Saturday, July 05, 2014

from COOKE'S , A Narrative of Events beginning on page 277
CHAPTER XII. - L'Isle Dauphin. 
In a few days the fleet weighed anchor, and steered its 
course, with gentle breezes, towards Mobile Bay, and 
in twenty-four hours dropped anchor opposite I'isle
Dauphin, where the troops disembarked early in Fe- 
bruary, and were put under tents. The soldiers no 
sooner landed than they dispersed themselves amid the 
thickets of pine and cedar trees, and began a hot                                fusillade at the few cattle and hogs appertaining to a Mr. 
Cooney, of Irish extraction, who had been banished to 
that island for some misdemeanour committed in the 
American navy, in which he informed us he held the 
rank of midshipman. Himself and wife were its only 
inhabitants, although it was some miles in length, and 
from one to three in breadth. Before any order was 
issued, the soldiers, who had been for months on salt 
provisions, had destroyed every four-footed animal they 
could get a shot at ; the consequence was, when all the 
mischief was committed, an order was promulgated 
that no more were to be destroyed. This meat was so 
rank, and tasted to such a degree of rushes, which the 
cattle fed on, that it was impossible to stomach the 
flesh until well salted down and even this process 

278 L'Isle Dauphin. 

would not effectually take away the unpleasant flavour 
of the rushes. The Americans occupied a small fort 
on a sandy promontory, at the mouth of Mobile Bay, 
but after two or three days' cannonade it capitulated, 
with its small garrison of four hundred men. 

The side of the island on which we were stationed 
was three hundred yards from the shore, of a dry sandy 
soil, but as it abounded with alligators and numerous 
other reptiles, great care was taken to clear the ground 
of the underwood, and ditches were dug round our 
tents to prevent the nocturnal visits of the alligators 
which lay dormant at this time of the year, although a 
stray one would sometimes protrude its enormous head 
and fore-legs out of a stagnant pool, to bask in the rays 
of the sun, or would creep, with a rustling noise, through 
the underwood ; and at a short distance they resembled 
a piece of burnt timber. In a few days almost the 
whole of the tents were hidden from view, and the labyrinths
of the camp presented a most picturesque appearance, 
as every tent was enclosed by a wicker-work 
fence, interwoven with quantities of the richest evergreens,
representing all the intricacies of a handsome 
plantation. In this island of natural productions 
there are birds of the most beautiful plumage, such as 
hummingbirds, parrokeets, eagles, pelicans, and various 
other species which fluttered in the trees, forming 
a perfect aviary. The shores abounded with delicious 
fish and extensive oyster-beds ; the marshes produced 
wild fowl and large snipe, and its sands generated 
snakes, scorpions, and other reptiles; and, although 

L'Isle Dauphin. 279 

it was considered by us a pleasant situation, Mr. Cooney 
informed us that during the warm weather a European 
would be nearly devoured alive, of the authenticity 
of which I had certain proof before we left it. Here 
we found a spot encircled with pine-trees, round which 
seven of us formed a wicker-work fence of great solidity, 
and also dug a ditch of considerable width, which 
measured ninety-five yards in circumference ; in the interior 
huts were constructed of the cedar-tree and other 
odoriferous shrubs. It was named Fort Anselmo, and 
au centre blazed an enormous fire ; around its bright 
blaze we happily caroused. 

Amongst other inconveniences attendant on long 
voyages, provisions at this period began to fail the 
fleet, and for many days scarcely any biscuit was served 
out; our breakfast consisted of chocolate without 
sugar, fat pork, cut into rations and burnt over the 
embers of the fire, to serve as bread to the oysters. 
One night, while seated round the crackling wood fire, 
a negro slave, who had escaped from his master or 
driver, and accompanied us from before New Orleans, 
said, " Massa, I see little cow ;" a piece of intelligence 
which made us prick up our ears, and each seizing a 
musket, we sallied forth, and, when close to General 
Keane's oblong wicker-work hut, (he had nearly re- 
covered the effects of his wound,) the black pointed 
out a calf; a volley was discharged; it fell; but, to 
our consternation, it was found to be tied to a stake by 
the leg, clearly indicating it to be private property. 
To be detected would never do : our cook, there- 

280 L'Isle Dauphin. 

fore, sprang forward, threw the animal on his back; 
and hid it in our fortification of wicker-work. The 
whole camp was in alarm at the report of the fire- 
arms ; the guards were flying in all directions ; many of 
the soldiers turned out and stood to their arms under 
the supposition that the enemy had made a descent ; 
and, to add to the joke, the general, a day or two 
after, invited one of our mess to breakfast with him, 
who broke four eggs, out of six, into a tumbler, with 
pepper and salt, and swallowed them. " Well,'* said 
the General, " if that is not the most un-infantry 
way of eating eggs I ever saw : now really I should not 
wonder if some of you young gentlemen have not purloined my calf;" 
which, by-the-bye, was now cut into 
junks and crammed into pork-casks, and this pickled 
veal was subsequently distributed to our particular 
friends as a rarity. But this was not all, as one depredation
begets another. An officer came back from a 
tedious day's sport ; being without small shot, he could 
not bag any game, and seeing a cow grazing near the 
shore, he shot her through the head with a bullet, and 
covered the carcass over with evergreens, and had 
scarcely reached home before a great outcry arose 
amongst the sailors in search of the Admiral's milch 
cow, which, in due time, was brought in, salted down, 
and presented to some of the fusileers as rations. 

