Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month I give you the story of “Old Jordan.”

Jordan Bankston Noble also known as “Jordan B. Noble” was an African American drummer boy who is best known for his courage in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Born into slavery in 1800, he was only 14-years old when he became the drummer for General Andrew Jackson’s 7th Regiment. Noble’s drum played a crucial role in relaying his commander’s orders during the main British advance on January 8, 1815.

On that day, the British launched their main and final assault on the American forces defending New Orleans. During the battle, young Noble held his position and continued the beat on his drum. In the confusion of the battle, this let the troops know what needed to be done, and that the American force was still successfully defending the city. This was the final battle of the War of 1812, as the Treaty of Ghent had recently been signed and was on its way to the United States from Europe.

After his military career ended, Jordan B. Noble continued to be a prominent fixture in New Orleans culture. He would participate in parades, be seen around town playing the same drum he used in the Battle of New Orleans and would even recreate the famous drumbeat that was heard during battle. After the Battle of New Orleans, Jordan earned the nickname “The Drummer Boy of Chalmette”, and in his later years was referred to as “Old Jordan.” His reputation as a hero of the Battle of New Orleans allowed him the freedom and mobility to pursue music and work.

Noble became such a fixture of his city’s culture, the local newspaper, The Daily Picayune, told his story in an article published June 21, 1890, the day after his death. It read:

“He gave frequent “field music” entertainment with his historic drum that he carried with him throughout all his services, and many will remember the white-headed old man and his well-worn drum, so often seen during the exposition of 1884-1885. The famous drummer boy of New Orleans has gone to join his comrades of many campaigns. Peace to him and honor to the brave man who served his country so often and so well.”

According to Jerry Brock, “Jordan Noble’s experiences in the 7th Regiment introduced him to music that was, along with his African ancestry, the basis of his profound contributions to music and parade traditions in New Orleans. It introduced him to a camaraderie and fellowship of respect beyond race and an experience of solidarity of purpose that carried him forward into an extraordinary life. Within his life and legacy there is a face, a name and a record of a life well spent, drummed up from the bottom of a top-down society and echoed each time a young boy or girl picks up a stick and beats a rhythm.”

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Filed under Drums and Drumming

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