Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peter Fort and the Battle of New Orleans

One of the first songs I remember my sister singing along to on the radio was “The Battle of New Orleans.” Sung by Johnny Horton in 1959, you can hear it on youtube if you have a high-speed connection to the Internet. My favorite verse was always this one:
They ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
An' they ran through the bushes where the rabbits couldn't go.
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn't catch 'em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Peter Fort was there! The article that I blogged two days ago including the names of so many veterans also included an excerpt from Peter Fort's partly finished autobiography.

Peter’s family was Huguenots who came from France via Holland. Of the three brothers who came to America, Peter was descended from the one who became a farmer in Poughkeepsie, NY by the name of Major Abram Fort, who was a Revolutionary War veteran. That is where Peter was born on November 27, 1783, one of 11 children.
He recalls the first steamboat, the Clermont, and watching it come noisily up the Hudson River as he worked in the field, and his family was personally acquainted with the man who went on to become NYS Governor, Dewitt Clinton. In 1799, aged 16 or so, Peter sailed off to New York City to seek his fortune, a voyage that took 2 or 3 days. Then in October of 1808 at the age of 25, Peter sailed out of NYS and after a voyage of 39 days, reached New Orleans.
In 1814, he joined Captain Beal’s company of rifles, an independent organization of 63 men but under the immediate orders of General Jackson. Peter was the only survivor of that rifle company. His brother John A. Fort was a Colonel on General Jackson’s staff.
Peter speaks of the return to New Orleans and the welcome of its citizens. He remained there only until 1815, and then went to New York with his health completely broken down. He returned by sea for a visit in 1820, but never made his home in the Crescent City again.
In 1821 Peter and his brother John and John’s wife undertook an overland journey to New Orleans. It took them about two and a half months to make that journey. He remained in New Orleans until April 10, 1822, when he took a ship for Providence, Rhode Island, reaching that place on May 4, 1822. He says his life from then on was “cosmopolitan” and that he lived in Salisbury Connecticut, New York City, Albany New York, Schenectady and Geneva. He says “I kept my horse and gig and was seven years searching for a home until in 1838, being in my 55th year, I found it in Aurora.”
Peter was conscientious of his right to vote, and voted for Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce and Buchanan for President through the years.
Never married and never a church-going man, although of Dutch Reformed background, he nevertheless advised anyone reading his autobiography to read the Bible. He gave God credit for his longevity and endeavored to live his life in His service.

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