An enormous pine-tree, stripped of its bark and 
lower branches, to the height of at least sixty yards, 
stood a mile from our camp, towering and completely 
overtopping all the other trees of the forest. 

L'Isle Dauphin. 281 

On the top of this, the most stately tree that I 
ever beheld, and amidst the branches, which only 
tufted round its highest altitude, a silver eagle had 
built its nest,which we were determined to possess our- 
selves of; and as there were no means of getting at it 
without felling the huge tree, with a numerous party, 
we repaired to the spot and set to work, and, after 
much toil and most exceeding labour, when it was sufficiently
cut with the axe and numerous bill-hooks, 
ropes were affixed round the trunk, and, after tottering, 
it came down with a tremendous crash, so much so, 
that although I was stationed a distance of an hun- 
dred yards from its base, firing ever and anon at the 
eagle, which hovered in the air at least a quarter of a 
mile over the nest that contained her young, — yet, when 
the prodigious tree fell towards me, I involuntarily 
shrunk and tottered backwards, and at the same time 
coming in contact with the root of a shrub, I lost my 
equilibrium, and measured my full length at the same 
moment with the tree, still frightened, and keeping my 
eye fixed on the falling mass, whose broken branches 
flew about in every direction with the concussion. One 
of the young eaglets had its neck broken, but the other 
was uninjured. They were just fledged, and were about 
the size of a half-grown goose ; the nest was very large, 
about the bulk of a common clothes' basket, and was 
composed of branches of trees, most of which were the 
circumference of a person's finger, and the whole of 
them were very dry and brittle. 

The same day an officer shot an alligator in the top 

282 L'Isle Dauphin. 

of the head with a musket-ball while the monster was 
basking in the sun-beams with its head just above the 
surface of the water in a stagnant pond within the 
limits of our camp ground. It was some hours before 
the vital spark was entirely extinct. Two young alligators, 
each measuring more than a foot in length, were 
kept in a tub of water, and whenever put close together 
with a stick, no matter how often during the day, they 
would fight in the most vicious manner. 

One night a soldier's wife was nursing her child in a 
hut by the light of a taper, when a huge alligator 
crawled in, looked about, and then slowly backed its 
horrible shelled carcass out again, the poor woman all 
the time clasping her infant in her arms and transfixed 
with horror and consternation, in momentary expectation 
that the amphibious monster would devour herself and 

As a sort of explanation of a sham partizan warfare that 
took place in Dauphin Island, I must state that while 
in Spain a troop was formed bearing the title of 
" Britannia's Hope," or the " Defenders of Innocence;" and 
each knight armed with a lance assumed a name such 
as Florian of the Desert, Palmarin of England, Se- 
bastian of Spain, Amadis de Gaul, and so on. I also 
took the title of Don Anselmo, and probably a more 
ludicrous scene than that which occurred on the day of 
its formation could not have taken place. The spot selected
for the ceremony was a small amphitheatre enclosed 
with trees in full blossom. Each cavalier having 
decorated himself and horse with branches of blossom, 


dismounted to have his colour presented to him from 
my hands, consisting of an old bandanna handkerchief 
which was tied to a pole, the whole of the knights 
joining in chorus " God Save the King.' We then 
mounted our horses and went our way in search of 
adventures, myself being dubbed with the honorary 
appellation of captain of the troop. But to revert 
to our sham warfare in America, where the greater 
portion of the officers of six regiments with might 
and main were eagerly engaged, and also the officers 
of the dismounted squadron of the fourteenth 
light dragoons, with as much zeal and anxiety as if the 
fete of a capital city was to be decided on the eventful 
day of a pitched battle, when two armies were about 
to begin the work of death face to face. Orders for 
this petty war were issued in writing, despatches were 
sent backwards and forwards by night and day: some 
of the autograph copies I still hold as specimens sent 
to me as the honorary commander-in-chief of one of 
the two rival and partizan camps. 

To the best of my belief this very amusing and interesting
little guerrilla warfare in truth originated about 
the egress to and fro to a broad path or opening which 
was overshadowed by trees on each side, and situated 
behind the lines of the eighty-fifth light infantry, where 
peradventure a pair of bright eyes and a feminine costume, 
which had been recently imported from England, 
were to be seen. This broad walk was known to a 
few as a " by-word" of Pall-Mall, in allusion to 
the great lounging street of that name in England's 

284 L'Isle Dauphin. 

overgrown metropolis. On the ground and under the 
pine trees was strewed a very great abundance of cones 
or pine-tops of considerable size, many of them being 
seven or eight inches in length and as many in circumference, 
and when soaked through by the rain or 
immersed in water they were of goodly weight, and when 
thrown with force and exactitude, gave and left marks 
on the physiognomy of an ugly character. Of the 
effects of these cones I can speak feelingly, having 
received four black eyes at different times during the 
various onsets and skirmishes which happened in the 
course of the two months that we were in the labyrinth 
of trees and the wicker-work encampment, where from 
the height of enclosures and fences the red spiral tops 
of the white canvass tents were hardly visible in some 
places above them. 

