When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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The fleet, battered, torn, sails adroop, with the Sophia three feet below her trim from shot-admitted water in her hold, reaches Pensacola. Governor Maurequez looks scornfully dark, but, Spaniard-like, shrugs his vainglorious shoulders and says to an aide:
“It is nothing! They are but English pigs! When this General Jackson reaches Pensacola – if he should be so great a fool as to come – we cavaliers of old Spain will tear him to pieces, as tigers rend their prey. Yes, amigo, we will show these beaten pigs of English how the proud blood of the Cid can fight.”
The Red Stick Creeks, furnished of a better intelligence, in no wise adopt the high-flying sentiments of Governor Maurequez. The moment the English come halting into the harbor, the awful name of “General Jackson!” leaps from aboriginal lip to lip. Hastily tearing off Captain Woodbine’s red coats as garments full of probable trouble, but taking with them his new guns, the frightened Red Sticks head south for the Everglades, first drinking up what remains of their gin. Not a hostile Creek will thereafter be found within a day’s ride of the General; all of those English plans, which seek the aid of savage axe and knife and torch, are to fall to pieces.
Captain Percy, made ten years older by that fight and failure at Fort Bowyer, goes about the repair of his ships; Colonel Nichols, omitting for the nonce all further proclamations, nurses his wounds; Captain Woodbine, having now no Indians, abandons his daily drills on the plaza; Governor Maurequez, whispering with his aide, brags in chosen Spanish of what he will do to thick-skull vagabond Americans should they put themselves in his devouring path; while over at Mobile the General hugs Major Lawrence to his bosom in a storm of approval, and gives that sterling soldier a sword of honor.
CHAPTER XI – THE TWO FLAGS AT PENSACOLA
THOSE two flags, one the red flag of England, flying at Pensacola, haunt the General night and day. His hunting-shirt men, twenty-eight hundred from his beloved Tennessee and twelve hundred from the territories of Mississippi and Alabama, are lusting for battle. He resolves to lead them into Florida, across the Spanish line.
“We must rout the English out of Pensacola!” he explains to Colonel Coffee.
“Pensacola!” repeats Colonel Coffee, looking thoughtful. “It is Spanish territory, General! There is the boundary; and diplomacy, I believe, although it is an art whereof I know little, lays stress on the word boundary.”
“Boundary!” snorts the General in dudgeon. “The English are there! Where my foe goes, I go; my diplomacy is of the sword.”
The General elaborates; for he is not without liking the sound of his own voice. Governor Maurequez, he says, has welcomed the English; he must enlarge that welcome to include Americans.
“For I tell you,” goes on the General, “that I shall expect from him the same courtesy he extends to Colonel Nichols. Nor do I despair of receiving it, since I shall take my artillery.With both Americans and English among his guests, if trouble fall out it will be his own fault, and should teach him to practice hereafter a less complicated hospitality.”
The General prepares for the journey to Pensacola. The treasure chest shows the usual emptiness, and he exerts his own credit, as he did on a Natchez occasion, to provide for his hunting-shirt men. This time the Government will honor his drafts promptly, for election day is drawing near.
One sun-filled autumn morning, the General and his hunting-shirt men march away for Pensacola, their hearts full of cheering anticipations of a fight, and eight days provant in the commissariat.
“We should be there in eight days,” says the General hopefully, “and Governor Maurequez and the English must provide for us after that.”
The General does not overstate the powers of his hunting-shirt men, and the eighth morning finds them and him within striking distance of Fort St. Michael. The General shades his blue eyes with his hand and scans the walls with vicious lynxlike intentness in search of that hated red flag. His heart chills when he does not find it. There is the flag of Arragon and Castile; but the staff which only yesterday supported the flag of England stands an unfurnished, naked spar of pine.
The General heaves a sigh.
“Coffee,” he says, pathos in his tones, “they have run away.”
“Possibly,” returns the excellent Coffee, who sees that the General’s regrets are leveled at an absence of English, and is anxious to console him, “possibly they’ve only retired to Fort Barrancas, six miles below, and are waiting for us there.”
The disappointed General shakes his head; he does not share the confidence of the optimistic Coffee.
“Send Major Piere,” he says, “with a flag of truce to announce to the Spaniard our purpose of lunching with him. We will ask him, now we’re here, by what license he gives shelter to our enemies.”
Major Piere goes forward, white flag fluttering, and is promptly fired upon by Governor Maurequez at the distance of six hundred yards. The balls fly wide and high, for the Spaniard shoots like a Creek. Finding himself a target, the disgusted Major Piere returns and reports his uncivil reception. The General’s eyes blaze with a kind of blue fury.
