In every era and in every generation there are crucial moments when a significant decision has to be made, and the consequences of that choice can change the course of history. Many times the full impact of such a decision does not become clear at once, but in the long run, things will never be quite the same. In Days of Destiny I will attempt to write a dramatization of events leading up to such a judgement. The following stories are fictional, but are based on historical facts.
7 JANUARY 1814
A grim faced group of men sat around a large table in the rear of a tavern at 1003 Bourbon Street on Friday evening. A small dark man with a heavy French accent said,
“I’m sorry that I’m late. We had some difficulties evading the British patrols. They are very active tonight. They have completed the disembarkation of all of their reinforcements from Port Royale, and all of their infantry is in place, sleeping on their arms. I’ve no question that they plan to assault our positions with the dawn.
The tall gaunt man with the graying hair leaned across the table and folded his large, gnarly hands. He was wearing the rough wool clothes of a farmer, and showed no sign of military rank. He nodded in the direction of the little Frenchman and said,
“Thank you, Captain Lafitte. Yours is the latest intelligence we have, and I appreciate it.”
After thanking the Frenchman, the man turned to a handsome man sitting to his left who was wearing the uniform of a Brigadier General, and asked,
“General Hinds, what did your patrols see this afternoon?”
“I will have to agree with Captain Lafitte. My cavalrymen were able to get within a rifle shot of the main British formations, and they all appeared to be forming up for an attack. I still find it difficult to understand why a veteran commander like Pakenham is considering a major land operation without cavalry support. I’m willing to bet Wellesley would never condone it.”
A grizzled faced man in the uniform of a Major General nodded in agreement and added,
“To our good fortune,” replied John Coffee, “Arthur Wellesley is basking in the glory of his victories in Spain. He must feel confident that he has seen the last of Bonaparte. He’s sent many of his veterans to teach us a lesson.”
“The gaunt gray haired man laughed and said,
“I agree with you John. It’ll be us teaching them a lesson I vow, and I include Pakenham and the damned Blackwatch to boot.”
General laughter broke out around the room amid scattered murmurs of hear, hear!
A short dark complected gentleman, dressed all in black, stood in the back of the tavern and walked to the table. Judah Touro paused and then said,
“General, I’d like to offer a rebuttal to the delegation of merchants that were here earlier in the evening.”
Major General Andrew Jackson smiled and replied,
“Judah, it is not necessary. We all know you are with us.”
“I feel compelled to refute their request that New Orleans be declared an open city, and that all of the forces of the United States abandon their positions and leave the city. I represent many of the major firms in the city, and we fully support you and your men.”
“Thank you Judah. I have to hear from all of our citizens before I make my decision, but I appreciate your support.”
Brigadier General Jean Baptist Planche hit his hand on the tavern table and proclaimed,
“As commander of the Battalion de Orleans, I can assure everyone that the men of New Orleans stand ready for action. Those wobbly-kneed shop keepers do not speak for our city.”
“Major Allard and his Choctaws and my freemen of color agree with General Planche. All of the citizens of this city support its defense,” added Lt. Col Jean Fortier, a stern faced black man.
General Jackson nodded his appreciation, and turned to a slender dark haired man and said,
“Well, General Villere, as commander of the Louisiana Militia, what say you?”
“General Edward Packenham and his staff are tonight sitting at my dining room table, eating my food and drinking my wine, and soon, I suspect, will be smoking my cigars, I’m damned ready to send them back to Jamaica as soon as possible.”
“Taking it personally, are you Jacques?”
“Extremely so, General Jackson, extremely so.”
Andrew Jackson stood and felt the scar on his cheek left by a British saber in 1777. He looked around the room then said,
“It is personal to me as well, Jacques,” then added,
“We are led to believe that Admiral Cochrane and General Packenham have landed close to 25,000 men, and more are coming each day. We have a total of 4500 in our entire command. On the surface it would seem that withdrawal is our logical strategy, but I am convinced that the enemy will commit his troops piecemeal, and will attempt to overrun our heavily fortified defenses by frontal assault.
He has no cavalry, and General Hinds and his Mississippians will harass his flanks and prevent his reinforcement. The British are used to fighting the French in a war of maneuver. We will stand behind our cotton bales and cut them to pieces. Now gentlemen, I suggest that we rejoin our troops and prepare to pile the field high with the lobster backed bastards come morning.”
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