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Battle of New Orleans Commeration to kick off in Clarksville Tennessee with keelboat sendoff

The Early Arkansas Reenactors AsscociationClarksville, TN – On November 13th, 1814, a group of Tennessee Militia rendezvoused at Nashville to join Gen. Andrew Jackson in what has come to be called the Battle of New Orleans. They left Nashville on November 18th, 21st, and 23rd and marched to Clarksville, where they boarded flatboats for the long journey to New Orleans.

On November 15th, 2014, two hundred years later, Clarksvillians will again send Militia volunteers on a 40-fort keelboat replica down the Cumberland to re-enact that famous battle in New Orleans.

The keelboat Aux Auc under sailThe Aux Auc under sail
The keelboat Aux Auc under sail

While the Militia re-enactors will genuinely represent our state in the January 8th, 2015, re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans, the November send-off is ceremonial only. They will make the actual trip in January by more modern means.

Before the Civil War this battle was, next to Independence Day, the most celebrated patriotic event in America. Today, the War of 1812 has become the Forgotten War and its bicentennial commemoration has been overshadowed by the Civil War sesquicentennial, whose dates coincide.

War of 1812 Tennessee Militia 3 Reenactors
War of 1812 Tennessee Militia 3 Reenactors

The Montgomery County Historical Society, Society of the War of 1812, and the Clarksville/Montgomery County Arts and Heritage Development Council are working to overcome that shadow and to honor the Middle Tennessee Volunteers who gave the state its nickname.

At 9:00am, Saturday, November 15th, War of 1812 re-enactors, under the leadership of Robert Nichols, will set up camp near the Cumberland River dock (or wharf as it was called in 1814) at McGregor Park on Riverside Drive in Clarksville. They will show visitors the items a soldier would have had in his kit, the uniform he wore, and the weapons he fought with. Part of that demonstration will include firing their muskets out over the Cumberland.

At 11:00am, dignitaries, including Myers Brown, chairman of the Tennessee War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, will gather on the wharf to help the militia volunteers board the Aux Ark keelboat brought in from Arkansas for the occasion.

In a modern, totally inaccurate, re-creation, Tennessee Governor Wylie Blount (1809-1815), who was a Clarksville resident (aka Sink Library Director James Moore), and President James Madison (aka Society of War of 1812 member Frank Jones) will be on hand to for the send-off. Rick Hollis, deputy president general of the national General Society of the War of 1812, will act as master of ceremonies.

Those who have bought tickets for the price of a $20.00 “Andrew Jackson” can celebrate the successful launch over lunch with fellow Clarksvillian and Tennessee governor from 1809 to 1815 Willie Blount, Rachel and Andrew Jackson, and President James Madison in the F & M Bank’s Franklin Room overlooking the Cumberland. They will be served a period meal, and enjoymore discussion of the Forgotten War. Tickets for the luncheon may be purchased at the L & N Depot on the corner of 10th and Commerce, 931.553.2486, or through the Arts and Heritage Development Council, 931.551.8870.

Cannon Balls to New Orleans

In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans

We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Johnny Horton, “Battle of New Orleans,” 1959

John Alexander Cocke
John Alexander Cocke

In November 1814, about 215 Middle Tennesseans under the command of Colonel John Cocke, former Montgomery County sheriff, boarded flat bottom boats for a treacherous journey down the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi rivers to join Major General Andrew Jackson’s 7th US Infantry Regiment in New Orleans.

In addition to troops, guns, powder, and supplies, the Militia soldiers also transported cannonballs cast at Ironmaster Montgomery Bell’s Cumberland Furnace in Dickson County that were used in the Battle of New Orleans on the 8th of January 1815.

The Aux Auc

The name of the keelboat “Aux Arc” was derived from the early French references to Arkansas. The 1758 warehouse manager at the French Post at Arkansas, located in what is now northern Desha county, several times ended his letter postings with, for example, “Aux Arkansas le 22 Septembre 1758.” Aux Arc translated into English tends to mean; From or at the Arkansas Tribe, indicating that the Post was located near the Tribal villages of the Quapaw Tribe. With the intention of replicating the Dunbar-Hunter expedition, the Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association constructed a keelboat typical of the boat used in the expedition.

The week between Christmas and New Years, the “Aux Arc” and crew has completed five floats down the Ouachita River (i.e., 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009).

Click below to see the reports from the trips:

There also are DVD movies of the 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008 trips. These DVD movies sell for $9.00 each, which includes postage and the packaging. DVD’s without postage are $5 each. To order call Chuck Martin at 501-772-2008.

Building the Keelboat Aux Arc

A keelboat is one of several types of boats typically used for exploration and trade during the time of these expeditions. The design for EARA’s 38-foot keelboat is by Phil Bolger, a renowned boat designer from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Andy Zawacki, wood conservationist at Historic Arkansas Museum, was the technical building expert. Throughout the construction process, we tested various construction approaches on a 12-to-1 scale model built by Tim Richardson.

The process began in January 2003 with several meetings at The Community Bakery, a local coffee shop and bakery in downtown Little Rock. The result of these meetings was the development of a core group of EARA experts, a timeline, and list of materials needed to construct the keelboat.

This is (by far) the largest undertaking EARA has ever attempted. It is also the best-documented project EARA has ever done. The following links provide details of the building process, in the order they were performed, including more than 80 photographs.

Steps 1 and 2 were completed at the Fellowship Hall, Grace Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, Arkansas. Steps 3, 4, 6 and 7 were completed at the Plantation Agricultural Museum in Scott, Arkansas. Step 5 was completed by students at Metropolitan Career Technical School in Little Rock. For the final step, we launched the keelboat at Willow Beach Park on June 13th, 2004.

Ed Williams, Larry Layne, Glenn Cook, Tim Richardson, Harlan Brown, Robert Carroll, Chuck Martin, Mark Thurman, Andrew English, Robert Carroll, Michael Bethea, Dave Leffler, Howard Bethea, Ragun Moody, and Jimmy Staton helped in the construction.

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