The Rivers of WarEric Flint


Chapter 49February 12, 1815



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Chapter 49February 12, 1815
Mobile Bay "So we finally caught Jackson napping," Admiral Cochrane said with satisfaction. From his position on the walls of Fort Bowyer, he was looking north across Mobile Bay. "Indeed so," said Pakenham. "Almost all of his troops remain in New Orleans. Still entrenched at the Jackson Line and in Fort St. John, according to the reports I've received. Apparently, he's convinced we intend to assemble a fleet of flat-bottom boats and attack him through Lake Pontchartrain." The admiral was literally rubbing his hands with glee. "By the time he gets here—if he even tries at all—Mobile will be ours. And with it," Cochrane gloated, "the open road to New Orleans." Pakenham smiled. "Well, it's hardly an 'open road,' sir. And the distance is probably close to two hundred miles, the way the army will have to march." But his own expression was sanguine, as he gazed over the bay. "Still, it's vastly superior terrain to what we faced along the Mississippi. No swamps and—best of all—plenty of room to maneuver. Let Jackson try to match us on open ground, for a change." Two days later, before the assault on Mobile could be launched, the HMS Brazen arrived with the news. A peace treaty had been signed at Ghent. The war with the United States was over. "So it is," Pakenham remarked stoically. He watched as his men rolled two casks of rum up to the gangplank, where the sailors would take charge of them. "I'll ask you to handle these with dignity, sir," Pakenham said to the frigate's captain. "Contained within are the mortal remains of two of the finest regimental commanders Britain has ever had serve her colors. Colonels Thornton and Rennie." "Aye, General. I'll see to it." As the casks were hoisted into the ship, Pakenham felt a deep sadness. Thornton and Rennie, both gone. Not to mention hundreds of other brave men—more than a thousand, counting the earlier casualties at Bladensburg and the Capitol. And for what? There were times he found being a professional soldier rather trying. Cochrane, standing next to him, seemed to understand his sentiments. "Look at it this way, General. It's just part of the cost of building and maintaining the reputation and morale of a great army. Navy, too. There'll be other wars to come, when we'll need that." Pakenham sighed. "Yes, Admiral. Exactly what I was telling myself." A month later, Pakenham was feeling much better. Admiral Cochrane's stoic analysis had been proven right—and far sooner than Pakenham would have thought possible. The major general got the news while he and his men were still aboard ship sailing back to England. Napoleon had escaped from his exile on the island of Elba and landed back in France just two weeks earlier. From there, it seemed, he was making his way to Paris, rallying his forces. The war was on again. The dispatch ordered Pakenham to report to Wellington as soon as he arrived in England. He had to restrain himself from crushing the dispatch in his fist, out of sheer exultation. "A real war, by God!" he exclaimed to Gibbs. "No more of that miserable business with Cousin Jonathan." Chapter 50March 10, 1815
New Orleans "Well, your whole country's erupting with joy, it seems like," Robert Ross remarked. "Not only is the war over, but it ended with a victory for you here in New Orleans. My congratulations, Colonel Houston." The British general plopped the newspaper he'd been reading onto the wrought-iron table. "That calls for a drink, I'd say. My own people in England will be happy enough, too, even if it didn't end the way we'd have preferred. Still, it was never a popular war, back home, and now it's over." Ross swiveled in his chair—also wrought iron—and caught the attention of one of the waiters who were moving among the tables on the Plaza de Armas. It was a sunny day, and the city's central square was packed with people. Fortunately, the cafés lining the square had showed the forethought to employ extra servants this day. Houston grinned wryly. "The whole country except here." His chin swept around in a little quarter circle, indicating the crowd in the plaza. "These folks're here because it's a sunny day, is all. No end to the war in New Orleans." Ross smiled. The rest of the United States might be celebrating the end of the war, and—a rare occasion, this!