Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Battle of New Orleans and Colonel Henderson

In Ties that Bind, Deputy Grey and Patrick Rowen bond over their shared experience of fighting "with Old Hickory at New Orleans." That refers to the Battle of New Orleans, the last major battle of the War of 1812. The clash took place on January 8, 1815, just a few miles south of New Orleans, and involved the invading British (who were trying to capture control of the Mississippi River and the area of the Louisiana Purchase) and the defending Americans, lead by Gen. Andrew Jackson. (Jackson was later called Old Hickory as he was known to be tough as hickory.) The battle was a rout for the Americans, with 385 British and 13 Americans dead. Ironically, the war was over prior to the Battle, as the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War, had been signed in late December 1814 in Europe with the news reaching New Orleans in Feb. 1815.

To hear a short NPR report about the Battle, and its affect on Jackson's and America's political future, go to:

To read the wiki entry on the Battle, go to:

In Ties, Patrick Rowen refers to a Col. Henderson who "got his ass shot off in them Cypress Swamps." Presumably, this refers to the the 1st Regiment West Tennessee Militia's Col. James Henderson, who was killed in a skirmish on December 28, 1814. According a National Park Service web site, this is an account of the Henderson's action:

As reconstructed from available evidence, it appears that Henderson was to advance to his front through the woods north of the double ditch. When he reached the place where the fence approached the swamp (about 550 yards away) the colonel would pass around it and attack the right flank of the British column moving along the double ditch. Instead, through some apparent confusion in interpreting his orders, Henderson marched forward at a right oblique, passed the fence and crossed the double ditch near its junction with Rodriguez Canal, and continued in that manner until reaching the first drainage ditch. The movement put him opposite another column of Gibbs's soldiers that had meantime occupied the second ditch, thereby exposing his command to British fire from two directions, that from the group immediately in his front and that from the group he had originally intended to attack. Furthermore, Henderson's presence on that part of the field forced the American artillery to withhold its discharges against the British advance at that point.

Major Tatum described the expedition thusly:

Whether the Colonel properly conceived the order given (verbally) or not, cannot now be ascertained. Certain it is that, instead of advancing under cover, he obliqued to his right and formed his party near the first Ditch and fronting the enemy in the second at least 100 paces to the right of the column he was to have attacked, and immediately in the range of the [supporting] fire intended from the batteries. In this position, he was attacked both in front & flank. This attack was repelled with great bravery but, as may be presumed, with little effect, as his fire was altogether directed against the party covered by the Ditch. The skirmish was short, the Colonel being killed after a few rounds and three of his men cut down nearly at the same time. A retreat was instantly commenced and effected without further loss. One of the men who had fallen in this conflict was discovered to be alive, shortly after the retreat was effected. He arose three times and attempted his escape, on the third attempt he kept on his legs and made towards the lines under a heavy discharge of musketry from the enemy. Major Simpson & Capt. Collins, of the division, discovering this attempt of the wounded man, leaped over the works, crossed the Ditch and ran to his assistance, accompanied by one or two privates. They reached the wounded man and conveyed him to the lines in safety under a most Tremendous discharge from the enemy's line and the column on the flank. It was as great an act of bravery as was witnessed on the lines during the siege.

In fact, Henderson County, Kentucky--the city of Lexington is in the county--was named after this Colonel.

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