For the Clarion, Part Two

Journal of a Voyage from Nashville to New Orleans from the Nashville Clarion, February 16, 1813

View of Harpeth River from the bridge campground.

Monday, Jan. 11th —  At nine in the morning Gen. Jackson arrived at Robertson’s landing:  went on shore a few minutes, an having ordered the companies of M’Ewen, Moore and Hewitt to follow him the instant the boats were ready, continued his course towards the mouth of Harpeth.  Col. Anderson floated all day; and not having overtaken the Gen. at dark, continued his voyage four hours in the night, when he came up with him.

Tuesday the 12th — At the beating of the reveille the General’s boat and those which accompanied him five in number, put off together.  They had proceeded an hour before the sun rose.  The weather had became moderate:  the sky was perfectly clear; and the sun, rising without a cloud upon a deep and still river, appeared with uncommon splendor.  A more beautiful morning was never seen in autumn.  Several stands of colors, of superb workmanship; were playing from the heads of different boats, music was playing, and a number of fine looking men, in military dresses, were walking on the tops of the boats.  The whole together exhibited a grand spectacle and extremely animated the feelings–Before eight the General arrived within sight of the mouth of Harpeth.  Upon his approach he was received with the honors due to his rank; the drums beat two ruffles, and the infantry, eighteen companies, turned out under arms, and fired a salute.

It was here that the General received certain information that the five boats built upon Harpeth for the use of the 2nd regiment, had been permitted to run a ground, and were now upwards of twenty miles off in the interior of the country.  Detachments from the companies of Reynold’s, Gibbs; Smith, Caperton and Cannon, under the command of Major Martin were immediately despatched to bring them down.

The General was also here informed that three men from Nash’s company had deserted.  He ordered a detachment to follow them, and kill them, if they could not otherwise be taken.  Having received their pay they are liable to be shot under the sentence of a court martial.

While lying at this place some volunteers had been guilty of an act which disgraced the army.  They had killed privately a coupe of tame deer.  The officers gave the owner ten dollars for his loss.  The General is determined to prevent such outrage upon the property of the citizens:  if milder remedies will not answer, he will have the martial law enforced.

The appearance of the scenery about the mouth of Harpeth is extremely picturesque.  The point of land which is formed by the confluence of the two rivers is on  . . .   That beautiful evergreen, the laurel, covered the sides of the cliff and hang from the chasms in the ragged and massive rocks.  Many young men ascended to the top of this precipice.  They had to climb up by a path so narrow and winding that only one could go forward at a time, and so steep that they could only avoid falling back by clinging to the rocks, roots, and bushes which were found upon the sides of it.  Struck with its romantic appearance, they called it the promontory of Leucudie [Greek island, supposed site of Sappho’s suicide].  But whether it was that no one needed the relief for which that rock was famed–or whether they doubted the virtue of the remedy–or lacked the courage of Sappho–or expected the girls to be kinder when they returned–cannot now be told.  One thing alone is certain:  there were none who leaped from its summit.

In a military point of view this place in some future day, in times less happy than the present, may become important.  Its superior elevation enables it to command not only the passage of the two rivers, but the whole surrounding country within cannon shot.  A fort on the top of it would occupy a suburb position; to use the modern phrase it would be impregnable.

The Brigade Inspector, Major Carroll, was employed during the day in distributing arms to the men.  The general had to wait for the accomplishment of that work.  At three in the evening Col. Anderson put off; and floating during the night arrived at Clarkesville twenty minutes after eleven, 67 miles by water below Nashville.  Col. Benton there went on shore to wait the arrival of his regiment; & Col. Anderson continued his course to Massac.  Floating on the river was extremely pleasant.  The boats divided into several rooms with fire places, furnished very comfortable quarters.  Unless you looked out at a window you would be no more conscious of motion than if sitting in any other room.  Many of the officers had provided themselves with an ample store [?] not of cards, dice or liquors, but books, maps, charts, plans of battles, sieges, &c.  The Colonels Benton and Anderson had each a trunk filled with the choicest military works.  Perhaps in so large an assemblage of military men, there never was seen so small a number of drunkards and gamesters.  The beautiful pocket edition of the Bible, printed in Baltimore, found a place in the baggage of several officers; and the whole detachment emulated the conduct of their general in paying to religion and its ministers the highest respect.

