Andrew Jackson And The Miracle Of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
This is the third book I have encountered from the author (the third of which I am almost finished listening to on audiobook) , and they all share some general similarities. For one, all of the works have been about the early history of the American Republic, and have dealt with courage and daring in ways that are clearly meant to be relevant to the contemporary period. By and large, this is a good book and a book that is easy to appreciate as someone who is interested in the life and times of Andrew Jackson . The most irritating part of this book, though, is its maps. Particularly speaking, there are maps in this book that claim through their boundaries that Texas had been a part of the Louisiana Purchase (which was not true), and had been given up by the Adams-Onis treaty of 1819 and then re-annexed in 1845, which helped prompt the Mexican-American War. Now, these maps do not include a commentary, but they do buttress a misguided view of American diplomatic history that remains popular today for Southerners, suggesting a darker political side to this book that is not explored in the text itself.
The contents of this book run about 250 pages and take up thirteen chapters after a brief prologue that gives some of the biography of Andrew Jackson. The first few chapters of the book provide some context of the War of 1812 for readers who are not familiar with it, looking at the way that freedoms were at risk from high-handed British actions on the high seas (1), the lackluster American performance at the beginning of the War of 1812 with failed invasions of Canada (2), and the makings of Andrew Jackson as an effective general through his prosecution of the Creek Wars and as an effective political leader in Tennessee (3). A discussion of Jackson’s brutal and decisive victory against the Creeks (4) precedes a narrative of the British invasion plans of 1814 (5). At this point the narrative moves to a discussion of Jackson’s successful moves on Mobile and Pensacola (6) and the British choice to target New Orleans after failing in their previous attempts to roll up the American south (7). Three chapters cover the loss of Lake Borgne by the overmatched American flotilla (8), the slow process of assembling both armies below New Orleans (9), and the first battle of New Orleans, an indecisive night attack by Jackson that blunted British initiative and cost many British lives (10). The rest of the book looks at the more famous Second Battle of New Orleans and the American establishment of sound defensive lines (11), the decisive defensive victory by Jackson’s army (12), and the withdrawal of British forces and the acknowledgment of peace (13), followed by an epilogue, acknowledgments, notes, suggestions for further reading, and topical index.
There is a lot to appreciate and enjoy about this book. The authors clearly have a firm grasp of writing compelling narratives, Andrew Jackson makes for great and colorful copy, and the arrogance of the British leadership in particular receives a gruesome and appropriate judgment. This book may strike non-American readers as a bit more bumptious than some might be comfortable with, but the authors deserve a great deal of credit for their attention to diplomatic history and their placement of the Battle of New Orleans in a context that extends from the nervous and tentative beginnings of America’s history as an independent republic to the more self-confident attitude that the United States had following the battle, where the defensive victory of a motley crew of mismatched American troops over the cream of Wellington’s army inspired Americans with a great deal of martial pride and made Andrew Jackson an important figure not only in military history but also American politics.
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