網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

solely to the troops whose conduct was then the subject of general discussion ; no words, if such was the intention of the president, could have been more undeserved, or conveyed an imputation diametrically the reverse of well-founded-inasmuch as it had been admitted on all hands, by the most violent partisans and by official and incontrovertible reports to the American government, that private property was by us, upon this occasion, held sacred. And what rendered the excellent conduct of our troops the more remarkable was, that no sooner did the British army retire from the city, in which they had observed the most exemplary discipline, than the native populace broke loose and commenced a general pillage, which was not put an end to until a considerable armed body was brought from Alexandria and George Town for that purpose. This stands on record in the published report of Commodore Tingey, which at the same time most candidly alludes to the opposite line of conduct adopted by the British. Nor, in continuation of this commendable forbearance, was the smallest contribution exacted from the inhabitants, although the customs of war, and the specific authority of our own government, had fully authorized it. Nay, this punctiliousness was carried so far (and, under the circumstances, judiciously so, in our opinion), that payment was made at the market price for the provisions required for the troops. These remarks, however, are thrown out, certainly not with the slightest wish of perpetuating alienation or dissension between kindred nations,-feelings which it were much better had never existed, but solely in an exculpatory sense; since, for our own parts, we must ever deprecate the whole system of petty and vindictive warfare.

We stated, at the commencement of this article, that the expedition, having concluded its period of service on the shores of the Chesapeake, directed its course towards New Orleans. Touching at Jamaica, it was joined by large reinforcements from England; and on the 23rd of December, after a tedious and harassing navigation of eighty miles in open boats, the first division, consisting of about thirteen hundred men, effected its landing on the left bank of the Mississippi. The disembarkation took place at an early hour in the morning, in the midst of an almost impassable morass, out of which the little column was immediately moved into the open country; where, taking up a position as favourable as circumstances permitted, the troops piled their arms, and a bivouac was formed. In the mean time, the report of our arrival had reached General Jackson, who prepared to attack, and, if possible, destroy the advance as yet unavoidably without support. The day passed, however, without any other disturbance than the

appearance

appearance of a few dragoons, who were immediately driven back by a fire from the piquets. . And,' continues our author, • Darkness having set in, the fires were made to blaze with increased splendour, our evening meal was eat, and we prepared to sleep. But about half-past seven o'clock, the attention of several individuals was drawn to a large vessel, which seemed to be stealing up the river till she came opposite to our camp; when her anchor was dropped, and her sails leisurely furled. At first we were doubtful whether she might not be one of our own cruisers which had passed the port unobserved, and had arrived to render her assistance in our future operations. To satisfy this doubt, she was repeatedly hailed, but returned no answer; when an alarm spreading through the bivouac, all thought of sleep was laid aside. Several musket shots were now fired at her with a design of exacting a reply, of which no notice was taken; till at length having fastened all her sails, and swung her broadside towards us, we could distinctly hear some one cry out in a commanding voice, “ Give them this for the honour of America.” The words were instantly followed by the flashes of her guns, and a deadly shower of grape swept down numbers in the camp.

Against this dreadful fire we had nothing whatever to oppose. The artillery which we had landed was too light to bring into competition with an adversary so powerful; and as she had anchored within a short distance of the opposite bank, no musketry could reach her with any precision or effect. A few rockets were discharged, which made a beautiful appearance in the air ; but the rocket is an uncertain weapon, and these deviated too far from their object to produce even terror among those against whom they were directed. Under these circumstances, as nothing could be done offensively, our sole object was to shelter the men as much as possible from this iron hail. With this view, they were commanded to leave the fires, and to hasten under the dyke. Thither all, accordingly, repaired, without much regard to order and regularity, and laying ourselves along wherever we could find room, we listened in painful silence to the scattering of grape shot among our huts, and to the shrieks and groans of those who lay wounded beside them.

• The night was now as dark as pitch, the moon being but young, and totally obscured with clouds. Our fires deserted by us, and beat about by the enemy's shot, began to burn red and dull, and, except when the flashes of those guns which played upon us cast a momentary glare, not an object could be distinguished at the distance of a yard. In this state we lay for nearly an hour, unable to move from our ground, or offer any opposition to those who kept us there ; when a straggling fire of musketry called our attention towards the piquets, and warned us to prepare for a closer and more desperate strife. As yet, however, it was uncertain from what cause this dropping fire arose. It might proceed from the sentinels, who, alarmed by the cannonade from the river, mistook every tree for an American; and till this should be more fully ascertained, it would be improper to expose

the

the troops, by moving any of them from the shelter which the bank afforded. But these doubts were not permitted to continue long in existence. The dropping fire having paused for a few moments, was succeeded by a fearful yell; and the heavens were illuminated on all sides by a semi-circular blaze of musketry. It was now clear that we were surrounded, and that by a very superior force ; and, therefore, no alternative remaining, but, either to surrender at discretion, or to beat back the assailants.'

We regret extremely that our limits do not permit us to extract the vivid and remarkable description of this singular contest. We must content ourselves by observing that it is given in our author's happiest style, and that the affair terminated in the total repulse of the enemy at all points.

