FROM 1492 TO 1920



Search Historical Newspaper Collections


THE WAR OF 1812 (Part 2)

Return to The War of 1812 Part 1

At sea, then, we had, during the year 1812, an uninterrupted series of victories. Four times we met the enemy; and four times they were ours, before Perry had invented the phrase which still inspires the ambition of every American navy man. On the 19th of August, half a week after the depressing exhibition which Hull made of himself and his command at Detroit, a nephew of his, bearing his name, captain of the 44-gun frigate Constitution, met the English Guerriere off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and after a fight of two hours had her at his mercy. This was the first time an English man-of-war had been beaten in fair fight by the ship of any other nation; but we hastened to relieve the Guerriere of that unenviable singularity. On the 18th of October, about a thousand miles further south, the sloop-of-war Wasp, Captain Jones, with eighteen guns, a fought and captured the English sloop Frolic, which was acting as convoy of a fleet of merchantmen There was a heavy sea running; but the Wasp needed but three-quarters of an hour to reduce her foe to helplessness. She was proceeding to port with her prizes, when they were overtaken by the British seventy-four Poictiers, and captured in their turn; but the glory of the sloop's victory was not to be taken away. Seven days later, off the coast of far Madeira, the frigate United States, commanded by the brave Decatur, who thus made his second appearance in the annals of honor, fought and whipped the Macedonian, and brought her into Newport. There is a picturesque sequel to this exploit; for a naval ball was being given, a few days later, to Hull, in compliment for his capture of the Guerrisre; and all the beauty and distinction of America were present; when there was a flurry at the doors, and in walked young Hamilton with the ensign of the captured Macedonian in his hand. The Famous Dolly Madison, the first lady of the land, rose to receive him; and he laid the flag 'at her feet. What man would not envy Hamilton his mission?-or what woman would not gladly have stood in pretty, clever Dolly's shoes? 

Finally (for this year) on the 29th of December, the Constitution once more distinguished herself, and earned the name of "Old Ironsides" by her destruction of the English frigate Java near the coast of Brazil. The Constitution was commanded at this time by Commodore Bainbridge, whom we have met before. He it was who had run errands for the Dey of Algiers; it was he who surrendered the Philadelphia to the Tripolitans; and it was high time he did something to redeem himself. He had been given this command because there were more officers than ships in the United States navy at this period, and 'when one lied won a victory, he politely made room for another to take his ship and do likewise. Bainbridge succeeded in rescu-, ing his tottering reputation; but he had a lucky ship, and one of the Best crews that was ever afloat. He afterward was put in charge of the navy yard; but his name does not figure in any other deds of war. 

While the microscopic American' navy was making this remarkable record, our privateers went far and wide, and captured over three hundred British merchantmen; and the moral effect of their depredations was even more disastrous to English commerce than the captures themselves. All things considered, England was amazed as well as alarmed at the naval record of the year; end her opinion of our seamen was vitally changed, and has remained so ever since. Surprises and mortifications still greater were in store for her; nor could they be relieved by the reflection that the cause in which she fought was just and honorable. She was acting the part of an irrational and despoticbully, who takes what is not his, and inflicts injury which is not deserved, because he has or thinks he has the physical power to do so. She was now checked in her proudest and most sensitive point, and could invent no explanation to comfort her wounded self-esteem. But she lacked the finer courage to admit that this was the just punishment of her error, and summoned all her energies to redeem the past. During the year that was to come, she met with some unimportant successes; but the war was to close with the severest disaster of all to her arms, and with the explicit or tacit relin quishment of all for which she had contended.