There was a long open space of three hundred yards 
in breadth, (which was called the plain,) separating 
the two woods, in one of which the seventh fusileers 
and the forty-third were under canvass or hutted. On 
the other side of the open space were the eighty-fifth, 
ninety-fifth (rifles), the ninety-third highlanders, and 
also the fortieth regiment, which had recently arrived 
in this island. The already described Pall- Mall was 
nearly in rear of these last named regiments, who soon 
declared themselves as our opponents, from a recon- 
naisance made by some of our light troops for the 
ostensible purpose of negotiating an amicable treaty to 
admit of a free ingress and egress to their promenade 
of Pall-Mail. On one side of the broad path which 


led from an encampment, the eighty-fifth had a sort of 
advanced wicker-work enclosure, which in a manner 
flanked the direct way (called the high road) to Pall- 
Mall. The consequence was, that after some reconnoitering 
and parleying, the van-guards of the eighty- 
fifth and the forty-third, the latter being on their way to 
Pall-Mall began a rapid encounter with pine-cones, 
and seeing from some sand-hills that my vanguard, 
although victorious in the plain, were unable to penetrate 
into their labyrinths of wicker-work and strong 
holds, I marched with a chosen body to their succour, 
and without a halt stormed the above fort by a 
small breach which was now the bone of contention, 
took it, and therein hoisted our colours as soon as it 
had surrendered at discretion. Amadis de Gaul, my 
second in command, and who had been hotly engaged 
from the beginning of the onset, and while the fort was 
in his charge, sent me the following despatch, and although 
not emanating from official organs, still this 
despatch describing the sham fight is penned so like 
many real despatches, of course of much greater moment 
and importance, that I cannot resist the temptation 
of inserting it as a relic the most recherche of our 
younger frolics. It will be detected by the nature of 
the despatch that brevet ranks were bestowed with 
unsparing hand, and that a staff was formed as it were 
by sleight of hand, rough and ready, and were as 
expert at the pen, plucked from the pinions of the 
eagle or the vulture, as though they had been old 

286 l'isle dauphin. 

stagers and grown grey in the service. 
This precious morsel runs verbatim as follows: — 

Isle Dauphin J March 3, 1815. 
Sir, — I beg leave to report to your Excellency the 
particulars of the action with the enemy this morning 
before your arrival. Having formed my division, I received 
orders from your Excellency to advance and 
reconnoitre the enemy's out-post. I did so, and found 
them totally unprepared for the attack. I advanced 
with caution some distance into their lines; but the 
alarm being given by a few skirmishers of the enemy, 
they soon collected a force of more than double ours, 
which obliged me to fall back and take up a position 
within musket-shot of their advanced fort. The enemy, 
having from his magazines plentifully supplied himself 
with ammunition, advanced to attack us. We allowed 
them to come close to us before we opened our fire, 
which did great execution in the enemy's ranks. 
Colonel Carroll, at the head of his brigade, made a 
most gallant charge on a very superior body ; but owing 
to the great superiority of the enemy. Colonel Carroll's 
brigade were obliged to retire. Seeing this, I ordered 
the brigade of McLean's to charge, and led them myself. 
While going on I was several times wounded, as were 
several of the brave brigade at whose head I was, but 
the impetuosity of our charge was not to be withstood, 
and the enemy gave way in every direction, leaving two 
prisoners and Colonel Carroll, whom they had taken 
from us. They then threw a brigade into the fort. 

L'Isle Dauphin. 287 

while with the remainder of their army they defended 
their right flank. I made several attempts to take the 
fort with my division, but owing to the great superiority 
of the enemy, could not succeed until your Excellency's 
arrival with a reinforcement, when our brave army 
carried every thing before them. 

I feel particularly indebted to Colonels Carroll and 
McLean for their assistance, and the very excellent dispositions 
they made with the brigades they commanded. 
I also beg leave to mention my aid-de-camp Captain 
Hill. In fact no encomiums of mine can do justice to 
the bravery of the officers and soldiers under my command. 
I beg leave to enclose a return of wounded. 
I have the honour to be 

Your Excellency's most obedient servant, 

Amadis de Gaul, 

General of division. 
To Don Anselmo
Commander-in- Chief, Fort Anselmo. 

The captured fort was of no use to us, being at too 
great a distance from our encampment to garrison it ; 
however it was thought best to retain it for twenty-four 
hours as a trophy of our prowess. A treaty was drawn 
up between myself and Captain Travers of the rifle- 
corps, who commanded the army of our opponents, as 
follows : — 

The fort to be made in the same state as it was prior 

288 L'Isle Dauphin. 

to our being attacked, subject to the inspection of both 
parties. Thus it will remain in the possession of the 
forty-third forces. 

The forty-third and seventh who were inside the fort 
today, when we retired, to remain there until twelve 
o'clock on Monday. An exchange of prisoners as 

(Signed) Field Marshal Travers, 

Commander-in-chief of the allied army. 
Camp, Fort Impracticable. 
(Granted) Anselmo, 

Commander of Forces, 
Fort Anselmo. 

