Lost Battalion Publishing Dispatch #28

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

This Week in History

In 1814 he took a little trip, the flight of the Sea Eagle, and Folsom Prison Blues.

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #28 for the Week of January 8, 2023
Andrew Jackson Statue in New Orlean’s French Quarter
On January 8, 1815, “Colonel” Andrew Jackson “caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.” Lyrics of theJohnny Horton song notwithstanding, Jackson was a brevet major general in the US Army and in command of regular army regiments at the battle in addition to Tennesse and Kentucky militia units equipped with “squirrel guns.”

Jackson had spent much of 1814 campaigning with a largely militia army against the “Red Sticks,” a breakaway band of Creek natives who were fighting American militia and members of their tribe who remained allied with the United States during the War of 1812. After defeating the Red Sticks’ main force at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson conducted a scorched earth campaign against their people until leader William Weatherford surrendered. Jackson spared Weatherford’s life and used him to negotiate a treaty with the remaining Creek rebels.

Turning his attention to Spanish Florida, Jackson threatened an invasion based on his conviction of their guilt in arming the Red Sticks. When the Spanish governor invited the British to land and help him defend Pensacola, the violation of Spanish neutrality in the war between the United States and Great Britain allowed Jackson to attack. He defeated a small force of Royal Marines and Spanish soldiers on November 7, 1814, prompting the British to blow up the fort they still held there and retreat. Jackson quickly marched to Mobile, Alabama, suspecting the British squadron that had sailed away from Pensacola would attack the town. When he reached Mobile, he received a request to help defend New Orleans.

Jackson arrived in New Orleans on December 1st. He declared martial law, forged an alliance with Baratarian pirate Jean Lafitte, and began recruiting volunteers. By these means, he added 1000 men to the force of 4000 that had captured Pensacola. The British landed south of the city on December 9th and eventually put about 8000 troops ashore.

On December 23rd, Jackson conducted a spoiling attack against a British advance force that cost both sides an equal number of casualties. As a result, though, the British made a more careful and deliberate approach toward New Orleans, allowing Jackson to fortify the position south of the city he had chosen to defend.

Line Jackson was constructed behind the Rodriquez Canal on the Left Bank of the Mississippi, anchored by the river on Jackson’s right, and by the Great Cypress Swamp on the left. A 20-gun battery on the Right Bank, manned mostly by Lafitte’s pirates, supported the Line. On December 28, the British probed the Line with a reconnaissance-in-force. The militia nearest the swamp panicked and retreated, but the Line near the river, protected by guns on the Right Bank, held, prompting the British to retreat.

British heavy guns arrived and began a bombardment of Jackson’s works on New Year’s Day. Another attempt was made to outflank the Line near the swamp while the bombardment was in progress. Militiamen and Chocktaw Indians turned back the outflanking maneuver. The British took the worst of the artillery duel as well, losing 13 guns to the American’s three. Major General Sir Edward Pakenham, the British commander, decided to forego further attempts on Line Jackson until his entire force was in place.

On January 8, the British plan was to attack the Right Bank battery via amphibious assault before dawn and turn its guns on the fortifications while a frontal assault against them was underway. The amphibious force was delayed by a lack of boats and a misjudging of the strength of the current. Thus, its eventual success was too late to support the attack columns going up against the fortifications.

Two attack columns, one moving along the riverbank, the British left, and another along the verge of the swamp, began the main attack in darkness and heavy fog. The fog lifted at dawn, exposing the British to heavy fire from the fortification’s cannons. The commander of the lead battalion on the right discovered he’d forgotten the ladders and fascines needed to cross the canal and scale the earthworks causing further delay. As Pakenham’s right flank fell into confusion with most of their officers killed or wounded, he ordered the 93rd Highlanders to cross the open field in front of the earthworks to support them. Their orders did not detail that they advance any further on their own and they were left standing in the open. They suffered heavily as a result. The depleted left column managed to capture an American forward redoubt but could not hold it nor cross the canal to the main fortifications beyond. Pakenham was fatally wounded while rallying his troops after these failed assaults.