Great as was the rejoicing on account of our victories at sea, the minds of the country's leaders were by no means free from anxiety regarding the final outcome. Gallatin both feared the expenses of the war and feared to explain to the people the grounds of his fear. Bills were introduced in Congress to enlarge the army and navy, but how should the enlargement be paid for? A loan was started, which would have failed but for the useful assistance of Jacob Aston a fur trader who had grown rich in business and was large-minded enough to wish to help the country which had given him his wealth. Meanwhile Russia had intimated a willingness to mediate between the belligerents, and Gallatin was sent to St. Petersburg with Bayard to join John Quincy Adams, our minister there, in a conference. The New England men continued their opposition to the war, and the revelations of an Irish adventurer, Henry, showed that two of the Federalist leaders, of whom Quincy was probably one, had been in communication with the Governor of Canada, with a view to ending , the war in England's favor, with special terms to New England. In fact, exclusive rights in the West Indian trade were offered by England to' the Federalists of the East; but our Government denounced heavy penalties against any who should avail themselves of them. The new Congress supported the war; Clay was again Speaker of the House, and John Randolph and Quincy were unseated. The President issued his address in optimistic terms; but at heart he was far from easy. He would have been willing to exchange some of our glory for a little more of substantial success.

There had been another affair on the Canadian frontier, on Lake Ontario, for the control of which both sides were contending. Five British vessels had attacked Sackett's Harbor, at the lower end of that body of water, where the sloop Oneida was building. They were driven off and, the Oneida being completed, she pursued them, and with the help of six small ships, crippled the English flagship. But the victory could not be followed up; Dearborn was old and inefficient, as was also Wilkinson; Wade Hampton muddled the operations intrusted to him, and an army of several thousand men accomplished nothing. Winchester engaged a British force, with Indians, at the River Raisin, west of Lake Erie, and surrendered under the promise of the British Commander, Proctor, that the prisoners should be protected. But no sooner had they given up their arms than Proctor marched away with his white soldiers, leaving the prisoners, with the wounded and the women, to the mercy of the savages, who had none. They were massacred and scalped, as Proctor had intended they should be; for he had offered a prize for every scalp brought to him. The village was set on fire and those who remained alive in it were burned; such as struggled out from the flames were scalped and thrown back. Proctor attempted to excuse himself for his atrocious conduct by declaring that he had no control over the Indians,; but Tecumseh,. who upbraided him for his treachery and inhumanity, told him that such a man as he was no man, and should wear a petticoat. "Remember the River Raisin" became one of the watchwords of the war.

This disaster to Winchester hampered the operations of Harrison; but he was the only Commander in the West who deserved the commission of Major General which was bestowed upon him. The men of Kentucky and Ohio believed in him, and would follow him anywhere. Armstrong, the Secretary of War, who was more than unfit for his position, hampered many of Harrison's plans; and many of the troops under him, their term expiring, left for their homes: But he fortified Fort Meigs on the Maumee; and when Perry won his great victory, he cooperated effectively, and succeeded where all others had failed.