After this, various encounters and combats took place, 
and both parties set to work to strengthen their works 
and entrenchments ; but the two formidable citadels 
opposed to one another were the Fort Impracticable 
and the Fort Anselmo, the former belonging to our 
rivals, and the latter being the strong hold or keep on 
our side. Being the more conversant with our fort, 
it will not be amiss to give a description of it. The 
Fort Anselmo was ninety-five yards in circumference at 
this sandy spot. A few pine-trees were felled and others 
growing in a natural circle ; and between the intervals 
of these trees large holes were dug in the sand, into 
which the stems of small pine-trees were buried and 
the holes filled up. To these props the wicker-work 
was interwoven and made fast to the trunks of the trees 
which formed the circle. The wicker-work enclosure 

L'Isle Dauphin. 289 

being finished and of great strength, was interwoven 
with evergreens of broad and expansive leaf, a sand- 
bank within was raised about three feet, as a sort of 
rampart, and to add to the durability of the stakes and 
the fence, which was seven feet high, and when standing 
on the raised parapet within, it was about breast 
high, to enable us to pour down pine-tops on any assailants 
who should attempt to take the fort by escalade, 
for ladders were actually manufactured during our war- 
fare for such purposes, and at every four or five yards 
there were piles of pine-tops, after the manner of 
cannon-balls on the ramparts of more scientific fortresses. 

Without this wicker-work fence was a dry ditch 
three feet deep and four in breadth, and all this labour 
was resorted to for amusement, as well as to keep out 
the alligators or other noxious animals and reptiles 
from paying us nocturnal visits. Within this strong 
enclosure were two tents and two huts, the latter constructed 
with such care as to rival the most fanciful 
grottos, formed at great cost and time; and near the 
middle of the sandy space which was carefully swept 
with brooms made from the smaller shrubs, was a large 
rude table chiseled with rough-edged tools ; the stools 
or seats were of the same rough workmanship and un-carpenter-like 
finish. This rough and ready table, and 
the seats enclosing it, were not moveable or fixed upon fashionable 
castors; quite the contrary, they were nailed to 
the stumps and stems of decapitated trees, and in truth 
, might be called the fixtures of the tempest, for there they 

290 L'Isle Dauphin. 

stood in rough outlines defying the pattering of the 
rain or the unceremonious tempest strong, stiff, and 
sturdy, and even capable of bearing a heavier weight of 
viands than these times of scarcity afforded. This broad 
and coarse fixture deigned not to groan or to grow 
rickety under the weight of intemperance, and around 
this board sat seven voyagers, moustached, and clothed 
in tarnished scarlet uniforms. One wore an hussar 
pelisse; another was adorned with a satin waistcoat, 
richly embroidered, and studded with glass to represent 
precious stones, brought from Rodrigo in Spain ; another 
flourished a silver fork wanting one prong, which he 
brought from Badajoz, and which had dived into 
many a garlic dish, or been stuck into the mutton of 
Spanish Estremadura, or had played its part in the 
capital of Old Spain, and now flourished in the New 
World, employed in carrying helpless oysters to the 
same mouth and lips which bargained for it at one 
half of its intrinsic value ; and Benjamin Smith, a 
worthy soldier, might be seen caressing a pretty little 
paraquet, which had just recovered from a slight wound 
in the wing that had brought it from the bough of an 
adjacent tree. A few days after this interesting little 
bird of green plumage was made captive, it would run 
of a morning to visit the different mattresses which lay 
on the ground, and would nestle under the clothes 
apparently with the greatest transports of delight. 

In this inclosure, so famed for oyster feasts, pickled 
veal, and rushy-flavoured beef, which was all carefully 
stowed away in smuggled casks, containing salt brine 

L'Isle Dauphin. 291 

which formerly held lumps of junk, we made merry 
over our cups, the great fire blazing brightly, and 
the rosin flaring in gas-like flames from the logs of 
the pine. This place, of a night, more resembled 
the resort of banditti than the abode of officers once 
so starched, stiff, and erect on England's parade- 
ground. Shooting was the order of the day; few went 
abroad without a firelock or fowling-piece both for 
sport and self-protection s^inst the prolific produce of 
this, I may say, living soil, infested with creeping and 
strange animals, buzzing flies, and searching musquitoes ; 
the trees were alive with birds; many of their 
screaming notes were shrill and piercing. Every few 
yards some bird flew past, or perched on a distant 
bough, all presenting tempting objects for the marks- 
man. But unluckily we lacked of small shot ; some 
spent whole days in cutting leaden bullets into small 
lumps or particles, and others, more scientifically inclined, 
endeavoured to turn manufacturers of shot. 
One invention totally failed, and the inventor, while 
boring holes in the bottom of an old tin kettle with 
laudable and philosophical patience, flattered himself 
that all his hopes would be crowned with complete 
success. The supposed necessary number of punctures 
being finished, a quantity of leaden bullets were melted 
down, the holy tin cover was held over a cask of water, 
and the important experiment began ; the molten lead 
was poured on the tin cover ; certainly a few drops of 
lead fell through the holes into the water, but they only 
presented a few mis-shapen lumps. But here the 

292 L'Isle Dauphin. 

mishap and failure did not end, for, ere the operator and 
the inventor could get breath, all the holes in the tin 
kettle were plugged up with lead, and his whole day's 
labour was soldered up as it were in half a minute. 
After this I saw no more attempts at the manufacturing of small shot. 

In the middle of the arena of Fort Anselmo was a 
slender pine-tree, lopped of its branches, from the top 
of which waved a flag of "two colours" composed of 
white and blue silk, emblematical of the facings of the 
royal fuzileers and the forty-third light infantry. 

