Historical Campfire Tales: General Jackson Does New Orleans

These posts come with a caveat. They are written from memory as stories for entertainment purposes. No research except getting the dates right goes into these. They are not historically accurate, and may contain things that aren’t even true. Historically accurate versions and “what really happened” comments are welcome on the thread.

I did one on The Second Defenestration of Prague at Sourcerer a while ago. It didn’t play well enough to warrant a second, But Hannah and I enjoyed that post, so we’re trying this one at Things Matter. The idea is good and it just might find some readers on a history blog. On with the tale.


Portrait of Old Hickory by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl. Public Domain Image.

Before he was President of the United States, the formidable Major General Andrew Jackson marched an army south from Tennessee to defend the Gulf Coast from the invading British during the War of 1812.

The country was so wild in those days, and Jackson’s army was so large, he had to build roads to get them from Tennessee to the Coast intact. There’s a commercial pumpkin farm not far from where I live that was part of a plantation, once upon a time. They’ve got a piece of General Jackson’s road preserved there, and they don’t allow anyone to drive tractors or ATVs on it.

In the fall of 1814, during the final months of a war in which Washington D.C. had been all but burned to the ground, Jackson learned that the British planned to attack and occupy New Orleans, which would allow them to control the entire Mississippi Valley. So he marched his army to the Crescent City.

Not long after he arrived in New Orleans, Andrew Jackson declared martial law. That way he could rule the city and environs as proconsul and conscript citizens, etc. until he saw how things were going to play out with the British Navy and the British Army. It made perfect sense. Even though New Orleans rankled and some things happened during his rule that ought not to have happened, it was not out of order. Not when the capitol had already been burned and the entire Mississippi valley was in play.

Military necessity made it a sound decision, and local politics are not that hard to manage for a general with a seasoned army and the authority to suspend habeas corpus and all that.

New Orleans didn’t have much in 1814, but it had more than most southern cities. One of the things it had was a popular newspaper man. The newspaper man did not care for martial law, and by some accounts, he did not care for General Jackson. So he did what newspaper men do. He was critical of the whole thing.

Jackson told the newspaper man to shut his trap, at least until they saw how things went with the invading British, and added that this was for his own good. The newspaper man did not shut his trap.

The general threw the newspaper man in jail. The newspaper man summoned his lawyer. (There was no calling your attorney in 1814 New Orleans. Dude summoned his lawyer. Probably with the help of his jailers.)

The attorney went and talked to a federal judge. The judge issued an order for the newspaper man to be released. Jackson gave the judge the 1814 version of “screw you! I’m the one in charge! Shut your trap!”

The judge held Jackson in contempt and ordered him to appear in court. Jackson had is men throw the judge into the cell right next to the newspaper man, and asked the attorney if he would like to be next. Then he went and did what the President had sent him to New Orleans to do.

Equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter, NOLA, by Clark Mills. Photo by Ianaré Sévi

Equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter, NOLA, by Clark Mills. Photo by Ianaré Sévi

He fought off the British, but it was one of those Napoleonic engagements that played out over a period of weeks, and lots of other things happened that ought not have happened to get it done. Like slaves and poor people and generally any able-bodied man got to widen canals and build earthworks. Very large earthworks.

Non-stop, around-the-clock, dig-til-you-drop situation there. While the men were digging, the women were unattended. The local authorities were either acquiescent or locked up, and an army ran the town.

If you had a time machine. If you could travel to New Orleans, c. 1820, and talk to the women who lived through this — slave and free, rich and poor –, the things they would tell you about what happened in that city during the fall and winter of 1814 would curl your hair. That’s assuming you could get them to trust you enough to spill it. Jackson cast a long shadow, even after he was done with New Orleans. He had partisans.

Naturally, after the British were done in and the Mississippi valley was saved, after this war which had seen Washington D.C. burned and President Madison put to flight on horseback was mostly concluded, civil order was restored in New Orleans. (It was some months after, though.) Andrew Jackson, good soldier that he was, relinquished his authority (eventually). Which meant he had to let newspaper man and the judge out of jail.

They went back to being a newspaper man and a judge without missing a beat. They were pissed. The newspaper man wrote stories day and night. So many stories. All about Jackson. The judge summoned the general himself to answer the contempt charge (remember the contempt charge?)

