and justified him in the exercise of military power for accomplishing his object. By those who were zealous for the suppression of any treasonable enterprise, and were solicitous for the protection of the city and country from anarchy and bloodshed, by the enforcement of the president's commands, such sensibility to military rule, and such affected zeal for the supremacy of the civil authority, were viewed only as an evidence
of their concurrence or participation in the designs of the conspirators, disguised under the cloak of avowed patriotism. It was with the view to sustain the execution of the president's orders that Governor Claiborne, about this time, in his address to the Legislative Council, urged the necessity and the expediency of suspending the constitutional right of the "writ of habeas corpus," until affairs should assume a more tranquil condition. But the council refused to comply.
The governor's zeal and patriotism were approved by the majority of the good citizens, as was likewise the active measures of General Wilkinson for the suppression of any contemplated conspiracy. Among the many evidences of this approbation was an address in behalf of the commercial interests, signed by thirty-one captains of vessels in the port. 555
Meanwhile, Aaron Burr, with a number of boats, a small supply of arms and ammunition, and less than one hundred men, had arrived at the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, in the Mississippi Territory, and had surrendered himself and his immediate attendants into the hands of the civil authorities; had entered into recognizance, had forfeited his bonds, had been proclaimed a fugitive from justice, had been captured upon the Tombigby, delivered into the hands of the commander-in-chief, and was then on his way to stand his trial at Richmond, Virginia, under a charge for "a high misdemeanor." 556
Thus terminated the excitement and alarm which had pervaded the whole West relative to the contemplated separation of the Union, and the invasion of the Spanish provinces.
While these events were transpiring in the vicinity of the Lower Mississippi, the agents and officers of Spain and the United States were active in their explorations upon the upper tributaries of the Arkansas and Red Rivers. During the years 1805 and 1806 the Spanish cavalry had penetrated into the country north of the Upper Arkansas, for the purpose of establishing missions, and forming friendly alliances with the native tribes in that quarter, claiming the regions drained by those rivers. Nor had the agents and officers of the Federal government been idle. After the jealousy of the Spaniards had precluded an examination of Red River by way of Natchitoches, an exploring party was fitted out to advance across the country from the Missouri River to the head waters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, and thence to examine them, to their junctions with the Mississippi. By order of the president, Lieutenant Z. M. Pike, of the first regiment of United States Infantry, on the 24th of June, 1806, received from General James Wilkinson, at St. Louis, his instructions for conducting these explorations. The principal object was to establish a good understanding with the Tetaus, or Camanche Indians, and to examine the country.
The instructions proceed as follows: "As your interview with the Camanches will probably lead you to the head branches of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, you may find yourself approximated to the settlements of New Mexico; and there it will be necessary you should move with great circumspection, to keep clear of any hunting or reconnoitering parties from that province, and to prevent alarm or offense, because the affairs of Spain and the United States appear to be on the point of amicable adjustment; and, moreover, it is the desire of the president to cultivate the friendship and harmonious intercourse of all the nations of the earth, and particularly of our neighbors, the Spaniards." 557
It is evident that a military invasion of Mexico had been deemed a possible event; for Lieutenant Pike, in his communications to General Wilkinson from the "Pawnee Republic," upon the Arkansas, observes, "Any number of men (who may
reasonably be calculated on) would find no difficulty in marching the route we came, with baggage wagons, field artillery, and all the usual appendages of a small army; and I would pledge my life (and, what is infinitely dearer, my honor) for the successful march of a reasonable body of troops into the province of New Mexico." 558
Meantime, while General Wilkinson was operating upon the Lower Mississippi, for the suppression of Burr's plan for the invasion of the Spanish provinces, Lieutenant Pike, with his exploring detachment, had penetrated across the sources of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, when he ascertained that himself, with a portion of his party, were upon the sources of the Rio del Norte, within the Spanish dominions. Having been conducted, unwillingly, by a Spanish troop, to the interior provinces, he was detained by the governor for several months, in company with his attendants; in the following summer he was escorted to the province of Texas, and from thence he proceeded toward the American settlements, and arrived at Natchitoches in July, 1807. Another portion of his party having descended Red River, had reached Fort Adams, on the Mississippi, in the month of February preceding.
The position held by General Wilkinson, in regard to Burr's contemplated invasion of Mexico, has been a subject of doubt and mystery with many, who were but partially acquainted with the history of his political and military life in the West. His intimate connection with the Spanish authorities of Louisiana during his commercial career in Kentucky, from 1787 to 1792; his subsequent epistolary correspondence with the Spanish governor and his agents, while holding a command in the western army of the United States, until the year 1796; and the reception of large sums of money, even at that late period, from the Spanish agents, as also at previous dates, which fact is fully established, all concurred to fix a suspicion upon his conduct, and upon the motives by which he was influenced, and to raise up numerous active enemies to his peace and reputation as an officer in the service of the United States.
During the political troubles and excitement which prevailed in Kentucky previous to the adoption of the state Constitution, there is ample evidence that he belonged to that portion of Kentucky politicians which was known as the Spanish party.
This party, like several others, contemplated a separation of the western country from the Atlantic States on the east and north, and a distinct and independent government, which would secure them the uninterrupted navigation and trade of the Mississippi River.
After the acquisition of Louisiana, he conceived the plan of revolutionizing the Spanish provinces of Mexico and Florida, and took every opportunity of promoting its accomplishment. It was a matter in which he felt a deep interest, and of which he often spoke to his confidential friends as an object worthy of their ambition, and one which, as commander-in-chief of the American army, he expected ultimately to achieve. The plan of this undertaking had been communicated to Colonel Burr and to General Adair, two men of undoubted courage and ambition, as an enterprise in which military distinction and great riches would be the reward of success. At this time difficulties between the Spanish court and the Federal government had increased to such an extent, and border difficulties, east and west of the Mississippi, were so frequent, and so irritating to the impatient people of the West, that the most discerning politicians were in daily apprehension of an open rupture with Spain; and the Spanish authorities, in view of such an event, had re-enforced all the garrisons in Florida and Texas, which latter was claimed as extending to the Arroyo Hondo, in the vicinity of Natchitoches. The western people had imbibed these views, and were impatient to engage in the war, and to embark in an expedition against the Mexican provinces. This expedition, it was hoped, would be organized and conducted under the authority and auspices of the Federal government. The high position occupied by General Wilkinson led him to believe that he should be appointed its leader, in which case he hoped to immortalize himself as the liberator of Mexico. In anticipation of such an event, he had planned the exploring party of Lieutenant Pike, to obtain a more perfect knowledge of the country. 559
This accounts for a paragraph contained in one of his letters to General Adair, in the spring of 1806, and which was subsequently produced as evidence of his connection with Burr's contemplated invasion. In this he remarks, respecting Mexico and Santa Fe, "Do you not know that I have reserved these places for my own triumphal entry? that I have been reconnoitering and exploring the route for sixteen years? that I not only know the way, but all the difficulties, and how to surmount them? I wish I could get leave, and Mexico would soon be ours," &c. 560
Thus it is that General Wilkinson, ignorant of events which were subsequently to transpire, may have used expressions which, with some of his acts at a later period, after Burr's disgrace, might be construed into a participation in his guilt.
On this important and trying occasion, relative to his operations for the defeat of Burr's enterprise, General Wilkinson merits, at the hands of posterity, such judgment as must be sustained by his uniform patriotism, and the tenor of his service in defense of his country both before and after this transaction.
When his military services are reviewed, whether in the revolutionary struggle for independence, or during the subsequent campaigns in the Northwestern Territory against the savages and their Canadian allies, or during his command in the West after the cession of the province of Louisiana, until the occupancy of Fort Charlotte on the Mobile, and his activity and zeal at a later period in preparing for the defense of the southern borders against British invasion, or his conduct while on the Niagara frontier, no one transaction can be adduced which savors of treachery to his government. Whatever may have been his indiscretions, his pecuniary exactions, and his commercial intrigues with the credulous Spaniards, he never was a traitor to his country, or deserted her in the hour of danger.
In resisting the enterprise of Burr and his adherents, Wilkinson necessarily encountered the hostility and the strong opposition of those whom he had formerly esteemed as friends; and so far as his duty to the Federal government was concerned, it is only necessary to witness the fidelity and firmness with which he encountered danger and opposition in suppressing the conspiracy, in obedience to the proclamation of the president and the orders of the executive departments. The finesse of diplomacy which could extort from the Spaniards a ransom for the safety of their provinces does not change this feature of the question.
