Andrew Jackson and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

When one thinks of Andrew Jackson, Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the Ursuline nuns do not spring to mind, but they should.

In 1814 the War of 1812 was going badly for the United States. With the abdication of Napoleon, hordes of British veteran troops were sent across the Atlantic to teach the Yankees a lesson. The burning of Washington in August 1814 was part of the lesson, and the American government had intelligence that a mighty British fleet and army were on their way to seize New Orleans. In August 1814 a British fleet established a base, with the consent of the Spanish government, at Pensacola, Florida, and used it to supply Indians hostile to the US. On November 7, 1814, Jackson seized Pensacola, chased the British troops out and destroyed the fortifications. The British fleet sailed off and Jackson marched to New Orleans. Jackson arrived at New Orleans with his rough frontier army of militia and regulars on December 2, 1814. Space in a blog post does not allow me to detail the very interesting moves and counter-moves of the British commander General Edward Pakenham, brother in law of the Duke of Wellington and a peninsular war veteran, and Jackson. Suffice it to say that at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, Jackson and his men, heavily out-numbered, handed the British the most lopsided defeat in their history, inflicting a little over 2000 casualties, including the slain General Pakenham, in exchange for 71 American casualties.   

The Battle of New Orleans is sometimes called a useless battle because it was fought before news of the treaty of Ghent ending the war, which had been signed on December 24, 1814, reached America. This view is erroneous. The battle was a shot in the arm to American morale after a lack-lustre war, ensured that the British would abide by the terms of the treaty and not attempt to retain a captured New Orleans, and gave the British something to ponder on the few occasions during the nineteenth century when America and Britain again came close to war.

That a force of around 4,000, most of them relatively untrained militia, could hand a British army of 11,000 well-trained veteran regulars such a defeat has long been thought to be a military miracle.  Perhaps the term “miracle” is the correct one to use.  The night before the battle, at the Ursuline Chapel in the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans, the nuns, joined by many of the faithful in New Orleans, prayed throughout the night for an American victory.

On the morning of January 8, 1815, Mass was said at the altar on which a statue of Our Lady of Succor had been placed.  The Prioress of the Convent, Mother Marie Olivier de Vezin made a vow to have an annual Mass of Thanksgiving said if victory was granted to the Americans.  At the moment of communion, a courier ran into the chapel announcing the American victory.  After the battle Old Hickory came to the convent to thank the nuns for their prayers.  “By the blessing of heaven, directing the valor of the troops under my command, one of the most brilliant victories in the annals of war was obtained.”  In after years, whenever Jackson visited New Orleans, he always made a point of also visiting the Ursuline Covent.   The Mass of Thanksgiving has been faithfully observed each year since 1815 by the Ursulines.

27 Responses to Andrew Jackson and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

  • “The battle was a shot in the arm to American morale after a lack-lustre war”

    For many years afterward, the anniversary of the battle was celebrated not only in New Orleans but all over the Nation, with almost as much festivity as the Fourth of July — some called it a second Independence Day. In the 1820s and 1830s, before the first great waves of European immigration, the Eighth of January was a bigger celebration than Christmas to many Americans!

  • Our Lady of Prompt Succor has been a very powerful intercessor on behalf of New Orleans, particularly during the hurricane season.

    I’ll also add that I’ve been to the chapel in that Ursuline Convent, and still today there is a stain glass pane depicting the battle. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen the American flag in a stained glass window of a Catholic Church.

  • “After the battle Old Hickory came to the convent to thank the nuns for their prayers. “By the blessing of heaven, directing the valor of the troops under my command, one of the most brilliant victories in the annals of war was obtained.” In after years, whenever Jackson visited New Orleans, he always made a point of also visiting the Ursuline Covent.”

    How downright heartwarming. Why, Jackson was practically Catholic. I’m almost certain I remember a story about Jackson that had something to do with “mourning and weeping in the this vale of tears”.

    Oh. Wait. Check that. The story was about Jackson and all the mourning and weeping along the Trail of Tears.

    There are few in American history that I despise more than “Old Hickory”. Chief Junaluska, Jackson’s Indian ally against the “Red Stick” Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, saved Jackson’s life during that earlier battle in the War of 1812. Later Junaluska would say about Jackson “If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe.”

  • Elaine: I was unaware of that. Truly fascinating! What a help to Jackson when he started the Democrat party!

    Michael: I have only seen an American flag in a stained glass window of a Catholic church in only one other place. At Saint John’s chapel at the U of I in Urbana there is depicted a World War I doughboy kneeling under a cross, and an American flag is in the scene.

  • Jackson is a mixed bag Jay, as I noted in this post:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/16/the-devil-and-andrew-jackson/

    However, God often uses flawed instruments to work His will, and I cannot see why he could not have used Jackson to do so. As for Jackson and the Church, he was no bigot when it came to religion as his actions demonstrated:

    “As already noted, Jackson, through the influence of his wife, became more religious as he grew older, although his religion always had a bit of his rough edges about it, as this vignette demonstrates:

    ”young Nashville lawyer: “Mr. Cartwright, do you believe there is any such place as hell, as a place of torment?”

