46 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI under Chief Pushmataha, Claiborne launched his attack and routed the Creeks. He then swung his army into action, attacking all other Native American villages or farms in the surrounding area. He destroyed the holdings of the Creeks, and in doing so, “proved that volunteers, even without shoes, clothing, blankets, or provisions,” would serve their country well. Claiborne’s actions helped prepare General Andrew Jackson’s victory against the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814. Hancock County militiamen marched with him in this endeavor. When the Creeks were defeated, Jackson turned his attention to the British who had established a military presence in Spanish-held Pensacola. The American volunteers captured this outpost with little problem. Jackson then learned through intelligence reports that a flotilla of British warships were sailing through the Gulf of Mexico on their way to New Orleans, skirting the Gulf Coast. Soon the news spread that the British were planning an invasion along the Gulf Coast and then New Orleans, and Jackson wheeled his troops westward to thwart any such attempts. Hancock County found itself in the thick of the campaign to stop this British attack on New Orleans. Jackson’s men created a large earthwork in 1814 at the mouth of the Pearl River to stop any Redcoat advance up the waterway. Simultaneously, Governor Holmes moved about 1,000 territorial militiamen to Pass Christian. The British positioned their invasion fleet of forty- five warships and approximately seventy other vessels in the Mississippi Sound, and Hancock Countians braced for attack from this massive fleet gathering in their waters. The British anchored in the natural deepwater port south of Ship Island and fanned out looking for supplies to feed the thousands of men they brought. Juan de Cuevas lived on Cat Island, twelve miles offshore of Mississippi. Cuevas tended large herds of cattle on the island. When the invading army attempted to confiscate some of these cows for provisions, Cuevas engaged them in an altercation, killing two and receiving a wound himself. He refused to divulge to the English the most efficient water route to New Orleans, where the British planned to begin their invasion. As a result, he delayed the British force and became known as the Hero of Cat Island. Americans feared a landing in the Bay St. Louis area by the British. United States Sailing Master William Johnson, commander of the Seahorse, a small schooner, was ordered to defend the site, along with four other United States gunboats. Johnson’s vessel had fourteen men and a six-pound cannon aboard it. The British sent seven boats to stop the Seahorse. Coordinating with two six-pound cannons from shore, Johnson continued the counterattack against a superior force for thirty minutes and then blew up his own ship when it became obvious there could be noAmerican win. Eventually, the small American force in Bay St. Louis and a larger force of Americans near Louisiana had to surrender to the overwhelming number of British. However, the Battle of Bay St. Louis was the last naval engagement of the War of 1812, and more important, it delayed the British long enough for Andrew Jackson to build, fortify, and await the British expeditionary force in New Orleans. The American forces were given enough time to prepare adequately, and on January 8, 1815, Andrew Jackson won the day. It was later learned that this famous battle was actually fought after the war had ended. The Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Belgium on December 24, 1814, fifteen days earlier, but this was unknown to both American and British forces at the time of battle. The Jackson County volunteers had experienced extreme hardships on their Creek campaign—starvation, lack of other supplies including powder, shot, and clothing, and loss of many horses. The men walked hundreds of miles, and when they mustered out, they were not paid. While some 6,000 Mississippians took part in the War of 1812, one source lists sixty-six men from Jackson County who saw further action beyond the Creeks engagement with General Jackson in Pensacola, Florida (November 7–9, 1814), and New Orleans (January 8, 1815). When the War of 1812 ended on December 24, 1814, however, citizens in the northern area of Jackson County could rest easy, as Native American hostilities had been quelled. Statehood and Increased Settlement In 1814, the tax rolls of Jackson County listed 110 heads of household and 214 slaves. The total in taxes collected that year was $171.72. Citizens in the Leaf River area around present-day McLain also created a post office at that time that became the county seat and the home of Thomas Bilbo. By 1816, Hancock County had an estimated population of 1,000. Of that number, 666 were white and 334 were African American. Center was still the county seat and had a post office, a log building that served as the courthouse, a jail, a hotel, and a barroom. The town also had a few homes and stores. Freeman Jones, from Georgia, was a then- resident who had helped build the jail, an eight-foot pit in the ground lined with logs and accessible only by ladder. Hancock County found itself in the thick of the campaign to stop this British attack on New Orleans.