It was in August, 1813, that this young fellow, Perry, who had never seen a naval battle, and had been born in Rhode Island only twenty-seven years before, built a squadron on Lake Erie to fight the British. The working of building the ships was long and tedious; and all the while the fleet of the enemy was waiting outside the bar to demolish it. This fleet was commanded by a veteran who had conquered under Nelson; Barclay had probably smelled powder before Perry was born. He had had his headquarters on the northern side of the lake, at Malden; but on the 10th of September, finding himself running short of provisions, he sailed over to dispose of the young American. Perry was just ready for him; he had received a small reenforcement of marines from Harrison, and bad succeeded in floating his ships over the bar. At sunrise he saw his enemy approaching; and they engaged in Put-in Bay, a little to the northward of the Sandusky Islands. Barclay's ships were drawn up in close order; Perry, who understood sailing, kept to the windward, and maneuvered to advance at an acute angle. But the range of Barclay's guns was so much superior to that of Perry's that the latter could not get within effective distance, and his flagship, the Lawrence, was knocked to pieces, and most of her crew killed or wounded. ,When she was no longer serviceable, Perry, instead of striking his flag, took it with him into a small rowboat, in which he himself embarked, and ordered the rowers to put him over to the Niagara, the ship of his fleet next in size to the Lawrence. In the stern of this little cockleshell he stood erect during the passage, with his flag floating above him, while every English ship aimed its guns at him. But Perry, it appeared, could not be hit by English gunners; and after a trip which lasted fifteen minutes by the watch, but which may well have seemed longer to those on board, and which will never be forgotten in naval annals, he arrived 'safely at the Niagara, up whose side he climbed, flag in hand. Then he changed his fighting tactics; instead of keeping off to be shot at, he steered straight for the enemy's line, pierced it, and firing right and left at short range, was master of the day after a terrific struggle of eight minutes. Barclay, on the Detroit, was the first to haul down his flag; three others did the same; and two more, which were trying to sneak away, were pursued and captured. There was nothing left of the British fleet and its Trafalgar prestige except a dismal array of battered hulks, covered with the blood of the slain and the melancholy figures of the survivors. The Lawrence being still afloat, Perry returned to her, and there received the surrender of Barclay; after which he pulled as old letter out of his pocket, and using the flat top of his navy cap as a desk, wrote these words: "We have met the enemy, and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop. "He addressed it to Harrison, and went about his business, never suspecting that the nine words in which he compressed the report of one of the most gallant actions ever fought would enter into the history and the hearts of his countrymen, .and would be repeated for generations all over the world as a model of what the dispatch. of a hero should be.

Proctor, the dastard of the River Raisin, had been waiting at Malden for news of Barclays victory; but when he heard that all was lost, he made haste to save :himself. Perry, however, with the addition of the ships he had captured, got Harrison's troops over to the Canadian side. They found Fort Malden dismantled :and the barracks burned; but Harrison started in pursuit of the flying enemy, and came up with him, on ground chosen by Proctor, on the little River Thames. Tecumseh and his braves were also drawn up in battle .array. Harrison. charged; and the British broke and fled, Proctor beig the first and the: swiftest in flight. Tecumseh and his warriors stood their ground. Colonel Johnson, a conspicuous figure in the battle, rode at the great Shawnee chief and shot him down with, his pistol.

"Rumpsey Dumpsey, Hickory Crumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh" 

ran the doggerel of the day. This Indian was one of the most admirable figures among all American red men; and though probably he, too, was better dead than alive, we may give him the credit of being an honorable and worthy foeman. Proctor, on the contrary, never drew rein until sixty miles lay between him and danger; and he lived to be reprimanded for cowardice and inhumanity. Indeed, he survived till the, year 1859, dying at last in Liverpool at the age of ninety-four. Doubtless the massacre of the River Raisin was avenged, so far as he was concerned, many times over during that long, dishonorable lingering-out of his existence. It is somewhat remarkable how many of the men who were concerned, for good or evil in our history, lived beyond the ordinary span of haman life.