Meanwhile, Captain Thomas Wilkinson, leading a battalion of the 21st Regiment of Foot on the right had reformed his men and led them, complete with the gear they needed, in one last push against Line Jackson. His men reached it and began scaling the embankment. Wilkinson himself reached the top before being fatally shot but the 21st was pushed back and the Line held.

Caught in the open, the surviving British were being shot to pieces when General Sir John Lambert took command after Pakenham’s death. He ordered the reserves to move forward and cover a retreat from Line Jackson. Informed of the belated success against the Right Bank battery, Lambert sent his artillery commander to assess the situation. Informed that 2000 men would be required to hold the position against counterattack, he ordered a withdrawal. British losses on the day were 291 dead, 1262 wounded, and 484 missing or captured. The Americans had 13 killed, 39 wounded, and 19 missing or captured.

After determining the cost of continuing attacks on New Orleans would be too high, the British reembarked their army and sailed away to attack Mobile on January 27th. They captured the fort defending the mouth of Mobile Bay on February 12th just before a ship arrived bearing news that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on December 24, 1814, ending the war fifteen days before the Battle of New Orleans.

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SMS Seeadler
The German raider SMS Seeadler sank her first victim on January 9, 1917. The world’s last sailing warship captured and sank the British steamer Gladis Royle on that date to begin a career of high sea raiding that would be cut short by nothing less than a tsunami.

Seeadler began her life as the steel-hulled, ship-rigged sailing vessel Pass of Balmaha. She was bound from New York to Archangel, Russia in 1915 carrying a cargo of cotton when she was intercepted by the British who suspected her of carrying contraband. With a British prize crew aboard, Pass of Balamaha then set sail for the Orkney Islands and a full inspection. But, while en route the German submarine U-36 intercepted her. The American captain hid the British crew, but the U-boat commander demanded the ship proceed to the German port of Cuxhaven for inspection. When the German inspection crew boarded her, the captain gave up the prize crew. The British were arrested, the Americans given free passage to a neutral port, and the ship seized by the Germans.

In 1916, she was renamed Seeadler (Sea Eagle in German) and equipped with hidden 105mm guns and heavy machine guns for commerce raiding. Steam-powered commerce raiding was impractical for the Germans because even if they broke through the Allied blockade, they would have no means of obtaining coal for the boilers. Seeadler sailed on December 21, 1916, disguised as a Norwegian wood carrier with a crew that was picked for their ability to speak Norwegian. This came in handy when she was boarded by the British but allowed to proceed through the blockade unmolested.

Over the next seven months, Captain Felix von Luckner and his crew captured a total of 15 ships in the Atlantic and Pacific while evading British and American warships. On August 2nd, 1917, she was anchored off the French Polynesian island of Mopelia, scraping her hull clean, when a tsunami lifted her and smashed her into a reef. The ship was wrecked beyond repair. Captain Luckner and five of the crew sailed to Fiji in an open boat where they were captured and became POWs. A few weeks later, the remaining crew managed to seize a French schooner that was lured into Mopelia harbor by the prospect of salvaging the wreck. They sailed Seealder’s 16th and last victim to Easter Island where they ran aground and were interned by the Chileans.

At 11:48 AM on January 10, 1946. Lt. Col. Jack DeWitt and his Project Diana team aimed a radar signal at the Moon. 2.56 seconds later, the time of a light-speed round trip to Earth’s satellite, they received the return. It had previously been thought that radio waves could not penetrate the ionosphere. Had this been the case, it would be impossible to communicate outside the atmosphere and therefore pointless to build man-made spacecraft. So, Project Diana, the brainchild of a Tennessee-born HAM radio enthusiast, was an important first step in putting a man on the Moon only 23 years later.
Jack DeWitt
CSS Alabama Battles USS Hatteras
CSS Alabama sank USS Hatteras after a 20-minute battle on January 11, 1863. The encounter took place in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Texas port of Galveston. It was the Confederate raider’s first encounter with a warship.