Our soldiers (servants) were hutted in an outwork, 
without their principal gate of the fort ; under the arch- 
way was a square hole of considerable depth, over 
which beams were laid as a sort of drawbridge, which 
could be displaced at pleasure, so that the alligators 
might here be foiled in their attempts at crawling into 
the fort. Round the servants' huts was another dry 
sandy ditch with an embankment or parapet; this place 
was called the parade-ground ; at the corner of it we 
had sunk a well, the water of which, like the rest in 
this island, was of brackish taste, like the water drunk 
at many of the spas by English invalids, as a cleanser 
after the joys of the table ; however, as this was the 
best water to be got, we were obliged to put up with its 
spa-like taste morning, noon, and night, yet I cannot 
say that all of us did not enjoy the most robust and 
vigorous health, eating and drinking our coarse fare 
under the concave of etherial blue, heedless which way 
the wind blew. 

L'Isle Dauphin 293 

At the back of this fort there was a small wicker- 
work door wove with curious ingenuity, and just large 
enough for admitting one person at a time, by climbing 
out of the ditch ; and the branched exterior of this 
small outlet so exactly corresponded with the exterior 
wicker-work fence, that it was totally impossible to detect 
that such an outlet existed : and this secret aperture 
was unknown to any of us, save one who was the planner 
of it, and this ingenious handicraftsman had laboured at 
its construction behind his own hut, and for more than 
a month he went and came by it; we often wondered how he 
disappeared from the fort when he was 
often seen only to enter his own hut, and frequently 
voices called him from the ill-shapen and unpolished 
board of hilarity, and even some went in search of him, 
as there was no answer returned, but he was no where 
to be found. In the end his small doorway saved Fort 
Anselmo from capture in the day of strife, — nay, another 
half-minute's delay would have deprived its possessors of 
it, and the silken colours of blue and white would have 
been torn down, and have formed a trophy and been 
most likely suspended beneath the flag of yellow and 
green of our opponents, the champions of the Fort 

Before the fuzileers had joined us, I assembled the 
officers of our own corps only, and moved into the open 
space for the purpose of bringing the eight-fifth and 
the rifle-corps to action in the open plain, muster- 
ing about equal numbers with our opponents* But 
they would not come forth from the cover of their  

294 L'Isle Dauphin. 

entrenchments, and amused my advanced guard by giving 
them some stray shots, and a good deal of desultory 
skirmishing took place. As commander, I was stationary
with my main body two hundred yards behind 
all, out of reach of the enemy's projectiles, and surrounded 
by my main body, ready to succour at those 
points where the hottest of the action raged. 

While looking eagerly towards the flanks, I all at 
once caught a glimpse of the Scotch caps of the ninety- 
third Highlanders gliding through the woods, and who 
were absolutely marching in such a direction as would 
force me to show two faces, or rather to throw my adherents 
on two sides of a square. Although the ninety- 
third had not declared against us, still I thought precautionary 
measures necessary, and I ordered my vanguard to retire slowly ; 
if followed, to continue to fight in 
retreat, but, if possible, to conceal from their opponents 
that a retrograde movement was decided upon across a 
plain and in front of three regiments against us. This 
retrograde movement being adopted with all the regularity 
and good conduct desired by my most sanguine wishes, I 
immediately, unknown to any except my second in command, 
quited the field, leaving him to continue the action 
until my return ; at full stretch of legs I ran to the 
portals of the Fort Anselmo, ordered the bridge to be 
taken up, leaving only one person as sentinel at its 
gate, and then caused great heaps of pine-tops to be 
conveyed to a position at the edge of the wood, where 
I resolved to fight at all hazards, although against 
such odds. 

L'Isle Dauphin. 296 

After a brave struggle my army was completely 
routed, and the greater part prostrate and taken prisoners. 
The enemy were two to one in the encounter, and as all 
small bodies, when once broken, are 
generally annihilated, this was the case with us after 
one hour's fighting ; a few of the right wing only 
saved themselves by diving through the thicket, to endeavour 
to regain Fort Anselmo by the secret entrance, 
and there enter, if possible, to man the ramparts and 
to save the fort. 

Only one individual from my centre and left, during 
the hot pursuit, contrived to reach the outworks in front 
of the principal entrance of Fort Anselmo and that 
was Don Sebastion of dark visage, made still darker 
by the contusions he had received in the fray; thus 
breathless and alone, without his cap, he stood, the 
picture of every thing that was delightful — the sole 
champion to repel a host, who then jumped into the ditch 
to climb the banks of the outwork, and to grapple with 
the only defender, who was of strong arm, redoubtable, 
and of a chivalric spirit, and withal of deep romance. 
Whether he was inspired at the legendary tales of the 
old women and nurses of the Highlands, or whether the 
deeds of the most redoubtable chieftains of his ancestors 
had fired his brain, I know not. But he was a host, 
and well-nigh beggared and set at nought the mighty 
and tough legends of old, when knights with battle-axe 
or ponderous sword, uplifted with both hands, clove 
in twain the skulls of all comers ; for as the climbers 
mounted to the assault, he tumbled them into the little 

296 L'Isle Dauphin. 

fosse one after the other; but at length waxing feeble 
with long turmoil, he was overpowered, and thrown 
headlong by many hands into the ditch. 

Lieutenant Gleig, of the eighty-fifth, headed this 
party most valiantly, and I must say he spared no endeavours 
to take the fort. With his own hands he 
tore down the colours of Fort Anselmo, and under 
a shower of pine-tops boldly sprung towards the entrance, 
and finding the bridge gone, unhesitatingly 
jumped into the hole under the gateway; but here he 
was entrapped and met his fate. Lieutenant Steele, 
a Yorkshireman, seized hold of him and obliged him 
to surrender himself a prisoner in the very place which 
he had intended to leave with trophies and as a conqueror. 