Perry and Harrison recovered what Hull had given away, and broke up the sinister combination of the British with the Indians in the Northwest. But there were other Indians in the South who had also come under the influence of Tecumseh, and who, after a long period of peace, yielded once more to their inextinguishable thirst for white men's blood. On the Alabama River, just above the northern boundary of West Florida, there was a little stronghold called Fort Mims, not far from the town of Mobile. The surrounding region was occupied by the Creek tribe; and in August of 1813, they went on the warpath. The settlers fled to the fort; the Creeks captured it, and slaughtered four hundred of the five hundred and fifty fugitives, men, women, and children. It was a terrible calamity; but it. had the effect of bringing into the foreground one of the strongest and most striking men of the age, without whose aid and influence America would have had a different destiny. He was an uneducated man, with rough manners and original ideas; strong and wiry of frame, uncouth and rude of aspect. The soul of independence and self-reliance was in him; he had always his own way of meeting emergencies and solving difficulties; narrow and harsh you might call him, for he was bred in the backwoods of Carolina and Tennessee, but his mind was singularly penetrating, and able to grasp and control the essential features of a given situation. , He had homely humor, and that masculine tenderness which sometimes seems to surpass the tenderness of woman. Altogether, he was a racy, native product, who might have passed his life as the autocrat of a village inn,, but who was called by circumstances to be the head of the new Western nation. Andrew Jackson feared nothing, and believed himself, not without reason, capable of anything. He was no Boston aristocrat, with one eye on England and the other on his own respectability; but a man of the common people, shrewd, tough, bold, uncompromising, ingenious. As a soldier he was always victorious in the field; as a man of public affairs he had his policy and enforced it, and the marks thereof are still visible upon the face of our institutions. He had served in the House and in the Senate before he was thirty years of age, and was judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee before he was forty. When he was present the world moved, and men appeared each at his true value and on his own bottom. His narrow, rugged face, with its long bony chin and deep-set eyes, which could glow with a terrible wrath; his high, narrow forehead, crowned with bristly, upstanding hair; his ungainly but unconquerable figure, all steel and whalebone, gave outward notice of the man within. He was a match for any man or anything; and when the Mims massacre brought him flaming from his Tennessee mountains, he was far enough from the theorizers and hesitators in Washington to have his own way, and to disobey orders as seemed to him best. The red tape was never made that could bind those lean, muscular limbs of his; and he was a man who was not afraid to grow, or slow to apply the lessons which experience taught him.

Jackson had already marched a body of troops to the south from Tennessee, and when it turned out that they were not required, he had marched them five hundred miles back again, instead of leaving them where they were, to be gobbled up by the national recruiting sergeants. This was, of course, an act of military in subordination;. but it was condoned, very wisely, by the authorities, and made Jackson immensely popular with his people. When therefore the cry of the Mims massacre was heard, Jackson and his men were the first to respond to it. They met the savages in northern Alabama, and in several battles routed them with slaughter. At the battle of the Horseshoe, in the spring of .1814, the Creek nation was annihilated, and their surviving chief, Weathersford, a half-breed, after mak. ing a characteristically Indian speech, such as the novelist Cooper might have written for him, to Jackson, formally surrendered to him the nothing he had left. It might repay a curious scholar to make a study of these Indian utterances, and draw from them a deduction as to the nature of the Indian mind. There is uniformly an artless, impudent imbecility about them which leaves one in doubt whether the orator is bluffing or merely in love with the noise of his own voice.

Another man of marked character, whose 'fame blazed suddenly up in this war, and then became an ever honored memory, was James Lawrence, Captain of the Hornet and of the Chesapeake. Commodore Bainbridge had left him, in February, 1813, to cruise along the American coast in the former vessel, a sloop of eighteen guns; he fell in with the British brig Peacock, and after delivering and receiving broadsides at a distance of a few yards, Lawrence turned and raked his enemy with such appalling effect as to bring down her mainmast and sink her; but not before she had struck her colors-an act which custom had now rendered familiar to English seamen. So quickly did she go down, that three Americans who had boarded her accompanied her to the bottom; the whole action had lasted but a quarter of an hour Lawrence returned to Brooklyn, and was put in command of the larger Chesapeake, which, however, had the name of being as unlucky a ship as the Constitution was the reverse. In June he was lying in Boston Harbor with this vessel; he had returned from a cruise; some of his men had not been paid and were mutinous, and few of the remainder knew their duties. But Captain Broke, of the British blockading squadron, appeared off the harbor, and sent a challenge to Lawrence to come out and fight. Lawrence accepted the challenge as a matter of .course, though no doubt he ought to have refused it on , the basis of reasonable probabilities. Late on that sunny afternoon he sailed forth, with his disaffected crew; under the eyes of anxious spectators along the shore; the action began with thunderous broadsides. Fortune was against Lawrence from the start; a few minutes after the fight opened, his rudder was disabled, and his vessel, swinging round, was exposed to the full fire' of the enemy without being able to make any effective reply. Lawrence, mortally wounded, was carried below, with "Don't give up the ship" on his dying lips. The resistance of the Americans after this was ineffective; the British boarded and hauled down with their own hands the Stars and Stripes. A prize crew was put aboard of the Chesapeake, and she and her captor set sail for Halifax, while the watchers returned mournfully from the shore. This, the only noteworthy success of the British at sea during the war, was celebrated with extravagant joy in England, who had begun to doubt whether she would ever again be victorious over the lately despised American sailors. It is a mistake to say that Englishmen do not know when they are beaten; no people are more keenly and promptly aware of it than they. The survival of the legend shows the power of a phrase; as may be seen also in the case of that other often exploded fallacy that they love fair play. They love it only when it means that they shall be left free to take advantage of their superior strength.