Meantime, while these events were engrossing the public attention, the territorial Legislature had been engaged in a long and arduous session of more than three months. The important duties of framing and organizing a system of state polity adapted to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and yet so modified as to be acceptable to the Creole population, who had their predilections for the prompt and efficient government of Spain, were completed late in April. County courts were abolished, and in their stead a species of court was organized partaking of the nature of a Spanish commandant's court, and known as parish courts. From these originated the more perfect system of the parish judge's court, which continued in use for nearly forty years afterward. The judge was, ex officio, judge of probate, and performed the duties of sheriff, clerk, and notary public. In the parishes of Lafourche, Point Coupée, at Alexandria, Opelousas, and Attakapas, semi-annual
courts were established, and regular provision made for the due administration of justice. The House of Representatives consisted of twenty-five members, of whom six were elected from the county of Orleans. The territory was divided into nineteen parishes, some of them of great extent; and a committee was appointed to prepare and report to the next Legislature a digest of laws and practice adapted to the new order of things. At the next session, which convened on the 8th of January, 1808, a code of laws was adopted, and the English language was by law introduced into the courts, with the aid of such interpreters as were necessary. This code was based on the "Code Napoleon" of France. 561
[A.D. 1808.] During the summer of 1808, difficulties with Great Britain began to presage an actual outbreak between the two powers. Strong apprehensions of a speedy rupture with that power caused the executive of the United States to provide for the protection of Louisiana against hostile invasion. For this purpose, a large body of regular troops were ordered to the vicinity of New Orleans under the immediate command of General Wilkinson. The exposure of unacclimated troops to the malarious atmosphere of the Terre aux Boeufs at length spread disease among them, and they were removed to the highlands near Fort Adams and Natchez. Embarking in boats on the Mississippi in the middle of September, the most pestilential month in the year, death made sad ravages in their ranks before they reached their destination. During a tedious voyage in boats and barges, propelled up the stream by human strength, after a lapse of forty-seven days, two hundred and forty men had died, and six hundred and thirty-eight were upon the sick-list. Scarcely one hundred men remained fit for duty upon their arrival at Fort Adams and Natchez. 562 The disease which had so terribly thinned their ranks was a malignant scurvy, a most loathsome and fatal disease, which rendered the victims before death a mass of living putrefaction. Doctor Samuel Brown, surgeon to the division, has often declared that he has seen the men, in despair, pluck their putrid tongues from their mouths, and exult in the temporary relief from the corrupt mass. The survivors were cantoned at Fort Adams and at Fort Dearborn, near Washington. Such is the picture of disease and death, induced by a total disregard of the danger
of exposing unacclimated men in the marshes of Louisiana during the autumnal months.
The troops under the command of General Wilkinson during the spring of 1808 had amounted to nearly two thousand of all ranks and grades. Of these, seven hundred and sixty-four had died, and one hundred and sixty-six had deserted, giving a total loss of nine hundred and thirty men sacrificed to a reckless want of prudence in the commander. In the month of August, five hundred and sixty-three had been on the sick-list at one time.
[A.D. 1809.] Soon after the accession of Mr. Madison to the presidential chair commenced that fatal interference with the military organization of the war department which was so disastrous to the American arms until the second year of the war with Great Britain. Such had been the mortality among the troops under General Wilkinson, that he was suspended from his command by the appointment of General Wade Hampton on the 19th of December, when he was summoned to appear in Washington city, and submit his official conduct for the last five years to the scrutiny of a court of inquiry. After the necessary delay, he resumed his command on the Lower Mississippi.
[A.D. 1810.] The Spaniards still held possession of the district and government of Baton Rouge, embracing the east bank of the Mississippi, from the line of demarkation to the Bayou Iberville, and extending eastward to the Pearl River. As has been before observed, this district comprised many Anglo-Americans and emigrants from the United States, who, as early as 1805, had made efforts to throw off the Spanish authority and to place themselves under the protection of the United States. Although they had failed in a former attempt, they had not abandoned the object of their desire. Meantime, many emigrants from the Ohio region, and from the adjacent territories of Mississippi and Orleans, had taken up their residence within the Spanish limits, carrying with them no small degree of repugnance to the Spanish authority, of which they gradually became more and more impatient.
The summer of 1810 presented a favorable opportunity to renew their attempt to throw off their allegiance. The garrison at Baton Rouge was at this time reduced to a mere detachment of troops, too feeble to offer any serious resistance to
a vigorous revolt. Under these circumstances, the people of the settlements near the Bayou Sara took up arms, and, having formed themselves into a company, were soon re-enforced by volunteers from the Mississippi Territory. This force, under the direction of daring leaders, took up the line of march for Baton Rouge. The garrison at that place, unable to offer any effectual resistance, surrendered at discretion. 563 The troops and the civil authorities were permitted to retire peaceably to Pensacola.
A provisional government was established and a convention ordered, which was to consist of delegates from the different settlements, for the formation of a constitution preparatory to the adoption of a state government. This Convention constituted the supreme legislative authority of the "Florida Territory" until superseded by the authority of the United States.
The Convention assembled at Baton Rouge late in September, and after a full discussion of the political condition of the country, a Declaration of Independence was adopted upon the 26th of September. In this declaration the Convention recited their former fidelity to their legitimate sovereign, the King of Spain, which had been manifested by repeated instances of devotion to the royal government while any hope remained of receiving protection to their property and lives; that they had voluntarily, adopted certain regulations, in concert with their chief magistrate, for the express purpose of preserving that territory and showing their attachment to the government which had heretofore protected them; but measures intended
for their preservation were, by the governor, perverted into an engine of destruction, by a most perfidious violation of ordinances sanctioned and established by himself as the law of the land. They therefore declared themselves absolved from all allegiance to a government which no longer protected them, and declared "the territory of West Florida a free and independent state." 564
A Constitution was adopted, and a form of state government organized under the name of the "State of Florida," and Fulwar Skipworth was appointed governor.
On the 11th of October the Convention ordered a formal application, through its president, John Rhea, to the Federal authorities of the United States for admission into the Union. This application was transmitted through Governor Holmes of the Mississippi Territory, to the acting Secretary of State for the United States. It "expresses the hope and desire that this commonwealth may be immediately acknowledged and protected as an integral part of the American Union," and requests "the most direct and unequivocal assurances of the views and wishes of the American government without delay, since our weak and unprotected situation will oblige us to look to some foreign government for support, should it be refused by the country which we have considered as our parent state." 565
In case "the United States recognize their claim to protection," the Convention, in behalf of their constituents, claims
immediate admission into the Union as an independent state, or as a territory of the United States, with permission to adopt their own form of government, or to be annexed to one of the adjacent territories, more especially to that of Orleans. They solicit, also, a loan of one hundred thousand dollars, upon the guarantee of the public lands, and permission to be governed by their own laws, enacted by the Convention, until annexation is consummated.
The Federal government had never ceased to regard this part of West Florida as properly a portion of Louisiana, ceded by the treaty of Paris. The continued occupancy by the Spanish authorities had been permitted only from a conciliatory policy toward Spain, in hopes that his Catholic majesty would ultimately yield possession by amicable negotiation; but now the dominion of Spain had been renounced by the people themselves; and Congress, deeming it expedient for the good government and tranquility of the country, directed the president to take immediate possession, and extend over it the authority and jurisdiction of the United States. Accordingly, on the 27th of October, 1810, he issued his proclamation, announcing that William C. C. Claiborne, governor of the Territory of Orleans, was empowered to take possession of the same in the name of the United States, as a portion of the territory under his jurisdiction; to organize the militia, prescribe the bounds of parishes, establish parish courts, and otherwise fully to incorporate the people of this territory with those already under his rule, and to place them, as far as practicable, on the same footing with the inhabitants of the other districts. 566
The same day, instructions were issued to Governor Claiborne to carry out the requisitions of the proclamation.
The authority of the United States was peaceably extended over the country about the 7th of December following. Governor
Claiborne, returning from a visit to the Middle States, called on Governor Holmes, of the Mississippi Territory, who promptly furnished him with a detachment of militia and a volunteer troop of cavalry. At the head of these he advanced to St. Francisville, where he raised the flag of the United States in token of possession.
The people submitted cheerfully to his authority, and his proclamation issued soon afterward made the event generally known. By a subsequent proclamation, the "Florida District" was annexed to the jurisdiction of the Territory of Orleans, subdivided into the parishes of Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. 567 The district and town of Mobile, with Fort Charlotte, were not included or disturbed, Governor Claiborne having been specially instructed to make no forcible occupancy of any post or district occupied by any Spanish garrison, or wherein the Spanish authority was respected.
