The Hunters of Kentucky told a very one-sided story of the Battle of New Orleans
The Hunters of Kentucky
On the 9th of January in the year 1815, about one-quarter of the American forces at Chalmette originated from Kentucky. Major General Andrew Jackson led skirmishes and full-blown battles across the Gulf Coast during the War of 1812. While he enjoyed success during that campaign, the Battle of New Orleans was the big victory. The story, from the Kentucky point of view, became a poem and song in 1821.
Samuel Woodworth wrote poem. Noah M. Ludlow sang it in New Orleans in 1822. Jackson ran for President of the United States in 1824. His campaign used the song to tout his military career. Jackson’s campaign printed broadsides like this one to spread the story of the battle. While many in the 1820s claimed the poem was written in 1815, it’s more likely the date was 1821.
The Hunters of Kentucky is sung as a narrative. Performers sing Woodworth’s lyrics to the tune of the traditional Irish song, Ally Croker.
General to Politician
Jackson represented Tennessee in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He accepted an appointment to the Tennessee Militia, rising to the rank of Major General. From there, accepted an appointment in the regular army. Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After that war, he commanded troops in the First Seminole War.
He ran for President in 1824. That’s the election where The Hunters of Kentucky played its first role as campaign prop. Jackson lost that election to John Quincy Adams. He failed to gain a majority of either the popular vote or the Electoral College. The election went to the House of Representatives, which chose Adams.
In 1828, Jackson ran a second time, easily defeating Adams. He served two terms as President.
While The Hunters of Kentucky served is purpose in promoting Jackson, its accuracy is in dispute. The poem exaggerates the role of the Kentucky Riflemen. Artillery fire from the American line had a much more devastating effect on the British advances than the shooting of the riflemen.
Ballou Battle of New Orleans is a mid-19th Century illustration of the 1815 battle
From Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion comes this engraving of the Battle of New Orleans. While the battle happened on January 9, 1815, this drawing is likely from the mid-19th Century.
Gleason’s and Ballou’s
This illustrated magazine began as “Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion” in 1851. Frederick Gleason founded the venture in 1851. Gleason sold his interest in the publication to Maturin Murray Ballou in 1855. Ballou re-named the magazine after himself when he took over. Ballou’s ceased publication in 1859. Since the page says “Ballou’s” at the top, Ballou Battle of New Orleans dates from 1855-1859.
Ballou Battle of New Orleans is attributed to John Andrews. This particular image is part of the Louisiana State Museum collection, from a presentation titled, “America at War.” LSM dates the image at “approximately 1815.” So, that means they thought it contemporary to the battle. Since the heading puts it at 1855ish, this may be from an article on the fortieth anniversary of the battle. Additionally, given that the one other entry in the Louisiana Digital Library from Andrews is from 1875, it’s not likely the drawing was done close to 1815.
The Wikipedia entry for Gleason’s/Ballou’s lists the following people as artists and authors:
The Pictorial featured artists such as Winslow Homer, and authors such as: Giddings H. Ballou, Susan H. Blaisdell, Alice Carey, Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., Sophronia Currier, Mrs. S.P. Doughty, Francis A. Durivage, Aglaus Forrester, Mrs. H.C. Gardner, Joseph Holt Ingraham, Grace Lee, Mary A. Lowell, Mary L. Meany, Ellen Alice Moriarty, Arthur Morton, Frances P. Pepperell, Mary E. Robinson, M.V. St. Leon, Frederick Ward Saunders, Sue M. Scott, Maurice Silingsby, Frederick Stanhope, Horace B. Staniford, John Thornberry, Winnie Woodfern, and Joseph Wolf.
Winslow Homer drew New Orleans chess legend Paul Morphy for the Pictorial, so that will make for an interesting rabbit hole.
Ballou Battle Detail
The artist for this engraving placed themselves behind the left side of the American line on 9-Jan-1815. “Kaintocks,” the Kentucky Riflemen of song and story, observe the enemy advance on the left. Towards the middle, other riflemen engage, firing on the British. The wheel of a cannon is barely visible on the right side. Several black men are visible, center and right. Jackson sits atop his horse, waving his hat. The British line moves towards the Americans, background left.
So, this illustration requires further consideration. Off to the rabbit hole list it goes!
Comus first paraded in 1857. So, Comus 1968 rolled through Uptown New Orleans over a century later. While the krewe no longer parades, their heritage lives on in several other krewes. Comus declined to parade in 1991, because of the city’s “Mardi Gras Ordinance” targeting discrimination. While the krewe withdrew from public view, they eventually prevailed in court over the city.
A note in the top right of the drawing shows the title, “Triumph of Jackson, 1815.” Comus 1968 presents the battle from the perspective of memorial. While the actual battle was quite bloody, this design invokes reflection. A handwritten note on the left says, “Andrew Jackson on a white horse on front of float.” This may be a suggestion to the designer (who is not identified). That suggestion was likely rejected, since an equestrian image takes the parade-goer to Jackson Square. Comus 1968 challenged the crowd’s education.
So, instead of the general, Comus 1968 offers a triumphal arch, supported by two columns in the Ionic style. Live Oak branches with acorns, then white roses, flow out from the martial symbolism, to under the arch.
A musket sits on top of a military drum, inside a wreath of victory. Next to the drum is a hunting horn, symbolizing the transition from hunters, trappers, and farmers to soldiers defending their city. A further cluster of muskets with fixed bayonets protrudes from banners and flags.
