CHAPTER 9: War of 1812 - Caribbean Theatre
British command in the Caribbean following the destruction of the Royal Navy fell to General Edward Michael Pakenham, who had decided to hold up in the Bahamas to fend off repeated French-funded Georgian expeditions launched from Florida to capture the islands. He barely held the line in late 1812 when a force under General Arthur Alexander assaulted Nassau by sea. Grudgingly, Alexander turned back to regroup his forces after a failed beach landing. Thomas Bragg, father of the later famous Braxton Bragg, marched a large Carolinian army down the coast to board the Confederation's new transport ships. The Carolinian Navy was fairly small at this point in time, but Andrew Jackson was sinking millions of dollars into new ships. Jackson especially wanted in on this destruction of British power because of a traumatic childhood experience with British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Old Hickory was coming for his revenge.
On the day before Christmas, the Southron forces landed and finally chased Pakenham out of the Bahamas. The British commander and his staff escaped with a small force by sea. A small Spanish fleet gave chase off the coast of Cuba, forcing Pakenham to flee to Jamaica, the last real British stronghold in the Caribbean. Georgia and the Confederation of the Carolinas left a sizable force to occupy the Bahamas and then sailed down with a few Spanish and French ships to lay siege to the island. Abruptly, facing starvation and defeat, Pakenham's rowdy militiamen turned on him and his few actual remaining English soldiers and handed them over to Alexander. In the face of the mother country's invasion in Europe, the British forces felt forgotten about and simply refused to fight on anymore.
Intensive talks ensued about the island's future, and the new "leader" of Jamaica, Henry Boniface, pleaded for independence and allegiance in return for not having an occupying force ravage the former Redcoat colony. Boniface was one of the local pro-British militia commanders who had forced Pakenham to finally throw up the white flag. Boniface was a realist who wanted to see Jamaica strong and safe, but Andrew Jackson stubbornly refused, claiming that Jamaica should be the Carolinas' reward from for undercutting Britain's cotton and tobacco prices before. Georgia squawked over it and negotiations went back and forth. Finally, Napoleon stepped in and said he would grant their independence as a satellite of both Georgia and the Carolinas. Boniface became Prime Minister of the Republic of Jamaica. A new country was born.
With the Allies clear of having to occupy Jamaica and with the Bahamas in hand, they were free to declare open season on the rest of the British colonies in the New World. France and Spain had pressing matters in Europe to attend to, so it left Georgia and company to pick from the island buffet.
Andrew Jackson immediately annexed Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, the Virgin Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda. Georgia, still under the fiery 82 year-old Prime Minister Bulloch, resented this and sent Arthur Alexander to snatch up Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Grenada and the Cayman Islands. They then disputed Saint Lucia with Jackson, but finally let the Carolinas have it in exchange for some new trade rights. Spain at first did not like this, but let it go as they hurried and retook Trinidad and Tobago before "Andy the Island Emperor" could sink his expansionist Southron jaws into it.
Napoleon, at this point in time, finally agreed to follow through on his promise to reward Jackson for his compliance with the undercutting of Britain's prices, and arranged for France and Holland to pull out of the Leeward and Windward Islands, forming the Carolinian Virgin Islands. The Dutch and French citizens on the island cluster weren't wild about this, so Jackson granted them an appearance of independence as the Virgin Islands Confederacy, while they essentially became his personal property and he appointed Thomas Bragg as Governor-General.
Upon Jackson implementing the bizarre form of self-government in the Virgin Islands, the Confederation of the Carolinas' Congress flew into a constitutional crisis. They managed to agree to the private dictatorship for the moment after several emergency meetings, but they were kicking the can down the road for further (much larger) problems. Jackson was a wild character and he had him a thirst for more power than he would readily admit.
Virginia got in on the game late, but now-President Madison suddenly offered a very large sum of cash and cotton and tobacco to Spain in exchange for Cuba. Spain, in the bowels of bankruptcy for continually fighting Napoleon's wars, almost agreed, but decided to reject the offer at the last minute because of the excellent tobacco crops grown on the island. Virginia would remember this. The new Southron "territories" were not referred to as colonies by the new administrators, which helped keep them under control, especially as slaves were brought in again to make sure the islands fulfilled their entire reason for existence: agriculture. Slaves that had been free under British rule were allowed to keep their freedom, though they were in the absolute dregs of society. France had no qualms about slavery's expansion, as Napoleon had re-instituted the system himself in Haiti and Louisiana. In early 1813, a slave revolt in Haiti was brutally crushed by French, Spanish, and Southron troops. The South was determined to let their own slaves know rebellion would be punished mercilessly. Over 2000 Haitian slaves were guillotined and their heads placed upon pikes as a warning to other would-be freedom fighters.
The Caribbean Theatre of War had--with the exception of a few roaming British holdout guerrilla forces or privateers--been wrapped up by mid-1813, in a resounding but bloody Allied victory. Now our study of the war will shift north, to Canada, and the Republican Union...