Thus was the limit of the present State of Louisiana first extended northward, on the east side of the Mississippi, to the old Spanish line of demarkation.
The population of the Territory of Orleans had been augmented annually by emigration from the United States. According to the census of 1810, the whole territory, exclusive of the Florida parishes, contained an aggregate of 76,550 souls. Of this number, the city of New Orleans and its precincts contained 24,552 persons, leaving 52,000 souls for the remainder of the territory. 568 Besides these, the inhabitants of the Florida parishes amounted, probably, to not less than twenty-five hundred, including slaves.
[A.D. 1811.] Early in January following, the territory was
thrown into a state of alarm and agitation by a rising among the slaves in the parish of St. John Baptist, about thirty-six miles above New Orleans. Soon after the first outbreak, they formed into companies on the east bank of the Mississippi, and marched toward the city, with flags displayed, to the sound of martial music. The slaves of such plantations as they passed were compelled to join their ranks. The whole number engaged in this outbreak was estimated at nearly five hundred, before they were arrested by the militia of the adjoining parishes. General Hampton immediately ordered the regular troops from Baton Rouge and Fort St. Charles to advance toward the seat of revolt. The insurgents succeeded in destroying only a few plantations before they were subdued. They encountered the militia, but were soon surrounded and routed, with the loss of sixty-six killed, or hung immediately afterward. Many fled to the swamps to avoid pursuit, and a number of the wounded subsequently died. Sixteen others, who had taken a prominent part in the insurrection, were carried to New Orleans, where they were tried, convicted, and executed in an exemplary manner, after which their heads were exposed on poles at different points along the river. A detachment of the regular troops was stationed in the vicinity until tranquility was fully restored. 569
The next session of the General Assembly, on account of the late insurrection, was deferred until the fourth Monday in January, when the first attention was directed to the newly-annexed Florida parishes. An act provided for a representation from each of these parishes in the General Assembly. Two new judicial districts were organized, one for the Florida parishes, designated Feliciana District, and one on Black River, known as Catahoola District. The same session Vidalia was made the seat of justice for Concordia Parish, then extending from the mouth of Red River to the northern limit of the present state, and comprising the west bank of the Mississippi for two hundred and fifty miles. Two banks were also chartered the same session, the "Planters' Bank" and the "Bank of Orleans;" the first with a capital of six hundred thousand dollars, for a period of fifteen years; the second, with a capital of five hundred thousand dollars, for fifteen years also. 570
Meantime, Congress, by an act approved February 11th,
1811, had authorized the election of a convention to adopt a Constitution, preparatory to the admission of the territory into the Union as an independent state.
The Convention, consisting of sixty delegates from the original parishes, met according to law, on the first Monday in November, and concluded its labors on the 22d day of January following, having adopted a Constitution for the proposed new "State of Louisiana." 571
This Constitution contained the general features of other state constitutions which had preceded it, except those peculiarities resulting from the institution of slavery, which was strongly protected and sustained. Clergymen or priests were made ineligible to seats in the Legislature and to the office of governor. The boundaries of Louisiana were restricted to the Sabine on the west. On the east side of the Mississippi the territory represented in the Convention included only the Island of New Orleans, exclusive of the annexed Florida parishes.
By this Constitution, the legislative powers were vested in a General Assembly, composed of a Senate and House of Representatives. The number of representatives was to be regulated by the number of qualified voters, or electors, to ascertain which, a census was directed every four years. The state was divided into fourteen senatorial districts, which were to remain forever indivisible, and each district was entitled to one senator. Senators were to be elected for six years, and one third of the number goes out every two years. In each house a majority of the members constituted a quorum; but a less number could adjourn and compel the attendance of members. 572
The governor is elected every four years by the Legislature, on the second day of the session, from the two highest candidates returned by the popular vote: he must be at least thirty-five years old, holding in his own right a landed estate worth five thousand dollars, and have resided in the state six years next preceding his election.
The subordinate officers, executive and judicial, are mostly appointed by the governor, with the approbation of the Senate. In many respects the Constitution of Louisiana was much less
Democratic than that of Kentucky, after which it was modeled. 573 This Constitution continued in force until January, 1846, when it was superseded by a new one thoroughly Democratic in its general features, restricting the patronage of the governor by placing the election of judicial and executive officers chiefly in the hands of the people.
[A.D. 1812.] The Constitution was accepted by Congress, and the State of Louisiana was formally admitted into the Union on the 8th day of April, 1812, upon an equal footing with the original states, from and after the 30th day of April, it being the ninth anniversary of the treaty of Paris. 574
A few days subsequently, a "supplemental act" of Congress extended the limits of the new state by the addition of the Florida parishes. This gave it the boundaries it has at present; the Pearl River on the east, and Ellicott's line on the north. This act was entitled "An act to enlarge the limits of the State of Louisiana," and was approved April 14th, 1812. The supplemental act required the Legislature of Louisiana, provided it assented to the proposed union, to make provision at its next session for giving the people of the above parishes a fair and equal representation in their body, and place them in all respects upon the same footing with other portions of the state. 575
The proposed annexation was readily assented to by the Legislature, and the act thereby completed. Thus it happened that the inhabitants of the Florida parishes had no voice in framing the first Constitution of the state, which had been formed and approved by Congress previous to the consummation of the above measure.
In June following, the first election was held under the Constitution for a governor and the two Houses of the Legislature. The Legislature convened on the first Monday of July, and the next day the two Houses proceeded to elect the governor from the two highest candidates returned by the people. These were William C. C. Claiborne and M. Villère; from whom the Legislature chose the former as the first governor of the State of Louisiana.
The Legislature proceeded to the important duties of organizing
the state government, by the appointment of executive and judicial officers, and the passage of such acts as were requisite.
Meantime, General Wilkinson had been restored to his command of the seventh military district. The charges which had been preferred against him had been formally investigated by a court of inquiry, at Frederictown, in Maryland, and after a protracted trial he was honorably acquitted, none of them having been sustained.
The charges, of which a copy had been furnished to him on the 11th of July, embraced the following leading points, viz.:
1. Collusion with the Spanish authorities for the separation of the western people from the Atlantic States, and receiving large sums of money from Spain.
2. Collusion with Aaron Burr in his design of invading Mexico while at peace with the United States, and being accessary to the conspiracy.
3. A prodigal waste of public money as commander-in-chief; and, finally,
4. Disobedience of orders.
[A.D. 1813.] At this time there had been quite a large emigration from Kentucky and other states of the Union to Louisiana, yet the greater portion of the permanent residents were Creole French and foreigners. The people of France, under the treaty of cession, were entitled to certain commercial privileges for twelve years, without becoming citizens of the United States. This term had not yet expired.
The principal American population, speaking the English language, were to be found in New Orleans, and at some towns on the coast; a few Americans had settled upon the bayous of Red River, near Alexandria, and in the parish of Opelousas. The inhabitants distributed on the Washita were chiefly French; those east of the Washita, and north of the mouth of Red River, were mostly American emigrants. The largest Anglo-American settlements in the state speaking the English language were those on the east side of the Mississippi River, in the uplands, between Baton Rouge and Ellicott's line.
The French were concentrated principally in New Orleans, on the river-coast below Baton Rouge, on the Bayous
Lafourche, Plaquemines, Atchafalaya, Teche, and other connecting bayous, and in the prairies south and west of the Mississippi, below the mouth of Red River. The whole population of the state, exclusive of Indians, in all probability exceeded eighty-five thousand persons at the beginning of the year 1813. The number of people increased but little until after the close of the contest with Great Britain.
During the war, which raged with great violence on the northwestern borders, as well as upon the Atlantic coast, Louisiana, although in constant apprehension of danger, was not molested by the enemy until the close of the year 1814.
