African American, Native American & Women in the War of 1812

 

Extracted from : African American Freedom Fighters

THE WAR OF 1812, 1812-1815

The mood of America during this period centered around keeping its independence solid from British rule as established by the peace treaty of 1783. As a new country, America also wanted to expand its borders and show off its might against encroaching outside foreign expansionists. It was with this thrust that President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) undertook the first step of expanding America's territorial bounds westward by annexing the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) was also executed by Jefferson in order to explore the possibilities of expanding America's borders from ocean to ocean.

When President James Madison (1809-1817) took office, America was again threatened by the British naval power. The British were "told to halt American merchant vessels anywhere on the high seas and search them for any British subjects serving in America's military or marine service." In 1806, the American frigate, the CHESAPEAKE, was captured by the British man-of-war, The LEOPARD. Among the captives were three black sailors aboard the CHESAPEAKE. These three Blacks were released in Nova Scotia five years later in 1811.

The British's unforgiving stance kept them at bay with the United States Colonies. They often seized U. S. ships trading with France, and The British continued to supply arms to the Native American Indians, who resented the westward expansion of the U. S. colonies. By 1810, the U. S. colonies ceased all trade with Britain. Within two years, the U. S. Congress declared war with Britain. The date was June 18, 1812. America was now engaged in the WAR OF 1812.

The status of Blacks in colonial America was still in flux and the established laws provided little protection. Even though slave importation was banned by 1808, some 250,000 more slaves were illegally imported into America from 1808-1860.

Those Blacks who were willing, able, or chosen to fight the British for America's defense did so with unusual valor. They fought in various campaigns on both sea and land. Blacks served in naval vessels, in mixed regiments, and in all "colored" regiments. Many were taken as prisoners by the British. One exemplary unit was the TWENTY-SIXTH U. S. INFANTRY REGIMENT consisting of 247 "colored" recruits from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania under the command of Captain William Bezean. Many of these willing and able regiments were held at bay, but many provided the backup and labor to keep the army running effectively. Sketchy records show blacks at the BATTLES OF LAKE ERIE and NEW ORLEANS.

This war ended with the signing of the Peace Treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814. The fighting continued until August 6, 1815. Documented names of the African American soldiers during the WAR OF 1812 included among them:

John Alfred * George Barnwell * John Brown * John Davis * Joshua Derwood * Jean Louis Dolliole * Simon Duke * John Eames * Cuff Farmer * Ezekieh Folden * Jacob Freeny * Quamenaugh Fuller * Abraham Gossard * John Johnson * Samuel Looks * Samuel Moore * Isaac Parcells * Vincent Populus * Joseph Savory * William Thatcher * John Bathan Vashon * Henry Willis * George Wilton

THE SAILOR ON LEAVE
PERIOD: THE WAR OF 1812 THROUGH THE VIETNAM WAR

African Americans as Navy men are among the oldest serving U.S. military groups. Although the official title of the NAVY was not designated, the early frigates and vessels used African Americans as seamen to work the decks as well as lots of other manual labor. By the WAR OF 1812, Blacks were invited to serve on both the BRITISH ships and also on the U. S. NAVY ships. The CIVIL WAR enlisted large numbers of African Americans on the ironclad ships and gunboats. Later wars had racial policies which kept the number of African Americans low by assigning them to lesser classifications such as messmen and stewards. During World War II, Naval enlistment again moved higher with the establishment of all Black crews on the USS MASON and the SUBCHASER PC1254. Although the Navy lifted "RACIAL RESTRICTIONS" by 1946, it was not until the KOREAN WAR (1950-1953) that the NAVY welcomed AFRICAN AMERICANS fully. With NAVAL ORDER Z 66, more opportunities for African Americans' advancement to positions as officers were opened. By 1987, 18.5% of the U. S. NAVY was African American.

