previous next

What old-fashioned Rifles can do.

We commend to those who are always prating about ‘"improved arms,"’ the following account of what old-fashioned rifles can do, from an Englishman's description of the battle of New Orleans:

‘ It was a strange sight — that long range of cotton bales — a new material for breastworks --with the crowd of human beings behind, their heads only visible above the lines of defence. We could distinctly see their long rifles lying over the bales, and the battery of Gen. Coffee directly in front, with its great mouth gaping towards us, and the position of Gen. Jackson, with his staff around him.--But what attracted our attention most, was the figure of a tall man standing on the breast-works, dressed in linsey-woolsey, with buck-skin leggings, and a broad-brimmed felt hat, that fell around his face, almost concealing his features. He was standing in one of those picturesque and graceful attitudes peculiar to those natural man-dwellers in the forest. The body rested on the left leg, and swayed with a curved line upwards; the right arm was extended, the hand grasping the rifle near the muzzle, the butt of which rested near the toe of his right foot, while with his hand he raised the rim of his hat from his eyes, and seemed gazing from beneath intently upon our advancing column. The cannon of Coffee had opened upon us, and tore through our ranks with dreadful slaughter; but we continued to advance, unwavering and cool, as if nothing threatened our progress.

The roar of cannon seemed to have no effect upon the figure standing on the cotton bales. At last he moved, threw back the hat-rim over the crown with his left hand, raised the rifle to his shoulder, and took aim at our group. Our eyes were rivetted on him. At whom had he levelled his piece? But the distance was so great that we looked at each other and smiled. We saw the rifle flash, and my light-hand companion, as noble a looking fellow as ever rode at the head of a regiment, fell from his saddle. The hunter paused for a few moments, without moving his gun from his shoulder, then re-loaded, and resumed his former attitude. Throwing the hat-rim over his eyes, and again holding it up with his left hand, he fixed his piercing gaze upon us, as if hunting out another victim.--Once more the hat-rim was thrown back, and the gun raised to his shoulder. This time we did not smile, but cast short glances at each other, to see which of us must die, and when the rifle again flashed another of us dropped to the earth. There was something awful in thus marching on to certain death.

Gen. Coffee's battery and thousands of musket balls played upon our ranks. We cared not for them — there was a chance of escaping unscathed. Most of us had walked upon batteries a hundred times more destructive, without quelling; but to know that every time that rifle was levelled towards us, and its bullet sprang from the barrel, one of us must surely fall; to see the gleaming sun flash as the deadly iron came down, and see it rest motionless, as if poised upon a rock, and know when the hammer struck, and the sparks flew to the full- primed pan, that the messenger of death drove unerring to its goal — to know this, and still march on, was awful.

I could see nothing but the tall figure standing on the breastwork. He seemed to grow, phantom like, taller and taller, assuming through the smoke the supernatural appearance of some great spirit. Again did he reload and discharge his rifle with the same unfailing aim, and it was with indescribable pleasure that I beheld, as we neared the American lines, the sulphurous smoke gather around us and shut that spectral hunter from my gaze. We lost the battle, and to my mind the Kentucky rifleman contributed more to our defeat than anything else; for, while he remained to our sight, our attention was drawn from our duties, and when at last we became enshrouded in the smoke, the work was complete; we were in utter confusion and unable in the extremity to restore order sufficient to make any successful attack.

So long as thousands and thousands of rifles remain in the hands of the people, so long as men come up from their childhood able, ere the down is on their chin, to hit the centre of a mark or to strike the deer at one hundred and fifty yards in the most vital part; so long as there is a great proportion of the Republic who live as free as the wild Indian, knowing no other leader but their own Indian chief; knowing no law but that of right, and the honorable observance of friendly intercourse, America is unconquerable, and all the armies of the combined world, though they might drive them from the sea-coast and across the Alleghany mountains, would not be able to subdue the free-souled hunter among the mountains, and great prairies, and mighty rivers of the West.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Coffee (2)
Jackson (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: