Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
January 8
The Battle of New Orleans
By Thomas Dunn English (1819–1902)
          The last battle of the war of 1812, which was fought Jan. 8, 1815, and which after all need not have been fought as a treaty of peace had already been signed. The battle was fought between the British (about 12,000) under Pakenham, who was killed in action, and the Americans (6,000) under Andrew Jackson. Owing to the Americans being sheltered by breastworks their loss consisted of 8 killed and 13 wounded, while the loss of the British was over 2,000.

HERE, in my rude log cabin,
  Few poorer men there be
Among the mountain ranges
  Of Eastern Tennessee.
My limbs are weak and shrunken,        5
  White hairs upon my brow,
My dog—lie still old fellow!—
  My sole companion now.
Yet I, when young and lusty,
  Have gone through stirring scenes,        10
For I went down with Carroll
  To fight at New Orleans.
You say you’d like to hear me
  The stirring story tell,
Of those who stood the battle        15
  And those who fighting fell.
Short work to count our losses—
  We stood and dropped the foe
An easily as by firelight
  Men shoot the buck or doe.        20
And while they fell by hundreds
  Upon the bloody plain,
Of us, fourteen were wounded
  And only eight were slain.
The eighth of January,        25
  Before the break of day,
Our raw and hasty levies
  Were brought into array.
No cotton-bales before us—
  Some fool that falsehood told;        30
Before us was an earthwork
  Built from the swampy mould.
And there we stood in silence,
  And waited with a frown,
To greet with bloody welcome        35
  The bull-dogs of the Crown.
The heavy fog of morning
  Still hid the plain from sight,
When came a thread of scarlet
  Marked faintly in the white.        40
We fired a single cannon,
  And as its thunders rolled,
The mist before us lifted
  In many a heavy fold—
The mist before us lifted        45
  And in their bravery fine
Came rushing to their ruin
  The fearless British line.
Then from our waiting cannon
  Leaped forth the deadly flame,        50
To meet the advancing columns
  That swift and steady came.
The thirty-twos of Crowley
  And Bluchi’s twenty-four
To Spotts’s eighteen-pounders        55
  Responded with their roar,
Sending the grape-shot deadly
  That marked its pathway plain,
And paved the road it travelled
  With corpses of the slain.        60
Our rifles firmly grasping,
  And heedless of the din,
We stood in silence waiting
  For orders to begin.
Our fingers on the triggers,        65
  Our hearts, with anger stirred,
Grew still more fierce and eager
  As Jackson’s voice was heard:
“Stand steady! Waste no powder!
  Wait till your shots will tell!        70
To-day the work you finish—
  See that you do it well!”
Their columns drawing nearer,
  We felt our patience tire,
When came the voice of Carroll,        75
  Distinct and measured, “Fire!”
Oh! then you should have marked us
  Our volleys on them pour—
Have heard our joyous rifles
  Ring sharply through the roar,        80
And seen their foremost columns
  Melt hastily away
As snow in mountain gorges
  Before the floods of May.
They soon re-formed their columns,        85
  And, mid the fatal rain
We never ceased to hurtle,
  Came to their work again.
The Forty-fourth is with them,
  That first its laurels won        90
With stout old Abercrombie
  Beneath an eastern sun.
It rushes to the battle,
  And, though within the rear
Its leader is a laggard,        95
  It shows no signs of fear.
It did not need its colonel,
  For soon there came instead
An eagle-eyed commander,
  And on its march he led.        100
’Twas Pakenham in person,
  The leader of the field;
I knew it by the cheering
  That loudly round him pealed;
And by his quick, sharp movement        105
  We felt his heart was stirred,
As when at Salamanca
  He led the fighting Third.
I raised my rifle quickly,
  I sighted at his breast,        110
God save the gallant leader
  And take him to his rest!
I did not draw the trigger,
  I could not for my life.
So calm he sat his charger        115
  Amid the deadly strife,
That in my fiercest moment
  A prayer arose from me—
God save that gallant leader,
  Our foeman though he be!        120
Sir Edward’s charger staggers;
  He leaps at once to ground.
And ere the beast falls bleeding
  Another horse is found.
His right arm falls—’tis wounded;        125
  He waves on high his left;
In vain he leads the movement,
  The ranks in twain are cleft.
The men in scarlet waver
  Before the men in brown,        130
And fly in utter panic—
  The soldiers of the Crown!
I thought the work was over,
  But nearer shouts were heard,
And came, with Gibbs to head it,        135
  The gallant Ninety-third.
Then Pakenham, exulting,
  With proud and joyous glance,
Cried, “Children of the tartan—
  Bold Highlanders—advance!        140
Advance to scale the breastworks,
  And drive them from their hold,
And show the stainless courage
  That marked your sires of old!”
His voice as yet was ringing,        145
  When, quick as light, there came
The roaring of a cannon,
  And earth seemed all aflame.
Who causes thus the thunder
  The doom of men to speak?        150
It is the Baratarian,
  The fearless Dominique.
Down through the marshalled Scotsmen
  The step of death is heard,
And by the fierce tornado        155
  Falls half the Ninety-third.
The smoke passed slowly upward,
  And, as it soared on high,
I saw the brave commander
  In dying anguish lie.        160
They bear him from the battle
  Who never fled the foe;
Unmoved by death around them
  His bearers softly go.
In vain their care, so gentle,        165
  Fades earth and all its scenes;
The man of Salamanca
  Lies dead at New Orleans.
But where were his lieutenants?
  Had they in terror fled?        170
No! Keane was sorely wounded
  And Gibbs as good as dead.
Brave Wilkinson commanding,
  A major of brigade,
The shattered force to rally        175
  A final effort made.
He led it up our ramparts,
  Small glory did he gain—
Our captives some; some slaughtered,
  And he himself was slain.        180
The stormers had retreated,
  The bloody work was o’er;
The feet of the invaders
  Were soon to leave our shore.
We rested on our rifles        185
  And talked about the fight,
When came a sudden murmur
  Like fire from left to right;
We turned and saw our chieftain,
  And then, good friend of mine,        190
You should have heard the cheering
  That rang along the line.
For well our men remembered
  How little, when they came,
Had they but native courage,        195
  And trust in Jackson’s name;
How through the day he labored,
  How kept the vigils still,
Till discipline controlled us—
  A stronger power than will;        200
And how he hurled us at them
  Within the evening hour,
That red night in December
  And made us feel our power.
In answer to our shouting        205
  Fire lit his eye of grey;
Erect, but thin and pallid,
  He passed upon his bay.
Weak from the baffled fever,
  And shrunken in each limb,        210
The swamps of Alabama
  Had done their work on him;
But spite of that and fasting,
  And hours of sleepless care,
The soul of Andrew Jackson        215
  Shone forth in glory there.

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