From the first indication of a hostile disposition on the part of Great Britain, and several months previous to the declaration of war, General Wilkinson had urged upon the Federal executive the vast importance of adequate fortifications on the whole coast of Louisiana, and especially on the east side of the Mississippi River as far as Mobile. As early as the 28th of March, 1812, the general had fully apprised Mr. Madison of the assailable nature of the coast, and had designated the defenses requisite for the protection of New Orleans, which would require a complement of ten thousand men with ample munitions of war, in case of a formidable invasion. 576 But Mr. Madison, strangely infatuated relative to the security of the country, disregarded the admonition. After the declaration of war, General Wilkinson continued to urge upon the president and the war department the danger to be apprehended from British troops occupying the Spanish ports of Mobile and Pensacola, upon the southern frontier. He also urged the importance of providing a principal dépôt of military stores and arsenals at Cantonment Dearborn, in the Mississippi Territory, or at some other secure place at a convenient distance from the assailable points; 577 also strong fortifications on the passes of the Mississippi River, especially at the Balize, Fort St. Philip, and the English Turn, for preventing the advance of a hostile squadron against the city of New Orleans. He pointed out, too, the necessity of defending the passes of Chef Menteur, Terre aux Boeufs, Bayou Bienvenu, Petite Coquilles, Rivière au Chene, and Mobile Point, to prevent the entrance of small vessels into the lakes and bays along the coast. 578 He likewise pressed the establishment of a flotilla of gun-boats, to guard the
passes in the shoal water of the lakes and bayous; and the use of steam-boats on the Mississippi, and in high tides, for the transport of troops, munitions, artillery, and provisions. "Without these boats," said he, "the obstructions from the currents, calms, and adverse winds must forbid all calculations of punctuality on the Mississippi and the lakes."
In August, 1812, after war had been declared, and an invasion of the southern coast threatened, such was the danger and the exposed position of his command, as regards every thing like permanent protection, that General Wilkinson called a "council of war" to devise the future course of defensive operations. The decision of the council was unanimous in favor of the plan above indicated. 579Yet such was the unaccountable neglect, or the want of capacity in Mr. Madison's cabinet, that little or nothing was accomplished for the security of this portion of the country, while their whole attention was devoted to futile efforts at points not endangered.
The same incapacity, willful blindness, or incorrigible "obstinacy," as General Wilkinson termed it, in the conduct of Mr. Madison's counselors, continued to embarrass every subsequent effort for the safety of New Orleans. Under the pretext of "economy," the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, was permitted to withhold the means of defense, to disconcert every measure, and mar every proposition for the protection of New Orleans. 580 At length, in June, 1813, at the most critical period of affairs on the southern borders, as if to remove all obstacles to the successful advance of the British forces and their savage allies, and to expose the whole southern frontier to an easy conquest, the treacherous Secretary of War was allowed to remove General Wilkinson from his command, and substitute General Flournoy, a man without military talent, or the slightest pretensions to the qualifications of commander-in-chief.
[A.D. 1814.] During the next twelve months General Flournoy signalized himself in the seventh military district by holding the troops under his command in inglorious inactivity, and throwing obstacles in the way of the territorial authorities for the speedy termination of the Creek war, while General
Wilkinson, with military talents and undoubted courage, was detained an idle spectator at the seat of government, to witness its destruction by a British army, and the ignominious flight of the president and his cabinet from the capital of the Union, and this, too, all under the pretext that "the South and New Orleans were not safe in his keeping," when the courage and talents of Wilkinson, even at the head of the militia assembled for its security, would have driven the foe ingloriously from the soil, and have preserved the Capitol from desecration.
Hence it was that toward the close of the year 1814, when the British fleet, with a powerful army, finally approached the coast, prepared for the contemplated attack, the South was unprotected; the defenses were weak; the magazines were empty; there was a deficiency of munitions and stores, of clothing and ammunition, and all the requisites of defensive warfare. 581
Such was the condition of Louisiana in the autumn of 1814, when General Andrew Jackson took command of the seventh military district. It was only after almost incredible efforts to surmount the obstacles to success, and, as it were, in spite of the indecision of the president, and the criminal neglect in the war department, that he, with a mere handful of men, succeeded in defending the country, and driving back the invader with unparalleled slaughter and defeat. 582
Having terminated the Creek war with brilliant success, and completely humbled the hostile Creeks, and forced the remnant of the nation east of the Coosa and Tallapoosa, General Jackson had retired to his residence in Tennessee; but the clouds of war were gathering in the South, and Louisiana was menaced with foreign invasion, when he was again called to the field. Hastening to the seat of war, he issued his call to the Tennessee volunteers again to follow him to the camp, while he advanced to direct the movements of the troops on the southern frontier.
Before the last of November he had given a signal repulse to a division of the British fleet and army before Fort Bowyer, on Mobile Point, and had effectually enforced neutrality upon the perfidious Spaniards of Pensacola, when he turned his face toward New Orleans, the ultimate object of a powerful British armament in the Gulf of Mexico.
To arrest the progress, and to defeat the ultimate designs of the enemy, General Jackson lost no time in repairing to the city to superintend the requisite preparations for defense. While his cavalry, under General Coffee and Major Hinds, advanced from the Pine Barrens, near Mobile, to recruit their horses in the vicinity of Baton Rouge and Woodville, he ordered the artillery to proceed by slow and easy marches to New Orleans.
On the 2d of December he established his headquarters in the city, from which he conducted his operations with incredible energy and skill for the security and safety of the commercial emporium of the Southwest.
At this time Louisiana contained a large mixed population, besides the Americans and patriotic French. The citizens were ill supplied with arms, with little or no organization of the militia, and without any effectual means to repel invasion. No troops, arms, or ammunition had yet arrived from the Ohio. The only means of resistance on which General Jackson could rely were the few regular troops at that place, and the patriotic volunteers of the city, until the arrival of the cavalry and infantry from Mobile, and other new levies expected from Kentucky and Tennessee. At such a time as this, it required all the cool decision, the energy, and fearless tranquillity of General Jackson to inspire confidence and courage in the people of Louisiana.
In all his plans for the protection of the city, the general found Governor Claiborne ready to co-operate, and to lend, not only his official influence and authority, but also his individual services in frustrating the designs of the foe.
On the 9th of December intelligence was received in New Orleans that a British fleet of sixty sail of war vessels, with numerous transports, was lying off the mouth of the Mississippi. A public meeting was held in the city, with Edward Livingston presiding, for the purpose of devising means to aid the civil and military authorities in the defense of the country. A resolution was unanimously adopted, declaring, in emphatic language, the firm attachment of the people to the American government, and their determination to oppose the enemy by every means in their power. 583
Yet there were many foreigners, Spaniards, and other disaffected persons, insidiously moving about the city in the mixed
population, who evinced no desire to offer any opposition to the approach of the enemy. Notwithstanding the citizens of New Orleans, even the free persons of color, manifested the greatest alacrity in organizing volunteer companies, and in preparing to take the field, yet it was far otherwise in many of the agricultural districts among the Creole French. They took scarce any interest in the war, and evinced but little disposition to resist the invader. Notwithstanding a general order of the governor, issued several weeks previously, upon a requisition of General Jackson while at Mobile, requiring the two divisions of the Louisiana militia, under Major-generals Villère and Thomas, to hold themselves in continued readiness to march at the first call, they had disregarded the order so far that scarcely any militia organization existed, and discipline was unknown.
To remedy this defect, General Jackson was unremitting in his exertions to rouse the people to a sense of their danger, and to complete the formation of the different volunteer companies for active service. A patriotic appeal was made to the people in an animated address from the governor, calling upon them to rise en masse for the defense of their homes and families. Orders were issued for the immediate advance of the cavalry from their rendezvous at Baton Rouge and Woodville; a demand was made for troops and arms from the Governor of the Mississippi Territory, and measures were taken to expedite the new levies from Kentucky and Tennessee.
The chief security of New Orleans from immediate danger was found in the nature of the surrounding country. The shoal coast, with its shallow lakes and bays, and the narrow inlets on every side, was of itself a barrier to the near approach of large vessels of war. Many of the inlets and passes were susceptible of such obstruction as would preclude the entrance of large boats and barges; or they might be effectually guarded by a proper force. The river itself afforded the only channel by which heavy vessels of war could approach the city; this channel, by means of the tortuous course of the river, and the impetuosity of the current, was susceptible of being strongly defended against ascending vessels. Yet the means and resources at the command of the general were inadequate to the accomplishment of all these objects, and for guarding every avenue through which the enemy might enter. 584
The Legislature having been convened, was already in session, but their counsels were no support to the commanding general. Instead of providing actively for the defense of the city, they wasted time in idle discussions, which tended to embarrass judicious measures. But for the perseverance and firmness of General Jackson, and the zealous co-operation of the patriotic governor, New Orleans would have fallen an easy prey to the enemy. But General Jackson, by his presence and energy, inspired confidence in the people to sustain him in the plans he had adopted.
