Dec 22, 2014

The Battle of New Orleans

The end of 2014 brings to a close two years of celebrating the
200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The war is called “The Second War for Independence” because after the American Revolution the British did not respect our independence; but it is also called “The Forgotten War” mainly because it only lasted two years and was fought mainly on the water. Many of the battles were fought on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and even though the bicentennial is over visiting sites along the Great Lakes still makes a great way to learn and remember.  Fort Ontario in Oswego has War of 1812 events yearly and Sackets Harbor has a reenactment every summer. 

Unbeknownst to those in New Orleans the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on Christmas Eve 1814 ending the war so one of the war’s most decisive battles was fought after the war had ended. The Battle of New Orleans is considered the greatest American land victory during the War of 1812. It was fought in the town of Chalmette near New Orleans between December 23, 1814 and January 8, 1815, to protect New Orleans since British troops were intent on capturing the port. It is the battle in which U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson led a team of about 5,000 soldiers – regular
troops, state militiamen, volunteers, and even a band of pirates. Most of them had no official training and had never fought together. Jackson led them to victory against 7,000 British soldiers. In one two-hour period during the battle, more than 2,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing compared to a 71 American casualties (13 dead, 39 wounded, 19 missing).It was later made famous by Johnny Horton in the fun song “The Battle of New Orleans.” It tells of the determination of the Americans in the line “We fired our cannon ‘til the barrel melted down, so we grabbed an alligator an’ we fought another round.” After the war Andrew Jackson became an American hero whose popularity eventually led him to become the seventh president of the United States and landed his image on the $20 bill. Three other men who played roles in the War of 1812 also ended up at the White House – James Monroe John Quincy Adams and William Henry Harrison.

John and I have visited the battlefield but I would love to be there
between January 6 and 11, 2015 for their big Bicentennial Celebration. However, the story of the Battle of New Orleans is told year round at the Chalmette Battlefield. New Orleans is a popular destination but many miss this important part of American and Louisiana history. 

We learned interesting facts while visiting War of 1812 sites in NYS, Louisiana and elsewhere.  We Americans don’t make much of the fact that one aim of the war was to annex Canada but when visiting sites on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence this is often mentioned. Two major events that took place during the war were the burning of the White House on August 24, 1814, during James Madison’s presidency, and the Battle of Baltimore a few weeks later, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” One of the most impressive presentations of the American Flag is at the end of the film at Fort McHenry when the curtain opens and there it is in all its glory.