The other sea fights of the war were not of first-class importance. In August, 1814, the British Argus captured the American Pelican off the English coast; later, the British Boer, with her flag nailed incautiously to the mast, surrendered to the American Enterprise, both captains being killed. Then, in the neutral harbor of Valparaiso, where hostilities were against the law of nations, British fair play was illustrated by the attack of two British men-of-war on the American Essex, Captain David Porter, on his way home after a cruise of unmixed success in the Pacific. Though outmatched two to one, Porter made the most desperate fight of the war; but his ship was finally captured. The President, Captain Rodgers, destroyed English commerce in the Newfoundland seas during the year 1814: Congress showed a fitting appreciation of the splendid record of our navy during the war, and the commanders of our sips. were rewarded with medals a»d swords of honor. But the temper of Mr. Quincy and his fellows may be judged from their refusal to join in such demonstrations; as, for example, at the time the Hornet whipped the Peacock, this characteristic resolution was moved by Quincy in the Massachusetts Senate Chamber: "Resolved, as the sense of the Senate of Massachusetts, that, in a war like the present, waged without a justifiable cause, and prosecuted in a manner that indicates that conquest and ambition are its real motives, it is not becoming a moral and religious people to express any approbation of military or naval exploits which are not immediately connected with the defense of our sea coast and soil." The self-righteous spirit of the Pharisee never spoke in more unmistakable tones than in that utterance of the notorious Bostonian. Fortunately for the credit of New England and of human nature, it-did not express the sentiments of our people, either West, South, or East.

