Jordan B. Noble began his life as a slave, but ended it as a revered war hero. Noble was born on a Georgia plantation to African and European parents. Eventually he was freed, and made his way to New Orleans sometime in 1812. The teenage Noble joined the U.S. Army in 1813 as a free drummer in the 7th U.S. Regiment, coming under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson. Noble was one of nearly 900 free men of color and slave volunteers that had swollen Jackson’s defenses leading into the British invasion.
As the British made landfall on the evening of December 23, 1814, Noble’s ability to keep a steady beat to guide the soldiers was tested as he followed Jackson’s troops to surprise a British vanguard, delaying the enemy’s assault south of the city. His shining moment, however, came on the morning of January 8, 1815, when the British marched to invade New Orleans.
Jackson’s army had been camped out a defensive rampart they built near New Orleans, on the sugarcane plantation of Ignacio de Lino de Chalmette. As the British attacked on the morning of January 8, “the rattle of [Noble’s] drum was heard [even] amidst the bin of battle,” “in the hottest hell of fire.” The diverse American army was successful in repelling the British, securing their evacuation from the Gulf Coast, with the end of the war following swiftly.
Noble maintained his military connections after the War of 1812 was over, participating in the 1836 Seminole War in Florida, in the Mexican War, and with Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War. After his fighting days had passed, Noble held tightly onto his position within the New Orleans free black community and onto his military legacy as the drummer boy of the Battle of New Orleans.
“Old Jordan” became a fixture in New Orleans, especially in nostalgic commemorations of the “Glorious Eighth.” In an 1880 certificate from the Grand Army of the Republic, Joseph A. Mower proclaimed Noble to be a “worthy, upright and honest man who has done good service."