Emerging Revolutionary War’s next revelry will turn to the War of 1812, specifically its end. Turning their attention south, the British army focused on capturing the city of New Orleans from American forces led by Andrew Jackson. The long and large campaign culminated with the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The battle was a great American success and made Jackson a national hero.
Historians Kevin Pawlak, Sean Michael Chick, and George Best will examine the campaign that brought American and British armies to the Crescent City. We look forward to you joining us, at 7 p.m. EDT on our Facebook page for the next historian happy hour.
Willing’s next target was the town of Manchack upon which he descended “so rapidly that they reached the Settlements without being discovered.” On the 23rd, Willing’s advance parties captured the 250-ton British sloop Rebecca, with sixteen 4-pounders and six swivels. It was a coup worthy of Navy SEALS. Rebecca was normally a merchant vessel, but had been armed and sent upriver to contest the Rattletrap’s advance by protecting Manchack. Instead, her presence had strengthened Willing’s force. Captured while lying against the levy opposite the town, she only had fifteen men aboard when an equal or superior force of Americans struck about 7 am. With Manchack captured and the Rebecca renamed the Morris, Willing turned his attention to the end game at New Orleans, where he hoped to dispose of his booty and obtain supplies useful for the American war effort.
At New Orleans, the Congressional Agent, Oliver Pollock, was aware of Rattletrap’s advance and began making preparations to dispose of the property Willing and his raiders had taken, a growing portion of which constituted slaves. He organized a small force under his nephew, Thomas Pollock, to go up river and help Willing bring his vessels and cargo into port. Instead, Pollock and his men proceeded down the river, where they captured an English brig, the Neptune, eventually bringing her into New Orleans as a prize. (The British would argue strenuously that Neptune and a private boat were not in fact legal prizes.)
In 1778, Captain James Willing and his crew sailed and rowed the bateaux Rattletrap down the Ohio River to the Mississippi. A “left” turn of sorts then took them down the Mississippi all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Willing’s purpose was straightforward: secure the neutrality of residents along the Mississippi, obtain supplies from New Orleans, and return them to the new United States. It was as tall an order as the Ohio and Mississippi were dangerous. British rangers and their Native American allies closely watched both shores and would readily attack vulnerable river traffic. Willing’s only refuge lay in a string of forts the Americans had established on the Ohio, but they did not extend very far. He would have to make due with his crew and the two swivel guns that armed Rattletrap. Continue reading “Captain James Willing’s Mississippi Raid, Part 1”→
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back historian Robert “Bert” Dunkerly.
During a trip to Mobile, Alabama for some Civil War research, I came across a fascinating and lesser-known aspect of the American Revolution. When I travel, I always keep my eye out for unusual finds and hidden history. I was rewarded on my trip to Mobile with a great discovery.
One of the main historic sites in downtown Mobile is the reconstructed Fort Conde. This brick fort interprets the early history of Mobile and the region under the flags of France, Spain, and the United States. Just outside the fort is a marker discussing the battle of Fort Charlotte.
Mobile was originally the capital of the French Louisiana Territory until the close of the French and Indian War. As part of the settlement of that conflict in 1763, this French territory passed to the British. Fort Conde, built in 1723, was renamed Fort Charlotte by its new owners.
Most of us know that the French were anxiously watching the American Revolution when the conflict broke out, hoping to score revenge against their English adversaries. Also watching with interest were the Spanish.
The British garrisons along the Gulf of Mexico coast (Pensacola, Mobile, Baton Rouge) were quite small and vulnerable. The Spanish had been providing material aid and funds to the Americans, but finally declared war on Britain in 1779. The Spanish were ambivalent about American independence, and unlike the French, did not recognize the United States, but did agree to help militarily.
Even before Spain’s entry into the war, New Orleans was a source of aid smuggled in for the American effort. The Crescent City, and all the land west of the Mississippi, had been awarded to Spain at the close of the French and Indian War. From here, supplies moved up the Mississippi to Fort Pitt at Pittsburgh, PA. And from New Orleans, Governor Bernardo de Galvez attacked British posts up the Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast.
A statue of the Spanish general who did much to wrest the Mississippi and Gulf coast areas away from the British stands near the World Trade Center in New Orleans. A gift from Spain to the city of New Orleans, the statue is a reminder of this important but neglected aspect of the war. A group known as Granaderos y Damas de Galvez are dedicated to preserving his memory and that of the Spanish role in the Revolution.
Oliver Pollock was a Philadelphia merchant with close ties in Cuba and New Orleans. When the war broke out, he used his connections to aid the Revolutionary cause from the Crescent City. In 1777 he was appointed “commercial agent of the United States at New Orleans” and used his fortune to finance American operations in the west, such as General George Rogers Clark. When Spain entered the war he served as an aide to General Bernardo de Galvez.
Moving up from New Orleans, a force under General de Galvez, that included Spanish troops, American volunteers, Acadian settles, and free blacks, attacked and captured the British outpost of Fort Richmond at Baton Rouge on September 21, 1779. Today a memorial with plaques and a cannon marks the site.
In February, 1780, Spanish troops and American volunteers under Governor Bernardo de Galvez laid siege to the 300 British in Fort Charlotte at Mobile. The siege lasted a month. The garrison’s surrender gave the Spanish control of this important site, and removed all English military forces from the Gulf region.
This was one of the few actions of the war in which Spanish and American troops fought side by side. Spain declared war on Britain but did not recognized the United States, their primary interest being to settle scores with the British.
For more information on these fascinating events, check the following websites: