Anniversary Post: Battle of New Orleans

Battle of New OrleansOn this day two hundred years ago, the Battle of New Orleans started. Oh my, but don’t we make a big deal out of it! I went to New Orleans when I was a kid and you could barely walk for all the monuments to it. And we as a nation love to talk about it, because it is the one part of the War of 1812 that wasn’t humiliating. This was the war that included the burning of Washington and President Madison having to flee the White House. It’s very likely we would have lost the war right then if it hadn’t been for a hurricane that blew through.

The thing about the Battle of New Orleans is that it happened two weeks after the British and Americans had ended the war with the Treaty of Ghent. The thing is, we always want to glorify war. And so we pick and choose those things that make it all sound glorious, when it was just a rotten war with lots of people killed and wounded with the result being that nothing changed.

On the other hand, we do have Johnny Horton’s song, “Battle of New Orleans.” It makes it sounds like we just destroyed the British. But that isn’t really true. The main thing is that the British were invading and the American forces had intelligence of the coming attack and so set up very good defenses. But in total, less than 400 British soldiers were killed out of 11,000 total troops. Roughly 50 Americans wee killed out of 5,000 troops. Yes, it was a clear victory for the Americans. But it was in no way a defeat that would have broke the backs of the British military.

This is a point of some annoyance to me. People think of war in very romantic terms. “If one side is just or has the will to fight, they can win the day!” Not really. There are cases where errors are made like the British getting bunched up at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. But when a seemingly weaker side wins, there is always a clear reason, like the use of the longbow at the Battle of Agincourt. Americans tend to think there was something special about the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo, but it wasn’t that; it was that they occupied the Alamo Mission. And as it turned out, the Mexicans didn’t lose that many men in taking it anyway.

If people understood just how systematic war is, I don’t think they would be so keen on it. But the power elite love wars. And that’s why they provide myths like the romantic heroes at the Battle of New Orleans, when it was just a stupid battle that cost hundreds of lives in a war that was effectively over.

26 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Battle of New Orleans

  1. In one ancient “Simpsons” episode, there’s a parody commercial of “Bud Bowl,” where Duff and Duff Lite beer bottles have a football contest. Moe the bartender comments about the winner, “they wanted it more.”

    Johnny Horton! Why was this song popular 100+ years after the battle? Cultural signifiers, I guess (love that term.) I adored it as a kid because they fired a cannonball using an alligator. I also liked “North To Alaska” for no reason at all. Maybe just because the chorus rhyme was so juvenile it sounded like something I’d compose in second-grade poetry assignments. “Where the river is windin’, big nuggets they’re findin’.”

    And Wiki says he married Hank Williams’s widow. Now there’s a tale . . .

    • I didn’t know that. She didn’t have much luck. Horton didn’t live much longer than Williams!

  2. Thank you for not doing the five year anniversary of Gabby’s shooting.

    As for the Battle of New Orleans-the thing I dislike the most about it is that it catapulted Jackson into enough prominence for him to reach the White House. He was a horrible man who should not be memorialized on anything yet we are stuck with him on the twenty despite there being tons of much better people to put on our money. The sole good thing about him was how nice he was about his wife. It does not make up for destroying the US economy, the near total destruction of an entire tribe of people, and all of the other things he did.

    • “Oh, but he was a man of his time!” Yes, and so were the Supreme Court justices who ordered him to stop, yet he got away with ignoring. For that alone, Jackson should have been impeached. Really, impeachment has been underused. Given how terrified the founders were of an all-powerful monarch, I think they expected it to happen a lot more often than it has.

      • Impeachment is a political tool. Even when it is warranted it is seldom used because it is too easy to claim it is just politics. So when it is used, it is just politics which causes a fairly vicious cycle.

        The Democrats, who are as always the adults in the room, are stuck trying to avoid it just turning into politics even when they have a clear cut case like with the Bush Administration. But all the pundits were ready to say “oh it is just revenge for Clinton” ignoring how Clinton was revenge for Nixon instead of “we have a president who authorized torture in violation of the Geneva Convention, a treaty we signed and have agreed to abide by making it the law of the land under the Supremacy clause.” So impeachment and removal was off the table.

        Kind of annoying but then again, it would have meant that Speaker Pelosi would have been the first woman president since it would probably come out that Cheney was also in violation of a few gazillion laws and therefore subject to removal. *

        • Was Clinton revenge for Nixon? I always thought it was just hate media flexing its muscle for the first time. The Republicans had gone after Democrats who were actually dirty before (Tip O’Neill.) Clinton was the first time they targeted someone for basically nothing because they had the propaganda machine to pull it off. They’d do it with Obama if they could.