Personally inspecting all the places to be fortified, as well as all the bayous and inlets, he caused all the latter situated near the river, from the Atchafalaya to Chef Menteur Pass, to be obstructed, so as to prevent the passage of boats and military stores. The points below the city on the river were strongly fortified, so as to prevent vessels from ascending. A battery with a sufficient guard was erected on Chef Menteur Pass. On the arrival of the troops from Mobile, one thousand regulars were stationed in the city, which, with the co-operation of the volunteers and militia of Louisiana, were distributed for the security of the most assailable points.
Meantime, the enemy had been unremitting in his preparations for the capture and destruction of New Orleans. His vessels, boats, and spies were engaged in exploring the country south and east of the city, and searching for the most practicable avenues to the banks of the river, and acquainting themselves with the general topography of the country, being aided by the Spanish fishermen and others frequenting the place.
On the 12th of December the enemy's fleet was discovered in great force off Cat Island, near the entrance of Lake Borgne. The commander of the naval station, Commodore Patterson, dispatched a flotilla of five gun-boats, under Lieutenant Jones, to observe the enemy, and to impede his advance by way of the lakes. Lieutenant Jones sailed for the Bay of St. Louis, where, having observed the enemy's position, he determined to occupy the pass which communicates with Lake Pontchartrain, for the purpose of opposing the entrance of the British barges and light craft. Before this resolution could be effected, the enemy attacked the flotilla in the Bay of St. Louis, and one of the gun-boats, the Sea-horse, after a gallant resistance, was captured. On the 14th, the gun-boats, while
becalmed, were again attacked by an overwhelming force of forty-three barges, carrying twelve hundred men. After a severe contest of one hour with this superior force, they were compelled to surrender at discretion. In this engagement the loss of the Americans was six men killed and thirty-five wounded. Among the latter were Lieutenants Spidden, Jones, and M'Keever. The loss of the English is believed to have been not less than three hundred killed and wounded. 585
The capture of the gun-boats placed the enemy in a condition to choose the point of attack, and at the same time deprived the Americans of the principal means of observing his movements upon the lakes lying east and north of New Orleans. Thus circumstanced, the commander-in-chief ordered the battalion of colored men under Major Lacoste, together with the Feliciana dragoons, to take post on the Gentilly Road conducting to the city, and to defend the pass Chef Menteur, leading from Lake Borgne into Lake Pontchartrain. Captain Newman, of the artillery, commanding the fort on the Rigolets, was ordered to maintain that post to the last extremity. 586
Meantime, General Jackson, convinced that the enemy would soon make a demonstration against the city, became extremely solicitous for its safety, on account of the inadequate means of defense placed within his control. General Coffee having been delayed in his progress from Baton Rouge by high waters and inclement weather, an express was dispatched to meet him with orders to hasten to the seat of danger with the utmost celerity, and "not to sleep until he arrived." Every effort was used to expedite the advancing troops from Louisiana, the Mississippi Territory, and those expected from Kentucky and Tennessee. The few steamers which then plied between New Orleans and Natchez were employed in meeting the advancing flat-boats and barges, and transporting their troops, arms, and munitions to the points of attack. General Coffee, who received the express from the commander-in-chief on the 17th of December, at Baton Rouge, took up the line of march without delay, and on the 19th he encamped within fifteen miles of New Orleans, having marched one hundred and fifty miles, with twelve hundred mounted volunteers, in two days. Major Hinds, with the Mississippi dragoons, hastened from Woodville with equal celerity. 587
The enemy was already in possession of the lakes, and was indefatigable in his efforts to approach the banks of the Mississippi through some of the numerous bayous which intersected the country. To his great mortification and disappointment, all those above the city had been completely obstructed by General Jackson, or so securely defended that no advance could be made in that quarter.
Other measures were adopted with great expedition. Colonel Fortier, one of the principal merchants of the city, who had the superintendence of the colored volunteer companies, formed a second battalion, which was placed under the command of Major Daquin. By means of bounties, a number of persons were induced to serve on board the schooner Caroline and the brig Louisiana, thus in part supplying the places of the sailors who had been lost in the gun-boats.
On the 18th, the commander-in-chief reviewed the city regiments, and was particularly gratified with the uniform companies under Major Plauche. The battalion of the latter, with a company of light artillery under Lieutenant Wagner, was ordered to Fort St. John, for the protection of the Bayou St. John, which presented an accessible route from Lake Pontchartrain to the upper part of the banks of the Mississippi, above the city. An embargo for three days was decreed by the Legislature; a number of persons confined in the prisons were liberated upon condition of their serving in the ranks; and at length, the commander-in-chief conceived it indispensable for the safety of the country to proclaim martial law, a measure which greatly contributed to the salvation of the city, and has since been sanctioned by the verdict of one generation. 588
About the same time, Lafitte and his band of Baratarian smugglers and pirates, who had carried on their illicit operations from an almost inaccessible island in Lake Barataria, availed themselves of the amnesty and pardon offered them by Governor Claiborne, on condition that they would come forward and aid in the defense of the country. They also joined the American forces, and took position under General Jackson. These men, under their daring leader, rendered important services during the subsequent attack on the city, and well merited the pardon of the civil government. The whole number of troops of every description in New Orleans and its vicinity
on the 20th of December was upward of four thousand men. 589
All the principal bayous which communicated between Lake Pontchartrain and the river had been closed or obstructed by order of General Jackson. There was a bayou, known as Bayou Bienvenu, which opened a communication from Lake Borgne nearly to the Mississippi, at the plantation of General Villère, seven miles below the city. Although this was known to only a few fishermen, and was supposed to afford but few facilities for the approach of an invading army, General Jackson ordered it to be blocked up by fallen timber and securely guarded. A small force, for observation, was accordingly placed near its mouth, on the lake, at the cabins of some Spanish fishermen, who, as afterward appeared, were in the interest of the British; but the obstruction of the bayou was neglected or forgotten by General Villère, to whom it was referred. This proved to be the route selected by the foe for his passage to the Mississippi below the city.
On the 22d, guided by those fishermen, a division of the enemy under General Keane, amounting to three thousand men, advancing in boats, came suddenly upon the American guard about dark, and took them all prisoners. By four o'clock on the morning of the 23d, they had reached the end of Villère's Canal, near the head of the bayou, with five barges full of troops, and some artillery. Here they disembarked and rested some hours, after which they proceeded to the left bank of the Mississippi, where they arrived at two o'clock P.M. General Villère's house was immediately surrounded, as was also that of his neighbor, Colonel La Rondé. But Colonel La Rondé, as well as a son of General Villère, were so fortunate as to escape; and, hastening to headquarters, they communicated the first intelligence of the approach of the English. 590
The commander-in-chief resolved instantly upon the only proper course to be pursued. This was, to attack the enemy in their new position without the loss of a moment. In one hour's time, Coffee's riflemen, stationed above the city, were at the place of rendezvous; the battalion of Major Plauche had arrived from the bayou; and the regulars and city volunteers were ready to march. At six o'clock in the evening the different corps were united at Rodrigue's Canal, six miles below
the city. The schooner Caroline, Captain Henley, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Patterson, at the same time dropped down the river, and the Louisiana was ordered to follow. General Coffee's division, together with Captain Beale's riflemen, was placed on the extreme left, toward the woods; the city volunteers and the men of color, under Plauche and Daquin, both commanded by Colonel Ross, were stationed in the center; and on the right were the seventh and forty-fourth regiments of United States troops, while the artillery and marines, under Colonel M'Rae, occupied the road. This whole force scarcely exceeded two thousand in numbers.
The British troops, amounting to three thousand men, upon their arrival on the bank of the Mississippi, instead of pushing directly toward the city, had bivouacked, with their right resting upon a wood and their left on the river, in the full conviction that the most difficult part of the enterprise had already been achieved.
General Coffee was ordered to turn their right and attack them in the rear; General Jackson in person, with the main body of the army, assailed them in front and on their left. A fire from the Caroline was to be the signal for the attack. The river was nearly on a level with the banks; and at half past seven o clock, it being already dark, the action commenced by a raking broad-side of grape and canister from the schooner, directed by the light in the enemy's camp; and this gave him the first intimation of the approach of the Americans. Coffee's men, having dismounted, with their usual impetuosity rushed to the attack and entered the British lines; those in the front and on the right, under the immediate command of General Jackson, advanced with equal ardor.
