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The Battle of New Orleans
by Thomas Dunn English

The Battle of New Orleans
by Thomas Dunn English

Here, in my rude log cabin, 
Few poorer men there be 
Among the mountain ranges 
Of Eastern 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 dropp'd the foe 
As easily as by firelight 
Men shoot the 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 earthwork, 
Built from the swampy mould. 
And there we stood in silence, 
And waited with a frown, 
To greet with bloody welcome 
The bulldogs 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 thunders roll'd 
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 
Leap'd forth the deadly flame, 
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 
Responded with their roar, 
Sending the grape-shot deadly 
That marked its pathway plain, 
And paved the road it travell'd 
With corpses 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 stirr'd, 
Grew still more fierce and eager 
As Jackson's voice was 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, 
Distinct and measured, "Fire!" 
Oh! then you should have mark'd 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 reform'd 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 signs of fear. 

It did not need its colonel, 
For soon there came instead 
An eagle-eyed commander, 
And on its march he led. 
'Twas Pakenham, in person, 
The leader of the field; 
I knew it by the cheering 
That loudly round him peal'd; 
And by his quick, sharp movement, 
We felt his heart was stirr'd, 
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 sat his charger 
Amid the deadly strife, 
That in 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 beast falls bleeding 
Another horse is 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 nearer shouts were heard, 
And came, with Gibbs to head it, 
The gallant Ninety-third. 
Then Pakenham, exulting, 
With proud and joyous glance, 
Cried, "Children of the tartan 
Bold Highlanders advance! 
Advance to scale the breastworks 
And drive them from their hold, 
And show the staunchless courage 
That mark'd your sires of old!" 

His voice as yet was ringing, 
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? 
It is the Baritarian, 
The fearless Dominique. 
Down through the marshall'd Scotsmen 
The step of death is heard, 
And by the fierce tornado 
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 as good as dead. 
Brave Wilkinson commanding, 
A major of brigade, 
The shatter'd 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 seen to leave our shore. 
We rested on our rifles 
And talk'd 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, 
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 eye 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 lasting, 
And hours of sleepless care, 
The soul of Andrew Jackson 
Shone forth in glory there.

The Battle of New Orleans
by Thomas Dunn English

 


The Battle of New Orleans by Thomas Dunn English

 

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