          President Pelosi — now that would have been interesting.

          • Oh it was not just revenge. Remember the Republicans were livid they lost when they were under the mistaken impression they were the rightful occupiers of the White House and the rightful occupiers of every other position of power. The Democrats are merely around to rail against and blame for when the Republican policies fail even when the Rs run every branch.

            I remember having online arguments and being utterly mystified on how anyone could blame Barney Frank for the entire meltdown when he was a minority party member in a House of Congress where there is no where near the amount of power that a minority member of the Senate has to screw up legislation. Yet there was Bush and the rest of the party, claiming it was Frank’s fault that the collapse occurred.

            • Or another one you hear all the time — the Community Reinvestment Act, passed under Carter (I think Glenn Beck was the first to trot out this nugget of conspiratorial wisdom.) As in, “banks didn’t want to give out bad loans, the Community Reinvestment Act forced them to.”

              The CRA basically just collected data on how much banks were redlining (and, as far as I can tell, stopped collecting data in the late 1990s.) The idea behind it was that bank mergers would be given regulatory preference if those banks did less redlining. As redlining never stopped, and no bank merger I’m aware of was ever nixed due to CRA data, the law had no teeth and amounted to nothing.

              But, yeah, I’m sure if you connect Barney Frank (why target him? I wonder . . .) and the CRA and the Freemasons and UFOs, it all makes sense.

              • He was targeted because he did actually push back on some warning that Bush did actually give. However Bush was more like “I think there is a problem” and Frank was like “No.” And Bush went “I don’t really care.” When Bush wanted Congress to do something, they did it regardless of what the Democrats said.

                I am oversimplifying it because I am too lazy to look it up but yes, the blame was almost entirely laid at Frank’s, Carter’s and Clinton’s feet. Carter because of the CRA, Clinton because his HUD Secretary pushed for and got approved some relaxing of restrictions for first time buyers who had college degrees and were likely to be able to afford their homes in a starting to boom market along with the repeal of Glass–Steagall.

                There was no personal responsibility for the fact that Bush stuck with his conservative principles by letting Lehman Brothers collapse (which he shouldn’t have and shows why politicians really shouldn’t be unbending.) Or any of the other actions (like how the Republicans passed the repeal of Glass Steagall to begin with.) Or how they never bothered to ensure that the bubble was managed when they were in charge of everything. Nope, it was all Carter, Clinton and Frank’s fault.

      • I’d like to learn more about why we put certain people on currency. It’s really a grab bag. Washington, of course, is our Romulus/Remus mythic figure, so that I get, but why Jackson? Why Lincoln, who is still controversial in the South? Why Franklin, whom I find amusing, but wasn’t a president? (Hell of a good diplomat, though.)

        Here’s a question. If you could pick faces for currency, who would you pick? If we’re only doing politicians, then FDR (the dime!) and JQA (nada) top my list. If we include non-politicians, MLK (nada? Really?) has to be first.

        Hell, just rotate important figures. You’ll recall how popular those quarters were with state symbols on the back. Why not new currency with famous US heroes? Northern states could do heroes like Harriet Tubman, Southern states traitors like Nathan Forrest, everybody would win. Controversy!

        I didn’t know Jackson was good to his wife, but almost everyone has a good side (Trump’s has yet to be revealed. Doting dad? Uh . . . )

        Yeah, that “man of his time” stuff is bunk. It basically means, “represented the popular prejudices of his time,” which isn’t much to admire. By that standard, we should honor leaders of lynch mobs.

        • https://thenew10.treasury.gov/faqs

          7. When was the last time a new portrait image was added to our currency?

          Portraits do not change often. The last changes occurred between 1914 and 1928, four portrait changes occurred: $10: Andrew Jackson to Alexander Hamilton; $20: Grover Cleveland to Andrew Jackson; $500: John Marshall to William McKinley; and, $1000: Alexander Hamilton to Grover Cleveland.

          Essentially it looks like the Treasury secretary picks whoever he likes the most out of the short list of men acceptable-founding fathers are the main peeps although the occasional war hero or assassinated martyr is allowed.

          Personally I wish he would pick Frances Perkins for the first woman on a ten dollar bill but I think it is will be more likely someone like Eleanor Roosevelt.

          • I liked that link. Trying very hard to be uncontroversial. If I had a guess, I’d guess they’re redesigning the $10 because you very rarely see $10s anymore, so there won’t be too much pushback.

