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Robert V. Remini is the great modern authority on Andrew Jackson, having written a majestic, award winning, three volume biography.  Now he has taken a lifetime of research and consideration and distilled it down into one slender volume examining the pivotal moment in Jackson's career and, he argues, one of the vital events in our nation's history.

If you're like me you know exactly three things about the War of 1812.  First, that Dolly Madison saved the White House portrait of George Washington from being burned by invading British troops.  Second, every kid who ever went to summer camp knows the great Johnny Horton song Battle of New Orleans.  Third, that the battle itself took place after the peace treaty had been signed ending the War, but before the combatants had been informed.  That was seriously all I knew until I read David Nevin's novel 1812 a couple of years ago (see review).  You may know more.  If so, more power to you.  Should we know more?  Remini makes a compelling case that we should.

In addition to doing an excellent job of narrating the events of the battle, he argues that the victory  was the moment that really made America a nation.  The elements he cites include not merely the fact that it produced a future President, but also the confidence building importance of a citizen army winning a battle against the professional troops of the great British Empire, as well as the fact that this overwhelming defeat made the nations of Europe begin to take the United States seriously as a player on the world stage.  In fact, he goes beyond this to argue that New Orleans was actually the nation's first military victory, discounting actions like Saratoga and Yorktown as mere surrenders.  It is, of course,  possible that he overstates this case a little, having such a vested interest in Jackson's career.

On the other hand, he raises an excellent and little understood point about the War.  It was one of only three wars in our history where our existence as a nation was truly threatened (obviously the Revolution and the Civil War were the others).  We've fought all kinds of skirmishes, minor brush wars and mopping up operations--Mexican, Spanish-American, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, etc.  And we like to kid ourselves about the threat that the Nazis posed in WWII, though by the time we got in, they were already toast.  But really there were only the three conflicts where the United States as we understand it could have perished.  If we understood that fact better, perhaps we would pay more heed to the events of 1812-1815.  As is, Remini has done his part to capture our attention with this excellent little book.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:

    Andrew Jackson on the Web
    -A Closer Look:   The Battle of New Orleans
    -The Battle of New Orleans (Louisiana State Museum)
    -Jackson's Report: The Battle of New Orleans Major-General Andrew Jackson to the Secretary of War
    -SONG: The Battle of New Orleans (Music and lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)
    -SONG: The Battle Of New Orleans Page
    -ESSAY:  The Battle Of New Orleans  (A. Wilson Greene, History Net)
    -REVIEW: of  SAM HOUSTON A Biography of the Father of Texas By John Hoyt Williams (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of  THE ROAD TO DISUNION Volume One. Secessionists at Bay: 1776-1854. By William W. Freehling (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of PRECIOUS DUST The American Gold Rush Era: 1848-1900. By Paula Mitchell Marks (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE APPROACHING FURY Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861. By Stephen B. Oates (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of CUSTER The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer. By Jeffry D. Wert (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of NATIVISM AND SLAVERY The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s. By Tyler Anbinder (Robert V. Remini, NY Times Book Review)
    -BOOKNOTES: Author: Robert Remini Title: Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (CSPAN)
    -REVIEW: of THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS By Robert V. Remini (Carlo D'Este, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARTICLE: Politicians revive congressional censure option for Clinton (Nando Media)
    -REVIEW: of  ANDREW JACKSON AND THE COURSE OF AMERICAN FREEDOM, 1822-1832 Volume II. By Robert V. Remini (John William Ward, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of ANDREW JACKSON AND  THE COURSE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, 1833-1845  By Robert V. Remini (John A. Garraty, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of  HENRY CLAY Statesman for the Union. By Robert V. Remini (George F. Will, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Eric L. McKitrick: The Great White Hope, NY Review of Books
        Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union by Robert V. Remini
    -REVIEW: of DANIEL WEBSTER: The Man and His Time. By Robert Remini
A sturdy constitution:  Biography illuminates impact of Daniel Webster on  young U.S. (JAMES D. FAIRBANKS, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time by Robert Remini (Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs)
    -REVIEW : of ANDREW JACKSON AND HIS INDIAN WARS By Robert V. Remini (Eric Schine, Business Week)
    -Hebron Academy: Good Books, 150 Suggestions for Hebron Readers

    -The Hermitage: Home of Andrew Jackson
    -PORTRAITS: Andrew Jackson (National Portrait Gallery)
    -BIO: A brief biography of Andrew Jackson 1767 - 1845  7th President of the United States: 1829 - 1837
    -BIO: Andrew Jackson: Seventh President 1829-1837 (The White House)
    -POTUS: Andrew Jackson (Internet Public Library)
    -SPEECHES: Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) 7th president of the United States: 1829-1837
    -ESSAY:  Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: The Ages of Jackson
    -ESSAY: Andrew Jackson's Honor  (Bertram Wyatt-Brown)
    -ARTICLE: Poisoned President? Hair Study Reveals Andrew Jackson's Exposure to Lead and Mercury (Journal of the American Medical Association)
    -BOOKNOTES: Title: The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House.   Author: John Marszalek (CSPAN)
    -REVIEW: of The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House, by John F. Marszalek (Florence King, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House, by John F. Marszalek (Roy Maynard, World Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Andrew Jackson and the Petticoat Affair (J. Kingston Pierce, American History found on the History Net)
    -REVIEW: of The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein (Sean Wilentz, New Republic)
    -Listing of Presidential Biographies (Irving Public Library)
    -REVIEW: Gordon S. Wood: The American Love Boat, NY Review of Books
        Sentimental Democracy: The Evolution of America's Romantic Self-Image by Andrew Burstein
    -REVIEW: of THE AMERICAN LEADERSHIP TRADITION Moral Vision From Washington to Clinton. By Marvin Olasky (David Brooks, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY An Intellectual History. By Forrest McDonald (John Patrick Diggins, NY Times Book Review)