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themselves with bravery and fidelity, was accepted. General Jackson, after applying to the Legislature to suspend the act of habeas corpus, and finding they were consuming these extreme moments in discussing and committing, " proclaimed martial law, and from that moment his means became more commensurate with the weight of responsibility he had to sustain,' The situation of New-Orleans at this period, the 19th of December, is thus described by Major Latour.
"All classes of society were now animated with the most ardent zeal. The young, the old, women, children, all breathed defiance to the enemy, firmly resolved to oppose to the utmost the threatened invasion. General Jackson had electrified ail hearts; all were sensible of the approaching danger; but they waited its presence undismayed. They knew that, in a few days, they must come to action with the enemy; yet, calm and unalarmed, they pursued their usual occupations, interrupted only when they tranquilly left their homes to perform military duty at the posts assigned them. It was known that the enemy was on our coast, within a few hours sail of the city, with a presumed force of between nine and ten thousand men; whilst all the forces we had yet to oppose him amounted to no more than one thousand regulars, and from four to five thousand militia.
"These circumstances were publickly known, nor could any one disguise to himself, or to others, the dangers with which we were threatened. Yet, such was the universal confidence, inspired by the activity and decision of the commander-in-chief, added to the detestation in which the enemy was held, and the desire to punish his audacity, should he presume to land, that not a single warehouse or shop was shut, nor were any goods or valuable effects removed from the city. At that period, New-Orleans presented a very affecting picture to the eyes of the patriot, and to all those whose bosoms glow with the feelings of national honour, which raise the mind far above the vulgar apprehension of personal danger. The citizens were preparing for battle as cheerfully as if it had been a party pleasure, each in his vernacular tongue singing songs of victory. The streets resounded with Yankee Doodle, the Marseilles Hymn, the Chaunt du Depart, and other martial airs, while those who had been long unaccustomed to military duty, were furbishing their arms and accoutrements. Beauty
applauded valour, and promised with her smiles to reward the toils of the brave. Though inhabiting an open town, not above ten leagues from the enemy, and never till now exposed to war's alarms, the fair sex of New-Orleans were animated with the ardour of their defenders, and with cheerful serenity at the sound of the drum, presented themselves at the windows and balconies, to applaud the troops going through their evolutions, and to encourage their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers, to protect them from the insults. of our ferocious enemies, and prevent a repetition of the horrours of Hampton.
"The several corps of militia were constantly exercising from morning till evening, and at all hours was heard the sound of drums, and of military bands of musick. NewOrleans wore the appearance of a camp; and the greatest cheerfulness and concord prevailed amongst all ranks and conditions of people. All countenances expressed a wish to come to an engagement with the enemy, and announced a foretaste of victory."
At the mouth of Bayou Bienvenu, emptying into Lake Borgne, there was a small village of fishermen, principally Spaniards and Portuguese, who all went over to the enemy, served them as pilots, and rendered them important aid in this way. The description which the author gives of the place of landing, and the nature of the country, contains so much interesting information, independently of its connexion with military operations, that we shall extract it to give the reader an idea of the singular formation of the country.
"The bayou Bienvenu, is unfortunately become so remarkable from the British forces having penetrated through it, into Louisiana, that it deserves a particular description.
"This bayou, formerly called the river St. Francis, under which designation it is laid down in some old maps, is the creek through which run all the waters of a large basin, of a triangular form, about eighty square miles in surface, bounded on the south by the Mississippi, on the west by New-Orleans, by bayou Sauvage or Chef-Menteur on the northwest, and on the east by Lake Borgne, into which it empties. It receives the waters of several other bayous, formed by those of the surrounding cypress swamps and prairies, and of innumerable little streams from the low
grounds along the river. It commences behind the suburb Marigny, at New-Orleans, divides the triangle nearly into two equal parts from the summit to the lake which forms its basis, and runs in a south-easterly direction. It is navigable for vessels of one hundred tons, as far as the forks of the canal of Piernas' plantation, twelve miles from its mouth. Its breadth is from one hundred and ten to one hundred and fifty yards, and it has six feet water on the bar, at common tides, and nine feet at spring tides. Within the bar, there is for a considerable extent, sufficient water for vessels of from two to three hundred tons. Its principal branch is that which is called bayou Mazant, which runs towards the southwest, and receives the waters of the canals of the plantations of Villeré, Lacoste, and Laronde, on which the enemy established his principal encampment. It was at the forks of the canal Villeré and bayou Mazant that the British ascended in their pinnaces, and effected a landing.