—hailing the heroic city of New Orleans for its valiant stand against the invader. But the acclaimed city itself was groaning under the lash of tyranny. "How long do you suppose the general will maintain martial law?" he asked Houston. His casual tone made the question out to be an idle one. It wasn't a British officer's business, after all, to pry into the affairs of a republic with which his country was now at peace. Especially when that republic—one of its cities, at least—was chafing under the rule of a tyrant. New Orleans took to "martial law" about as well as a drunk takes to a temperance speech. Sam shrugged, still grinning. "With Andy Jackson, who knows? His position is that until official word of the treaty arrives, he has no way of knowing whether the war is really over or not." Houston pointed a big, accusing forefinger at the newspaper that was lying on the table. "Those are full of lies, you know. At least three-quarters full, these days, to hear the general. Who's to say that this isn't all part of a dastardly British scheme to get him to lower his defenses, while you prepare to strike a new and treacherous blow?" His grin had steadily widened throughout. By the end, Ross was almost grinning himself. "Indeed. I will say that I'm dazzled to discover—for the first time in my life—that we British have the wherewithal to plot and carry through such an all-encompassing scheme. Not only can we suborn newspapers—a scurvy lot of knaves, newspapermen, it's true enough—but even your own judges and magistrates, as well." At that, Houston laughed aloud. Jackson had ordered one of the city's news reporters thrown in jail for writing an article that referred to him as a "despot." The newspaper had taken the issue to court, whereupon Judge Dominick Hall had promptly ruled in favor of the reporter and ordered Jackson to release him from custody. Whereupon—just as promptly—Jackson had thrown Judge Hall into jail. Houston started to speak again, but broke off when his eye spotted something. Hastily, the young colonel rose to his feet. Rose, at least, in a manner of speaking. His stance, once he was out of the chair, was more in the way of a crouch than Houston's normally erect posture. "Just realized that I've got a pressing errand to run. Must be off. General, my regards." A quick nod to the other occupants of the table. "Tiana. James." And off he went. Scurrying, insofar as Houston could manage such an unnatural pace. Puzzled, Ross peered in the direction that Houston had been looking just a moment earlier. He couldn't see anything especially noteworthy. Well. Except, perhaps, for a very attractive young Creole lady, moving slowly through the square. She was peering intently from table to table, examining their occupants. Her expression seemed to combine worry, eagerness, and suppressed anger, in about equal proportions. She was trailed by an older woman. Her mother, perhaps, from the resemblance. The expression on her face was a bit similar, except that eagerness was entirely absent, and worry was overshadowed by anger. None too well suppressed, either, judging from the scowl. "Ah," said Ross. "You and Patrick both!" sniffed Tiana. She glanced at the two women as they slowly approached the table. "Which one's that, James?" Her brother smiled. There was still a trace of sadness in the smile, but not much. A month after John's death, James's naturally insouciant nature had pretty well returned. "That one's Dominique. I've forgotten her last name. Fortunately for Sam, she's nearsighted, and so is her mother. Or he'd never have made his escape." Tiana sniffed again. "I told Patrick he shouldn't press the drinking issue. Sam Houston, dead drunk—in this city, anyway—doesn't get into half the trouble he can get into sober. Well, half drunk. I don't think he's had a purely sober day in weeks." "Not one," James stated. "Not since it became obvious to everyone but Jackson that the war was over. Sam can stay away from whiskey when he needs to." For now, Ross said to himself silently. While he's still very young. That'll change as time passes, unless he stops drinking altogether. Like Driscol, he knew the Irish curse better than he wished. And, like Driscol, knew that Sam Houston's drinking habits went beyond the normal heavy consumption of alcohol, even for Americans. But it was none of his business, after all. Just as it was none of his business if the most famous and dashing young officer in the United States—quite handsome, too, to make things worse—had as much of an eye for beautiful women as so many of them did for him. Not the most beautiful woman in the square, though. Ross turned his head and looked at Tiana. Insofar as Ross had any personal business in America, it was the young couple he had adopted, in a manner of speaking. Not as a father, of course. More in the way of an uncle. Tiana didn't notice Ross looking at her. As was so often the case these days, she was gazing off to the north. In the black quarters of northern New Orleans, the lash of tyranny was the lightest. Andrew Jackson didn't care much what Negroes did, as long as they did it in their own