    Rev. Peter Cartwright: “Yes, I do.”

    young Nashville lawyer: “Well, I thank God I have too much good sense to believe any such thing.”

    Andrew Jackson: “Well, sir, I thank God that there is such a place of torment as hell.”

    young Nashville lawyer: “Why, General Jackson, what do you want with such a place of torment as hell?”

    Andrew Jackson: “To put such damned rascals as you are in, that oppose and vilify the Christian religion.””

    Jackson was no bigot on matters of religion as this passage in a letter to Ellen Hanson on March 25, 1835 indicates (the spelling is all Jackson):

    “I was brought up a rigid Presbeterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us, and you know Charity is the reall basis of all true religion, and charity says judge the tree by its fruit. all who profess christianity, believe in a Saviour and that by and through him we must be saved. We ought therefor to consider all good christians, whose walk corresponds with their professions, be him Presbeterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, methodist or Roman catholic.”

    Jackson proved that this was no mere verbiage by his actions. He and his wife served as the guardian for Mary Anne Lewis, a Catholic. They made certain that she attended Mass and received instruction in the Faith. When she married, Andrew Jackson hosted the wedding on November 29, 1832, and her Catholic wedding was the first Roman Catholic ceremony performed at the White House. Next year the second Roman Catholic ceremony took place at the White House, the baptism of her son, Andrew Jackson Pageot. When the priest asked if the baby renounced Satan, President Jackson, who thought the query was being addressed to him, said in a loud voice: “I do! Most indubitably!” (Hattip to Thomas J. Craughwell for the details of this incident.)”

    (Me defending Jackson? What a confusing way to start off this day!)

  • “(Me defending Jackson? What a confusing way to start off this day!)”

    ;-)

    I admit to having a visceral reaction to even hearing or reading the man’s name. My dear mother, bless her heart, loves Jackson. I’ve always found him utterly repugnant. Even when I read positive stories about him, such as the ones you’ve related, all I can see is the blood on his hands and the demagogery gurgling up in his throat.

    One of my heros, David Crockett, could see him clearly for what he was, and had the audacity to oppose Jackson on his Indian policy (and other matters, as well). It cost Crockett his political career, and, ultimately, his life, as he told his former Tennessee constituents, “Y’all can go to Hell, I’m going to Texas.”

  • Over 43 years ago, I dated a girl who was a student at Ursuline Academy, the Bronx, NY.

    I shall avoid the near occasion to bash Jackson and the demagogue party. That, I’ll defer to Daniel Webster.

    From Robert L. Bartley, WSJ, 10/20/2003, “. . . In his 1832 veto of renewing the Bank’s (Second Bank of the United States) charter, Jackson complained that its profits went to foreigners and a ‘few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class.’ Daniel Webster replied that the message was a ‘wanton attack whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of other classes.’ The tradition, of course, runs strong even today in the party of . . . ” Obama, Reid, and Weiner.

  • The fact that he wasn’t an anti-Catholic bigot doesn’t lessen the cold cruelty of a man who made it his business to persecute the Indians of the South-East US. Jay is right. If his actions were done for the sake of revenge, it is still inexcusable. Before moving to the White House he was always warring against the Indians, making unjust treaties that they only agreed to out of fear. He up-rooted entire Indian tribes, four or five of them, and forced them to walk almost 1500 miles to Oklahoma for “relocation” I think it was the Creeks who lost over one quarter of their people (1400 dead) making the journey. He pursued this relocation policy with a vengeance. He was guilty of genocide in any book.

  • Have you ever heard “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton? It’s a highly humorous ballad written in the ’60’s. Johnny Horton also wrote other ballads that were popular before the British Invasion, including “Sink the Bismarck,” “Comanche,” and “North to Alaska” for the John Wayne movie of the same name.

  • “The fact that he wasn’t an anti-Catholic bigot doesn’t lessen the cold cruelty of a man who made it his business to persecute the Indians of the South-East US.”

    Well, being part Cherokee and all Republican it is safe to say that I will never be a member of any Andrew Jackson fan club. I regard the Trail of Tears as a blot on our national honor. However, it is ahistorical to heap the blame for all of this on one man. Jackson was carrying out a policy of Indian removal that was strongly backed by almost all the pioneers in the Southwest. (Not all. Davy Crockett spoke out against the policy for example, as Jay noted.) The Indian wars that Jackson was involved in prior to his Presidency do not break down into simple terms of evil White and good Indians. Often the sides were mixed with Indians and whites fighting on both sides which often amounted to civil wars between tribal factions. The Creek War of 1813-1814 where Jackson first rose to prominence was certainly this type of struggle. Jackson was a major player in the conflict between Whites and Indians in the Southwest, and he used the wars to grab land for the white settlers, but I have little doubt that if Jackson had never been born precisely the same sort of wars would have been fought with the same sorts of outcomes. As for accusing Jackson of genocide, that is simply rubbish. Jackson wanted the Indians removed to across the Mississippi; he did not want them eliminated as a race.