 

Extracted From US Army

Free Men of Colour and Choctaw Indian Volunteers at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1814

While peace negotiations to end the War of 1812 were taking place at Ghent in late 1814, the British decided to continue an operation that had been planned earlier. This was to be a raid upon the Gulf Coast to capture New Orleans and possibly separate Louisiana from the United States. The Americans, having received early word of the British intentions, placed their southern defenses under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson. Jackson arrived at New Orleans on 2 December and began making preparations to meet the British expedition.

The British force, under Major General Keane, made good progress. Arriving at the mouth of Lake Borgne on 10 December, they met and captured the American gunboat flotilla on that lake four days later. After that they conducted an undetected reconnaissance to within six miles of New Orleans.

News of the gunboat’s capture caused consternation. Jackson placed the city under martial law and concentrated his scattered troop detachments nearby. General Coffee with his mounted riflemen arrived on 19 December, and Tennessee and Mississippi volunteers, under General Carroll, arrived a few days later. In and around the city itself Jackson had two regular regiments, the 7th and 44th; a thousand state militia; a battalion of three hundred city volunteers; a rifle company of about sixty; a battalion of free blacks, mostly refugees from Santo Domingo; and twenty-eight Choctaw Indians. It was fortunate that Jackson’s men had concentrated quickly, for at noon on 23 December the British advance force, a light brigade of about nineteen hundred men under Lieutenant Colonel Thornton, appeared on the banks of the Mississippi at the Villere plantation about nine miles from New Orleans, where they were to camp for the night. Jackson was told of the British arrival and decided to attack that evening. The main body of about thirteen hundred led by him would make a frontal attack, and Coffee with approximately seven hundred would hit from the flank while the armed schooner Carolina in the river would sweep the British with its guns. The action began well. The Carolina commenced her bombardment at 7:00 pm and soon after, Jackson and Coffee engaged the surprised British. But the early winter night had fallen and with night came fog. Men became separated from their units and soon the action became a melee with squads and individuals meeting, often fighting hand-to-hand with little overall control. At first the Americans were successful, but the British steadied with the arrival of reinforcements. After about an hour and a half of this confusion. Jackson broke off the action and withdrew his troops. He was followed by Coffee an hour later. The Americans lost 213 killed and wounded. British casualties totaled 267.

The painting shows the Choctaws and a mixed group of Major Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour. The latter were mostly attired in civilian clothes because they had been organized only for a few weeks. They are led by an officer distinguishable by his sword and red sash. Facing them are members of the British 85th Regiment in red coats with yellow facings and white lace, and members of the British 95th Regiment in green uniforms with black facings and white lace.

 

Extracted from: Auglink

The USS CONSTITUTION met and defeated HMS GUERRIERE, the first in a grand succession of victories in the War of 1812. It was during this ferocious battle that the seamen, astonished at the way the British cannonballs were bouncing off the Constitution's hull, cried out -"Her sides are made of iron!" Thus, her nickname,"Old Ironsides."

What was not known at the time was the fact that a U.S. Marine, serving aboard Old Ironsides, as George Baker, was actually Lucy Brewer. Eventually the Marine Corps reluctantly acknowledged that Lucy Brewer was perhaps the very first woman marine. Here's the way the Historical Division of the USMC tells the Lucy Brewer story:

"No compilation of legends would be complete without mention of Lucy Brewer. A farm girl from Massachusetts, Lucy Brewer was the legendary first woman Marine. The War of 1812 was raging when Lucy arrived at Boston. Friendless in the strange city, she met a woman who seemed eager to take a stranger into her home. Lucy was surprised that one woman could have so many daughters, but she soon discovered that home was just a house. Unsuited to a life of sin, Lucy fled her benefactress, donned men's clothing, and found refuge in the Marine Corps. No one discovered she was a woman, and as a member of the "Constitution's" Marine guard, she saw action in some of the bloodiest sea fights of the war. Her exploits came to light when she published an autobiographical account of her experiences. She described her heroism in the major battles of the "Constitution" with such details as manning the fighting tops as a marksman, taking toll of the British with musket fire. True or not, the story of Lucy Brewer makes a wonderful addition to the colorful legends about the Marine Corps."

It would be over one hundred years before the Marine Corps seriously began to recruit women - August 1918 - to be specific.