There stood the festooned wicker-work portals invitingly open 
; but others of his partizan allies, running 
the gauntlet, and eager for the capture of this fort, 
sprung into the ditch, and peeping into the wide-gaping 
sand-pit, they unhesitatingly flew from its tottering 
brink, and carrying with them the ocular tidings of its 
great depth to their main body, they all hesitated, and 
came to a stand-still, and by way of gaining time and 
recovering from their sudden panic they sent forward to 
demand the surrender of the fortress ; but the only 
signal they obtained from the skeleton remains of its 
defenders, was a bold front from their lofty breast- 
works, pointing in derision to the open portals and 
the sand-pit under its archway. 

The partizan allies tenaciously clung to the parade- 

L'Isle Dauphin. 297 

ground or outworks of the fort ; but finding as they 
cooled, after the fray, that their contusions began to 
be painful, they were glad to enter into a treaty, wherein 
the garrison demanded my release, and that I should 
negotiate the following protocol : — 

Fort Anselmo. 
The inner part belongs to the forces of Anselmo, the 
outworks to the enemy, who are to immediately occupy 
them. It is agreed that in three parts of an hour the 
enemy's forces are to be in the works taken. But if not 
occupied by them in the stated time. General Anselmo's 
forces are to take possession of them. 

(Signed) Anselmo, 

N. C. Travers, 

And here follows the exact copy, word for word, which 
I wrote at the time in my defense of the late battle, 
to show that our rivals brought into the field 
(against all the rules of war ancient or modem,) other 
partizan allies, who had not previously taken either 
directly or indirectly any share in the petty warfare, 
but by stealth had crept through a wood, and come 
over its borders, had attacked the left and threatened 
the rear of my adherents, without even sending a 
herald to announce to which side they were about to 
proffer their assistance ; however, I thought it more 
glorious to fight with fourteen men against twenty-eight 

298 L'Isle Dauphin. 

than to retire, there being some honour in winning the 
day, and utter discredit in losing it. Hutchinson and 
Lorentz, of the royal fuzileers, seeing the disparity of 
numbers, joined us, and we were more than once 
within an ace of winning the day. 

Anselmo Castle, 
Dauphin Island, 
In the morning I perceived the enemy drawn up in 
heavy columns on the high road leading to their entrenchments 
in order of battle. I immediately ordered 
General Considine to move on with the first brigade of 
his division to reconnoitre them, which he did to my 
satisfaction after some slight skirmishing, and drove 
the enemy's pickets close in to their main body. Seeing 
this, I determined to move on with my whole army, and 
defeat them before any reinforcements could arrive. The 
first brigade of the light division was at this time hotly 
engaged, and gained some partial advantages, though 
against a superior body. At this time I perceived the 
ninety-third army moving through the wood with an 
evident intention to turn my left, (though war had not 
been declared against that nation,) This movement 
determined me to fall back and take up a position in a 
wood in front of Anselmo Castle, which I did with some 
loss, as the enemy continued pushing on in a deter- 
mined manner, intending if possible to bring me to 
action in the plain, which I was determined to avoid if 
possible, as the army was double mine in numbers. I 
had just got my troops into position, when the enemy 

L'Isle Dauphin. 299 

made a most determined charge on my centre, resting 
on the high road to Ansehno. At the same time they 
attempted to turn my right. In both these attacks they 
were repulsed by the gallantry of my troops. 

My right was severely engaged under General Steele ; 
several attacks were renewed on my left and centre, but 
failed where I commanded in person. The enemy then 
made a flank movement towards my left, where I immediately 
went, leaving Generals Considine and MacLean, 
senior, who were bravely repelling the enemy in 
the centre. At this time, by the superior force of the 
enemy, notwithstanding all my efforts, he succeeded in 
turning my left, under Field-Marshal Travers in person, 
whom, as well as a colonel of the ninety-third, I made 
prisoners, when their reserve came up, dispersed and 
routed the third division, released the prisoners I had 
made, and took me while I was endeavouring to get 
Marshal Travers away. 

General Considine, finding his rear threatened, commenced 
his retreat, disputing every inch of ground. 
Unfortunately he exposed himself too much and was 
made prisoner, when the army, seeing this, was in much 
confusion. General MacLean continued the action, and 
rallied the army at the outworks of Anselmo, where, 
after a most desperate effort to restore the fortune of 
the day, this general was also taken prisoner. 

The enemy then assaulted the castle, commanded by 
Deputy Governors Steele and Madden, and were re- 
pulsed with the loss of some prisoners. 

300 L'Isle Dauphin. 

Other skirmishes and affairs took place, and I after- 
wards made an attempt to take Fort Impracticable with 
the united forces of the royal fusileers and the officers of 
the dismounted squadron of the fourteenth light dragoons, 
but failed, owing to the fortieth regiment attacking 
us before a declaration of war, as the ninety-third had 
done. Our rivals had dug a deep pit within the open 
door-way of their fort, similar to the sand-pit beneath 
the portals of our fort. Penrice, of the fusileers, was 
entrapped in the hole of their sand-pit. Herewith 
follow extracts of more despatches which fell into my 

Head-quarters of the Eighty-fifth Forces, 

Sir, — In answer to your despatch, which I have received 
by your aid-de-camp, I beg leave to inform you 
that what you have mentioned with respect to the 
seventh regiment is on our part agreed to; but as you 
state yourselves and the seventh to be independent 
nations, we consider ourselves, the fortieth and ninety- 
third, in the same light : we have therefore made the 
same proposals to them which you have to the seventh. 

