PRE-STATEHOOD 33 territory) to the United States in August, 1814. The cession opened up so much land to white settlement that the population of the Mississippi Territory would soon take a decided turn to the east. The war with the Creek Nation had been going on simultaneously with the War of 1812, and the defeat of the Creeks occurred as the British were preparing for an invasion of the United States from the Gulf of Mexico. The English hoped to take Mobile and New Orleans with only a small contingent of redcoats and heavy support from Native American allies. But they did not strike fast enough. Andrew Jackson had time to catch his breath and lead his battle-tested soldiers to Mobile where he repulsed a British attack on Fort Bower on Mobile Bay in September of 1814. The Americans then drove British raiders out of Spanish Pensacola, and from there Jackson began his march to New Orleans where a British invasion from the Gulf was expected. In addition to Jackson’s Tennessee volunteers, troops aiding in the defense of New Orleans included Mississippi militiamen, two battalions of free men of color from Louisiana, and several hundred from the Choctaw tribe. “While the participation of Mississippians was minimal, the Dragoons commanded by Major Thomas Hinds were involved both in the first skirmish of December 23…at Villere Plantation and in the decisive battle on January 8. In both cases, Hind’s Dragoons distinguished themselves, earning the special accolades of General Jackson.” The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, had actually been signed in the Netherlands on December 24, but word had not reached New Orleans before the battle occurred. The War of 1812 was inconclusive from a military standpoint, but it did instill a sense of nationalism in the Mississippi Territory that had not been present before. With the re-establishment of peace and free trade, the territory began to grow and prosper and soon the talk turned to statehood. And true to form, two factions immediately sprang up. “By 1816, the quest for admissions overshadowed all other political differences. The one overriding consideration since 1803 had been whether to seek unified admission or to divide the territory before requesting statehood. Before the War of 1812, the Tombigbee district was the principal champion of separation; but after 1815, as population growth of the eastern sector exceeded that of the west, many easterners changed their minds. On the other hand, the Natchez district had favored ‘indivisible’ admission until the treaties (opening vast tracts of Creek lands)…more than doubled the land available for sale in the eastern half of the territory,” and the westerners “began to have second thoughts.” So as long as it appeared that Natchez would remain dominant, the east wanted separation. Then, when the population in the east exploded and overtook that of the west, Natchez became the advocate of a split. There was also a question among the propertied class that statehood was premature because the overall population and tax base was still too small to support the functions of government. “The wealthy few especially feared that a high rate of taxation would result from statehood, while others recognized that excessive taxes would hardly stimulate immigration.” This tax argument was rapidly blunted by an ever-growing influx of settlers. By early 1816, “the free population of the territory was approaching (the required) 60,000, and, with the war over, there was no longer danger of a direct federal tax.” George Poindexter, who had served as territorial representative to Congress, had tried to gain statehood in 1810, but the timing was not right. Then, in 1811, he proposed that Mississippi be admitted with the boundaries being “the southern half of the Mississippi Territory (south of a line drawn due east from the south of the Yazoo River) and the whole of West Florida (including the boot heels of present-day Mississippi and Alabama).” Poindexter hoped to prevent annexation of West Florida by the Orleans Territory; he also wanted to give the new state access to the sea. His proposal also have resulted in a state with “more than 60,000 free inhabitants required by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and stipulated in the Articles of Agreement with Georgia in 1802” under which Georgia gave up all claims to land from the 31st parallel north to the Tennessee line. This proposal “was stillborn,” but Poindexter did gain Georgia’s consent—as had been required in the 1802 Articles of Agreement—to divide their former lands if Congress ever decided to do so. By 1815, Poindexter had retired from Congress and was succeeded by Dr. William Lattimore, a physician from Natchez. In February of that year, Lattimore introduced an enabling act that authorized the residents to write a There was also a question among the propertied class that statehood was premature because the overall population and tax base was still too small to support the functions of government.