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To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 19 January 1815

From William C. C. Claiborne


New Orleans January 19th. 1815.

Dear Sir,

I congratulate you on the Glorious issue of the contest in which was involved the Safety of this Section of the union.1 It has this moment been officially announced to me by one of the aids de camp of Major General Jackson, “that the Enemy evacuated their camp in the course of last night, and that the State of Louisiana is now probably free from the presence of an Invader.”2 I cannot on this occasion forbear to express the high Sence I entertain of the meritorious Services of the Army and Navy. In the former, the Militia were alike Conspicuous with the Regular Troops for their zeal, firmness and forbearance under privations. Our Brethren of Tennessee Kentucky and the Mississippi Territory ⟨d⟩eserve the thanks of the Union for their effectual Support in the preservation of one of it’s important members; and I Glory in the opportunity which has been afforded the people of Louisiana to prove that altho’ the You⟨n⟩gest of the Great American family, they are not the least in valour and Patriotism.

I decline entering into details; These are reserved for the commanding General who will do ample Justice to the brave men, who have contributed So much to his own, and the nation’s Glory.3 I should however be unjust, were I not again to bear testimony to the Good conduct of the officers of our navy on this Station. A[l]tho’ early deprived by an overwhelming force, of the few Gun Boats which constituted the greater part of our ⟨N⟩aval Strength, they Stil found and improved the means of adding to the lustre of the naval character of Columbia.4 Their chief, Commodore Patterson, after furnishing with promptitude to the Army and militia Such Supplies of arms and ammunition as could be Spared from the naval Stores, or prepared by his marines, caused to be erected Batteries on the western Bank of the Mississippi opposite to the English camp from which he continued a galling fire, greatly to the Annoyance of the Enemy, and to the Support of our lines. During a conflict So long and So obstinately maintained a great effusion of Blood might have been expected; The Enemy have indeed lost their best Generals and at least one third of their original force. But thanks to almighty God the loss on our Side in Killed and wounded from the commencement of the attack to the retreat of the foe, falls (probably) Short of a hundred and fifty.5 The opponents of the American union will no longer, I hope, think it easy to make an impression on its distant Sections, and the friends of our common Country, may hereafter look with calmness on any attempt which may be made to Sever any of its members from the Original Stock. I am Dear Sir, with the greatest Respect & Esteem your hble servt

William C. C. Claiborne

RC (NhD: Frederick Chase Papers). In a clerk’s hand, with Claiborne’s mark “(Duplicate),” emendations, complimentary close, signature, and address.

1Claiborne referred to the Battle of New Orleans, 8 Jan. 1815, in which an assorted U.S. force of regulars, militia, Indians, and Baratarian pirates under Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated the invading British army commanded by Maj. Gen. Edward Pakenham. After unsuccessfully attacking the recently disembarked British at the Villeré plantation on 23 Dec. 1814, Jackson had retreated to the Rodriguez Canal, on the Mississippi River south of the city, where his troops built formidable earthworks and waited for the British assault. It commenced with a brief and unavailing artillery and infantry offensive on 1 Jan., after which both sides received reinforcements. Pakenham then determined to try to turn Jackson’s line by crossing part of his army over the Mississippi, from which position they could subject the Americans to crossfire, while the rest of the British mounted a massive attempt to overrun the U.S. earthworks. He was killed in the battle, however, as poor preparation on his part and gruesomely effective fire from the U.S. forces doomed the effort (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:829–30, 840–52, 861, 875–78, 881–82, 886–917).

2After lengthy preparations, the British army abandoned its position behind the battle lines on the night of 18–19 Jan. 1815. Although aware that the invaders planned to depart, the Americans did not realize that the withdrawal had actually taken place until the following morning. Jackson did not pursue the retreating British, and by 28 Jan., all the troops were aboard the waiting fleet (ibid., 922–24).

3In his 9 Jan. 1815 report of the battle to James Monroe, Jackson praised the “firmness & deliberation” with which his troops met the British attack (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, J-214:8; printed in Smith et al., Papers of Andrew Jackson, 3:239–40).

4On 13 and 14 Dec. 1814, in order to secure a passage for the British army across Lake Borgne to New Orleans, a British fleet of forty barges manned by approximately 1,200 sailors and marines attacked the U.S. squadron, consisting of five gunboats, the schooner Sea Horse, the sloop Alligator, and just over two hundred men. The Sea Horse, separated from the rest of the squadron, fought off seven British barges before being blown up to avoid capture. Despite the vast British superiority of force, the American gunboats also managed to inflict significant damage, but along with the Alligator were finally taken (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:823–26).

5Jackson reported to Monroe on 9 Jan. 1815 that the British loss in “killed wounded & prisoners” was at least 1,500; he revised the figure to 2,600 four days later (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, j-214:8; Bassett, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, 2:142–43). British sources put it at approximately 2,000, out of a total force of around 7,000. Like Pakenham, Maj. Gen. Samuel Gibbs was killed, and Maj. Gen. John Keane was wounded. U.S. losses on 8 Jan. 1815 were reported as 34 at Jackson’s ramparts and 37 on the other side of the river; an additional 34 Americans had been killed and wounded in the British assault on 1 Jan., for a total U.S. loss of 105. Claiborne evidently did not intend to include in his account the 213 Americans killed, wounded, and missing in Jackson’s 23 Dec. 1814 attack on the British (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:765, 813, 840–41, 850, 878, 904–6, 911).

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