The articles which you propose in your despatches we 
fully agree to, except that part which alludes to the 
half-hour's notice previous to any attack being made. 
It is our fixed determination to attack at any moment 
after the stipulated hour which may suit our convenience; 
and the only weapon with which we shall 
expect to meet is the pine-apple. 

No fences shall on any account be broken down or 

L'Isle Dauphin. 301 

entered except where a breach or gate-way is apparent, 
or by scaling. 

By order of the Commander of the Forces, 

G. I. Watts, 

Military Secretary. 
To Gen, Considine, 
Commanding advance of the forty-third. 

Sir, — I have just received this note, and send it for 
your perusal. You will perceive they will not agree to 
give notice of an attack. I think they mean to endeavour 
to surprise us. If you have any orders send to me, 
and I will make arrangements, and give out general 
orders about the divisions providing themselves with 
ammunition, haversacks, etc. 

Will you appoint my division, or shall I do it ? — what 
strength must it be ? 

James Considine, 

Gen. Advance. 
To His Excellency f Don Anselmo
Commander-in- Chief. 

The suspicion conveyed in the last document, that 
a surprise was in contemplation by our opponents, was 
not given at random, for a few nights after the receipt 
of it, the writer of the first of these documents was 
detected in the uniform of a private soldier, and made 
captive in the very act of taking the depth of the 
dry ditch of our out-works, which had been recently 
strengthened. A naval aid-de-camp, one day, somehow 

302 L'Isle Dauphin. 

contrived to get hold of an animal carrying the framework 
of a horse, and, with lance in hand, this nautical 
personage came in front of our fort as a herald of defiance. 
Having examined from with inside the outlines 
of himself and steed, and seeing as we did that his seat 
was what may be termed only a loose hold of the 
saddle, it was agreed amongst us as we parleyed with 
him, that the most fleet of foot, with pine-top in hand, 
should go forth and make a prize of this horse and its 
rider. But not to do an injustice to this maritime 
officer on horseback, away from his own element, and 
the land of lubbers, I must state that, like a good 
vidette, as soon as he saw himself likely to be beset 
on such an unwieldy beast of bad provender, he made 
a most desperate effort to slue round, pulling and see-sawing 
away at the bridle, with hands wide asunder, 
and at the same time most unmercifully pounding the 
animal's ribs and belly which sounded like an old 
drum. But in truth the animal had no go in it, and 
the tack was only half completed when he missed stays; 
the pedestrian came up, and laying hold of one of 
the rider's nautical feet, lifted him from the centre of 
gravity, and gave him of the blue jacket a most complete 
capsize; and so straightened were we for the 
fresh solids, that it was rather dubious whether the old 
horse (had it not been too tough a morsel) would not 
have been cut into junks, clapped into the pickling-tub, 
and thus shared a like fate to the admiral's milch cow. 

The captive horse-sailor, in perfect good humour, 
and his steed, were conveyed into our little fort, and 

L'Isle Dauphin. 303 

the unresisting horse was tied to a tree. Its rider, 
after brushing the dust off, and being seated at our 
rough board, was reminded by his land-captor that 
some few years before, when he of the red cloth first 
went on board of a man-of-war, like a maritime soldier, 
being ill at ease from the tossing and bounding 
motion of the sea rocking-horse, which put his stomach 
in bad order, and while heaving up its contents, 
the middies dangled before his eyes fat pork, and 
threatened to swab him by day, while at the midnight 
hour they opened the middle seams of his close-fitting 
hammock, out of which he fell on the deck in his 
blanket, whence, extricating himself from its folds, he 
crawled he knew not whither, his only covering consisting 
of his short linen garment, and in this way 
scrambling about, he at last cast anchor on the damp 
cable-tier, until relieved by an old quarter-master with 
a lantern and candle. 

But our petty warfare was now about to finish, to 
give place to the comic muse ; and before I close this 
subject, I can only say that I did not know a single 
instance of any angry feeling or an ill word having 
passed between the champions of either side, although 
some sorely battered heads were the result of these 
vigorous encounters, out of which sprung the foregoing 
despatches, the spontaneous effusions of unsophisticated 

304 L'Isle Dauphin.  

Lieutenant Wyms, of the royal navy, and an officer 
of our corps, planned and marked out a piece of ground 
for the intended erection of a pastoral theatre, at the 
back of our encampment, where four erect pine-trees 
grew, which were by nature placed in such a convenient 
manner, that by the decapitation of other trees of 
irregular growth, and clearing away the underwood, the 
above four trees were so exactly opposite one another at 
a given distance (both as to the wished-for breadth and 
length of the intended erection), that they formed the 
angles and the four corners of the gable ends of the 
contemplated transatlantic place of amusement. Holes 
were then dug a few feet apart, between the open spaces 
of these four trees, into which the stems of other pine- 
trees, lopped of their tufted branches, were deeply 
sunken, and made to stand erect without support by 
refilling the holes, and then with hand-piles pounding 
down the earth into a hard substance. 

The main frame-work being thus established upon a sufficient 
and solid basis for the purpose for which it was intended, 
the entanglement of the wicker-work was begun. 

