The United States and Britain had already negotiated an end to the War of 1812
when their troops met on the Plains of Chalmette near New Orleans
in 1815. Word of the peace had not yet reached that far west, so a group of professional British soldiers clashed with a rag-tag band of about 4,000 "frontiersmen, militiamen, regular soldiers, free men of color, Indians, pirates, and townspeople" along the banks of the Mississippi River
. These were "citizen-soldiers" in the finest sense, writes Robert V. Remini, the acclaimed biographer of Andrew Jackson
, and they were commanded by a man whose military experience had commenced only two years earlier. Yet the battle "was one of the great turning points in American history" because it "produced a President and an enduring belief in the military ability of free people to protect and preserve their society and their way of life." Remini may oversell the battle's importance, but not by much. His enthusiasm is the mark of a historian in love with his subject. The Battle of New Orleans
(and the War of 1812 in general) has tended to suffer more from neglect than from too much attention. This concise book, full of workmanlike prose, is a fine introduction to what Remini calls "America's first military victory" (he downplays Saratoga
as "simply surrenders, nothing more"). Military history buffs won't want to miss it. --John J. Miller
The War of 1812 began in 1812 and ended with the Battle of New Orleans some time after the signing of peace in Paris. The final battle of the War of 1812 took place after the peace had been signed, but the victorious Andrew Jackson hadn't heard the news. Along with the Missouri, the Mississippi forms the longest river system in the world and ultimately drains almost all of the central United States. Andrerw Jackson represented a break with the aristocratic tradition of American politics and the rise of the common man.. General Burgoyne, finding himself surrounded by a much larger American force at Saratoga, was forced to surrender in 1777. In 1781, Lord Cornwallis found himself hemmed in by American forces on land and the French navy at sea and surrendered to George Washington.