    Jackson is the only American president to adopt an Indian child, which is what he did for a two year old Creek toddler, Lyncoya, found on the battlefield of Talladega. He lived with Jackson and his wife thereafter as their adopted son, with Jackson hoping to eventually send him to West Point. Tragically, Lyncoya died of tuberculosis in 1828. Complicated does not begin to describe Andrew Jackson.

  • “Have you ever heard “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton?”

    Indeed I have Sandra!

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/lego-battle-of-new-orleans/

  • Some of my thoughts on the ever-controversial Andrew Jackson, tied into a very good video on Old Hickory and his role in American history.

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/andrew-jackson-hero-heel-or-both/

  • “As for accusing Jackson of genocide, that is simply rubbish. Jackson wanted the Indians removed to across the Mississippi; he did not want them eliminated as a race.”

    Okay, then, ethnic cleansing, which is oh so much better (although I fully concur with the genocide charge).

  • Words have meanings Jay and genocide does not fit what Jackson accomplished with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. However, if any of you palefaces wish to solace your grief for the wrong done to my Cherokee ancestors, for a reasonable monetary contribution to me I can send you out a certificate of forgiveness in Cherokee! :)

  • However, if any of you palefaces wish to solace your grief for the wrong done to my Cherokee ancestors, for a reasonable monetary contribution………….”

    That’s great!

    Man, you’d fit right in down here with the radical Maori grievance industry.

    Would you like a referral? :smile: :grin: :lol:

  • I’m only beginning Don! My Irish ancestors are still waiting for a personal apology from the Queen of England for the Potato Famine. Then my Scottish ancestors are still waiting for an apology from the Queen of England for Culloden. My Irish ancestors also are upset due to the English settling the barbarous Scots in Ulster, but then my Scottish ancestors take umbrage at this, begin muttering about drunken Irish, and then my Irish and Scottish ancestors begin to fight among themselves! At any rate, when it comes to the right to be historically aggrieved, I will take a backseat to no one!

  • As an Irishman (potato famine and otherwise being treated like $h!+ by the Brits and their American cousins for 700+ years), a Scotsman (Highland clearances), and a pinch of Native American thrown in for good measure, I’m wondering when I’m going to receive my reparations for all the ethnic cleansing we’ve suffered.

    Don, I take a backseat to no one when it comes to harboring ethnic grievances for which I hope to receive full restitution some day.

    ;-)

  • I’m almost certain there’s an ancient chiefdom in Ireland or Scotland of which I’ve been deprived. Surely I can be compensated for that loss by being awarded some castle or manor on a remote lough/loch (with a good village pub nearby, of course).

  • The song “Battle of New Orleans” was actually written by an Arkansas school principal named Jimmy Driftwood as a learning aid to his students; it was set to a traditional fiddle tune called — you guessed it — “The Eighth of January.”

  • Great post. Always enjoy reading your articles Don even if I somewhat disagree. I think you are correct though about what would have happened had Jackson not been born. Probably the same thing, only God knows. There were horrible atrocities. Few can match those of the Brits under Oliver Cromwell when he slaughtered 1/3 of the Irish, well funded by the Rothschilds. Some of hIs soldiers, after shooting the husband, ripped children from their mothers arm, tossed them into the air, and catch them on their swords. His statue still stands tall in Trafalgar Square (I think) in London. He is so honored with a statue for inviting the Jews back to England after they had been exiled.

  • Thank you Brian. Old Ironsides was a piece of work indeed.

  • What a great reminder of the power of prayer through the Holy Sacifice of the Mass. We have an extraordinary Catholic history, as witnessed in this account of the Battle of New Orleans. When Andrew Jackson would later, as president, make that fateful and tragic act against the native Americans, known as the “trail of tears” in 1830ff, I have no doubt that the power of the prayers of the Ursuline Sisters was with the Cheerokee people and all who suffered.

  • My grievance over Jackson’s Indian relocation policy isn’t JUST that he did it, it’s that he did it after the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional! So much for honor and upholding a vow to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution…

  • Actually Jackson’s apocryphal response to John Marshal, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” is about the only thing I like about Jackson’s Indian Removal program. John Marshall had a bad habit of getting John Marshall and the Constitution confused.

    Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court in Worcester v. Georgia did not rule the Indian Removal Act unconstitutional. What it did hold is that Georgia could not ban whites from being present on Indian lands in Georgia. Marshall wrote the opinion finding that only the federal government had jurisdiction in regard to Indian lands.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worcester_v._Georgia

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