A ragtag collection of soldiers showed up in late 1814, when Gen. Andrew Jackson sent out a call for help in defending New Orleans against the British.
The “army” that drove the British back to the Gulf of Mexico in the Battle of New Orleans included regular soldiers and sailors, militia, Native Americans, African Americans and pirates commanded by Jean Lafitte, who were promised pardons for their offenses if they joined the fight.
The First and Second Battalions of Free Men of Color, comprising more than 600 men, played an important role in the American defense. Also fighting with Jackson’s forces was a group of Choctaws under the command of Major Pierre Jugeant, a part-Choctaw scout.
And sons of the early settlers of St. Martin Parish formed the great majority of the 15th Louisiana Militia that fought in that historic battle under the command of Maj. David Rees.
But perhaps, if the story is true, nobody had as much cause to remember the Battle of New Orleans as Madame Devince de Grondel Bienvenue of St. Martinville.
According to the tale that has been handed down over generations, she was the daughter of a general who served under Louis XVI and who made a hurried escape from France at the time of the French Revolution. The de Grondels went first to Saint-Domingue and then made their way to Louisiana.
The story says that Mademoiselle de Grondel married Terville Devince Bienvenue of St. Martinville and had seven sons and a daughter, but I haven’t been able to trace that geneaology. (I find a Terville Devince Bienvenu who was a witness to the marriage in 1817 of Charles Timoleon Bienvenue, but Charles T. is listed as the son of Alexandre Devince Bienvenue – not Terville – who was married to Henriette Felicite Latil de Timecourt. There was a Gen. Jean-Philippe Goujon de Grondel who came to Louisiana well before the War of 1813, but was sent back to France and imprisoned there at the time of the Revolution.)
Nonetheless, the story claims that when all seven of her sons – Terville, Theodule, Terence, Timoleon, Timecourt, Casimir, and Devince – went to defend the city against the British, Madame Bienvenue wrote to Gov. W.C.C. Claiborne that she regretted that she did not have more sons to defend her state from the British, and offered to go there herself.
When the governor did not write back, she took it upon herself to go to the Crescent City to see what she could do for the American cause. She was no spring chicken at the time, since her youngest son was in his late 20s or early 30s.
Nevertheless, she helped to nurse the American wounded on that decisive day when Jean Lafitte’s cannons and marksmen from the Cajun country cut down the British ranks from behind a muddy, makeshift barricade.
When New Orleans threw a parade to celebrate the victory, Grandmère Devince, as she became known to all, was saluted as a heroine. She was carried in a chair on the shoulders of two soldiers and Gen. Jackson praised her publicly for her courage and patriotism, according to the old tale.
She then returned and lived quietly for the remainder of her life in St. Martinville.
You can also contact Jim Bradshaw by mail at P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.