Expedition to New Orleans - December 12, 1814.

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Expedition to New Orleans - December 12, 1814.

Post by pud » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:31 pm

Source: A History Of The War between Great Britain and the United States of America During The Years 1812, 1813 & 1814. G. Auchinleck. Arms and Armour Press and Pendragon House, Great Britain, 1972. p.p. 387-390. *(originally published in parts by The Toronto Globe between 1853 and 1855).

"There is little doubt that the British government originated the expedition to New Orleans under the impression that they would receive material assistance from the Spanish portion of the population, and that from the French little or no opposition might be expected. Precisely the same arguments were brought to bear on the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain, by those who believed, or affected to believe, that Canadians desired nothing so much as to be freed from the intolerable weight of the British yolk. One conjecture proved as fallacious as the other, and the expedition against New Orleans terminated about has disastrously as any of the various invasions of Canadian territory by a vapouring or gasconading militia generals.

The expedition was not, however, undertaken entirely without some probability of its paying for its expenses. For three years the cotton and sugar crops of Louisiana and Mississippi had been accumulating and the warehouses of the queen city of the South, and the promoters of the scheme anticipated that at least fifteen million of dollars must reward the invading force.

The first steps taken by the British commanders in this expedition were ill-advised for without reflecting that a traitor to his country will most probably be one also to his new friends, the British commanders were most signally overreached in their attempts to secure the assistance of Lafitte and his men (most noted pirates and the scourge of the Gulf of Mexico) both as pilots and as active agents in the proposed descent. The chief of these freebooters, however, played a most artful game with the British commanders, and while affecting to betray his country, he was in reality forwarding all their plans to the Governor of the State, and organizing a vigorous defence of the important post of which he and his followers had possessed themselves. For this, (we cannot call it treachery,) good service, Lafitte, his brother and his band received full pardon from the President of the United States, for their previous misdeeds.

The British, deceived by Lafitte's representations, directed their first attack against Fort Bowyer, situated on Mobile Point, and forming the extremity of a peninsula which is joined to the continent by a narrow isthmus, which divides Bonsecours Bay from that of Perdid.

This attack on Fort Bowyer was a very ill-conceived, badly planned, and worse executed manoeuvre, and the result of the attack was the loss of the Hermes, twenty-two gun corvette, very great injury inflicted on the Sophia, eighteen guns, and the loss in killed and wounded of seventy-two men. The Hermes grounded within musket shot of a heavy battery, and Captain Perry, her commander, finding every effort to get her off unavailing, removed his wounded and set his vessel on fire. It is needless to add that the attack on the fort was a most signal failure.

Unfortunate, however, as of this affair was in loss of vessels and life, it proved equally so in the opportunity afforded to the enemy of putting forward the most outrageous assertions. One writer, Latour, in his "war in Louisiana," converts the twenty-two, and eighteen gun corvettes, the Hermes and Sophia into frigates, and states the British force at ninety-two guns and thirteen hundred and thirty men, modestly giving his own countrymen eight guns and one hundred and thirty men. Fortunately Fort Bowyer was afterwards taken and four hundred and fourteen men captured in it. The Americans acknowledge a loss of only four killed and four wounded, estimating that of the British (ascertained from what source it is impossible to say,) at one hundred and sixty two killed and seventy-two wounded.

After the failure of the attack on Fort Bowyer the American naval commander, Commodore Patterson, turned his attention to obstructing the passage of the British flotilla, which was then preparing, with a large body of troops on board, for the attack on New Orleans which stands on the left bank of the Mississippi, one hundred and five miles from its mouth.

For this purpose he constructed a formidable force of gunboats and men, but the defence made by them was about as effective as the British attack on Fort The Bowyer, and resulted in the capture or destruction of the whole flotilla, and although Lieutenant A p Jones,…, has endeavoured to make the best of the affair, there can be no doubt but that Captain Lockyier very soon convinced Lieutenant Ap Jones of the difference between British and American seamen wend fairly matched.

It is not only remarkable, but amusing to note how the American commanders and historians, in their attempts to soften down everything which might offend the national vanity have contradicted each other. Captain Jones, in his despatch, speaks of the British barges "as almost as large as the gun-boats themselves." Latour, in his anxiety to account for the bad firing of the Americans, speaks of them as "objects of so small a size, &c."

In order to test the truth of Lieutenant Ap Jones’ statement, we give the size of one of the gun-boats under his command, and contrast it with that of the Hunter, styled by the Americans a British brig of war:-

.USA Boat. Hunter.
Weight of broadside in lbs. 59. 28.
Crew. 41. 39.
Tonnage. 112. 74.

This misrepresentation was not confined to Lieutenant Jones. Commodore M'Donough, although fully aware that the smallest gunboat was seventy-five tons, describes two British vessels, some two tons smaller than this, as "sloops of war."

Do not these statements clearly convict Mr.'s M'Donough and Jones of wilful misrepresentation on their face? Whoever heard of a ship's launch measuring one hundred and twelve, or even seventy-five tons, even at the present time, when the size of boats have nearly increased in the same ratio as ship's? Let the reader fancy a frigate measuring one thousand and fifty tons, having to hoist up, either on deck or at the stern, boats of one hundred and twelve tons!

Again, Mr. Latour makes the British launches objects of so small a size, that it was impossible to hit them; yet he very complacently dwells on the precision of the American fire against the larger vessels-these larger vessels being actually much smaller than the American gunboats.

Another trifling mistake on the part of Lieutenant Jones is the omission of twelve guns (four and six pounders) and two five and a half inch howitzers, which were found in the captured vessels, and not included in his force, although it was evident that they had been recently used. We have, however, said enough to show how much value may be placed on the statements of either Lieutenant Jones or Mr. Latour. Had we, too, not brought sufficient proofs forward, it is only necessary to add, that's Major Latour asserts that several barges were sunk, and that "one hundred and eighty men went down in one." Of this statement we can at once declare that it was false. No boat was sunk except the Tonnant’s launch, and, moreover, no barge had on board more than thirty-one men, and further, every man was saved from the Tonnant's launch."

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