parts of the city. So, to the nightly reveries in the Place des Nègres, the area north of Ramparts Street had added feverish daily schemes and plans since the British had been driven off. "You get two shares in the business, Jones, not three," Charles Ball insisted. "You just a corporal, and wasn't no chief gunner." "Let's see what the major says," Jones replied stoutly. "Marie, you got any more soup?" "Not for you, I don't. That other curree you arguing with already eaten me out of house and home. I goin' turn him into a spider, I think. I can afford to keep a spider around." The next day, still farther to the north at Fort St. John, Driscol ruled in favor of Jones. "Why not? He kept up our spirits, didn't he?" Ball didn't argue the point. There was no point in arguing, when the troll made a ruling. The troll had been back, these past weeks, and in a particularly foul mood. Jackson insisted on keeping Driscol at Fort St. John. There was no telling, after all. The British might have faked the news of the peace treaty, and be planning a surprise landing on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. After the battle on the west bank, Jackson was as sure as the sunrise that Major Patrick Driscol could hold off the hordes of Satan long enough for Jackson to get there. No valiant deed shall go unpunished. So, Driscol remained at Fort St. John—and Jackson forbade Tiana Rogers or Robert Ross to visit him. The British general might be a spy, using his injuries and illness to disguise malevolent intent, and Tiana was sure to distract Driscol from his patriotic duties. The day the news arrived, that an official copy of the peace treaty had landed in New Orleans and Jackson was lifting martial law, the wildlife of the area was finally moving about again. Spring was coming, and the human critters seemed to have stopped doing their loud and frightening rituals. Driscol eyed one such specimen of wildlife, which had just emerged onto the open ground below the fort. "That is a deer, isn't it?" The gunners at the six-pounder he was standing beside gave him an odd look. "Uh. Yes, sir," said one. "That is indeed an offi-cial American deer." "Oh, splendid." The manager of the Trémoulet House was livid. "The carpet is ruined. You'll pay for it or I'll have you before the judge!" Tiana kept laughing. Captain John, back from his mysterious absence—gunrunning, whiskey smuggling, who was to know?—just reached for his purse. It was flush, fortunately. The carpet was ruined; for quite a stretch, despite the canvas. "What in God's name did he use?" he asked his son, after the manager stalked off. James grinned. "Grapeshot. What else?" Captain John looked at his daughter. "You're probably crazy to accept." She shook her head, still laughing. Captain John looked back down at the deer. "Well, then again, maybe not. Interesting times ahead of us, I'm thinking. He might turn out to be a handy son-in-law." It was a deer, all right, as custom required. Captain John was sure of it. He recognized the antlers. As he could, Jackson switched from devil to devil-may-care in an instant. The day he lifted martial law, he declared a festivity in honor of the upcoming marriage of one of his officers and a Cherokee princess. Yes, he used the term "princess." In fact, if anyone else used any other term, Jackson would start hollering. It was a real wedding, too, by white men's standards. Jackson wasn't about to settle for one of his officers just getting married according to Cherokee custom. "Do whatever else you want to keep the savages happy," he growled to Driscol, "but you will get married in a blasted church. Any church, I don't care so long as it's a church. I'll not have it said that one of my officers is a squaw man." Driscol didn't argue the point. He didn't care, neither did Tiana—and Captain John was quick to point out that being legally married according to U.S. law would provide Driscol— not to mention his new in-laws—with a wide variety of legal opportunities—close enough, anyway—which he proceeded to enumerate in detail and with enthusiasm until Driscol finally told him to shut up. The ceremony was blessedly brief. When they emerged from the church, however, they discovered that the "festivities" scheduled to follow would be anything but. Jackson had the whole army turned out for the occasion, along with what seemed to be half the city. The Plaza de Armas wound up serving as an outdoor dance hall, even more crowded if not quite as loud as the Place des Nègres. General Ross watched the festivities from a table on the side of the square. He'd had a relapse that had prevented him from being evacuated to the British ships when they left the gulf. So, as time and his condition allowed, he'd return to England—Ireland, rather, to see