L'Isle Dauphin. 305 

and the boughs and branches of trees were interwoven 
and twisted together with indefatigable labour and exactitude, 
well worthy of the old trade of basket-making. 
This wicker-work was raised to the height of thirty 
feet, and formed the sides, the back, and the front of 
this construction, which was about sixty feet in length, 
and thirty in breadth ; the top being covered over with 
the canvass or the main-sails from the men-of-war, which 
also supplied ship-carpenters and sawyers for the purpose 
of cutting planks for the stage, to form the 
orchestra and the seats for the accommodation of the 

The canvass for the scenery and the oil-colours were 
also supplied from the fleet, and several officers assisted 
in throwing in the lights and shades of the scenery for 

At this moment, when in want of spangled finery, 
a cargo of trans-Atlantic comedinas(ed.note:theater company) 
were made captives by an English cruiser, while on their passage from some 
islands to the main. Of these harmless people we saw 
nothing, and indeed heard they were set at liberty; 
but their garments were withheld, and these flimsy 
green-room dresses of transparent texture of male and 
female attire were deposited in bundles in the Isle Dauphin, 
as a most seasonable supply for the amateurs, 
who were in exstacies at such an unlooked-for selection 
of gaudy stuffs, being, as it were, cast on the island, 
and all ready made for both sexes, or, more properly 
speaking, for the transmogrifying of males into the 
flounces and other female trappings, — our camp, as it 

306 L'Isle Dauphin. 

may be supposed, being ill supplied with characters for 
the feminine parts. 

These dresses being spread out to dry, were like so 
many bunting signal-flags, and as occasion required they 
were served out to the expectant amateurs, who were 
about to figure away in the comedy of the " Honey-moon," 
and the after-piece of the " Mayor of Garret." 
In the comedy Captain West, of the royal engineers, 
was most excellent ; and when ordered to swallow all 
his own pills, he said, "Oh, one's a dose." 

Both pieces went off with most exceedingly great 
eclat, in the presence of a numerous audience of united 
naval and military spectators. 

An officer of our regiment was detached to an adjacent island, 
and as the weather was exceedingly fine in 
March, two of us set sail in a small boat without a 
compass, but more by good fortune than management. 
The weather remained clear, and when half way across 
we observed two or three sandy-islands nearly covered 
with hundreds of white pelicans, which sailed off in 
three distinct bodies, sending out flankers on every 
side. Although we fired several bullets, we did not 
succeed in killing one of them. These birds are exceedingly 
wild, and very hard to be approached. The fol-lowing evening 
we saw a boat decorated with flags, and 
the music playing the American national air, and on 
our return we heard that peace was proclaimed, or in 
course of adjustment. From this time provisions and 
wines of all kinds poured in from all quarters ; from the 
most frugal and parsimonious meals, and the utmost 

L'Isle Dauphin. 307 

scarcity, every luxury was had that could be pro- 
cured ; fish were caught by hundreds, and there was a 
good supply of bread, (the oysters made excellent 
sauce,) for without this staff of life the choicest viands 
cannot be enjoyed. A ship brought a cargo of the best 
ale I ever remember drinking ; but as if some torment 
was always forthcoming in these hemispheres, the musquitos 
began to bite most terrifically, and while shooting 
in the marshes and swamps they would pierce through 
the trousers, and by the time we got on board ship to 
return to England my eyes were nearly closed, and my 
skin in a perfect state of inflammation. How it was I 
know not, but these tormenting flies seemed particularly 
fond of probing my veins, and I did not see any one so 
plagued with them as myself; they were of a very large 
species, — indeed every thing in this part of the world 
seemed to flourish and grow to a great size — the centipedes 
are as large as my little finger. 

Mobile Bay was a good deal intersected with sand- 
banks, and that part of the wooded island of L'Isle 
Dauphin, opposite Mobile Bay, was also fringed with 
sand-banks, which gave it a lively appearance in comparison 
with the wretched flat coasts along which we had 
sailed. The oysters which we obtained in such abundance 
were gathered on the opposite side of this flat 
island, and were usually brought for our consumption 
by fatigue parties in sacks ; there was also a sort of 
small tree that grew on the island, the leaves of which, 
when boiled, made a drink possessing a very agreeable 
flavour, and while we were in want of tea made an 


excellent substitute. During the latter part of our two 
months' stay at this place a supply of flour reached us
and ovens were erected for baking bread. The first 
loaf made was sent as a present to our mess, weighing 
eight pounds, the top of it being stamped with the 
words " To the Bang-up Mess," including Madden, 
Steele, Houlton, Considine, Mac Lean, sen. and myself, 
and counting a certain number of battles that each of 
us had been engaged in, amounting in the gross, or 
clubbed together, to forty-three pitched battles, besides 
skirmishes and other affairs, with a share of nine wounds 
or "hits," as they were technically called. Our united 
ages (all being very young men) amounted to a hundred 
and thirty-three years, and we measured, taking one 
with the other, thirty-five feet ten inches. 


On the 8th of April our regiment, with the seventh 
fusileers, set sail for England, but experiencing calms 

and baffling winds in the Gulf of Mexico, we did not 
reach the mouth of the harbour of the Havannah, the 
capital of the island of Cuba, for a fortnight ; and as 
six months had passed without our seeing a town or a 
village, it was with considerable pleasure we heard that 
we were about to enter the harbour...


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