Military History of Mississippi: 1803 – 1809
(taken from “Military History of Mississippi 1803 – 1898” by Dunbar Rowland, 1908; 1978 Reprint, The Reprint Company, Publishers, pp. 1-3)
Submitted by Tim Harrison

At the Transfer of the Louisiana Purchase in New Orleans, 1803

The first Mississippi battalion called out by United States authority accompanied Gov. William C.C. Claiborne to New Orleans in 1803, to take possession of the Louisiana purchase. When the Spanish garrison departed from the city Daniel Clark organized there a battalion of Americans and French Creoles, about 300 in all, to maintain order. Among his men were Col. Reuben Kemper, George Martin, George Newman, Benjamin Morgan, Dr. William Flood and Woodson Wren, citizens of Mississippi Territory. Claiborne embarked to Natchez, December 1, a company of the Natchez artillery, another of riflemen, and a company of militia infantry, in all about a hundred men, on the schooner Bilboa. There was a long delay at Fort Adams, where the Governor wrote, December 8th: “Our men were mustered this morning and amount to about two hundred.” The regular troops numbered about 250. “On the 17th of December the two American commissioners (Claiborne and General Wilkinson) encamped within two miles of New Orleans.” After communicating with Prefect Laussat they visited his house “with an escort of thirty of the Mississippi horse volunteers, and on their approach were saluted with nineteen guns.” December 20th the American troops marched into the walled city, greeted by a salute of twenty-one guns, and formed upon the plaza (now Jackson Square) facing the Louisiana militia. After Laussat had delivered the keys of the city and proclaimed the transfer of the vast province, the French tricolor dropped, the stars and stripes were raised, and the Natchez artillery, with their brass field piece, participated in the joyous roar of cannon from batteries and boats. Monette says (11,354) the Governor’s “military escort consisted of a company of volunteer cavalry under the command of Capt. Benjamin Farrar, the first troop ever formed in the Territory and one which for many years afterwards maintained an elevated character for patriotism and chivalrous bearing.” This was the Adams troop, distinguished in the War of 1812.


The militia of the vicinity of the Spanish frontier was called out by the Governor in 1805, and at times afterward, mainly under Capt. Joshua Baker, to guard or patrol the frontier of the district of Baton Rouge, which was under Spanish government.


Governor Williams was instructed by the Secretary of War in April, 1806, to have the militia of the Territory in readiness for active service on account of danger of trouble with “our Spanish neighbors.” In August Governor Claiborne of New Orleans and Governor Mead of Mississippi had a conference at Concord, near Natchez, at which Mead agreed to put his militia in training and prepare to support the Mayor of New Orleans, defend Mississippi territory and send at least a hundred men to Natchitoches. General Wilkinson, under orders to command all troops that might be raised to repel an invasion of United States territory, arrived at Natchez September 7th and made a requisition on Governor Mead for militia. September 25th the Governor ordered to rendezvous in the Jefferson district, October 4th, Captain Farrar’s troop of dragoons, Captain Newman’s company of Natchez infantry, Captain Poindexter’s company of Mississippi Blues of Adams County, Captain Davidson’s dragoons of Jefferson County, and a similar order for rendezvous at Fort Adams was sent to Colonel Ellis of the Adams district. Farrar’s troop was the first to report. October 6th General Wilkinson’s requisition was filled and the men crossed the river and started forward. The field and staff officers were: Ferdinand L. Claiborne, Major commanding; Thomas H. Williams, Captain Adjutant and Quartermaster; Frederick Seip, Surgeon; Heritage Howerton, Quartermaster-Sergeant; Joshua Knowlton, Sergeant-Major. The companies were commanded by Captains Benjamin Farrar, cavalry; George Poindexter, Alexander Bisland, Basil Andrews, William T. Voss and Ralph Ragan, infantry. Captain Thomas Hinds’ dragoons from Jefferson County, and a company of mounted infantry from Wilkinson County, prepared to follow in a few days. But Major Claiborne, on reaching Rapides, was met by orders from Wilkinson directing the infantry to return to Natchez and Farrar’s troop to proceed to Natchitoches. The Spanish had retired beyond the Sabine. The infantry reached Natchez October 15th and were mustered out at the town of Washington. The Adams troop joined General Wilkinson, who made one of its members, Walter Burling, his aide and assistant in arranging the famous “neutral ground treaty.” In November the troop returned home.


In December, 1806, the ketch Vesuvius, fourteen guns, the schooner Revenge, twelve guns, the ketch Etna, fourteen guns, and five gunboats of two guns each, under Commodore Shaw, were stationed in vicinity of Natchez to meet the army which, according to the rumors afloat, Aaron Burr was bringing down the Mississippi for the conquest of Mexico and the annexation of the southwestern United States to his proposed Mexican empire. Major Joshua Baker of the Mississippi militia occupied Fort Adams with twenty-five men December 14th, and the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Militia Regiments were ordered to muster in January [1807]. Col. F. L. Claiborne sent an expedition of about 300 men to the mouth of Cole’s Creek. Colonel Woolridge, of the militia, marched to Bayou Pierre, with thirty-five men, when Burr arrived, and with Captain Regan, and Lieutenant Lindsay visited him on the Louisiana shore. Col. Thomas Fitzpatrick next interviewed Burr and on January 16th the Governor’s aides, George Poindexter and William B. Shields, made with Burr arrangement under which he went to the town of Washington for an investigation of his expedition. There were about sixty men in Burr’s party. After a diligent search, Colonel Fitzpatrick discovered no indication that Burr’s expedition was of a military nature.

The country had been greatly excited over Colonel Burr’s mysterious movements, and the National Government had called on the Governor of Mississippi Territory for troops to suppress a warlike expedition. Whatever may have been Burr’s purpose it was thwarted by the prompt action of the authorities of Mississippi Territory.


“December 7, 1808, in obedience to the order of the President, Governor Williams ordered the organization of a picked battalion of 335 officers and men, to be composed of infantry and riflemen, chosen out of the Territorial Brigade by volunteering or otherwise. High water prevented the rendezvous planned in January, 1809, and it was postponed until February 15th. Major Andrew Marschalk was assigned to command by the Governor. February 17th the levy was ordered to be put in marching order. July 6, 1809, Governor Holmes ordered the command to be disbanded, in pursuance of orders from President Madison, who expressed his thanks to the corps for their readiness to answer a call for service. This was part of the military preparations for war with France or England, a state of war on the high seas actually existing.” (Encyc. Miss. Hist. (1907), from data in the Mississippi Archives.)

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