And what did Andrew Jackson do? He did what any good politician would do. He loaded the courtroom with his regulars and answered the charge. He packed it with the ones who had been with him since they were 14 and had survived into their mid-20s. The ones who waded through the swamps and built the roads to New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile so the weak, johnny-come-lately bastards who joined up just for the war could march on flat ground. The ones who had played active roles in tossing the civil authorities in jail. The ones he trusted to manage the streets, so he could put his attention into defending the country.

Jackson satire produced much later - c. 1832. Public domain image.

Jackson satire produced much later – c. 1832. Public domain image.

We can criticize Andrew Jackson for a lot of things. I am no fan, when I look at his entire career. He did awful things. He was not a good man. But two things about him we can’t criticize, since he was a nineteenth century general. He knew how to convince people to die on his command, and he knew how to tell a story. The men he packed that courtroom with were not there to shout down criticism (though they probably did) or to defend his person. They were there because he wanted them to see what happened next.

He represented himself. That’s not a smart thing in modern times, but he was a lawyer as well as a general, and he knew what he was doing. There was a trial. He lost.

The judge levied a fine for the contempt of court. He paid it in gold, out of his pocket, amid the hoots and jeers of his men. Then he walked out of the courtroom laughing, and later got himself elected President.

I’m not sure what they did after the trial. I’ve always assumed they went out for beer and whiskey. Probably more than that, considering they were an army, they were in New Orleans, and they’d just saved the Mississippi valley from being conquered by the British.

Sunday Post – Content and Schedule

I’ve moved, and boy am I glad I had a week to recover before starting school. But I’m sure things are about to get crazy again. I have a staggering number of textbooks to purchase and, presumably, read. And then, presumably, write about. With that in mind, over the past few weeks I’ve been designing some changes for the blog. Never fear, you won’t notice a huge difference, except maybe “it’s more like it used to be.”

Everything else that follows is “if you’re interested” blog chitchat.

I have three niches, as indicated by my subtitle. History, pop culture, and writing/sci-fi. Once upon a time, I tried to post three times a week plus Sundays, and used that subtitle as a rough schedule. A general attempt for three posts, one about history, one about pop culture, and one about writing and/or science fiction. That worked nicely, and kept me guided without feeling stifled, since I was free to change it up if I had a reason. Last fall was crazy, and after that I’ve mostly just posted what I felt was most urgent, whenever I could get it posted… Which is fine as far as it goes, but it’s stressful to write and hard to predict for followers. #queerpop is awesome, and I’ve gotten something posted every Tuesday since I started it in May, but I’ve discovered I much prefer writing with a loose rhythm over struggling with a weekly feature that posts on a particular day. #queerpop is off Tuesdays, and I’m going back to the system I was using before.

Things I’ve stopped posting are, for the most part, history-related posts and book reviews. The history stuff has been slow because I haven’t been in school. School’s back now, so history posts will be too. The book reviews, I have no idea. I really like doing those, and I like reading them and participating in WordPress’s thriving book-review culture, so I’m not sure why those have been so few and far between this year. They’re coming back too.

Of course, with school, posting three times a week (plus Sundays) is overambitious. We’ll see, depending on what my schedule’s like. We’ll go for 1-2 posts a week, and that may include Sundays if the Sunday Posts take on topics or themes or special events, as they often do. If it is just one post a week plus Sundays, I may even start thinking in months rather than weeks, but either way I’ll be keeping the three-post, three-topic rhythm in mind. Within the history-pop-writing idea, about one post a week (or one post in three) will be about queer stuff, and about one in three will be book-related. The book stuff is quick and easy for me to write, so this is a good time to push more book reviews, and I have plenty of queer stuff to talk about, it just won’t always be on Tuesdays (and it may be historical!) “#queerpop” is sticking around as a hashtag, though, and I’m hoping to move more of that conversation to Twitter as well as using it here.

I shall of course keep you all informed of any changes as the semester progresses, but I think it will bring lots of interesting content for TM, even if getting stuff together and posted takes a bit longer.

Thank you for reading!

#Queerpop Movie Review: G.B.F.

