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History -   A Pirate, a Marshal, and the Battle of New Orleans

War

Roughly 4,600 men were under Jackson’s command — including militia men, a collection of volunteers from throughout New Orleans, a company of “long rifles” from Kentucky and Lafitte’s Baratarians. The British forces, coming by water under the charge of Sir Edward Pakenham, numbered 7,000.

Fighting began on December 23 with a lake battle off the coast of New Orleans. Backed by cannon batteries, the American fighters held their own in the ensuing days and then into the new year.

A master of the hauntingly dangerous swamp lands, Lafitte commanded a band of sharpshooters. He and his men battled the Redcoats in several skirmishes, and they impressed General Jackson with their fearless resolve and calm bravery.

Jackson dug in seven miles south of the city on the plains of Chalmette — a narrow strip of land between the Mississippi River and the swamps through which he figured British foot soldiers would have to march to reach New Orleans.

“As the forthcoming lines of British fell, they created literal stumbling blocks for the men behind them. Tripping over their fallen comrades in the obscurity, face-on into a swarm of bullets, British gallantry waned.”
— author Joseph Geringer

The actual Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815, shortly after Pakenham’s troops arrived at Chalmette.

The fog was thick. The Americans crouched behind their man-made ramparts with their muzzles loaded.

The sound of British bagpipers filled the air as the Redcoats moved onward through the heavy air — toward the very location that Jackson surmised they
would go.

Waiting patiently until the enemy was but 50 yards from his soldiers, Jackson gave the command to fire.

Line after line of the attackers fell, and the ensuing chaos proved more than the British could handle.

In “Jean Lafitte: Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans,” Joseph Geringer wrote: “As the forthcoming lines of British fell, they created literal stumbling blocks for the men behind them. Tripping over their fallen comrades in the obscurity, face-on into a swarm of bullets, British gallantry waned.”

Added Turk: “Largely thanks to Jackson’s choice of position, good communication and resolve, the Americans won a decisive triumph.  Pakenham fell mortally wounded, and the numerically superior British retreated.”

A sizeable portion of that good communication was carried forth by Marshal Peter Duplessis, and the United States will forever be the better for it.

The marshal’s term ended on Jan. 17, 1815, after which, according to Turk, “he faded into obscurity.”

Governor Claiborne died less than three years later of a liver ailment. General Jackson went on to become the nation’s seventh president in 1829.

Although Duplessis was now gone from public view, his usefulness to Jackson became apparent many years after his service as marshal ended.

The year was 1843, and the former president was coming under some fire for arresting the district judge in New Orleans prior to the decisive war battle there. Jackson defended his actions under martial law.

The proof of his defense was none other than an old statement taken from Marshal Duplessis. “It was an irony,” Turk said, “that the unsung hero at New Orleans would again aid Andrew Jackson 28 tears later."

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