Thursday, January 08, 2015

Two hundred years ago today

New Orleans

On this day in 1815, Andrew Jackson decisively defeated the British Army at New Orleans.

Robert Remini, in The Battle of New Orleans, wrote:

There was a time when the United States had heroes and reveled in them. There was a time when Andrew Jackson was one of those heroes, along with the men and women who stood with him at New Orleans and drove an invading British army back into the sea.

The victory was unexpected. The British had had the better of it in most of the land and sea battles and even burned Washington, DC. At New Orleans they had 8,000 regulars who were veterans of Wellington's army that had defeated the French in Spain. Jackson had only 4,000 troops most of whom were militiamen and recent volunteers.

Even more surprising was the lop-sided outcome. British losses were 291 dead, 1,262 wounded and 484 taken prisoner. The Americans lost only 55 KIA, 185 wounded and 93 missing.

We rarely commemorate the battle today, but for those who were alive in 1815 and for their children, it was a different story. Remini, again:

Americans in the first half of the nineteenth century did believe that January 8 would be remembered like July 4-- both dates representing the nation's first and second declaration of independence from Great Britain. Indeed some called the War of 1812 the Second War for Independence. Generally speaking, widespread observance of January 8 as a day of national celebration continued for the next fifty years.

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