MILITARY - CIVIL WAR BALLAD

THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS

From "Harper's New Monthly Magazine" No. CXVI. ”January, 1860.” Vol. XX.

A BALLAD OF LOUISIANA
BY THOMAS DUNN ENGLISH

Transcribed by Jerry Morrison
Formated printable Microsoft Word document file available by e-mail on request

In memory of my GGGgrandfather Miles Morrison.Enlisting in Hickman County in 1814, he served with Carroll's West Tennessee Militia at the battle of New Orleans.

Here, in my rude log-cabin,
    Few poorer men there be
Among the mountain ranges
    Of western Tennessee.
My limbs are weak and shrunken,
    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,
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
    And those who fighting fell.
Short work to count our losses;
    We stood and dropped the foe,
As easily as by fire-light
    Men shoot a buck or doe;
And while they fell by hundreds
    Upon the bloody plain,
Of us fourteen were wounded,
    And only eight were slain.

The eighth of January,
    Before the break of day,
Our raw and hasty levies
    Were brought into array,
No cotton-bales before us—
    Some fool that falsehood told—
Before us was an earth-work,
    Built from the swampy mould;
And there we stood in silence,
    And waited with a frown,
To greet with bloody welcome
    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.
We fired a single cannon,
    And as its thunder rolled,
The mist before us lifted
    In many a heavy fold.
The mist before us lifted,
    And, in their bravery fine,
Came rushing to their ruin,
    The fearless British line.

Then from our waiting cannons
    Leaped forth the deadly flame,
To meet the solid columns
    That swift and steady came.
The thirty-twos of Crawley,
    And Bluche's twenty-four,
To Spotte's eighteen-pounders
    Responded with a roar—
Sending the grape-shot deadly
    That marked its pathway plain,
And paved the road it traveled
    With corses of the slain.

Our rifles firmly grasping
    And heedless of the din,
We stood in silence waiting
    For orders to begin.
Our fingers on the triggers,
    Our hearts with anger stirred,
Grew still more fierce and eager
    As Jackson's voice we heard—
"Stand steady! Waste no powder!
    Wait till your shots will tell!
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,
    Distant 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;
And seen their foremost columns
    Melt hastily away,
As snow in mountain gorges
    Before the floods of May.

They soon re-formed their columns
    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
With stout old Abercrombie
    Beneath an Eastern sun.
It rushes to the battle,
    And though within the rear
Its leader is a laggard,
    It shows no sign of fear.

It did not need its colonel,
    For soon there came instead
An eagle-eyed commander,
    And on its march he led.
'Twas Packenham in person,
    The leader of the field;
I knew it by the cheering
    That loudly round him pealed.
And by his quick, sharp movement
    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—
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 set his charger
    Amid the deadly strife,
That, is my fiercest moment,
    A prayer arose from me—
"God save that gallant leader,
    Our foeman though he be!"

Sir Edward's charger staggers,
    He leaps at once to ground,
And, ere the brute falls bleeding,
    Another horse has found.
His right arm falls! 'tis wounded!
    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;
And fly in utter panic
    The soldiers of the crown.

I thought the work was over,
    But newer shouts were heard;
And came with Gibbs to lead it,
    The gallant Ninety-third.
Then Packenham exulting,
    With proud and joyous glance,
Cried, "Children of the Tartan!
    Bold Highlanders advance!
Advance to scale the breast-works,
    And drive them from their hold,
And show the stainless courage
    That marked your sires of old!"

His voice as yet was ringing,
    When quick as light there came
The roaring of a cannon,
    And the earth seemed all aflame.
Who causes thus the thunder
    The doom of men to speak?
It is the Baratarian—
    The fearless Dominique!
Down through the marshaled Scotsmen
    The step of death is heard,
As by the fierce toronado
    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
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—
    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?
No! Keane was sorely wounded,
    And Gibbs was good as dead.
Brave Wilkinson commanding,
    A Major of Brigade,
The shattered force to rally
    A final effort made.
He led it up our ramparts—
    Small glory did he gain;
Our captives some, while others fled,
    And he himself was slain.

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,
    And talked about the fight,
When ran a sudden murmur
    Like fire from left to right.
We turned and saw our chieftan,
    And then, good friend of mine.
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,
    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;
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,
    Fire lit his eyes of gray;
Erect, but thin and pallid,
    He passed upon his bay.
Weak from the baffled fever,
    And shrunken in each limb,
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
    Shone forth in glory there.

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