Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Battle of New Orleans

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Battle of New Orleans

Article excerpt

The Battle of New Orleans. By Robert V. Remini. (New York: Viking Press, 1999. Pp. xiv, 226. $24.95, ISBN 0-670-88551-7.)

Robert V. Remini has written the most detailed, best documented, and most interesting account that I have read of the battle that made final America's separation from Great Britain. The combat narrative in The Battle of New Orleans equals the finest prose written by stellar military historians. And, although the book contains intimate information about individuals, it does not slip into fiction to do so: everything is documented.

Remini passes judgment on military leaders and on some of their decisions. Commodore Daniel T. Patterson rates high in helping the Americans win the battle, as does Edward Livingston. Louisiana Governor William C. C. Claiborne rates low by contrast. Remini charges British General John Keane with making wrong decisions and speculates that the British forces might have reached New Orleans had Colonel William Thornton been in charge. When General Sir Edward Pakenham arrived to take command, the British army was already in a losing position: it was limited on the left by the Mississippi and on the right by a dense swamp, and it faced a rampart bristling with Andrew Jackson's firepower. On January 8, 1815, the British 44th Regiment was assigned to bring forward fascines and ladders to scale that rampart. When the regiment did not come up, Remini says, Pakenham ought to have aborted the attack at once; but, since he did not cancel it, the charge should have been made on the run with fixed bayonets.

Remini writes of a time when the American people had heroes, with Andrew Jackson in the forefront of the pantheon. …

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