"Of the other branches of the bayou Bienvenu, we shall take no particular notice; that called bayou Mazant being the only one connected with the British military movements. "The level of the great basin, or the bank of the principal bayou, is usually twelve feet below the level of the banks of the Mississippi. The slope is usually one half of that height, or six feet, for the descent of the lands under culture, of from about one half to two-thirds of a mile in depth from the river, and the remaining six feet is the slope of cypress swamps and prairies, which are usually three or four times the depth, or extent of the high-lands susceptible of cultivation; so that one thousand yards, the usual depth of the lands under culture, have a slope of six feet, which gives less than 0,005 of a foot to each yard, whilst the prairies and cypress swamps together, commonly six thousand yards in depth, have but 0,001 of a foot to the yard in slope. The overflowing of the waters of all those bayous and canals, occasioned by the tide of the sea, or by the winds raising the waters in the lake, forms on all their banks deposits of slime, which are continually raising them above the rest of the soil, so that the interval between two bayous is, of course, below the level of their banks, and the soil is generally covered with water and mud, aquatick plants, or large reeds, growing there in abundance to the height of from six to eight feet: it sometimes happens that the rains,
or the filtrated waters, collected in these intervals or basins, not finding any issue to flow off, form what are called trembling prairies, which are at all seasons impassable for men and domestick animals.
"In times of great drought, and in low tides, the ordinary prairies are passable, and some of them are frequented by the cattle of the neighbouring plantations, which prefer the grass they find there to that which grows on the banks of the river, on account of the saline particles deposited among the former, by the waters of the lakes overflowing into the bayous. Such is nearly the structure of those basins or prairies, which are very extensive in Louisiana, and what we have observed of those which are immediately connected with our subject, is applicable, more or less, to all the others in the country. From the high-lands of the Floridas, where the first hills begin, all the rest, as far as the sea, is alluvion land, gained from the water by the deposits from streams, particularly the Mississippi. This space is crossed in different directions by strips of high-land, between which there is invariably a river or bayou, more or less subject to periodical swells or tides; the surface of these waters is usually but little below the soil contiguous to their banks, and always higher than that, which is at a certain distance. In a word, the land in Lower Louisiana slopes in the inverse direction of the soil of other countries, being most elevated on the sides of the rivers, and sinking as it recedes from them. The Mississippi swells annually and periodically at New-Orleans fourteen or fifteen feet, and is then from three to four feet above the level of its banks. To contain its waters within its bed, dikes or ramparts, called in Louisiana levées, have been raised on its banks, from the high-lands towards its mouth, a little above the level of the highest swells; without which precaution the lands would be entirely overflowed from four to five months in the year. When, from accident, or negligence in keeping up these dikes, the river breaks through them, the rupture, called in this country a crevasse, occasions an extensive inundation, which lays the adjacent cypress swamps under ten, and the prairies under twelve feet water. Such accidents, unfortunately too common, usually destroy at once the crops of ten, and some times of twenty plantations. It is hoped that the frequent recurrence of the evil, owing to a defective system of police for the levées, will determine the legislature to take effectual
measures to prevent such disasters, by ceasing to confide to the respective landholders a care so important to the whole country as that of the levées, and imposing a tax on the lands where they run, for the purpose of keeping them always in repair.'
The first disembarkation was composed of the light brigade, amounting to about 2000 men, under the command of Colonel Thornton; it reached the Mississippi about ten o'clock on the morning of the 23d, and were first discovered by a reconnoitring party, of whom the author was one, about 11 o'clock, and information was immediately sent to the commander-in-chief. General Jackson, at half past one, received the intelligence, and with the utmost promptitude, resolved on meeting them and making an immediate attack. Orders were dispatched to Generals Coffee and Caroll, who were encamped four miles above the city, to march down. Several volunteer companies of New-Orleans were ordered down, and all these troops set out with the utmost enthusiasm and alacrity. The schooner Carolina was moored in the stream opposite the British camp; they looked at this vessel without suspecting her to be armed. It was near dark before the troops could reach the plantation, where the British were encamped. The fire commenced from the schooner, which took them by surprise, they received it ten minutes before attempting any return, and lost near a hundred men killed and wounded. After a vain attempt with muskets, rockets, &c. to drive the schooner away, they were obliged to evacuate their camp. The engagement with the troops now began, and lasted through the whole evening; the second division of the English army came up in the course of it. Many proofs of skill and bravery were shewn in the course of this night action; a volunteer company of riflemen, commanded by Captain Beale, had penetrated into the heart of the camp without a bayonet; they made many prisoners; but by mistaking a corps of the enemy, about 150, of the 85th regiment, for their own troops, they lost some prisoners in turn. Of the manner in which they fought, an idea may be gathered from General Keane's report, who says, that the 85th " found itself surrounded by a superior number of the enemy:" this volunteer company contained 62 men. "A more extraordinary conflict," the same report says, "has perhaps never occurred; absolutely hand Vol. III. No. 8. 32