But though the Bostonian clique thus tried to curry favor with the enemies of their country, the latter showed their contempt of them by a strict blockade of the New England coast; and concurrently Sir George Cockburn was sent to ravage the southern coast. His expedition became a scandal even in England; he in flicted no serious injury upon us from the military point of view; but he disgraced the name of civilized manhood. His war was made chiefly upon noncombat ants; he burned private houses, ravished women, stirred up slave insurrections, stole poultry and cattle, and enacted all the cowardly and brutal atrocities of savage depredators. The war, at the beginning of 1814, seemed likely to degenerate into a chronic system of mutual harassment, without decisive result. The Government had endeavored to raise a national army; but had been hampered by the popular preference for State volunteering. Nor can it be denied that State volunteers did most of the effective fighting of the war; although while the war was in its earlier stages they were a source of weakness. "The volunteers of a free people," observed Schouler, "may be the worst material in the world for taking the initiative against an enemy's country, but they are the very best for a long and enduring resistance to invaders." Their improvement became manifest in this year in the North under the leadership of Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott; though, owing to the arrival at Quebec of strong British reenforcements, set free by the overthrow of Napoleon, the character of the war changed, on our part, from offen sive to defensive. At Lundy's Lane, near Niagara Falls, our soldiers under Brown gained some brilliant though indecisive victories; but a new sea fighter, Macdonough, defeated the British fleet on Lake Champlain off Plattsburg, thus scattering Prevost's army which had collected for the invasion of New York; and Chauncey, cooperating with Brown, dominated Lake Ontario and blockaded Kingston, in its northeast corner. On the other hand, a British force was landed on the Maine coast and raised the British flag at Eastport a cruel blow to the feelings of poor Quincy. Cockburn meanwhile advanced up the Chesapeake to attack Washington, though there was little to attack there except a name. General Winder was assigned to the defense, but he was so obstructed by the order`s of the civilians that he could do little. Armstrong, the Secretary of War, must be charitably supposed to have been merely incompetent; but some of his acts might have borne a far more sinister construction. At Bladensburg the raw and undisciplined troops under Winder met the enemy, and were immediately defeated, while the President and his suite looked on. The English General, Ross, entered Washington on the same evening, August 24. At the instigation of Cockburn and Ross, the British soldiers burned and destroyed whatever they could lay their hands on, including the wing of the unfinished Capitol, and the Congressional Library. There is something almost comical in this English rage against inanimate and inoffensive objects; but the books, like the Southern poultry yards, were defenseless, and the valor of Cockburn and Ross had not the. quality of mercy. Having made a waste of. Washington, which they found just emerging from a wilderness, they set forth for Baltimore; but here they discovered something like resistance. Ross, on the march thither, was shot by one of two countrymen, who had taken refuge in a tree, and could, not resist the opportunity to try their aim upon him. Fort McHenry, protecting Baltimore, was bombarded all night, but without effect; and when, in the morning, young Mr. Francis Scott Key, who had visited the British fleet under a flag of truce to arrange for an exchange of prisoners, saw the Stars and Stripes still floating over the ramparts, he was inspired to write the poem which, under the name of the "Star Spangled Banner," was destined to become almost as popular among his countrymen as "Yankee Doodle" itself. In literary merit the two productions are not far apart. Yet there is something inn those words-"Our flag was still there"which touches a patriotic chord in all hearts, and has perhaps done almost as much as the musical setting to keep Mr. Key's trifle alive.

The Washington affair caused the extinction 'of Armstrong, to whose criminal indifference and inopportune meddling it had largely been due; and Monroe took his place, without relinquishing the temporarily nominal duties of Secretary of State. The seat of war was now transferred from the Canadian frontier and the northern Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico; for the enemy had developed a fine scheme for the capture of New Orleans. The preparations were on a large scale; and fifteen thousand troops, the veterans of Wellington's armies, were to sail from Ireland for the final conquest of America. Not one of them had ever heard the name of Andrew Jackson; nor is it likely they would have treated it with respect if they had. Their opinion of him would undergo an improvement after the 8th of

January, 1815. But for the moment the outlook was gloomy, and the disaffected portion of the community, small though it was, took advantage of the situation to make its final effort. A majority of Federalists was elected to both Houses of the Massachusetts Legislature. The New England' banks, having refused to lend money to the Government, were in a far better financial condition than those of the other States; they were on a hard money basis, and their specie had in creased over fourfold in four years. The Southern and Western banks suspended specie payments, while those of New England paid on the nail. Dallas succeeded Campbell at the Treasury, and showed 'intelligence in the methods he introduced; but he was not able to create anything like prosperity. Governor Chittenden of Vermont chose this juncture to recall a garrison from Burlington, an act which would have left the country unprotected in that quarter; but the troops, more patriotic than he, refused to obey his order. A Massachusetts Remonstrance, as it was called, blamed the conduct and causes of the war, and closed with a nauseating piece of Pecksniffism. The hero Lawrence was refused State honors. A separate peace with England was advocated. Courts were tampered with. Decatur, contemplating a sally from the blockaded port of New London, was prevented by the blue-light signaling to the British fleet of traitors on shore-the "Blue-Light Federalists"-who thus secured a place of infamy in our annals. Terms of peace suggested by England-that there should be a permanent Indian Reservation to serve as a buffer between the States and the English possessions; that we should forever with draw all armed vessels from the Lakes; and that we should give up to England a part of Maine-these terms were advocated by New England. Monroe very justly declined to pay their troops from the National Exchequer; whereupon Massachusetts appropriated a .million dollars for the expenses of ten thousand men, and on the 15th of December, 1814, the famous and infamous Hartford Convention was called. Twenty-six delegates assembled; all respectable, cultivated ,gentlemen, whose names deserve to be written on the same page with that of Arnold. "If the British succeed in their expedition against New Orleans-and if they have tolerable leaders; I see no reason to doubt of their success"-wrote Pickering, "I shall consider the Union as severed. This consequence I ' deem inevitable. I. do not expect to see a isingle representative in the next Congress from the `Western States" George Cabot was president of this convention; Theodore Dwight was its secretary. Its proceedings were so secret that up to the present day ,no full report of them has been obtained. It is known only that the aim of the convention was to secure disunion, and that armed resistance to the Government was contemplated. The report given out after the adjournment of .the body in January made various demands, and recommended several amendments of the Constitution. The solicitude of the members to save themselves from inconvenience produced something in the nature of a straddle, so far as the wording of the report was concerned; but the doctrine of State Rights in its most virulent form was visible between the lines.