            I could go with Eleanor.

            How about this? Do you know what’s on the back of a dime? I don’t. I had to grab one just now and look at it. It’s a plant, a torch, and a different plant. The torch is liberty, I assume. Who knows what the plants are.

            Let’s print dimes from now on with Eleanor on one side and FDR on the other. 50/50 whose face is on the front. They were a team, after all. And why should either side of a damn coin be the “front?” Except for deciding coin tosses, I guess.

            • I wanted Francis Perkins because she was the first woman to hold a cabinet position. That is pretty important.

    • I didn’t know it was that unfortunate anniversary. Truthfully, my eyes wander around until I find something and I start writing. It is highly random.

      Yes, Jackson was horrible. I always say that economics trumps everything for me, and that’s largely true today. I am much in agreement with Jackson’s economics; but his treatment of the native peoples puts him on par with Hitler. And he was horrible for other reasons.

      • Due to how small Democratic politics are in Arizona, not only do I know Gabby (all of the women candidates/office holders have met each other at least once), I also am friends with most of her staffers/volunteers. It was one of the worst days for her and us.

        Eh, I could possibly forgive him for trashing the national bank (I mean I know why he did it and it was not necessarily a bad idea since there were some serious problems) since it was not known at the time what the results were going to be but with the rest of it? No.

        • Yes. How is that not an act of terrorism? I understand the kid is insane. (And I feel bad for his parents who really did try to get him help and to stop him — if I remember right.) But if elected officials can’t have public meetings for fear of unstable people pumped up on talk of tyranny (Background checks!) then you live under terrorism. And that terrorism doesn’t just come from the shooters.

          I think he rightly saw it as an attempt to create an aristocracy. But he wasn’t consistent. And he was a bigot and all around vile man.

          • A short time before that Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick had tried to have a similar type event at a local store and the tea partiers screamed at her until she left. They felt they were well within their rights to treat someone so terribly. They wanted to control the event and she was not having it. So the mood was very ugly before Gabby’s event in January.

            Sheriff Dupnik pointed out what it was-a shooting clearly inspired by how hateful people were. The Republicans threw the biggest fits over being called out for their behavior-after all, as my friend Donna says, only Democrats are expected to be civil.

            • That reminds me of the other thing: the Obamacare summer. Those were acts of terrorism too. And like terrorists everywhere, they didn’t even know what they were fighting about. They had just been told by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity that this was the end of freedom. I’ve thinking about this a lot. You don’t have to kill anyone to be a terrorist. If you are just so purposefully obnoxious that people won’t even go to town halls, you are a terrorist. If you shout so loud and so long that no one else can speak, you are a terrorist. We need to start taking this stuff seriously, because this is the modern Republican Party.

              • It was threatening and intimidating which in most states is a crime.

                Yet they don’t think they did anything wrong. To them, being that way is their right as a citizen even if it means that other citizens are silenced and prevented from having their say. So people like the Bundys think they can act without consequences and the annoying thing is that they are right-our government is right wing so if someone is right wing, they get away with a federal occupation instead of being taken down and thrown in prison.

                • To come back to another thread, I think it is part of this thing I find most especially in libertarians: this idea that the only possible reason you would disagree with this is that you don’t understand what they are saying.

                  Speaking of which, check this out; it’s great:

                  • Yep-even when you demonstrate your clear superior knowledge of a subject. If you would just understand their oh so well thought out viewpoint, never mind the facts!

                    I like these kinds of historical re-enactments since it helps make history and its impact on modern life come alive. It is really important since this country collectively doesn’t remember anything longer than a week or when we do, we don’t pay attention to the bits that are uncomfortable.

                    • It’s funny to listen to libertarians call into The Majority Report. They never have data. They just have hypotheticals and thought experiments. There have been some really smart libertarians (eg, Robert Nozick), but mostly they are all subgeniuses: fairly smart, but not really smart, and not nearly as smart as they think they are.

                    • In my first history class in college the teacher said “always cite your sources.” So maybe they should have been in that class.

                    • One interesting things about them is that they will often cite very obscure historical events. They are cherry picked (and generally something that all other libertarians use as an example). And as I’ve said, they normally don’t even show what they claim. It’s religion for them. And that’s especially funny given how much of an overlap there is between libertarians and atheists.

                    • Maybe religion is something humans just need-even without a God as the inspiration.

                    • That’s a well respected idea: humans create God to provide themselves a sense of meaning.

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