Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans
The Battle that Shaped America’s Destiny
Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
Sentinel, New York, 2017, 288 pages
Book Review published on: December 8, 2017
Reading the title Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle that Shaped America’s Destiny, I approached this book as a skeptic. How could a battle fought after a war be billed as one that “shaped America’s destiny”? I recall that in several history classes the Battle of New Orleans was only significant in that it brought Andrew Jackson into the national spotlight. From my recollection, the battle itself was considered little more than a military history footnote from the War of 1812; however, I was proven wrong in my assumption. The depth and breadth that the authors bring regarding the buildup to the battle truly provide clarity to the significance of how strategically important the victory played in our nation’s destiny.
The conflict between the United States and the Red Sticks (the Native American Creek tribe) was an ideal setting for the British to use a past successful strategy in supporting native tribes whose actions against settlers would support British desires to destabilize an opponent. Support to the Red Sticks would distract Americans in the region and draw away U.S. resources for the broader war effort. The detail and tone of the information is engaging for a student of American history.
Adding to the background events that help create the narrative to the battle is the enlightenment on the subject of the negotiation for the Treaty of Ghent. The nuance of the wording is intriguing, and the book implies there could have been some legalese on the part of the British to ensure control of the Mississippi should they be successful. Once you read the treaty, it becomes clear that Britain’s final concerns were with obtaining peace, clarity, and resolution of issues stemming from the 1783 Treaty of Paris and gaining international buy-in to end the slave trade. The authors focus on peace negotiations demonstrate an awareness on the importance diplomacy played and the need for visionary critical thinking that goes beyond relevant short-term concerns to a vision of the United States with a future of uncontested claims to territorial sovereignty and ideals aligned with a national purpose. A British victory at New Orleans before ratification of the treaty could have changed our nation’s destiny.
Insights into the importance of the coalition building that lead to Jackson’s success are enlightening. He demonstrated open-mindedness in bringing together one of the most diverse collections of people and cultures to achieve a common goal. In the end, his willingness to accept and employ pirates, Native Americans, African Americans, three different militia groups, Regular Army forces, and naval forces was a hugely significant accomplishment that any leader would find challenging. This lead to another key element of his success, the faith and commitment of the people of New Orleans, which is personified in the Sisters of St. Ursula Convent.
Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans is an engaging read that brings an intriguing perspective to a unique American military victory. The regional challenges that were overcome at the time, the intellect of the American negotiators in Ghent, the coalition building, and leadership of Jackson are fascinating stories in their own right, respectively. They are all woven into an articulate and logical story that captures the importance of these events to American history, and the key to success regarding these events was Andrew Jackson.
Book Review written by: John Kloeker, U.S. Army, Retired, Wilder, Kentucky