The Ulster Land War of 1770



The antagonism to English rule did not cease with the laurels gained by Irishmen in the American revolution. It was continued with force and effect for another generation, as we will now show, and continues still to the present day. Such were the far-reaching effects of oppression and misgovernment in Ireland. Andrew Jackson, twice president of the United States, was the son of Ulster evicted parents who had been forced to leave their country, sailing away in the great exodus of the year 1765 from Belfast Lough. They went with much bitterness of heart, longing for the time when some vengeance would be theirs, the time when the blow could be returned with interest. The time came. Jackson was in the prime of life when it came; the revolution was passed and the new republic was well established ere the second conquest of the American people was attempted by England. It was a foolish and disastrous attempt, conceived in pride and vain-glory and ending in utter defeat. The Peninsula war had ended, and the veteran flower of the British troops were without occupation. It was determined that America should be invaded, that these troops, with the names of Spanish battles and sieges upon their banners, should be landed at New Orleans, led by the brother-in-law of the “iron duke,” general Pakenham, of an Irish landlord stock not unknown to Antrim, for he had been brought up “on Lough Neagh’s banks.” Wellington himself was kept in reserve, all the glory was to go to his relation. So it was decreed. We need not go fully into the details of this momentous struggle, it can be read in any American history–no full or fair account is given in the English books. The intention was for this great English army to capture New Orleans, ascend the Mississippi, until it met a similar force sent down from Canada, when all the territory would be restored to British rule. The expedition consisted of forty-eight armed ships of war, with many transports and other armed vessels. The fleet was manned by ten thousand marines and sailors with ten thousand troops on board, a great array of veteran soldiers picked from the best regiments of England’s army. The invaders landed on American soil and at once commenced operations. This was in November, 1814. It fell to the lot of Andrew Jackson to lead the American troops against the British at New Orleans. The men he actually engaged numbered only about two thousand, but they were excellently handled and brilliantly led.

The issue was fairly knit this time. There was no lopsidedness here. On one side the best of England’s troops, thoroughly equipped, blazing with gorgeous uniforms (Pakenham’s can be seen to this day at Langford Lodge, county Antrim), bands and colours, and all the pride and panoply of trained warriors with a strong government behind them, certain sure, of easy victory. Their leader trained in many a campaign, but–an Antrim “landlord.” Opposed to them we have a hastily gathered volunteer force of “an American horde,” as they were called, but they could carry a stockade in the night-time, and, above all, they could shoot. We doubt if all their clothing would have cost as much as the English general’s and his staffs’–but they could shoot. Their leader was also of an Ulster stock of the poorest birth. His parents had lost their all in the Ulster land war, which Jackson knew and felt in every bone of his body, and so every blow of his arm had a double force, every fibre in his constitution was strained to the full. This was no Antrim hillside with a flying people and an arrogant usurping landocracy backed by royal proclamations, government bayonets and the gallows rope, enforcing a tyranny and confiscation of the people’s rights regardless of all justice, equity, or moral obligation. No, this was a battlefield in a free land, where the right would win no matter what the odds, and so Jackson felt his brain reel at this, the opportunity of a lifetime, such a chance as had never been given to thousands of others as good as he, whose breed had been treated as badly as his in the old land. The name of Pakenham was familiar to him, many a time had his mother mentioned it, with others, around their simple log fire in their little hut when he was a boy, but never with the hatred bestowed on that of Donegall, and Jackson must have longed for Donegall to face him as Pakenham was about to do. The Donegalls were not that way inclined–no records of fame have their names inscribed upon them. Not one Donegall ever led a charge or took part in any noble deed, not down to the very last of them, he who died a few years ago in debauchery and bankruptcy and blackguardism. It was a great fight, this battle of New Orleans; it was sudden and certain. The English troops were hunted from the field, and hurled back on their ships, leaving 700 dead on the ground, with 1,400 wounded and 500 prisoners. Jackson had exclaimed of the English at the commencement of the fight:–“By the Eternal, they must have no rest on our soil,” and literally he carried out his desire. The American losses were thirteen killed and wounded. Not a bad Sabbath day’s work for Andrew Jackson. He, the son of the evicted Ulster farmer, was the proud man, proud indeed that he had struck a double blow. He had hunted the invader from his adopted country, and he had slain in honourable warfare one who represented a class that had driven him and his from the old country by means of force and fraud and foul dealing. He was indeed a victor, and so he was hailed, not only in the United States, but in Ulster, where his name is still remembered. In the words of William Cobbett, “this famous man is an Irishman, and I beseech you to look at his deeds and to applaud that just Providence which has made him an instrument, though in a manner so indirect, of assisting to avenge the manifold wrongs of ill-treated Ireland.”

Many of the men of whom we write have now lain in their graves for over a century. Their very memory has almost passed away. But when the farmers of Ulster look on their well-tilled fields, now in their own hands they should remember that it is to the struggle and sacrifices of the hearts of steel, and to the war they carried on against injustice and oppression, more than to any other cause, that they owe their right to live on the lands they now enjoy as their own. The men of Ulster fought hard for their rights, they paid heavily in the contest, but they won, not all they were entitled to, but much of what in subsequent years was legally confirmed to them. And of those who sailed the seas in search of that freedom denied them at home, did they not found with their blood–the blood of Ulster Irishmen–that great republic of the west where only too many of our people have been forced to find a home, and^”from whose shores until this hour the Irish race never hesitates to strike a blow at that power which drove them from their own loved land.

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