his family—on a commercial vessel. In the meantime, he was rather enjoying his protracted stay with Cousin Jonathan. And with others, for that matter. His companions at the table this evening were the two young Cherokees, John Ross and Tiana's brother James. Robert had gotten to know both of them rather well, by now. He enjoyed John Ross's quiet and thoughtful assessment of things, perhaps even more than he enjoyed James's invariant wit. The sun had set, but the many lamps that had been placed about the area illuminated the square quite well. Smiling, John Ross nodded toward the center of the plaza, where an excellent dancer was the pivot of the crowd. "You'd think it was his wedding, wouldn't you?" James chuckled. "Sam Houston. Always the life of the party." Houston had never been without a dancing partner, since the festivities began. The Creole matrons of New Orleans were every bit as calculating as the matrons of Washington and Baltimore, and Houston's eligible

status was plated in gold. Even if, judging from several sour faces Ross had noticed, some of them were coming to discover that hooking Sam Houston was a lot easier than landing him. Fairly early in the evening, Tiana and Patrick came up to the British general's table. "We'll be leaving now, Robert," Tiana said. She had Driscol's hand tightly held in her own. "It's time we, ah—" "Got some sleep," Driscol finished. James burst into laughter. For which Robert was thankful, since it meant Tiana's brother was the sole recipient of her glare while Robert struggled to keep from laughing himself. Driscol spotted his doing so, but that hardly mattered. The Scots-Irishman was quite obviously the smuggest man in the world, at the moment. As well he might be. By the time Tiana looked back at Robert, he had his expression composed. "Of course, my dear. You must be quite tired." He rose from the table and extended his hand to Driscol. "My deepest and most sincere congratulations, Major. You are a very fortunate man." That, at least, he had no trouble saying with a straight face. Driscol almost had to pry his hand loose from Tiana's in order to return the handshake. "Thank you, General. For once, it seems, I was blessed with the luck of Ireland." By the time Driscol finished that sentence, Tiana had his hand firmly gripped again. Clearly enough, she intended to maintain that clasp until they reached their quarters. Those weren't far away, fortunately, or Driscol's fingers might have become completely numb by the time they arrived. Whatever Captain John had been up to during his absence, it had been quite remunerative. With all the flamboyant generosity of a Scottish laird—or a Cherokee chief—Tiana's father had rented a separate suite at the Trémoulet House for the newlyweds. Ross sat back down. "Lunch tomorrow, here as usual?" Tiana and Driscol looked at each other. Driscol cleared his throat. "Ah. Maybe that's not...Well. General Jackson was good enough to give me leave for the next week. Tomorrow... Ah." "Yes, of course," Robert said smoothly. "The day after tomorrow," Tiana said brightly. "How's that?" "Splendid." They were off then. But they hadn't taken three steps before James called out. "Oh—Tiana!" He had a very wide smile, now. She glanced over her shoulder at her brother. "Yes?" she asked suspiciously. "Make sure you close the windows." Tiana glared again. Driscol kept looking straight ahead. It was hard to tell, in the semidarkness of the lamp-lit square, but Robert thought his neck was bright red. An odd combination, that complexion, with the very square shoulders that looked to be leaning forward. Embarrassment, smugness, and anticipation, all combined. Not in equal proportions, of course. That was still the smuggest man in the world. And embarrassment was being routed by anticipation. "I'm serious!" James insisted. "It's still only the middle of March. It might get chilly tonight." "You like to lead a dangerous life," John Ross commented, after the couple had left the square. "I don't know what that was about, but I'd say the wings of destruction brushed you closely." James snorted. "I can still outwrestle my little sister. And she wasn't armed." "Not tonight," Robert mused, sipping at his glass of whiskey. "Tomorrow..." "I think I'll go hunting tomorrow." "Perhaps a wise idea." Robert set down the glass. Although he'd grown fond of the tea in New Orleans, even the best American whiskey didn't lend itself to more than an occasional sip. The dancing and festivities in the square were still going on as vigorously as ever. Except for the people at his table, Robert realized, no one had even noticed the wedding couple's departure. Not in the least. All eyes were on Sam Houston. EpilogueApril 4, 1815