“Turn out the troops!” he roars.
The drums sound the long roll. The hunting-shirt men are about the cookery – being always hungry – of the last of those eight days’ rations. When they fall into line, the General makes them a speech. It is brief, but registers the point of better provender in Pensacola than that which now bubbles in their coffee pots and burns on their spits. Whereat the hunting-shirt men cheer joyously.
“The English, too, are there,” concludes the General. Then, in a burst of flattering eloquence: “And I know that you would sooner fight Englishmen than eat.”
At the name of Englishmen, the hunting-shirt men give such a cheer that it quite throws that former cheer into the vocal shade. Everyone is in immediate favor of rushing on Pensacola.
The General becomes cunning, and sends Colonel Coffee with a detachment of cavalry to threaten Fort St. Michael from the east. The Spaniards are singularly guileless in matters military. That feigned attack succeeds beyond expression, and the befogged Governor Maurequez hurries his entire garrison to those menaced eastern walls.
While the excited Spaniards are making a chattering, magpie fringe along the eastern ramparts, the General moves the bulk of his hunting-shirt forces, under cover of the woods, to the fort’s western face. Once they are placed, he gives the order:
The word sends the hunting-shirt men at that mud-built citadel with a whoop.
The Spaniards are unstrung by surprise, and fall to pattering prayers and telling beads. In the very midst of their orisons, the hunting-shirt men, as in the fight at the Horseshoe, pour like a cataract over the parapet and sweep the praying, helpless Spaniards into a corner.
The work, however, is not altogether done. When Governor Maurequez gives the order to man the eastern walls against the deploying Coffee, he does not remain to see it executed.
Having sublime faith in the heroism of his followers, for him to personally remain, he argues, would be superfluous. Nay, it might even be construed into a criticism of his devoted soldiery, as implying a fear that they will not fight if relieved of his fiery presence, not to say the fiery pressure of his commanding eye. Having thus defined his position, the valorous Governor Maurequez, acting in that spirit of compliment toward his people which has ever characterized his speech, gathers up his gubernatorial skirts and scuttles for his palace like a scared hen pheasant.
Having swept the walls of St. Michael clean of magpie Spaniards, and run up the stars and stripes on the vacant English staff, the General and his hunting-shirt men make ready to follow Governor Maurequez to the palace. He is to be their host; it is their polite duty to find him with all dispatch and offer their compliments.
Full of this urbane purpose, they wheel their bristling ranks on the town. Approaching double-quick, they casually lick up, as with a tongue of flame, a brace of abortive blockhouses which obstruct their path. At this, an interior fort opens fire with grapeshot and shrapnel, and the hunting-shirt men spring upon it with the ruthless ferocity of panthers. To quench it is no more than the fighting work of a moment. The General, with his flag already on the ramparts of Fort St. Michael, now feels his clutch at the very throat of Pensacola.
Governor Maurequez, equipped in his turn of a milk-white flag, bursts from the palace portals.
“Oh, Senores Americanos,” he cries, “spare, for the love of the Virgin, my beautiful Pensacola! As you hope for heaven’s mercy, spare my beautiful city!”
The wild hunting-shirt men are in a jocular mood. The terrified rushing about of Governor Maurequez excites their laughter.
“Where is your humane General Jackson?” wails Governor Maurequez, in appeal to the hunting-shirt men. “Where is he – I beseech you? I hear he is the soul of merciful forbearance!”
At this the hunting-shirt laughter breaks out with double volume, as though Governor Maurequez has evolved a jest.
The alarmed Governor, catching sight of a couple of dead Spaniards, fresh killed in the struggle with the foolish interior fort, expresses his grief in staccato shrieks, which serve as weird marks of punctuation to the laughter of the rude hunting-shirt men. The laughter ceases when the General himself rides up.
“Thar’s the Gin’ral,” says a hunting-shirt man, biting his merriment short off. “Thar’s the man of mercy you’re asking for.”
Governor Maurequez starts back at sight of the gaunt face, emaciated by sickness born of those Benton bullets, and yellowed to primrose hue with the malaria of the Alabama swamps. The lean figure on the big war stallion might remind him of Don Quixote – for he has read and remembers his Cervantes – save for the frown like the look of a fighting falcon, and the fire-sparkle in the dangerous blue eyes. As it is, he feels that his visitor is a perilous man, and begins to bow and cringe.
“I beg the victorious Senor General,” says he, pressing meanwhile a right hand to his heart, and presenting the white square of truce with the other – “I beg the victorious Senor General to spare my beautiful Pensacola!”
“You are Governor Maurequez!” returns the General, hard as flint.
