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1815: Eight deserters by order of Andrew Jackson

February 17th, 2014 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 1815, eight young men condemned for desertion during the War of 1812 were executed by firing squad in Nashville, Tennessee.

They were brought out to be shot one by one, as there weren’t enough people available to form a firing squad large enough for the group of them.

Desertion was rife during this inglorious conflict, according to Wikipedia:

The desertion rate for American soldiers in the War of 1812 was 12.7%, according to available service records. Desertion was especially common in 1814, when enlistment bonuses were increased from $16 to $124, inducing many men to desert one unit and enlist in another to get two bonuses.

We’re not sure how well these eight got paid off in life … only that they collected their last check in lead.

  1. Nathaniel Chester, age unknown, a member of the Corp of Artillery.
  2. Benjamin Harris, 38, a private in the 44th Regiment. Born in Virginia and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, he enlisted on March 26, 1814 and deserted on July 1.
  3. John Jones, 33, a private in the 2nd Rifle Regiment. He’d enlisted for a five-year stint on July 25, 1814 in Farquier, Virginia. The date he deserted has not been recorded.
  4. Jacob King, 20, a private in the 1st U.S. Artillery. He was born in Pennsylvania and enlisted on March 28, 1814 for five years. He deserted on July 12.
  5. James McBride, 21, a native of Virginia. Records about his military service are unclear: some reports are that he enlisted on April 20, 1813, and other accounts give the date as July 22, 1814. It’s possible he deserted twice; this was a common practice, as noted above.
  6. William Myers, 19, a private from Georgia. He enlisted on March 27, 1814; it’s unknown when he deserted.
  7. Drury Puckett, 36, a member of the 2nd Infantry. (Almost certainly the son and namesake of this Drury Puckett.) Like Harris and McBride, he was from Virginia and he had enlisted there for five years on September 24, 1814. The record says he deserted on December 31, but this is surely in error, because by then he had already been sentenced to die.
  8. John Young, age unknown, from Winchester, Virginia. He enlisted on October 3, 1814 and deserted after a mere five days.

General (and future President) Andrew Jackson affirmed their sentences on January 28, pardoning five others at the same time. This was twenty days after Jackson fought the Battle of New Orleans, the final major conflict in the war. This day’s event was the largest mass execution in Tennessee history.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Desertion,Execution,Guest Writers,History,Mass Executions,Military Crimes,Notable Participants,Other Voices,Public Executions,Shot,Soldiers,Tennessee,U.S. Military,USA,Wartime Executions

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8 thoughts on “1815: Eight deserters by order of Andrew Jackson”

  1. Glenn Morton says:

    White Co, TN was where the land swindle was. John, Deserter James’ father was the constable for White Co., TN for some years, Deserter James’ uncle was a fairly famous preacher, Thomas Crawford McBride. Thanks for this interesting story abut James and letting me know that the sentence had been carried out.

  2. Glenn Morton says:

    James McBride is a first cousin 5x removed of mine. He was the son of John and Nancy Brammer McBride of Patrick Co., VA, the grandson of James McBride the Kentucky Explorer who, contrary to modern opinion went further down the Ohio than did Christopher Gist who claimed to be 15 miles from the Falls at Louisville but in fact never got to the mouth of the Kentucky River as did James McBride the grandfather in 1754. Deserter James must have been a disappointment. John, deserter James’ father was involved in a land swindle in 1812 in White Co., VA. John’s branch of the McBrides needed more training in ethics. lol

  3. Marilyn says:

    Drury Puckett was kin to my family. No excuse for desertion, I understand, but he was just a farmer with a wife and six children at home.

    What I ask is… where would these men have been buried?

  4. Kathy Richardson says:

    A belated thanks for your response!

  5. Headsman says:

    That post is being saved for the execution’s bicentennial … and for proximity to the next presidential campaign season. But maybe this will give you what you need?


  6. Jess Long says:

    Who were the six Tennessee Militia men that were executed in New Orleans on 21 Feb, 1815 for mutiny and desertion?

  7. Kathy Richardson says:

    This is very interesting to me as I’ve begun a genealogy project to find the names of six Tennessee militiamen who I thought had been executed in Mobile for desertion. Now I’ve become a bit confused, as I’ve seen references to the executions in Mobile, but no names were given. I’m sure there are sources out there, but I’m just not familiar with them.

    1. Nita Ostroff says:

      are you looking for the ones executed in new orleans, or actually in Mobile?

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