New Orleans, Louisiana "You sent for me, sir?" Jackson looked up from his desk in the Cabildo. "Sam! I wasn't expecting you so quickly." The general rose from his desk and, with a wave of his arm, invited Houston to take a seat in a nearby chair. Once they were both seated, Jackson clasped his hands in front of him on the desk. The bony double fist rested atop a small pile of papers. "I'm leaving the day after tomorrow, you may have heard. Now that Rachel's here, I see no reason to stay. Especially since, ah..." "Yes, sir. I know that Mrs. Jackson hasn't found the city to her liking." Jackson himself might be something of a freethinker, like Sam—though not as much as Driscol, of course; almost no one was—but his wife Rachel was pious to the point of religious fanaticism. She'd taken to New Orleans about as well as she would have taken to Sodom or Gomorrah. "No, she hasn't. And I've been relieved of my duties here by the War Department anyway, so..." He opened his clasped hands and gazed down at the papers. "I'm going back to Tennessee, at least for the time being," he said abruptly. "My plantation needs looking after, and, well—" He held up one of the papers. "I received a letter from one of my close friends in Nashville just yesterday. He's urging me to run for governor or senator of the state." "You'd win either post handily, sir." That was the simple truth, not a polite fabrication. For all that Jackson had bullied and abused his Tennessee militiamen, they were intensely loyal to him. The militia formed a tremendous political power in any state, and a frontier state more than most. Those plebeian nobodies and roughnecks had confidence in Jackson. He was their champion, and they'd sweep him into office. Might even, someday, sweep him into the presidency. Somewhat regretfully, Jackson shook his head. "Duty calls, Sam. Always duty. I'll see the Dons driven from our soil before I turn my ambition to anything else. If I took state office, I'd have to resign from the army. Active duty, at least. And it'll be the army—you watch and see—that deals the Dons as they deserve. No blasted politicians in Washington, much less Nashville." "I understand, sir." Jackson eyed him from beneath lowered brows. "Come on, Sam, you're not that innocent. If I can't run for office in Tennessee, there's no reason you can't. Young as you are, after the Capitol and New Orleans, you'd win in a landslide. The militia would support you just as readily as they would me." Jackson laid down the letter and picked up another. "This is from—well, never mind. Just take it from me that I can get you an appointment as a brigadier general in the Tennessee militia." He held up yet another. "And this letter's from another old friend, in response to a query I sent up there some weeks back. One of our state's finest judges. He tells me he can see to the completion of your education and making you an attorney-atlaw. It'll take a few years, but you're still too young to run for a lot of offices, anyway. Thereafter, between that and the brigadier generalship—" He flashed Houston a grin. "I won't even talk about your own natural gifts for orating and such. Sam, you are pretty much guaranteed a splendid public career. I'll back you every step of the way, too. We frontiersmen need people of our own in Washington." Jackson could grin very well, when he was of a mind to do so. "You'll need to get married fairly soon, of course. But a man should get married anyway, and—ha!—you'll certainly have no lack of choices. I'd recommend a Tennessee belle, myself, but who's to say? One of those girls from the East Coast would do as well. For that matter, as good as your reputation is, you could probably get away with marrying one of these New Orleans Creole beauties, if you found one that caught your fancy." Sam stiffened a little, at the mention of "Creole beauties." He'd gotten himself into something of a jam, on that subject. Especially with—well, and also— His intentions were good, damnation! Still, it was very difficult when—especially after drinking too much—perhaps he should start listening to Patrick's nattering on the subject of whiskey and rum— But his scattered and nervous thoughts were dispelled, the moment he spotted the thick, official-looking envelope that was also there on Jackson's desk. He hadn't noticed it earlier, because it was lying at the bottom of the pile. "Yes, sir. I'll give it some thought, sir. But..." Jackson spared him the awkwardness of asking. As if surprised, he looked down and spotted the envelope himself. "Oh. This?" His fingers rummaged through the stack, for a moment. "Yes, I suppose I should raise it with you, also, even though I'm sure you'll decline." He held up the envelope with two fingers, as if afraid it might be unclean. "This is a letter from Secretary of War