Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Thirty or so years after the American Revolutionary War, America fought the Second War of Independence with the British. This was the War of 1812. The hero of that war was Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, an Indian fighter who didn’t have much experience as a strategic war planner, but who possessed a natural instinct for defeating a mighty foe. The British army was the best equipped and best trained army in the world. They had defeated the mightiest armies of Europe (the Battle of Waterloo was yet to come, in 1815). They had their sights set on New Orleans, a city of strategic importance at the mouth of the Mississippi River. If they could conquer that city—and they were fully confident they could—they could take possession of the entire country west of the Mississippi and make it their own…or so they thought.
The British forces assembled a few miles to the east of New Orleans and prepared to move on that city. The wealth and plunder that New Orleans possessed was to be shared by all of the invading force. They expected only token resistance from the Americans, as they had when they burned the city of Washington. After all, weren’t they (the British) skilled in warfare and superior in numbers and in weaponry? The one element the British didn’t count on was General Andrew Jackson.
The area east of New Orleans known as the Chalmette Plain is where the Battle of New Orleans was fought. General Jackson pulled together a diverse amateur army of farmers, old and young, country people and city people of all nationalities, blacks, woodsmen, riverboat men, and even some pirates who pledged their support to protecting the country from British invasion. Some of them didn’t even have weapons. This “inferior” army overwhelmed the British forces through tenacity and strategic planning on the part of General Jackson. Though he was wounded and far from well, he fought side by side with his men and wouldn’t allow them to become discouraged and complacent.
The terrain—boggy swamps, marshes and bayous—was unkind to the British; they weren’t used to fighting in three feet of water. General Jackson and his army stopped them from advancing on New Orleans. British losses were heavy, while American losses were minimal. Demoralized and defeated, the British army withdrew.
Andrew Jackson was the man of the hour. He was seen as saving, not only New Orleans, but the Union. He was to this war what George Washington had been to the Revolutionary War. The unpopular war was at last redeemed in the eyes of the American people and President James Madison left office on a high note. And, of course, Andrew Jackson a few years later himself became the seventh president of the United States.
Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans, by Brian Kilmeade, is American history made entertaining. In under 270 pages, we get a glimpse of wartime America in 1812-1814 and of the resolve that won a war against overwhelming odds. The British, after two wars fought on American soil, would not come calling again.
Copyright 2017 by Allen Kopp