“Yes, Senor General; I am Governor Maurequez, as you say. Also” – here his voice begins to shake – “I must remind your excellency that this is a province of Spain, and ask by what right you invade it.”
“Right!” returns the General, anger rising. “Did you not fire on my messenger? Sir, if you were Satan and this your kingdom, it would be the same! I would storm the walls of hell itself to get at an Englishman.”
There comes the whiplike crack of a rifle almost at the General’s elbow. Far up the narrow street, full four hundred yards and more, a flying Spanish soldier throws up his hands with a death yell, and pitches forward on his face. At this, the hunting-shirt man who fired tosses his coonskin cap in the air and shouts:
“Thar, Bill Potter, the jug of whisky’s mine! Thar’s your Spaniard too dead to skin! If the distance ain’t four hundred yard, you kin have the gun!”
“What’s this?” cries the General fiercely. “Nothin’, Gin’ral!” replies the hunting-shirt man, abashed at the forbidding manner of the General, “nothin’, only Bill Potter, from the ‘Possum Trot, bets me a jug of whisky that old Soapstick here” – holding up his rifle as identifying “old Soapstick” – “won’t kill at four hundred yard.”
“Betting, eh!” retorts the General, assuming the coldly implacable. “Now it’s in my mind, Mr. Soapstick, that unless you mend your morals, some one about your size will pass an hour strung up by the thumbs so high his moccasins won’t touch the grass! How often must I tell you that I’m bound to break up gambling among my troops?”
The rebuked soapstick one slinks away, and the General turns to Colonel Coffee.
“Give the word, Coffee, to cease firing.”
The General’s glance comes around to Governor Maurequez, still bowing and presenting his white flag.
“Where are those English?” he demands.
The frightened Governor Maurequez makes the sign of the cross. He is sorry, but the pig English withdrew to Fort Barrancas at the first signs of the coming of the victorious Senor General, taking with them their hateful red flag. Also, it was they who fired on the messenger. If the victorious Senor General will but move quickly, he may catch the pig English before they escape.
The General, half his hunting-shirt men at his back, starts for Fort Barrancas. They are two miles on their way when the earth is shaken by a thunderous explosion. Over the tops of the forest pines a gush of black smoke shoots upward toward the sky.
“They have blown up the fort!” says the explanatory Coffee.
The General says nothing, but urges speed. At last they come in sight of what has been Fort Barrancas. It is as the astute Coffee surmised. The one-eyed Colonel Nichols and his English have fled, leaving a slow-match and the magazine to destroy what they dared not defend. Far away in the offing Captain Percy’s English fleet – upon which the one-eyed Colonel Nichols and his fugitive followers have taken refuge – wind aft and an ebb tide to help, is speeding seaward like gulls.
CHAPTER XII – THE GENERAL GOES TO NEW ORLEANS
Governor maurequez evolves into the very climax of the affable, not to say obsequious. He assures the General that he is relieved by the flight of the pig English, whom he despises as hare-hearts. Also, he is breathless to do anything that shall prove his affectionate admiration for his friend, the valorous Senor General.
The General accepts the affectionate admiration of Governor Maurequez, and leaves in his care Major Laval, who has been too severely wounded to move; and Governor Maurequez subsequently smothers that convalescent with nursing solicitude and kindness. Those other twenty wounded hunting-shirt men the General takes back with him to Mobile.
The General now gives himself up to a profound study of maps. His invasion of Florida has paled the cheek of the Spanish Minister at Washington and given European diplomacy a chill; he knows nothing of that, however, and would care even less if he did. After poring over his maps for divers days, he comes to sundry sagacious conclusions, and sends for the indispensable Coffee to confer. That commander makes an admirable counselor for the General, since he seldom speaks, and then only to indorse emphatically the General’s views. For these splendid qualities, and because he is as brave as Richard the Lion Heart, the General makes a point of consulting the excellent Coffee concerning every move.
“Coffee,” says the General, as that warrior casts himself upon a bench, which creaks dolorously beneath his giant weight, “Coffee, they’ll attack New Orleans next.”
The listening Coffee grunts, and the General, correctly construing the Coffee grunt to mean agreement, proceeds:
“England has now no foe in Europe. That allows her to turn upon us with her whole power. Even as we talk, I’ve no doubt but an immense fleet is making ready to pounce upon our coasts. Now, Coffee, the question is, Where will it pounce?”