Monroe. He's apparently decided to create a new post for handling Indian affairs—special commissioner to the secretary, or some such silliness—and wants to know if you'd be willing to accept the position. Your duties would start immediately. The salary's pretty wretched, I can tell you." Jackson let the envelope fall to the desk. "You'll decline, of course." Houston stared at the letter. Jackson's eyes widened, as if in disbelief. "Sam, be serious. You know what a miserable job it is, being an Indian agent. Unless you're a crook, which you aren't. You'll always be caught betwixt and between. Satisfying nobody and making nothing but enemies on all sides. I can't think of a surer way for a young man to wreck a promising career before it's even gotten started." That was all true enough. It was also— Probably beside the point. Not thinking of the discourtesy that might be involved, Sam rose abruptly from his chair and went over to the window. From that vantage point, he could look down onto the city's main square. Patrick Driscol was down there in the Plaza de Armas, sitting at a table with Tiana and General Ross. That had become something of a midday ritual, so Sam wasn't surprised to see them. James Rogers was there, too. That was a sad sight, because his brother John was absent. The two of them had been well-nigh inseparable since they were little boys. Sam felt a little guilty about that. He and the Rogers brothers had spent a lot of time together, in the years he'd lived on John Jolly's island. If Sam had never showed up there, John Rogers might still be alive today. John Ross also was sitting at the table, however, which wasn't usual. Still, Sam wasn't surprised to see him either. Why should he be? He'd told John that Jackson had summoned him. Ross had probably made the same guess Sam had made—that, whatever it was about, it would most likely have some bearing on their mutual fate. The young Cherokee glanced up, spotted him in the window, and nodded. Sam would never know why that simple nod triggered it off. But, suddenly, standing at a window in the Cabildo, he finally understood why he so loved the Iliad. It had always puzzled him, a bit. The hero, Achilles, was a repellent fellow in so many ways. But that didn't matter, he now realized. Homer had used such a hero to make a point. A short glorious life is preferable to a long and meaningless one, certainly. But how do you measure glory in the first place? "It occurs to me, General," he said to Jackson, turning his head to face him squarely, "that glory is a thing properly measured by duty. Not the acclaim of others." Jackson's face went blank. "Yes," he replied. Sam nodded. "That's what I just figured out. So I'll be accepting the secretary's offer, I think." "Well, it's your decision." Jackson twisted his head, in a little gesture Sam couldn't interpret. Then he held up the letter. "You'll want to read it, and make your own reply. But I'll inform the secretary of your decision." "Thank you, sir." Jackson escorted him personally out of the office, gracious all the way. The general did that extremely well, too, when he was of a mind. "Please give my regards to Mrs. Jackson." "Oh, certainly. And come visit us at the Hermitage, Sam, whenever you can manage it. Rachel was quite taken by you." In the corridor, after the door was closed, Sam paused for a moment. Jackson's last words, he realized, were the general's way of making clear that no bridges had been burned. Good. Sam had a feeling he'd need to cross that bridge— many times—over the next few years. Outside, he took a seat at the table. "Well?" John Ross asked. Sam held up the envelope. "It's done. Step one, at any rate." Driscol said nothing. Tiana smiled. General Ross shook his head. "Cousins," he murmured, blowing on his cup of tea. "Why is it that all families have mad cousins?" "The English," Driscol stated. "Trace it all back, and you'll find a Sassenach to blame." "Probably," Ross allowed. "Though I do think the Scots have some sins of their own to answer for." "Oh, aye, to be sure. But we learned all the great crazed ones from the English. Our own native sins were too humble to scatter mad cousins across half the world, like so much gunpowder." When Coffee came into the general's office, he found Jackson at the window, gazing down into the square below. The general had an odd, crooked little smile on his face. Coffee came to join him. "Huh! Don't they look like a cozy lot of plotters." "Don't they just? I told you he'd refuse the rose." Coffee shook his head. "Andy, there are times I think you'd rather lose a fight—rather die, come down to it—than admit you were wrong to start it in the first place." Jackson's face went blank. "Of course."

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