Saturday, January 08, 2005

In 1814 We Took A Little Trip

You know the song...sing along...

"In 1814 we took a little trip,
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
and we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and they a-kepta commin',
but there wasn't near as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they begin a-runnin',
on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."

Today is the anniversary of that that admittedly I didn't know a lot about. The World Magazine Blog does a good job of recounting that battle. Some excerpts:
The United States entered the War of 1812 mainly because the British...[were] not really recognizing the United States as an independent country....But the war did not go well. The crack British army occupied a good number of the major cities and burned Washington, D. C., including the new capitol building and the White House. President James Madison and his wife Dolly were on the run...But as in the American Revolution, the British army could not corner the American forces, which kept fighting. Victories on the Great Lakes and at Baltimore (where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner") kept up the national spirit...Then Colonel Andrew Jackson of Tennessee led a contingent of regular army, local militia, backwoodsmen from Tennessee and Kentucky, freed slaves, Choctaw warriors, and a band of Jean Lafitte's pirates--somewhere between 3,500 and 5000 men--against nearly 15,000 British veterans of the Napoleonic wars. The aim of the British army to capture New Orleans and thus control the Mississippi, the main trade artery of the West...The Kentucky long rifles, with which the Americans were armed, had a much longer range than the British muskets...Some 2,000 British were killed, including the two commanding generals. The Americans lost 71. The British survivors fled to their ships and sailed away. Ironically, a few weeks before, on December 24, the Treaty of Ghent had been signed, officially ending the war. In those pre-internet, pre-news channel, pre-telegraph days, it took a while for news in Europe to sail overseas. The battle was unnecessary, but it propelled Jackson to the White House (where he established a more thorough-going democracy) and boosted the confidence of the new nation.

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