The enemy, engaged in camp duties, was taken by surprise at the terrible discharge from the schooner, which actually drove the troops from the exposed part of the camp, after nearly one hundred of them had been killed. All the lights were immediately extinguished, to conceal the troops from the fire of the vessel. The confusion which at first spread through the camp at length ceased, and order was restored; not, however, until nearly four hundred men had been killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. The battle continued with great vivacity for about one hour, at which time the enemy had fallen back nearly a mile. During the action, he had been re-enforced by a detachment
of one thousand men, who were advancing from the lake.
At length the darkness of the night, and the uncertainty of any effective movement, induced General Jackson to call off the troops from prosecuting the attack.
At the commencement of this engagement, General Morgan, with a detachment of three hundred and fifty Louisiana militia, was stationed at the English Turn, upon the left bank of the river. When the guns of the Caroline announced the contest with the enemy, finding it impossible to restrain the ardor of his men, he led them toward the scene of action. About eleven o'clock at night he reached the plantation of M. Jumonville, adjoining that of General Villère, where his advanced guard came in collision with a picket of the enemy, which, after a few fires, retreated to the main line. Before daylight, General Morgan retired from this critical position. 591
Next morning, at four o'clock, General Jackson fell back nearly two miles nearer the city, and took up a position on the left bank of the river, where the swamp approaches within some half a mile of its shore. Here he determined to make a stand, and erect his line of defense on the upper side of a mill-race canal leading from the river to the lake.
In the action of the night of the 23d of December, the Americans lost twenty-four men killed and one hundred and fifteen wounded. Seventy-four men were taken prisoners, including many of the principal citizens of New Orleans. Among the slain was Colonel Lauderdale, of Tennessee, a brave soldier, greatly regretted. The loss of the British was estimated at four hundred, killed, wounded, and missing. 592
This prompt and energetic attack taught the British commanders a lesson of caution, and was virtually the salvation of the city. Believing the American force much more numerous than it was, they suspended any further advance until their main force was received from the lake.
General Jackson, without delay, commenced his defenses on the upper side of the ditch, which was enlarged. An embankment of earth, and such materials as were accessible, was commenced, and urged forward with great vigor, extending from the river to the low swamp, a distance of nearly one
mile. The ground was flat and wet; the ditches were filled with water within a few feet of the surface; the river was on a level with its hanks, and in many places the levee alone protected the adjacent marshes from inundation. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to procure dry earth for a heavy embankment; but the commander, ever fruitful in resources, was not without an expedient. In the city of New Orleans were several thousand cotton-bales in store, which, in case of defeat, would fall into the hands of the British. To secure his own troops from the enemy's fire, and to deprive him of a portion of his anticipated "booty," the American general resolved to appropriate it to his own use. The cotton was pressed into the service, and, with the aid of hundreds of drays from the city, an impenetrable wall of earth and cotton-bales began to extend from the river to the swamp. Built up in regular order, and cemented with earth, like bricks in a wall, the cotton-bales soon formed an impregnable barrier, not only to small arms and light artillery, but against the most impetuous charge of infantry, while on its inner side it afforded a firm and useful banquette. The front was protected by a deep and wide ditch, filled nearly to the top with water. Such was the line of defense on the fields of Chalmette. 593
The enemy was indefatigable in fortifying his position and in expediting the advance of his remaining troops from the lakes, while he kept up an incessant cannonade against every part of the American works.
In the mean time, General Jackson caused the levee to be cut about four hundred yards below his line, so as to discharge a broad stream of water, which, by flooding the whole plain in front of the enemy, embarrassed his advance. The following day orders were sent to General Morgan, at the English Turn, to send a detachment of men up the river, as near the enemy's encampment as prudent, and there cut the levee, so as to inundate the lands below his camp, and thus to insulate him, and prevent him from marching either up or down. After executing this order, General Morgan was instructed to destroy the fort at the English Turn, retire across the river, and take a stand nearly opposite the American army. 594
The Louisiana had joined the Caroline, and both continuing to annoy the British from the opposite shore, the latter began to construct hot-shot batteries for their destruction. On the 27th these were completed, and commenced throwing their fiery missiles. A strong north wind prevented the vessels from escaping up the river, and the Caroline was soon set on fire, and blew up about an hour after she had been abandoned by her crew. The Louisiana next sustained the fire of their batteries, and was in imminent danger of sharing the same fate as the Caroline; but her commander, Lieutenant Thompson, after encountering many difficulties, finally succeeded in extricating her from her perilous situation, soon after which she was anchored on the right flank of General Jackson's position. 595
After the burning of the Caroline, Sir Edward Pakenham, commander-in-chief of the British army, having landed the main body of his forces, with a heavy train of artillery, proceeded in person to superintend the arrangements for attacking the American lines. On the 28th he advanced up the bank of the river along the levee, with the intention of driving Jackson into the city. At the distance of half a mile, he commenced the attack with a furious display of rockets, bombs, and artillery. When he came within reach, the Louisiana and the batteries along the American works opened upon him a most destructive fire. For seven hours the cannonade and bombardment was continued, when the British general, having his columns broken and driven back, relinquished the attack, and retired to his intrenchments. The loss of the Americans in this attack was seven men killed and ten wounded. Among the former was Colonel Henderson, of Tennessee, a highly meritorious officer. The loss of the British forces during the operations of this day was not less than two hundred and fifty men killed and wounded. 596
During the next three days the British commanders were actively engaged in bringing up their re-enforcements and in making preparations to storm the American lines. The American commander daily became more confident of his strength, and infused new confidence into his companions in arms.
[A.D. 1815.] On the morning of the first day of January,
Sir Edward Pakenham had succeeded in erecting, during the night, and within six hundred yards of the American works, three heavy batteries, from which, about nine o'clock in the forenoon, so soon as the dense fog disappeared, he opened a heavy cannonade against the American lines, with a terrible display of congreve rockets. The fire from the batteries on the American center and left was returned with great spirit and effect.
About the same time a bold attempt was made to turn the American left; but in this the enemy was signally repulsed by the Tennessee volunteers. About three o'clock in the afternoon the fire of the British batteries was completely silenced, having been entirely dismounted by the American artillery. Soon afterward the British abandoned them, and retreated to their camp, having suffered a severe loss near both extremities of the American line. That of the Americans was eleven men killed and twenty-three wounded.
On the 4th General Jackson was joined by twenty-two hundred and fifty Kentuckians, under General Adair. 597 On the 6th the British were re-enforced by a reserve of four thousand men, under General Lambert. The British force now amounted to nearly fifteen thousand men, the flower of their European army. The Americans numbered about six thousand, most of them untried militia, many of whom were unarmed, badly clothed, and unprovided. Many of those who were armed were supplied with private arms, collected from the citizens. On this occasion, the patriotism of the citizens, and the ladies especially, of New Orleans, was displayed most conspicuously. The latter, with devoted zeal, were employed in making apparel to supply the destitute militia and volunteers, who had been hurried from home at this inclement season, without time for proper equipment or clothing suited to the severity of the weather. The patriotic ladies volunteered for their relief; and in a few days, with their own hands, made twelve hundred blanket-coats, two hundred and twenty-five waistcoats, eleven hundred and twenty-seven pairs of pantaloons, and eight hundred shirts. 598 The whole of the resident population were fired with enthusiasm, all emulous to excel in their efforts to sustain the heroic commander in the defense of the city, which was already doomed by the British commanders to rapine and
blood, in order to stimulate the courage of their soldiers. The noble-hearted mayor of the city devoted his whole energies, in his private and public capacity, in promoting the patriotic efforts of his fellow-citizens.
The British general was now ready for a serious attempt on the American works. Great preparations had been made, and the trench from the Mississippi to the head of Bayou Bienvenu had been deepened and enlarged, so as to enable the troops to transport the boats and barges from the first point of disembarkation. By this route the British general provided transports to cross a portion of his forces to the west side of the river.
