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Rufus Ward: Andrew Jackson and the Free Men of Color

 

Rufus Ward

 

We all know about Andrew Jackson''s historic victory over the English at the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. From television and movies we have learned that Jackson''s army was composed not only of U.S. regular Army regiments but also backwoods militia and Jean Lafitte''s Baratarian pirates. Actually, Jackson''s army was even more diverse and represented a true cross section of the American South. 

 

Official records show that Jackson''s army was composed of the following troops; U.S. regular Army regiments, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Orleans militia, Baratarians, Free Men of Color and Choctaw Indians. The Choctaws were from what is now east central Mississippi and were under the command of Pierre Jugeant who was said to be Choctaw Chief Pushmataha''s nephew. 

 

Prior to the climatic battle the Choctaws terrorized the English camps at night and the Baratarian''s under the command of their Capt. Dominque You manned artillery battery No. 3. There were two battalions of Free Men of Color (free blacks), Maj. Lacoste''s Louisiana Free Men of Color and Capt. Daquin''s Santa Domingo Free Men of Color. 

 

What we generally refer to as the Battle of New Orleans was the final fighting that occurred on Jan. 8, 1815, but skirmishing had begun on Dec. 23, 1814. Prior to the opening of the fighting, Gen. Jackson had on Dec. 18 reviewed his troops. He prepared addresses which were to be read to each unit by his aids-de-camp Livingston and Butler. Niles'' Weekly Register, a Baltimore newspaper, published Jackson''s address to the "Men of Color" in its Jan. 28, 1815, edition.  

 

 

 

''To The Men of Color"  

 

"Soldiers -- From the shores of Mobile I collected you to arms -- I invited you to share in the perils and to divide the glory of your white countrymen. I expected much from you, for I was not uninformed of those qualities which must render you so formidable to an invading foe -.I knew that you could endure hunger and thirst and all the hardships of war. I knew that you loved the land of your nativity, and that, like ourselves, you had to defend all that is most dear to man - But you surpass my hopes. I have found in you, united to these qualities, that noble enthusiasm which impels to great deeds. 

 

"Soldiers -- The President of the United States shall be informed of your conduct on the present occasion, and the voice of the Representatives of the American nation shall applaud your valor, as your General now praises your ardor. The enemy is near; his ''sails cover the lakes'', but the brave are united; and if he finds us contending among ourselves, it will be for the prize of valor, and fame its noblest reward."  

 

By command 

 

Thomas A Butler 

 

Aid-de-Camp  

 

 

 

The address appeared in an article titled "Events of the War." The article opened by reporting "We are yet without definite intelligence from New Orleans. The news will probably arrive this day, that will, at least relieve our suspense." Other news that had not been received was that on Dec. 24, 1814 in Ghent, Belgium, a treaty of peace ending the War between England and the U.S. had been signed. 

 

Rufus Ward is a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to him at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

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