The General pauses as though for answer. The admirable Coffee emits another grunt, and the General understands this second grunt to be a grunt of inquiry. Stabbing the map before him, therefore, with his long, slim finger, he says:
“Here, Coffee, here at New Orleans. It’s the least defended, and, fairly speaking, the most important port we have, for it locks or unlocks the Mississippi. Besides, it’s midwinter, and such points as New York and Philadelphia are seeing rough, cold weather. Yes, I’m right; you may take it from me, Coffee, the English are aiming a blow at New Orleans.” The convinced Coffee testifies by a third grunt that his own belief is one and the same with the General’s, and the council of war breaks up. As the big rifleman swings away for his quarters the General observes:
“Coffee, you will never realize how much I am aided by your opinions. Two heads are better than one, particularly when one of them is capable of such a clean, unfaltering grasp of a situation as is yours.”
The General burns to be at New Orleans, and leaving Colonel Coffee to bring on his three thousand hunting-shirt men as fast as he may, gallops forward with four of his staff. It is a rough, evil road that threads those one hundred and seventy-five miles which lie between the General and the Mississippi, but he puts it behind him with amazing rapidity. At last the wide, sullen river rolls at his horse’s feet.
As the General traverses the rude forest roads, difficult with November’s mud and slush, a few days’ sail away on the Jamaica coast may be seen proof of the pure truth of his deductions. The English admiral is reviewing his fleet of fifty ships, preparatory to a descent upon New Orleans.
It is a formidable flotilla, with ten thousand sailors and nine thousand five hundred soldiers and marines, and mounts one thousand cannon. The flagship is the Tonnant, eighty guns, and there sail in her company such invincibles as the Royal Oak, the Norge, the Asia, the Bedford, and the Ramillies, each carrying seventy-four guns. With these are the Dictator, the Gorgon, the Annide, the Sea Horse, and the Belle Poule, and the weakest among them better than a two-decked forty-four.
In command of this armada are such doughty spirits as Sir Alexander Cockrane, admiral of the red, Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, Rear Admiral Malcolm, and Captain Sir Thomas Hardy – “Nelson’s Hardy,” who commanded the one-armed fighter’s flagship Victory at Trafalgar. These, with their followers, have grown gray and tired in unbroken triumph. Now, when they are making ready to spring on New Orleans, their war word is “Beauty and Booty!”
Review over, Admiral Cockrane in the van with the Tonnant, the fleet sails out of Negril Bay for Louisiana. As the General’s horse cools his weary muzzle in the Mississippi, the English fleet has been two days on its course.
It is a dull, lowering December morning when the General, on his great war stallion, following the Bayou road, rides into New Orleans. He finds the city in a tumult, and nothing afoot for its defense. He is received by Governor Claiborne, a stately Virginian, and Mayor Girod, plump and little and gray and French, with a delegation of citizens. Among the latter is one whom the General recognizes. He is Edward Livingston, aforetime of New York, and the General’s dearest friend in those old Philadelphia Congressional days. The General gives the Livingston hand a squeeze and says: “It’s like medicine in wine, Ned, to see you at such a time as this.”
Governor Claiborne makes a speech in English, Mayor Girod makes a speech in French-leading citizens make speeches in English, Spanish, and French. The speeches are fiery, but inconclusive. All are excited, confused, ani without a plan. The General replies in little more than a word:
“I have come to defend your city,” says he: “and I shall defend it or find a grave among you.”
Following this ultimatum, the General goes to dinner with Mr. Livingston.
Governor Claiborne, Mayor Girod, and the leading citizens remain behind to talk the General over in their several tongues. They are disappointed, it seems.
There be those who wish he hadn’t come. Among them is the Speaker of the Territorial House of Representatives – A French creole of anti-American sentiments.
“His presence will prove a calamity!” cries this legislative person. “He seems to me to be a desperado, who will make war like a savage and bring destruction and fire on our city and the neighboring plantations.”
There is no retort to this, for the local spirit of treason is widespread.
While the citizens of New Orleans are discussing the General, he with his friend Livingston is discussing them.
“What is the state of affairs here, Ned?” asks the General.
“It could not be worse,” is the reply. “All is confusion, contradiction, and cross-purposes. The whole city seems to be walking in a circle.” “We’ll see, Ned,” returns the General grimly, “if we can’t make it walk in a straight line.” Commodore Patterson comes to call on the General. He is one who says little and looks a deal – precisely a gentleman after the General’s own heart, for while he himself likes to talk, he prefers silence in others.
Commodore Patterson sets forth the naval defenses of the town. An enemy entering from the sea must come by way of Lake Borgne, and there are six baby gunboats on Lake Borgne. The flotilla is commanded by Lieutenant Jones, who is Welsh and therefore obstinate; he will fight to the final gasp. The General beams approval of Lieutenant Jones, who he thinks has a right notion of war.
“But of course,” says Commander Patterson, “he will be overcome in the end.”
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