All this while the most strenuous exertions were making to bring the rest of the troops into the field. This, considering the immense extent of the navigation, was, indeed, a Herculean task, probably not paralleled throughout the war, and in executing which the navy of all ranks surpassed even themselves. The superintendence of this arduous operation devolved on Admiral Malcolm. It consisted in fact of successive voyages in open boats, generally overladen with guns, troops, provisions, or ammunition, and continued during about thirty days and nights. The toils and privation attendant on such a duty can scarcely be exaggerated by any description. By the 25th, these exertions had so far succeeded, that the whole force was in position, and on that day also Sir Edward Packenham arrived from England, to take upon himself the chief command. A series of operations* now ensued, of which it is the less necessary for us to enter into a detail, that they are well and minutely described in the Narrative; but there are points upon which we feel bound to touch,—we mean some statements affecting the character of the distinguished officer, under whose orders a considerable portion of those operations took place.

We need scarcely observe, that an opinion generally prevails that this officer lost his valuable life at a moment when his troops had sustained a signal defeat. To contradict this notion in the most positive terms will, doubtless, appear to many an act of singular audacity. Yet we consider ourselves fully borne out in doing so—for if a large portion of a fortified position be carried, and there is reason to presume that from thence it becomes optional with the assailants to render the remainder indefensible, it can

* It may, perhaps, be right to premise, that the force remaining to us, after all losses, scarcely amounted to six thousand bayonets, of whom some hundreds, belonging to West India corps, were of the most inefficient description. The American army may be computed at seven thousand. Their total loss did not exceed four hundred and forty, by their own returns. This, however, does not include about three hundred killed or taken in their gun-boats.

scarcely

scarcely be contended that the arrangements of attack have not in a most essential degree answered their end. But let us hear what the chief of the American army says on this subject in his official account of the operations :

Simultaneously,' says he, ' with his advance upon my lines, he had thrown over in his boats a considerable force to the other side of the river. These, having landed, were hardy enough to advance against the works of General Morgan; and what is strange and difficult to account for, at the very moment when their entire discomfiture was looked for, with a confidence approaching to certainty, the Kentucky reinforcements, in whom so much reliance had been placed, ingloriously fled, drawing after them, by their example, the remainder of the forces; and thus yielding to the enemy that most formidable position.'

On being recalled from this position, in the afternoon, our people brought away with them two six-pounders, which, strange to say, had found their way thither from Saratoga, where they had been originally captured from us almost half a century before. But in this mode of expressing himself General Jackson does not, we think, evince his usual sagacity. The mere fact of a British flotilla, consisting of fifty barges, pinnaces, &c., being on the Mississippi, appears to us to have been a scarcely less adequate cause of apprehension on his part, than even the flight of the American troops, and the loss of his batteries in that quarter. Some few of our barges were armed with carronades, and were introduced into the river by means of the excavation of a canal for that purpose: an excellent project, for the first idea of which the general was, we believe, indebted to the admiral-in-chief, Sir Alexander Cochrane. This most laborious undertaking was not completed till immediately before the assault on the left bank was given. The Americans had not a sod of earth thrown up, which was not open in

Thenceforth, therefore, their tenure of entrenchments, all of which appuied upon the river, must have been very insecure; since, if our heavy losses had permitted it, and it had been judged fit to attack them again in front, troops might, at the same time, have been thrown round in the boats on the reverse of the points assailed. The fire also of the captured batteries then available to us, must, of course, have powerfully supported any operation of this sort, which it might have been deemed expedient to undertake, -and which, we have no doubt, would have been undertaken, were it not, as was before observed, for the greatly-diminished means now at the disposal of the officer who had succeeded to the command.

But the dispatch of our successful antagonist goes on to treat of this matter in very explicit terms. It is a public document,

open

the rear.

open to the world, and to its contents we refer our military readers, so many of whom will be far better able to assign to it the degree of consideration it may be entitled to, than we can pretend to be. For our own parts, the chief regret we feel on this occasion is on account of the brave men who perished, and particularly Generals Packenham and Gibbs; the former, beyond all question, one of the most promising of the rank to which he had attained, and with the rare advantage of having been trained under the immediate eye of the Duke of Wellington—the latter not less admired for his conduct in the field, than beloved for his many amiable qualities in private life. To give the tribute which we know to be due to these officers, might not be relevant in these pages-honour be to their manes! With respect to the failure itself, however mortifying to the individuals engaged in it, it is, in a national point of view, a subject of the most perfect indifference, inasmuch as a treaty of peace, already signed and ratified, must have rendered our conquest, had it been obtained, utterly fruitless.

Before concluding this article, we have to express our regret that no adequate or satisfactory histories have yet appeared of the two wars in which we have been engaged with our transatlantic descendants. They were very different in their origin and their results. The last was, on our part, purely defensive, and that object was completely attained, without the necessity of laying down or acting on any great or combined plans. But the former offers a noble field, and is pregnant with instruction. One remark we must here be permitted to make—the Indian tribes on the borders of the United States are now fast dwindling into insignificance. Henceforth it can answer no important purpose to enlist them in the quarrels of either of the rival nations. It is not by nibbling at the rind, or exasperating the feelings of a hostile people, that a great contest is likely to be brought to the happiest

For this opinion we think we could offer substantial rea

And, at all events, the hatchet and the scalping-knife must ever be unworthy auxiliaries (and we are quite sure they are feeble ones) of a British army. It should be some great political necessity indeed which can ever palliate, much less justify, such an alliance.

We have already exceeded our limits, and have now only to recommend this little work to the notice of our readers. The style is easy and flowing, the incidents clearly and forcibly narrated; and though we dissent from some personal observations, before indirectly alluded to, and cannot by any means approve of the author's views of conducting a future American war, (which, let us hope, may be very distant) we, nevertheless, thank him for the light

issue.

sons.

« 上一頁繼續 »