A fine map of the southern theatre of the War of 1812, encompassing the area from Pensacola to western Louisiana, drawn by an American participant.
The Gulf Region saw a great deal of fighting during the War of 1812, involving not only American and British armies, but the Spanish (who still nominally controlled West Florida), the Creek Indians, and a force of pirates led by the famed Jean Lafitte based at Barataria Bay. Indeed the final British offensive of the War of 1812 took place in the Gulf, where in late 1814 a powerful force under General Pakenham took aim at Mobile and New Orleans. In the final major battle of the War, on January 8, 1815 Pakenham was decisively defeated by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. The great American victory was also an unnecessary tragedy: Two weeks earlier American and British negotiators had signed the Treaty of Ghent, which declared an immediate cease fire and provided for a peace settlement upon ratification by both sides. Nonetheless the victory electrified the American public and fed the legend that propelled Jackson to the Presidency in 1828.
Offered here is one of a suite of eight maps illustrating Arseniere Lacarriere Latour’s Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana (1816), a valuable firsthand account of events in the southern theatre of war. Born in France and trained as an architect and Engineer, Latour came to the United States after serving the French army during the slave revolt in Santo Domingo. He volunteered to serve in Jackson’s army and played an important role in developing the fortifications around New Orleans.
Drawn by Latour himself, the map was intended to set major military events against a broad geographical overview of the region. It depicts the area between Pensacola Bay western Louisiana, emphasizing in particular the course of the Mississippi, flanked by its many plantations, as well as other waterways; and the region’s few roads and major towns. Superimposed on this geography is a great deal of information about the campaign, including both American and British encampments and fortifications, the routes taken by the British squadrons during the advance on New Orleans via the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Borgne, and landing of the British Army at Lake Borgne and its march to the Mississippi River. Of particular interest is the route taken by Andrew Jackson in November 1814 from Mobile to Pensacola, which he captured from a combined force of British, Spanish and allied Creeks Indians. From there, Jackson hastened with his army to New Orleans and glory.
The map is also interesting for what it doesn’t show, in particular any sign of the region’s many Creek, Choctaw and other native American settlements or evidence of their participation in the War. Also absent is any mention of Lafitte and his Baratarian pirates, who at the end of 1814 became somewhat uncomfortable allies of the Americans and played an important role at the Battle of New Orleans.
David Allen, “Mapping the War of 1812: A Preliminary Cartobibliography.” Phillips, Atlases, vol. I #1345.2. Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 372. Background from Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, pp. 270-293.