Remember just last week, I was saying we deserve more high-quality queer movies? G.B.F. is the queer high-school comedy-drama you’ve always wanted! Here’s the trailer:

If you can’t watch the trailer, the basic idea is it’s a 2013 high-school comedy-drama, along the lines of Easy A or Mean Girls. G.B.F.s — Gay Best Friends — are the hot new trend sweeping the nation, but in this small-town high school, where can the girls even find one? Of course, there are closeted gay kids in the school… Particularly Brent and Tanner, who are best friends. Brent wants to come out in a blaze of popularity and have the three prom-queen hopefuls fight over him as their G.B.F., but when the shy Tanner is accidentally outed in front of everyone, the girls latch onto him instead. Of course, he doesn’t act nearly gay enough, so they have to give him a makeover…

I totally love this movie and I look forward to watching it OVER AND OVER AGAIN, literally! It’s what you’d expect, friends breaking up and making up and learning how to be true to themselves, but there are twists I didn’t predict. Trope subversions and inversions. It’s hilarious, and self-aware like a parody, but it stands on its own. It’s romantic, touching, dorky. The script embraces the diversity and variety of people… The bombshell-blonde prom queen who’s awesome at chemistry but wants to keep it a secret. Another one of the girls wants the title because she’d be the first black prom queen in the school. There are fabulous gay kids and more “normal” ones… Out guys, closeted guys, one “flaming heterosexual.” Different families, with single moms, step-parents, lesbian moms.

The movie does a lovely job of subtly explaining what “othering” is, and illuminating the problems involved when you treat someone else like an accessory. The script also gently reveals that everyone in the school has some “coming out” to do… Coming out as a chemistry nerd, for instance. We’re all more than we pretend to be, especially in high school, and G.B.F. delivers a “be yourself” message that’s authentic, not forced. And I particularly love the affirmation of friendship and platonic love that can outshine romance — for me, that makes G.B.F. a totally asexual-friendly movie.

All those are fantastic reasons to watch it, but don’t forget, IT’S HILARIOUS.

Rated R, which I don’t think is fair. There’s explicit sexual dialogue, though. And if you’re Mormon, you’ll either not-at-all-appreciate the Mormon jokes, or laugh your socks off, one or the other.

G.B.F. is currently available on Netflix, and it’ll only take 90 minutes of your time. Watch it, watch it now!

A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities

you+should+be+writingI’m moving this weekend, folks. And after that we’ll start to see some minor blog restructuring. (Nothing major, don’t panic!) Until then, here’s a short post. Luther Siler did it last month after John Scalzi, and I thought it looked fun, and then forgot about it until I found it just now on a list of quick posts I could make…

  1. Editing. In my own work, be it fiction or non, the editing and writing stages are pretty much the same. But anything after the actual “writing stuff down” part, that’s the best. I’m also pretty good at editing for other people, especially nonfiction. It’s trickier to edit other people’s fiction, because my own process is so globbed together, but I enjoy it.
  2. Writing. I am good at this, when I’m not busy worrying that I’m not good at this.
  3. Drawing/Painting. I’m also good at this, but I can’t multitask while drawing/painting, so I don’t do it very much. It would take an awful lot of time and effort to actually become accomplished at this.
  4. Cooking. Not a bad cook at all, and getting more accomplished with practice.
  5. Playing Musical Instruments. I was super good at the violin in, what, middle school? Maybe early in high school? I mean objectively good. I played first chair in an orchestra of my peers, whatever age group that was. It really wasn’t my thing after a while, though, and I quit and have never regretted it.
  6. Dancing. I did a bit of ballroom dancing in school… I enjoyed it, and I’d like to brush up again, but I wouldn’t say I was especially good at it.
  7. Singing. I sing in the car. As long as the music’s loud enough that I can’t hear myself.
  8. Public Speaking. I consider this worse than my car-singing. However, college did a lot to prop it up, and I actually do appreciate that I was forced to take speech class and then forced to make presentations in later classes. The practice and tips really did help.
  9. Acting. This and the following two are at the very bottom because I’ve literally never done them before, and don’t plan to in the near future…
  10. Photography. Other than the occasional selfie and explanatory picture I’ve taken for the blog, nothing.
  11. Video Editing/Directing. I did write a script adaptation of a Canterbury Tale for a class once, which made me the sort-of-director when we filmed it… But I really don’t think that counts!

This isn’t a tagging kind of meme, but I’d love to see more people give it a try!

Fantastic Four — Collaborative Review

Hannah G:

Another superheroic collaborative review up at Sourcerer. Thoughts on Fantastic Four, anyone?