The works of the American general, by this time, were completed on the left bank of the river. The front consisted of a breast-work, about one mile in length, reaching from the shore, at right angles, to the swamp, and extending into the latter several hundred yards beyond where it was passable, and inclining to the left for the last two hundred yards. The whole was defended by upward of three thousand infantry and artillerists. The ditch in front was flooded with five feet of water from the river, which was even with its banks; and beyond the ditch the ground was wet and slippery from the river and rains. Along the breast-work eight distinct batteries were judiciously distributed, mounting in all twelve guns of different calibers. On the opposite side of the river was stationed another of fifteen guns, with intrenchments occupied by some Louisiana militia and a strong detachment of Kentuckians under General Morgan. 599
The memorable 8th of January dawned upon the vigilant troops of the opposing armies. A rocket ascended on the left, near the swamp; soon after another on the right, near the river. About daylight, General Pakenham, after having detached Colonel Thornton with eight hundred men to the west side of the river, to attack the works on the right hand, moved with his whole force in two columns, commanded by Generals Gibbs and Keane, and with a front of sixty or seventy deep. The right and principal division, under General Gibbs, was to attack the center of the works. The British advanced deliberately to the assault in solid columns, over the even plain in front of the American intrenchments, the men carrying, besides
their muskets, fascines made of sugar-cane, and some of them ladders. A dead silence prevailed as they advanced, until they approached within reach of the batteries, when an incessant and destructive cannonade opened upon them. Yet they continued to move on in tolerable order, closing up their ranks as fast as they were opened by the American artillery, until they came within reach of the musketry and rifles. At this time such dreadful havoc was produced that they were instantly thrown into the utmost confusion. Never was there so tremendous a fire as that kept up from the American lines. It was a continual stream, or blaze, along their whole extent, those behind loading for those in front, and thus enabling them to fire almost without intermission. The British columns were literally swept away; hundreds fell at each discharge, until, broken, dispersed, and disheartened, they fled from the field. 600
The most active efforts were made to rally them. General Pakenham was killed in front of his troops, endeavoring to animate and encourage them by his presence and example. Around him lay nearly a thousand men, dead, dying, and wounded. Generals Gibbs and Keane succeeded in bringing the troops to a second charge; but the second advance was more fatal than the first. The continued roll of the American fire resembled peals of thunder; it was such as no troops could stand. The approaching columns again broke, a few platoons only reaching the ditch, there to meet certain destruction. 601
An attempt was made, unavailingly, to lead them to the attack a third time by the 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 former mortally, wounded. The narrow field of strife between the American and British armies was strewed with dead and dying. A carnage so dreadful, considering the length of time and the numbers engaged, has seldom been recorded in history. Two thousand, at the lowest estimate, pressed the earth, besides such of the wounded as were able to escape. The whole number of killed and wounded from the British forces in front of Jackson's lines, on the 8th of January, was fully three thousand men. The loss of the Americans was seven killed and six wounded. 602
General Lambert, who succeeded to the command, met the retreating columns with the reserve, but, being unable to restore the fortune of the day, he withdrew them from the reach of the American artillery, and, finally, from the scene of their discomfiture. The whole field, for half a mile in front of the American lines, was literally strewn with the dead and dying, where thousands were weltering in their blood.
On the right bank of the river the success of the Americans was less flattering. Colonel Thornton had succeeded in making a landing there, and marched immediately against the works of General Morgan. The advanced guard of the Americans was taken by surprise, and retreated to the main body. The enemy, without loss of time, proceeded to attack the principal position of General Morgan. As he approached, a well-directed discharge from the batteries caused a momentary check to his progress; he returned to the charge, and received a severe fire for a few minutes, when he began to outflank the American right; confusion having spread among the militia and raw troops, they gave way, and fled two miles up the river, leaving the works in the hands of the enemy. The Kentucky militia, on the extreme right, having given way, soon drew the Louisiana militia after them; the left, finding themselves deserted by the right wing, and pressed by superior numbers, spiked their guns and retired also. 603
In the attack, Colonel Thornton was severely wounded, and Colonel Gubbins succeeded to the command. The occupancy of the works by the enemy was of short duration; for, while General Jackson was preparing re-enforcements to dislodge them, an order from General Lambert required them to retreat across the river to the main army. The American troops immediately re-occupied the works.
Soon afterward General Lambert dispatched a flag to General Jackson, proposing a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, requesting permission to bury the dead, and bring off the wounded lying near the American works. These terms were readily granted.
In the mean time, it had been intended by the British commander-in-chief that the fleet should have co-operated in the grand attack. For this purpose, a squadron of bombarding vessels had been sent around to the Balize to ascend the
Mississippi, after reducing the Forts St. Philip and Jackson at Plaquemines, seventy miles below the city. These points had been securely fortified and re-enforced by General Jackson early in December, and proved impregnable. From delays and difficulty in ascending the river, the bombarding squadron did not reach Fort St. Philip until the 9th of January, at ten o'clock in the forenoon. This squadron consisted of two bomb-vessels, a brig, a schooner, and a sloop, well manned and supplied with heavy artillery. Soon after they came in sight of the fort, they took position, and commenced a tremendous cannonade and bombardment against it; but a severe and well-directed fire from the water-battery very soon compelled the ships to retreat to the distance of two miles, and beyond the reach of its guns; and from this position, with their long guns and largest mortars, the enemy continued to bombard the fort until the 17th, when a heavy mortar having been mounted and turned upon them, they hastily retreated, and abandoned the enterprise on the 18th of January. 604 Fort St. Philip was garrisoned and defended by three hundred and sixty-six men, under the command of Major Overton, of the United States army. 605
On the night of the 18th of January the whole British force precipitately abandoned the encampment on Villère's plantation, and returned to their ships through Lake Borgne. In their retreat they left fourteen pieces of artillery and a large quantity of shot, besides sixteen wounded men and two officers, commended to the mercy of the victors.
Thus terminated the attempted invasion of Louisiana, and the destruction of New Orleans, as contemplated by the British cabinet. It was one of the most powerful and expensive expeditions ever sent out by that plunderer of the world, Great Britain, and it resulted in the entire failure of its object, with a most disastrous loss of life and military supplies.
The whole loss of the British fleet and army in this unfortunate expedition, from its first arrival upon the coast of Louisiana until its final departure on the 19th of January, was at least four thousand men, besides munitions of war and naval and military stores to an almost unlimited amount. 606
In the mean time, peace had been concluded on the 24th of
December by the plenipotentiaries of Great Britain and the United States at Ghent. The official intelligence of the treaty of peace did not reach New Orleans until about the middle of February; yet, on the 12th, when the British fleet must have been in full possession of the intelligence, the ferocious and unscrupulous Cockburn, in violation of the treaty stipulations, which required an immediate cessation of hostilities, insatiate of plunder and slaughter, concerted an overwhelming attack upon Fort Bowyer, on Mobile Point, when the feeble garrison of three hundred men, and the well-served batteries, which had spread death and disaster in the British fleet in September, after a brave resistance of four days, were compelled to surrender to the superior force of the enemy, comprising twenty-five sail of vessels, and five thousand land troops. 607
Meantime, the principal portion of the fleet had been employed in plundering and ravaging the coast of South Carolina, where the crews were permitted to enrich themselves with the booty stripped from the plantations within their reach. 608
The British navy, or many of its recognized commanders, from the days of Sir Francis Drake and Captain Davis, the most noted English buccaneers of former times, down to the infamous Cockburn, has been disgraced by the plunder of feeble colonies and unprotected rich settlements. The latter had rendered his name a curse and a by-word in America by his atrocities upon the Chesapeake in 1813; and in consummating the invasion of Louisiana, the pillage and ravishment of New Orleans and the river coast were to have been the reward of his piratical crews and the British soldiery for their perseverance and privations in the siege. To stimulate them to the terrible contest of the 8th of January, they had been promised the rapine and lust of the city, which, upon the successful issue of the battle, was to have been delivered up to the infuriate troops. To keep this prize continually in their view, the watchword on the day of battle was "Booty and Beauty!" Several years afterward, some of the surviving officers of the defeated army, smarting under the exposure of their inhuman depravity, caused a statement to be published in some of our own papers, in which the charge was denied; but the American commander was in possession of undoubted evidence, which can not be successfully
controverted; and it is useless for the ferocious Britons to deny a specific charge here which, in principle, is proved by the united testimony of mankind in other parts of the world. 609
Such was the issue of the boasted armament which, with twelve thousand veteran troops from the command of Wellington, victorious from the defeat of Napoleon, was to spread desolation and slaughter throughout the whole southwestern frontier. The indignant West had been aroused, and its patriotic yeomanry, united to the chivalry of Tennessee and Kentucky, suddenly called from their homes, met the invaders at Chalmette, and with the energy of freemen hurled defiance against them.
The people of New Orleans, relieved from all apprehension of foreign invasion, and the ruthless sacking of the city, returned offerings of devout gratitude to Almighty God for his protecting providence in rescuing them out of the hands of a brutal enemy, while all eyes were turned to General Jackson as the efficient instrument of their deliverance.
