Monday, March 15, 2010
History: The General And The Captain
On this day in 1767 Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina. Jackson would eventually become the seventh President of the U.S. but he became a household name by handily overcoming a formidable British force at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
Old time New Orleanians told a story about an early morning meeting between their new hero General Jackson and home town favorite and Baratarian Captain Dominique Youx. Dominique and his friend and fellow privateer Renato Beluche had command of crews working the two cannons of Battery No. 3 on Rodriguez canal facing Chalmette plain. General Jackson, inspecting his line on January 8th before the decisive battle, came upon Youx making coffee for his boys and stopped to join them for a cup.
The meeting of these two great men most probably never occurred but it is a tale repeated fondly to this day. So here, for your enjoyment, is your humble hostess' imagining of that moment in time from my novel The Heroes of New Orleans:
As they approached Battery number 3, the General reigned in his horse. "Do you smell that, Reid?" he asked his adjutant.
"I do. One can hardly mistake the scent of these Creoles' coffee."
"Battery number 3 perhaps?"
"I must imagine so."
"Let us have a look." Jackson dismounted and walked toward a group huddled around a well concealed fire.
The men turned as the General approached and two of them rose to their feet.
"Good evening to you, gentlemen," Jackson said. "Or should I say morning?"
"Morning." The man tending the coffee looked up from his chore. His dark face glowed in the fire light and his teeth glinted when he smiled. "So it is, Monsieur le General."
"Captain Dominique. Are you making coffee?"
"This surprises you?"
"He's a number of talents," one of the two standing men said in an unexpected contralto.
Jackson stared across the fire a moment. "Miss Juliette Flynn ma'am. Is that you?"
"What ever the -" Jackson caught himself. He would not swear in front of a lady. Even if she was wearing trousers. "You should not be here, madam."
"She has been here the past week gone." Renato Beluche slipped his hand around Juliette's as he spoke. "She is the sponger on my crew."
"Am I to understand you are working a cannon Miss Flynn?"
"Yes, sir. Under the command of Captain Beluche as he said. I have a deal of experience with guns. I Captain my own privateer you understand."
"Now you mock me," Jackson said as his disbelief turned to offense.
"Not at all, Monsieur," Dominique said. "It is all true. And do not think to send her away. She will be back before dawn and you none the wiser. Dominique would see to it personally."
A chuckle rippled around the fire.
"Is that a fact?" Jackson allowed himself a smile.
"I fear it is, sir," Juliette replied. "Do you forgive me but I shan't be leaving until this business is done."
"I see." Jackson nodded. "Well then I won't trouble you further."
"Do not run off now, General," Dominique said. "Join us in a cup before you go."
"That is kind, sir. Are you certain there is enough?"
"Always. And more to hand."
Jackson crouched down to watch Dominique fill a tin cup with the steaming brew. "Why, this coffee smells far better than what is served to my officers. Where did you get such fine coffee?"
Dominique shrugged and handed the mug to Jackson.
"Maybe you smuggled it in, eh?"
"Maybe so," Dominique said with a grin. He handed a second cup to Reid. "Bon appetite, Messieurs."
"Ah. That is good coffee." Jackson gave his now empty mug to Dominique. "Thank you for sharing it with us."
"De rien, Monsieur. It is the least Dominique can do."
"Good luck and God's blessing to you men," Jackson said. "And women. We will overcome our enemy this day, and then I shall treat you all to a pot at Masparo's."
The Baratarians called their thanks and Jackson and Reid returned to their horses.
After going further down the line a few yards, Jackson pulled up and looked back at the group around the fire.
"What is it, sir," Reid asked.
"Those are fine men after all. And I will tell you that if I were ordered to storm the Gates of Hell, with Captain Dominique as my Lieutenant, I would have no misgivings of the result."
I hope you've been entertained, at least. A bientot, freres.