Originally posted on Sourcerer:

Hannah: Melissa and I have now both seen the Fantastic Four reboot, and, well… We’re underimpressed.

Fantastic Four

Melissa: I don’t think we’re the only ones either, and that’s a shame. To be honest, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong – I had my doubts from the beginning. And I tried to be objective, I really did. But I’m a fan of the original movies and I couldn’t help comparing the two. That said, I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would, but I still left the cinema feeling disappointed with the remake as a whole.

Hannah: I also enjoyed it but left disappointed. There were things I really liked, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a “pre-MCU” movie. It had the same feeling as the Sam Raimi Spiderman movies, for instance. I loved those movies at the time, but in retrospect…

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“A Single Man” is My Favorite Queerpop Movie

A Single Man posterA Single Man is one of my very favorite movies. That judgment is based on the one time I watched it years ago, and it made me so sad that I didn’t watch it again until now, when I decided a column about queer pop culture couldn’t do without it. It’s from 2009, and Colin Firth got his first Oscar nomination for it.

The movie follows George Falconer (Colin Firth), an English professor perhaps in his fifties, whose longtime partner Jim has died. The movie, based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, is set in the sixties. It always turns out everything I love is based on or in the 60s… But the point is that even though George and Jim were together for sixteen years, they were in an open closet. Even though people know George is gay, it’s that sort of knowledge that is never to be acknowledged. George’s grief has to not only be private, it has to be invisible.

The plot. For George, it’s both both an ordinary day, and anything but. There’s the flicker of heart pains in the first scene. The compliments he gives to people as he goes along. The way he cleans out his office before he goes home. The subtle propositions of a beautiful boy in George’s class. The separate incidents in this day.

And really, for George, one day isn’t just one day. In his grief time has become rather fluid for George, and the editing beautifully portrays that reality. The warmth of his life with Jim, cut with memories of when Jim died, cut with the emptiness and repetitive lostness of the present. And the way sometimes the present flushes with color when it reminds George of a memory — or just when he’s happy, when he’s conversing with other people. The present has a comparative clarity, but clarity isn’t always what you want, is it? Not where other people are concerned. At one point a coworker suggests that there’ll be no time for sentiment when the bombs hit, and George responds, “If there’s going to be a world with no time for sentiment, then it’s not a world I want to live in.”

A Single ManI often mention A Single Man is one of the few movies that’s better than the book. The characters are more compelling, and the plot has stronger pacing, but it’s also just such a strongly visual and emotional experience. This movie is a movie and could be nothing else so successfully. If anything can be accomplished without words, it is. George and Jim’s beautiful house is just as much a character in the movie as anyone else… And the way George is show often shot through windows, through doors, through his glasses, through a glass. It’s beautiful. When there are words, like George’s lecture about fear of minorities in class, the surprise that words are present makes them that much more attention-grabbing. The one long conversation between George and Charlotte, his best friend and one-time lover, is just as striking.

I love how queer this movie is. I love the emotions between George and Jim. I get it without being told. I love the subtle signals of recognition when George meets other gay men. I love that when Jim asks George about Charley, George explains, “I sleep with women… but fall in love with men. I fell in love with you.” And that’s fine. I love that this is an entire movie about a gay man and his husband, and even though it’s a tragic movie, that is not a tragedy and that is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing terrifying, nothing other.

A Single ManAll this, from a director who doesn’t seem to have ever directed anything else ever. Tom Ford, a fashion designer. Unbelievable. And you know, I watch my share of indie movies, but I also deserve expensive queer movies that look beautiful and star Colin Firth. And I deserve mainstream queer movies that are real and emotional and unabashedly queer, where we’re not something added in or included for shock value. There aren’t many, but this is the best one. The very best.

Sunday Post – Bug Pictures FOR SCIENCE

Nerd in the Brain has a new feature called the “Go Play, Go Learn Challenge.” Enough said, right? I’ve been wanting to expand my scientific knowledge anyway, in a casual fashion.

The first challenge, “Gettin’ Buggy with It,” is to spend ten minutes outside looking at bugs.

Ew. Outside isn’t really my thing. Neither are bugs.

But it’s FOR SCIENCE. And an opportunity to play Ant-Man. So I did it. (It’s probably fitting that I mostly just saw ants.)