Fortunately, no doubt, before the effect of the report could make itself-felt, it was annulled by-, an, unex pected event. Peace had been . declared-, between England America by the British and American commissioners meeting at Ghent; the articles had been signed on the 24th of December; and the news was published in this country on the 11th of February, 1815. The Hartford Conventionists had nothing but their, infamy for . their pains. But the action of this small group of disloyal citizens must not be taken as representative, of the attitude of New England at this crisis. It was denounced by the best and ablest of the Federalists themselves, beginning with stout and honest John Adams. The people-never were its supporters. It was the final effort of an unAmerican oligarchy, and served In the end only to demonstrate the impotence of all un-American policies in this nation.

The American peace commissioners compared favorably with those sent by England; they were Gallatin, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Bayard, and Jonathan Russell. The negotiations were often in a critical state; but the coolness of Gallatin, and the eloquence of Clay, with the brilliant parts of Adams, and the equable mind of Bayard, rescued them from disaster. . Lord Wellington himself stood our friend; for when appealed to by Lord Castlereagh to support the English contention for surrender of territory, he refused, saying that England had gained no such successes as would justify her in such a demand: and he declined to come to America to "make peace or fight." The terms finally accepted were on the whole just; but the chief bone of contention-the impressment outragewas not specified in the articles; but it was tacitly understood that England would never again attempt to impress our seamen; nor has she ever done so. Certain minor points were also held over for future discussion. At this time the battle of New Orleans had not yet been fought; it took place fifteen days after the signatures of the commissioners had been appended to the document. Whether the terms would have otherwise been agreed to is a question; we might have obtained more; or, on the other hand, England's pride might have induced her to postpone all deliberations whatever: The battle was beyond comparison the largest and the most, decisive of the war.

On the American side, Jackson had got together about four thousand raw levies, and under a thousand regulars; the British brought into action ten thousand of the best of Wellington's Peninsular veterans, men who had never known defeat, commanded by some of his ablest generals. The British had a fleet of fifty ships; Jackson had two, one of which was destroyed early in the proceedings. Upon arriving; the British army got ashore on low land west of Lake Borgne and east of the river; the American lines were between them and the town of New Orleans on the east bank of the river; a series of three intrenchments one in the rear of the other. There was also a redoubt on the west bank of the river; and the two American vessels, the Carolina and the Louisiana, were so disposed as to be able to fire on the British advance.