The red flag of a British regiment is the most prominent of the banners. While the red-white-blue bunting gives the float a neutral take, the British flag actually looks more like a Beauregard flag from the Southern Rebellion. A classic regimental flag would have the Union Jack in the top left corner, rather than covering the flag.
The bales of cotton indicate the economic basis for Britain’s move on New Orleans.
Small float parade
The notes at the bottom shows this float was #11. It had ten men, five a side. Their positions overall in the lineup appear at the bottom.
Image courtesy the LaRC: Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 inches, Comus float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Much of the writing on the Battle of New Orleans focuses on the main conflict on 9-January-1815. How the combatants came together in Chalmette is a larger story.
23-December-1814 to 18-January-1815
This map, “Sketch of the Position of the British and American Forces during the Operations against New Orleans,” lays out the overall picture of the 25 days in St. Bernard Parish. So, after the Royal Navy cleared Lake Borgne, Vice-Admiral Cochrane approved Major General Lambert’s plan to land troops and move on New Orleans. They decided to move in from St. Bernard, rather than entering Lake Pontchartrain.
Lake Borgne to Chalmette
The makeshift squadron in Lake Borgne moved to Bayou Catalan (at the top of the sketch). Bayou Catalan is now known as Bayou Bienvenue. Troops rowed from their transports down the bayou. The troops disembarked where Bayou Catalan turned from north-south to east-west. Infantry and artillery marched along the Villere Canal. While there was a brief skirmish at the Villere Plantation main house, most of the American force positioned themselves closer to the city. Americans at Villere retreated in the direction of the city, connecting with forces around the De La Ronde Plantation.
While planning the attack, Cochrane declared that he would dine in New Orleans for Christmas. Major General Andrew Jackson, USA, complicated his plan. Jackson ordered troops forward from the De La Ronde plantation. They attacked the British on the night of 23-December. The skirmish delayed the British advance. Their forces bivouacked on the Villere Plantation. They awaited the arrival of the new army commander, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham. Pakenham took command on 25-December-1814. That delay cost the British dearly. While they re-grouped, Jackson gained time to finalize his defense. Had the British pressed forward, the epic battle of 9-January may not have happened. The Americans lacked artillery support and the gunners to man the cannons.
This sketch, available via the Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane, is dated 1815, but the illustrator is not credited.
Two short-form pieces this week on NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
Chalmette National Cemetery (NPS photo)
NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
We hope you enjoyed our conversations with Derby Gisclair over the last two weeks. Back to short-form this week, with our pick from Today in New Orleans History and some thoughts on Chalmette National Cemetery.
The Carondelet Canal, 1795, which ran from just above the French Quarter, out to what is now Mid-City, and the start of Bayou St. John. This canal fixed the “Old Portage” problem.
The Pontchartrain Railroad, which ran from Port Milneburg to Faubourg Marigny. The railroad was a straight run, along what eventually became Elysian Fields Avenue. Heavier ships would come into Lake Pontchartrain from the Gulf of Mexico and would dock at the pier at Milneburg. The railroad carried goods and people from the pier to the station at the river.
The New Basin Canal. Completed in 1838, the New Canal connected the “American Sector” to the lake. The canal began at S. Rampart Street. It ran out to Lake Pontchartrain at West End. A small portion of the canal remains at West End.
So, these three connected the city up to the start of the 20th Century. By 1910, though, the canals lacked the depth to service larger ships. In 1914, the state authorized the Port of New Orleans to build a new canal. The canal began in the Ninth Ward, just past Poland Avenue. It runs straight from there, out to the lake.
Chalmette National Cemetery
Unveiling of the USCT Memorial in Cape Girardeau MO
Markers of graves of Unknown Soldiers from the Civil War in Chalmette Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)
Chalmette Cemetery and United States Colored Troops
Many men died fighting for the Union in South Louisiana. New Orleans surrendered in April, 1862. The Union Army used the city as a base to move north. They pressed the rebels from both directions along the Mississippi. Major General Benjamin Butler brought a force close to 3000 men to Ship Island to invade New Orleans. A sizable contingent of that force were United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Black men served in the US Army for a number of reasons. They were citizens of the free states. Some were the sons and grandsons of slaves. Their ancestors escaped from the South. So, they made lives for themselves in the Northern states. There were 175 regiments of USCT by 1865, a full one-tenth of the US Army.
Fighting for the Union
Chalmette National Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)
Black soldiers fought as segregated units The “Colored Troops” battalions and regiments were often raised by white men who were willing to command black soldiers, such as the 54th Massachusetts. While the men might know each other, was, the white officers didn’t. In many cases, Their soldiers didn’t live anywhere near where the unit was raised. So, when these men died in action in the Deep South, the survivors and the locals had no idea who they were.
Butler held incredible power as the general commanding the occupation. Since the war continued after the invasion, the army needed a place to bury their dead. The battlefield in Chalmette was a possible choice for a cemetery. The city preserved the battlefield, and nobody really lived down there, even by the 1860s.
The army sectioned off a portion of the battlefield on the eastern side. This was the “British side” of the battlefield, Pakenham’s army advanced on the Americans from there. Since the bulk of the action took place on the “American side,” nobody considered the cemetery as an affront.
The top photo shows the markers of “unknowns,” mostly USCT soldiers. The second photo shows the standard markers used by National Cemeteries at the time.