But would it be believed that, in the midst of this general rejoicing, there could be found an individual in the city, and one clothed with the highest judicial authority of the Federal government, who could descend to mar the general happiness by a malignant exercise of arbitrary power against the deliverer of the city under the guise of official duty? Yes! Dominic A. Hall, judge of the United States District Court, an Englishman by birth and feelings, having failed in his efforts to paralyze the energetic actions of Jackson, persisted in arraigning the victorious general before himself upon a charge of his own for a contempt of court, in disregarding the frequent writs of "habeas corpus" issued by the judge during the investment of the city, with the intent to embarrass the general's plans of defense in the establishment of martial law. The judge, persisting in his vindictive course, and disregarding all answers, and overruling all pleas, proceeded to pronounce sentence by a fine of one thousand dollars, which was rigidly enforced, and was paid from the private funds of the general.
The judge retired from the court amid the contempt of the assembled multitude, protected from their vengeance only by the efforts and entreaties of the magnanimous hero, who interposed
his authority and his commanding influence with the people for the preservation of the unworthy judge, assuring them that, having set them an example of patriotism by repelling foreign invasion, he now desired to evince his respect to the civil power by a voluntary submission to the constituted authorities. The people bore him off in joyful triumph, while the judge was permitted to pass unmolested, and all were emulous of the honor of contributing toward the liquidation of the unjust fine; but the general, refusing thus to be released from the penalty of the law by the kindness of his friends, hastened to liquidate the demand from his own resources. Thirty years afterward, in the year 1845, upon the recommendation of John Tyler, President of the United States, the whole subject was taken up by Congress, and, after a full examination by an impartial committee, that body, refusing longer to sanction the arbitrary and unjust exaction of the malicious judge, by law required the original amount of the fine, with interest for thirty years, to be paid to the aged soldier, as an atonement for the wrong imposed on him by Judge Hall; the national Legislature thus concurring in the argument eloquently advanced by Mr. Douglass, of Indiana, and maintained by the general himself, that the "law of self-preservation, the first law of Nature," above all law and all constitution, required the declaration of martial law with authority paramount even to the Constitution itself. The Legislature of Louisiana, upon the theatre of Judge Hall's former power, at the same time instituted a thorough inquiry by committee, upon whose report resolutions were passed by an overwhelming majority approving the conduct of General Jackson, and generously proposing to refund the unjust exaction from the state treasury.
This closes our sketch of the early history of Louisiana under the jurisdiction of the United States, and the first years after her admission into the Federal Union as an independent and sovereign state. We shall conclude with a rapid survey of the subsequent increase of inhabitants, the extension of settlements, and the growth of her agricultural and commercial importance.
Near the close of the year 1815, the entire population of Louisiana did not exceed ninety thousand souls, of whom one half were blacks. The greater portion of this number were concentrated in the city of New Orleans, and upon the river
coast, for thirty miles below, and seventy miles above the city. The inhabitants of these river settlements were chiefly Creole French, with a small intermixture of Anglo-Americans. On the Lafourche, for fifty miles below its efflux, and upon the Teche, for fifty miles below Opelousas, was also a dense French population. Several bayous west of the Atchafalaya were likewise occupied by the same people, and others in the delta of Red River, and extending as high as Natchitoches, but chiefly below Alexandria. A few scattering French habitations had been formed on Red River, many miles above Natchitoches, and also upon the Washita, as high as the post of Washita, and above the present town of Monroe. In all these settlements west of the Mississippi but few Anglo-Americans had arrived before the purchase of Louisiana. As late as the admission of that state into the Federal Union, the French were the most predominant class in the vicinity of Alexandria, as well as on the river coast below Baton Rouge.
It was only after the year 1815, when Louisiana was relieved from the dangers of foreign invasion, and began to reap the advantages of steam navigation on the river, that the state and New Orleans began to take the proud rank they now enjoy in population, commerce, agriculture, and arts. Enterprising emigrants and capitalists began to develop the unbounded resources of this great agricultural state. Since that time the Anglo-Americans have advanced into every portion of the state, and intermixed, by settlement and marriage, with the French, until, at last, the English language has nearly superseded the French, even in the concentrated settlements near New Orleans, as well as in one half of the old French part of the city.
In the Florida parishes the number of French was comparatively small at the cession of the province of Louisiana, and the proportion had greatly diminished in 1810, when the Spanish authority was rejected by the inhabitants, previous to their annexation to the State of Louisiana. Since that period the increase of population has been effected chiefly by emigrants from the State of Mississippi, and from the Western States generally; and the French language is almost unknown as a colloquial dialect.
[A.D. 1840.] That portion of the state on the west side of the Mississippi, north of latitude 31°, and westward to the
Sabine, has been settled by emigrants from the States of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky, besides a portion from Carolina and Georgia. These, of course, are the native Anglo-Americans, and are mostly strangers to the French tongue. The American population in 1840 had spread, also, upon all the arable lands in the bayou regions and prairies southwest of the Teche.
The whole portion of the state west of the Washita and north of Red River in 1830 contained scarcely two thousand inhabitants. The same region in 1845 had been subdivided into several large parishes, with an aggregate population of not less than fourteen thousand souls. In the mean time, the state had increased in numbers in 1830 to 215,740 persons, including 126,300 blacks. The census of 1840 gave an aggregate of 352,400 souls, including 168,452 slaves, which in 1845 had increased to more than 400,000. In point of agricultural and commercial importance, Louisiana had advanced to an elevated rank as early as 1830. In mercantile transactions, New Orleans, in 1840, had attained a standing which placed her second only to the city of New York, and the staple productions of the state were probably inferior in value to none in the United States.
Louisiana is the only state in the Union which has made sugar one of its principal staples of export, and in the production of this article it greatly exceeds all the other states in the Union. The sugar crop of Louisiana in 1836 had increased to 55,000 hogsheads, each weighing not less than one thousand pounds, besides 1547 barrels of molasses. The crop of 1838 vielded 75,000 hogsheads of sugar, and molasses in proportion. The next largest crop of sugar in Louisiana was that of 1842, when the favorable season and the activity of the planters, with the wonderful facilities afforded by the introduction of steam power in all the operations of the manufacturing process, yielded a crop of about 140,000 hogsheads. The agricultural enterprise and resources of the country, stimulated by the success of former efforts, and favored by the fine season of 1844, was rewarded by the largest crop ever made in the state, amounting to 200,000 hogsheads. 610
Louisiana, at the same time, had become an important
cotton-producing state. For several years subsequent to 1836, the American population from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Carolina, and Georgia had been advancing into the fine cotton regions on the Red River and Washita, and upon the Black River and Tensas north of Red River, as far as the northern limit of the state; and the original parish of Concordia had become densely inhabited, and subdivided into four new ones. In 1845 it constituted one of the most important cotton regions in the state.
As early as the year 1840 the subject of a revisal of the state Constitution had been agitated among the people, and, in obedience to the popular will expressed at the ballot-box, the Legislature had made provision for a convention to assemble at Baton Rouge in 1844, for the purpose of forming a new Constitution upon a more liberal basis, and more Democratic in its general features and provisions. The Constitution subsequently submitted to the people was approved by them in the usual way, and the new government went formally into operation in January, 1846, with Isaac Johnston as governor. 611 The Legislature was engaged until near the 1st of June following in reorganizing the administration of public affairs.
[A.D. 1846.] Such is the harmony and ease with which forms of government in the United States may be altered and established upon a new basis, without violence or bloodshed. The first Constitution of Louisiana, formed in 1812, under a strong national prejudice of the French inhabitants in favor of monarchical forms and powers, and partaking, in many of its features, of the aristocratic character of the old Spanish dominion, had fallen far behind the liberal and Democratic spirit which had
overspread the Valley of the Mississippi, and of course became obnoxious to the majority of the people, who in 1842 were mostly emigrants from adjoining states, where liberal and Democratic constitutions existed in successful and salutary operation. The year 1846 found Louisiana protected by and enjoying the advantages of a liberal Constitution, upon the same basis as other Western States, where all offices have a definite term of tenure, and where all are, directly or indirectly, at stated periods, responsible to the people for the faithful discharge of the duties of their offices respectively.
Monette, John W. History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi, by the Three Great European Powers, Spain, France and Great Britain, and the Subsequent Occupation, Settlement, and Extension of Civil Government by the United States, Until the Year 1846, in two volumes, Volume II . New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1846. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures, Aurora University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=monette2.html