The Battle of New Orleans was a one-month conflict taking place between early December 1814 and mid-January 1815. The battle is known as the final big conflict of the War of 1812 between an outnumbered U.S. force of 4,700+ and an overwhelming British force of over 14,400. A number of military greats led their forces in this mega-clash and many heroes were made–heroes such as Joseph Savary.
Pre-War of 1812
Hailing from the French colony of Saint-Domingue–now known as Haiti–Joseph Savary was a career soldier who sided with France during the Haitian Revolution between the 1790s and early 1800s. With Haiti gaining independence, Savary left the country with his family before the new government began hunting French loyalists.
The family would settle in New Orleans where it’s believed he worked for the pirate Jean Lafitte based around the coast of the territory. He also worked for Jean’s brother Pierre who was also a pirate in addition to a blacksmith in New Orleans. When the War of 1812 rolled into Louisiana, General C.C. Claiborne was looking to bolster U.S. forces.
It was here that he came across Savary, one of the soldiers he’d heard about perhaps through his association with Lafitte brothers who were working for the U.S in the war.
After presenting the idea of a colored fighting force to General Andrew Jackson, the opportunity was presented to Joseph Savary who accepted. He would raise his own fighting force which was designated the Free Men of Color of the Louisiana Militia or the Second Battalion.
The Battle of New Orleans
His force had close to 260 soldiers and was made a part of the U.S. military in December 1814. Captain Joseph Savary was promoted to second major and his force sent into battle on December 23. This made him the first Black soldier to reach the position.
The Second Battalion would repel the British during this battle. There were other skirmishes the battalion participated in but they were held back during the final big battle–the Battle of New Orleans. Savary would take the initiative and rally his troops to join in.
During this conflict, the U.S. was woefully outnumbered by the British but it was Savary’s battalion who turned the tide of battle by killing General Edward Pakenham. General Jackson would heavily praise Savary and the Second Battalion for their actions in this battle.
An Ungrateful Citizenry
Even though the Second Battalion played a huge role in the decisive victory, the White citizens wanted them gone. There was a fear of an armed group of trained Black soldiers residing in the city. It can be said this is a holdover from the several rebellions in the British, French, and Spanish colonies.
Jackson ordered the Black troops to leave New Orleans. From there, Savary and his men would head into Spanish-owned Texas and return to working with Pierre Lafitte. Following the deaths of the Lafitte brothers in 1821 and 1823, Savary and the Second Battalion would move on. They were last seen fighting alongside rebels attempting to wrest Mexico from Spain during the Mexican War for Independence.
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Hello. I am doing some research on Joseph Savary (bornin Haiti in 18th Centiry), first Black Major inthe US Army. You have published an article and a portrain of him. I have not been able to find the source of that picture. Can you give me any leads?
Terri E. Pease