Danny Tyree, 12/31/2014 [Archive]

The Battle of New Orleans: The Bicentennial

Tyrades! By Danny Tyree

Just a reminder: January 8 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, the last major encounter of The War of 1812.

Depending on your perspective, you may greet that news in different ways, such as "Wow! Time flies" or "I need to dust off my old history textbook" or, if you work for the Veterans Administration, "Keep your shirt on! We're almost up to that point on the backlog of cases."

Perhaps you assumed you'd already missed the bicentennial of the end of the War of 1812; but the conflict actually ranged from June 18, 1812 until February 18, 1815. The Federalist Party couldn't raise enough votes to dub it The War of 1812 And Change.

Many Americans at the time of the war fancied it "the second American Revolution." Of course this sequel was lacking George Washington, Betsy Ross, Paul Revere and the Minutemen. It was sort of the "straight to video" war. Larry the Cable Guy was probably peddling grapeshot ammunition for this one.

If you think the War of 1812 gets little respect in the U.S., it's barely commemorated at all in Great Britain. That's partly because they considered it just an offshoot of the Napoleonic Wars and partly because they're still mad about not trademarking "The Empire Strikes Back."

When I was in high school, I had a hard time grasping one of the causes of the war. The "impressment of American sailors" meant that the British did not recognize British-born sailors on American ships as American citizens and began kidnapping them to serve in the British navy. All I heard was that the British navy was "impressing American sailors." I could just imagine them bragging, "Check out these abs! Pretty good for someone who eats limes, huh? And watch me wiggle my teeth..."

One lasting aspect of the War of 1812 was our national anthem. The unsuccessful British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to pen "The Star-Spangled Banner." Imagine if the anthem had been inspired by America's attempts to annex Canadian territory. ("This land is your land, this land is my land...and, oh, yeah—THAT land is your land, that land is my land...")

Remember August 1814 and the British burning of Washington, D.C.? The first impulse of First Lady Dolly Madison was to save priceless paintings from the White House. Today if the city was on fire, the first impulse of the first lady would be to demand, "Who let Biden play with matches?"

The Battle of New Orleans is best remembered for inspiring a 1959 country song written by Jimmy Driftwood and performed by Johnny Horton. ("In 1814 we took a little trip/Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp...") His military service helped propel Major General Andrew Jackson to the presidency, although Old Hickory later told a biographer, "Community organizer! That's what I meant to sign up for instead of major general."

Although the War of 1812 weakened the Native Americans and emphasized the value of the U.S. Navy, most historians consider it a military/political stalemate. The status quo remained and there were no boundary changes. That's right: it changed nothing. ("Sort of like Mom's birthdays," sighed Prince Charles.)

Spend January 8 remembering the war's casualties. And contemplating life with a Bruce Springsteen anthem. ("Yaaaaaankee Doodle's comin' to town...Yaaaaaankee Doodle's comin' to town...")

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© 2015 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades". Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.



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