Jackson had begun to fight long before the enemy arrived: he had dominated the town, and enlisted all its able citizens in preparing the defense. His fortifications were as strong as they could be made with the means at hand; and the men caught the contagion of his courage and confidence. Both armies received reenforcements before the battle began; General Pakenham getting three thousand troops, and Jackson eight hundred, which he placed under Morgan as a garrison for the fort on the west shore of the river. Pakenham's plan was to attack on both sides of the river at once, his main advance being of course against Jackson. But before, he had left his camp on the shore of Lake Borgne, Jackson attacked him, and the guns of the Carolina galled his men severely. The Carolina, however, was presently disabled; but the Louisiana continued to be troublesome. Pakenham got some guns in position, but the gunners were picked off by the Kentucky riflemen, and the guns were dismounted. On the 8th of January he attacked along the whole lice: Pakenham and Lambert in person led ten thousand men against the Americans. The west end of Jackson's line was on the river, strengthened by a redoubt; the east extremity was on a swamp. There was a ditch in front, and eight batteries. The redoubt was taken, but

could not be held, owing to the deadly marksmanship of the sharpshooters. When the main British advance was within two hundred yards, the Americans opened fire, and in a short time two thousand and thirty-six of the enemy had fallen. The English veterans had never met such a fire from Napoleon's Grand Army; they were dismayed; they wavered; Pakenham, and every other English leader except Lambert, fell; the men turned and fled. The English Thornton, on the other side of the river, had meantime driven out the small garrison of the fort; but when he heard of the rout of the main army, he too fell back in consternation. The Americans did not pursue; it was not necessary; the campaige against New Orleans, on which such pains and expense had been lavished, was over; the defeat was absolute. Jackson, on the 21st of January, marched into New Orleans in triumph. "Volunteers and backwoodsmen, hastily mustered, showed themselves more than a match for the best disciplined troops of the world. The gradual seasoning of a democratic soldiery partly explains this; the heroic prowess to which men become accustomed in our pioneer life; but still more the inspiration, elsewhere in this war so much lacking, of great leadership. For rude and illiterate though he was, Jackson at New Orleans showed the five prime attributes of military genius: decision, energy, forethought, dispatch, skill in employing resources. In him, democracy at war was fully justified of her children; and to quote Monroe's dispatch, 'history records no example of so glorious a victory obtained with so little bloodshed on the part of the victors."' The total American loss had been thirteen men.

The news of peace created joy all over the country, and the battle of New Orleans inspired in Europe a respect for our fighting ability on land equal to that which had long since been accorded to our naval exploits. We were now finally free of Europe; there could be no more transatlantic political affiliations or intrigues. America had come of age; and a great gulf seemed already to extend between what we had been when the Revolution ended, and what we now were. And in the enthusiasm of this emancipation we forgot to take note of the Valley of Shadow which still lay before us, dark with the calamity of slavery. For nearly fifty years we must struggle through it, and emerge only after a convulsion more terrible and dangerous than were all which had preceded it combined.


In 1816 a new National Bank was founded, with a capital of thirty-five million dollars, Jacob Astor and Girard being the chief directors. It had branches in all parts of the Union. Two years after the war closed, American credit was again sound; though the management of the bank became chargeable with serious irregularities. The customs duties increased fivefold in a year. Domestic manufactures had an enormous innpetus, and took the lead of commerce and agriculture. The public debt of one hundred and twenty-seven million dollars was paid off during the neat twenty years. 

A final ray of warlike glory was cast upon Madison's Administration by Decatur, who put an end to the. aggression of the Barbary powers by an expedition undertaken in the summer of 1815. He captured their best ships, and they were glad to sign a treaty surrendering all we demanded, and withdrawing themselves henceforth and forever from any interference with the affairs of the civilized world.-Washington was rebuilt on a larger scale, and the library was reestablished from its ashes.

The men who emerged from the Madison period with the most solid increase to their public reputations were Jackson and Monroe. The great reward of the former was yet in the future; but Monroe was already the successful candidate for the Presidency; and well did he deserve the honor. The ticket of Monroe and Tompkins swept the country, and was even carried in New England, where, under the glimmer of the BlueLights, and in the shadow of the Hartford Convention, the Federalists had disappeared irrevocably as an element of the national life.



Return to The War of 1812 Part 1