Wednesday, the 13th–Gen. Jackson, his suite, and the first regiment under the command of Col. Hall, arrived at Clarkesville at 6 o’clock in the evening.

Thursday 14th — The two regiments of infantry had been directed to receive their supplies of flour at Clarkesville; one hundred and sixty barrels were necessary.  On applying to the house on which the drafts were drawn, it was found that 60 barrels had been provided, that is 20 barrels less than enough for the first regiment.  The indignation of the general was extreme.  He said it was scandalous that in a country where every farmer was complaining that he could find no market for his produce, a detachment of a few hundred men must be stopped on their march for want of bread.

Understanding that there was flour concealed in the neighborhood, and having made vain efforts to purchase it, the general sent out the bayonet to bring it in.  In the course of that day and night the first regiment was amply supplied.

Friday the 15th — At day break in the morning the General with Col. Hall’s regiment, and the companies of Williamson and Renshaw of the 2d put off from Clarkesville.  He ordered col. Benton to remain there ’til the nine companies of his regiment left at the mouth of Harpeth should arrive; and directed him to procure for their use the flour and boats which should be wanting.

On receiving this order, col. Benton sent out the bayonet.  Before the arrival of his regiment this weapon had produced him 70 barrels of flour.  The common price of this article in the neighborhood was five and an half or six dollars peer barrel; but to cover the losses of the people in being unexpectedly deprived of property which they had been at the expence of preparing for a distant market, they were allowed eight.  This price was fixed by the merchants of Clarkesville, M’Clure and Posten, whose certificate to that effect Col Benton preserved, to satisfy the contractors that he was not wantonly giving a high price at their expence.

While the first regiment was lying at Clarkesville, a man of the name of Jolly who had enrolled himself as a volunteer, and had refused to go in his company, was brought in at the point of the bayonet.  He had himself carried, upon a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Humphrey, who being satisfied the enrolment was fair, refused to liberate him.  Jolly himself in the course of the examination became satisfied of the same thing, and voluntarily insisted upon joining his company, and actually did do so, without waiting for the judge’s decision.  Upon this a communication was published in the Clarkesville Herald, stating that Jolly had been torn from his family by military violence, and that judge Humphrey, only blinked at the outrage practised upon him.  If this article was intended to injure judge Humphrey’s election, it will not have that effect, because every body in Clarkesville know it to be incorrect; but if it was intended to console the tories in the atlantic states [sentence not completed]

Saturday the 16th — “The detachment sent after the deserters from Nash’s company, passed through Clarkesville.–They had seized the whole of them.  Sergeant White, the commander, deserved much credit for the zeal with which he executed his orders.

Sunday the 17th –Intelligence from the mouth of Harpeth stated that the boats build upon that River would not be got upon the Cumberland sooner than Tuesday the 19th.  . . . .        We all admire the rapid movements of a French army, and yet if Bonaparte was fettered like an American general, if he had to apply to other officers, for the punishment of his delinquent agents, instead of being in Moscow on the 14th of September he would that day have been in Paris, quarreling with the men who were to furnish his army with bread and transportation.

[At some point during this digression, the 18th passed away, and the next entry is the 19th]

Tuesday the 19th  — Intelligence from the general stated that he had passed Eddyville, with Col. Hall”s regiment on the night of the 17th, having previously lost a boat, the private property of some of the officers, which struck upon a rock and went to the bottom.  There is great reason to fear that the ice will block him up at the mouth of the river for several days.

(To be continued.)

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About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden