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The General in Natchitoches

Late in September the General had arrived at Natchitoches, and had taken chief command of the troops confronting the Spanish forces. On the 8th of October, one Samuel Swartwout brought him a confidential letter from Colonel Burr. He was received by Wilkinson with much attention, stayed eight days, and then left for New Orleans. On the 21st, Wilkinson determined to expose the plot. He despatched a messenger to the President of the United States, bearing a letter which apprised him of Colonel Burr’s contemplated descent of the Mississippi with an armed force. Eight days later, the General arranged with the Spaniards for the troops under each flag to withdraw from the contested boundary, leaving its location to be settled by the two governments, and hastened toward New Orleans, hurrying on in advance of him a force of artificers and a company of soldiers. Presently the people of New Orleans were startled from apathetic tranquillity into a state of panic. All unexplained, these troops lead arrived, others had re-enforced them; there was hurried repair and preparation; and the air was agitated with rumors. To Claiborne, the revelation had at length come from various directions that Aaron Burr was plotting treason. Thousands were said to be involved with him; the first outbreak was expected to be in New Orleans. Wilkinson had arrived in the town. In the bombastic style of one who plays a part, he demanded of Claiborne the proclamation of martial law. Claiborne kindly, and with expressions of confidence in the General, refused; but the two met the city’s chamber of commerce, laid the plot before it, and explained...

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