I saw…

Lots of smallish ants that seemed to be friends.

1A couple of these big chunky ants that did not seem to be friends.


Also a fly… And this weird little white fly thing. Maybe they’re friends… They didn’t arrive together, but they were sitting together. Like they’re meeting up for cocktails.


Around the time the flies showed up, I suddenly realized all the leaves on particular kinds of plants had holes in them.



I think the little white thing is a woolly aphid. Which sounds adorable, but apparently they bite. They could also be the cause of all the leaf holes. They’re an Asian species introduced in Florida in the 90s, now also present in Alabama. The holes could also be coming from flea beetles or slugs, the pictures I found on the internet for comparison could be either.

I want to know why there are a bunch of holes instead of leaves being eaten entirely. Does anybody know? Google isn’t telling me and I don’t think I can stomach any more accidental slug pictures…

20 Reynard-Approved Fox Picture Books

Reynard the Fox has a great many children, and they all love books about foxes, particularly picture books. I also happen to love picture books, so I’ve become something of an expert in the “picture books about foxes” subgenre.

Reynard has two rules for foxy picture books:

  1. No cannibalism or attempted cannibalism. Talking foxes do not eat other talking animals or attempt to do so. This is unacceptable behavior for talking animals.
  2. No foxes are to be outsmarted by farm animals. He says this is just unrealistic!

As I’m sure you can imagine, this rules out a lot of picture books, as the basic plot is “fox attempts to eat animal; is outwitted by animal.” Plus, it’s not a rule, but Reynard’s children have three fathers, so he prefers books with daddy foxes and doesn’t want the father to be neglectful or villainous. That eliminates even more books, because for some reason if father foxes are even mentioned, they’re usually terrible parents.

Even with all these restrictions, we’ve found twenty lovely books to recommend… We’ve got three categories. Daddy Foxes, Special Recommendations (with Reynard’s family in mind), and More Favorites, which are just fox-related books we love! Reynard’s comments are included, of course.

Daddy Foxes

Daddy's Little ScoutDaddy’s Little Scout by Janet Bingham

R: There’s a daddy fox and a little kit and they go visit all the other animals and then they snuggle. Shut up.

Me: There’s also a mommy fox one, Mommy’s Little Star.

R: Yeah.

Too Small for Honey Cakes by Gillian Lobel

R: This one has two kits. It’s about sibling rivalry.

No Matter What by Debi Gliori

R: It’s a pretty typical snuggle story, but with a gender-neutral parent and kit, so it goes with anything.

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes by Clyde Watson

R: Heh. This was more for me than the kids, but they liked to hear the rhymes as babies. Very folksy.

Special Recommendations

Continue reading

Ms. Marvel #17 Review

Hannah G:

It’s Ms. Marvel day!

Originally posted on Sourcerer:

Ms. Marvel #17 coverI didn’t want to spoil the big reveal at the end of Ms. Marvel #16, way back in June, but it’s on the cover now so what can I do? IT’S CAPTAIN MARVEL. Ms. Marvel’s hero and namesake, meeting Kamala Khan for the first time and I am SO EXCITED.

Kamala handles it pretty well, all things considered.

Ms. Marvel #17 KamalaCaptain Marvel explains about the planets in the sky. Apparently it’s what happens when realities are bumping up against each other, and Carol only came to tell Kamala that no one else is coming to Jersey City, Kamala will have to defend it on her own. But Carol agrees to stay and help rescue Kamala’s brother from Kamran, Kamala’s evil ex-crush.

Most of the issue is Carol and Kamala wandering around the city looking for Aamir, Kamala’s brother. Carol dispenses a lot of superhero advice, and it’s good advice — a step beyond…

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#queerpop: Tilda Swinton in David Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”

I watched the movie Orlando (1992) yesterday, thinking I’d probably blog about it today. It stars Tilda Swinton and is based on the Virginia Woolf novel, which I read years ago. It’s about an immortal, originally living in the 1600s. Orlando starts as male, but experiences a random change of sex-and-gender halfway through the story and remains female up until the modern era. It’s a pretty good book, and not a bad movie. Tilda Swinton, amirite? But I can’t really think of a post to post. And there are some other posts I really wanna post but I don’t have time to write them today. So, instead, here’s the ever-strange, always-interesting, aforementioned Tillda Swinton in a David Bowie music video. It seems appropriate.