On This date in History: The American War of 1812 began in…well…1812. But, the name is an odd moniker because it implies the war took place in 1812 when, in fact, it went on long after that. It even went on even when it was over. The war began in the middle of 1812 but went on until the end of 1814 when, on December 24, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed that ended the conflict. Now, the United States Senate did not get around to ratifying the treaty until February 16, 1815 but typically, when a treaty is signed, there is a cessation of hostilities pending ratification. But, in the early 19th century, there was no internet and snail mail really moved at a snail’s pace.
When I was a kid, the Florida band The Royal Guardsmen had an album called Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron. While the title song was the big hit, there was also several other memorable songs, many of which were covers. One was the Battle of New Orleans. It starts off with the line, “In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip. We took a little bacon and we took a little beans and we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.” I know that this was one of the cover songs as it was originally written by Jimmy Driftwood and was recorded by Johnny Horton. In 1959, both Driftwood and Horton won Grammy Awards for the tune. So, I suppose the boys from Florida thought that it was a good idea to do a cover of the song in the early 1960′s.
Now, the lyrics would imply that the battle took place in 1814. In fact, many people think that the Battle of New Orleans was the decisive battle of the War of 1812. But, the decisive battle took place on Lake Champlain in September 1814. Invading British forces were forced back into Canada by the United States Navy and the American victory led the British to conclude that the best course of action was to head to the town of Ghent in Belgium and wrap up the peace negotaions that had gone on in a halting manner for some time.
Now, Driftwood for some reason referred to Andrew Jackson as “Colonel Jackson” when he was a General. And General Jackson did lead an army to near New Orleans. Keep in mind that communications were slow and so neither Jackson nor the British commanders were aware of what was going on with the peace negotiations. So, British Commander Sir Edward Pakenham went forth with his plan to attack New Orleans. He reasoned that if he captured the Big Easy, then he might separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. Pakenham had no idea that Jackson had an extra pair of eyes. Seems that pirate Jean Lafitte became aware of the British invasion force to the Southeast of New Orleans near Lake Bourne and directly had that information relayed to Jackson. So, when Pakenham led his forces toward New Orleans on this date in 1815, he found 4500 troops under Jackson firmly entrenched along the Rodriguez Canal.
Even though the Brits outnumbered the Yanks 7500 to 4500, the defensive position of the Americans, surprise and terrain worked against the British. Perhaps just as important for the Americans is that Jackson had a pretty fair number of militiamen from the backwoods of Kentucky and Tennessee. These lands produced the likes Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and there were more where they came from. The expert marksman from the American frontier cut the marching British to pieces. In just 30 minutes, 2000 British soldiers were either killed, wounded or missing. American casulaties were just 8 killed and 13 wounded. I suppose that the British had not learned their lesson from the American Revolution because Pakenham allowed himself to be exposed to fire. There had been a European tradition in warfare to not shoot the opposition’s officers so that there may be a sense of order on the battlefield. But, the Americans had regularly targeted British officers in the late 18th century for the purpose of creating chaos in the ranks of the stronger opponent. And in the early 19th century, they did the same thing. Pakenham didn’t get the memo and the result was Sir Edward was counted among the dead in the first 30 minutes of the battle. The British retreated and never came back.
The battle of New Orleans was fought in 1815 in a war that was over in 1814 and was the last major battle of the war known as the War of 1812. And the battle became famous in the 20th century by a song that said Andrew Jackson was a colonel when in fact he was a general. And the final treaty of this misnamed war more or less left things as they were before the war. Nothing seemed right about the War of 1812, unless you were Andrew Jackson. The exploits of Jackson in the pointless battle made him famous and it helped launch his political career that eventually took him to the White House and on the twenty dollar bill.
Weather Bottom Line: My latest foray into snow forecasting ended up on a pretty positive note. Snow forecasting is really pretty difficult because small variances in moisture totals can result in relatively large differences in snow totals. But, in this case, it was a pretty good bet that most people would get around 3 inches with some up to four and the farther south of Louisville you went, the lower the totals down toward 2 inches. Anyway, the snow showers on Friday will end in a few flurries after sundown and then during the day on Saturday we get to the 20′s and we say good bye to snow showers but still get some flurries. Now…we do warm up…I have been saying for over a week that we wouldn’t get to freezing until the 15th. The computers think its the 13th. I think the NWS goes for the 12th. Whatever…we’re still talking about below freezing temperatures for every minute of 2010 for nearly 2 weeks. There is indications that we get a pretty fair warm up for the several days starting midweek as the jet stream goes back to Canada with a big ridge building in the US. But, there is one model that is trying to create a potential snow maker a week from Sunday. Key to that last sentence is “a week from Sunday.” It’s a long way away and there would have to have everything to come together perfectly for that to happen. But, regardless, there is no indication of a return to extended cold once we come out of this ice bucket. Oh..BTW…the models call for low teens on Sunday morning. The NWS says 11. The clouds will be breaking on Saturday night. I’m tellin’ ya….if those clouds break sufficiently by say…2 or 3 am on Sunday…we get down to near zero. It’s my story and I’m sticking with it!