This Day in History: January 8

by Timothy Lane1/8/17

Not all that much history is created in winter because most of our history comes from areas that have poor weather then, so they tend to be inactive. European armies, for example, traditionally went into winter quarters. (This did make them vulnerable when someone decided to act in winter, as the French Marshal Turenne in 1674-5 and the American General Washington in 1776-7 both demonstrated convincingly.)

This can be different in tropical and subtropical climes, and one good example is the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815. This ended in a decisive victory for Andrew Jackson and his Americans, most of them militia (and including Jean Laffite’s pirates from their hideout in Barataria Bay).

The significance of the battle is harder to reach any conclusions about. The Treaty of Ghent had already been signed to end the War of 1812, theoretically rendering the battle irrelevant. No one had yet ratified it, but ratification probably preceded anyone actually hearing about it. But if General Pakenham had instead routed Jackson and taken the city, might Britain have pressured the US into modifying the treaty? Might they have been more aggressive toward the US in their postwar relations? We can’t know today.

One clear effect was that it made Jackson a national hero. Without this major victory, he would probably never have been elected to the presidency, perhaps greatly altering our history after the mid-1820s. IF the outcome had been reversed, he probably would have been forgotten even in his home state of Tennessee.


Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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One Response to This Day in History: January 8

  1. Anniel says:

    Timothy,

    I have been studying the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans, the whole thing, and have a half-written article on it. It’s funny some of the conclusions of what happened there. Our history as a nation could have been very different without this war.

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