Secretly built for the Confederacy in Liverpool, England as Enrica, the screw- and sail-powered sloop was armed after sailing to the Azores where she was commissioned into the Confederate Navy. After raiding their way across the Atlantic, Captain Raphael Semmes and his crew, many of whom were British, made a swing through the West Indies and into the Gulf where they encountered the Hatteras.

USS Hatteras was part of a squadron blocking the Galveston. After sighting sails on the horizon around 3 PM, she was dispatched to give chase. She came upon Alabama, which was flying the Union Jack, about dusk. When hailed as to their identity, one of the raider’s British crew answered, “Her Britannic Majesty’s Ship Petrel.” When Hatteras put a boat in the water to inspect the “Britisher,” someone yelled, “We are CSS Alabama!” Semmes then took down the Union Jack, ran up the Stars and Bars, and opened fire.

Twenty minutes later Hatteras was holed in several places and on fire. Commander Homer Blake fired a single bow gun to indicate his surrender after flooding the magazines to prevent an explosion. He and his crew were taken aboard the raider before the ship sank. Two of his men had been killed and five were wounded. Semmes paroled the crew at Kingstown, Jamaica. The six men who had been aboard the boat sent to investigate “Petrel” managed to escape to the Union squadron.

Alabama sailed south and took several prizes off Brazil before making a port call in South Africa and sailing north up the coast of Africa. She had captured or burned a total of 65 Union merchants without a single loss of life aboard any of them or among her crew before her second, and final, encounter with a warship, the USS Kearsarge, off Cherbourg on June 11, 1864.

Aircraft from USS Lexington Attack Japanese Shipping Off Indochina
In a series of attacks on January 12, 1945, naval aviators from Third Fleet’s Task Force 38 sank 46 Japanese ships off the coast of what is now Vietnam. The attacks were part of a ten-day raid through the South China Sea conducted to prevent Japanese intervention in the amphibious operations to recapture Luzon in the Philippines and destroy Japanese capital ships believed to be present there. Third Fleet went on to conduct strikes against Formosa, mainland China, and Hong Kong. Although no major warships were found, 25 oil tankers were destroyed during the raid. This alone doomed any prospect of long-term Japanese resistance.
Johnny Cash performed two concerts at California’s Folsom State Prison on January 13, 1968. The opening acts were Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers. Cash’s second single Folsom Prison Blues, released in 1956, was popular among inmates leading many of them to write him letters. This gave him the idea for a prison concert.

The recordings of Cash’s performance were released in May 1968 as At Folsom Prison. The studio recording of Folsom Prison Blues had topped out at fourth on the charts, but the live version rocketed to number one. The success of the album revitalized a career that had been derailed by drug abuse. Cash would go on to record other live albums at prisons including San Quentin, Osteraker Prison in Sweden, and the Tennessee State Penitentiary.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison
The Human Be-In took place in San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967. It would later be remembered as the prelude to the “Summer of Love.” The event was organized as a “Gathering of the Tribes” that would hopefully unite the “Berkley radicals” and the relatively apolitical Haight-Ashbury hippies in activism.

Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company played. Allen Ginsberg chanted. Timothy Leary told everyone to “Tune out, turn on, and drop out.” Owsley Stanley provided LSD. The Hell’s Angels provided “security.”

The number of alleged attendees has grown considerably in the telling. Some tales have it as high as 100,000 now. Contemporary reports tell of 13-20,000. Publicity surrounding the Be-In began attracting large numbers of young people to San Fransisco creating the conditions for both the “Summer of Love” and the rapid deterioration of Haight-Ashbury that followed.

By the end of 1967, most of the intelligentsia and musicians had moved on. When he visited toward the end of the summer, George Harrison said, “I went there expecting it to be a brilliant place, with groovy gypsy people making works of art and paintings and carvings in little workshops. But it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs, and it turned me right off the whole scene.”

George Harrison Visits Haight-Ashbury
Task Forces At War

Task Forces At War is a quick-playing game of World War II naval combat that is perfect for introducing your non-wargaming friends to the hobby. At $7.95 it’s also cheap as chips. Get a copy today by clicking here.

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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