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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: The Battle of
        New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans: A Bicentennial Tribute
Edited by Gary D. Joiner
Pelican, 2015, ISBN 9781455620890, $26.95

Fifty years ago, the Battle of New Orleans Sesquicentennial Commission published nine pamphlets providing historical information related to the battle and the people who participated in it. The authors selected to write these papers were experts on the topics they wrote about, but the pamphlets were limited editions and are rare finds these days. To celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of this event, The Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Commission decided to republished these papers in a single book so the important and invaluable information they contain remain available to researchers and readers interested in this final battle of the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans: A Bicentennial Tribute is the result.

The nine essays in this hardbound volume depict “a particular point of interest surrounding New Orleans and the battle fought to save it.” (11) Since these were originally separate publications, there is no uniform style as to how they are written and whether or not the authors listed their resources. The introduction to this book includes information about each of the authors. What follows are the titles, authors, and summaries of these research papers.
New Orleans as It Was in 1814-1815 by Leonard V. Huber
A fascinating look back at the city as it appeared when General Andrew Jackson arrived. The focus is on the layout of the city and its architecture, and includes some period descriptions from primary sources.
Sea Power and the Battle of New Orleans by Admiral Ernest McNeill Eller, Dr. William J. Morgan, and Lieutenant R. M. Basoco
Although the majority of action took place on land, the U.S. Navy played pivotal roles on the Mississippi and Lake Borgne. The authors provide details about the officers who commanded both the New Orleans station and the vessels that protected the city and river. They also discuss Jean Laffite, the privateers, and the British attempt to elicit their assistance in the invasion.
Major-General Sir Edward M. Pakenham by Valerie McNair Scott, Lady Pakenham
Aside from his tragic demise in the final battle, most Americans know little of the commander of the British Army. Lady Pakenham rectifies this oversight, providing a unique and insightful introduction to him. Some information comes from family correspondence, a rare and valuable treat.
Louisiana at the Battle of New Orleans by Powell A. Casey
Many people view the battle as a single event, but it was actually a series of skirmishes that began on 14 December 1814 and culminated with the unsuccessful bombardment of Fort St. Philip on 18 January 1815. After a brief introduction, Casey discusses 1815 psychological warfare, the invasion, the events between 27 December and 8 January, the main battle on the eighth, and the aftermath and withdrawal of British forces. He also devotes several pages to the role of cotton bales and pirates in the battle. His appendix lists the Louisiana Military Units that served, with brief biographical paragraphs on their commanding generals.
Tennessee at the Battle of New Orleans by Elbert L. Watson
While Andrew Jackson is the best-known participant from Tennessee, he isn’t the only one from that state. This essay introduces readers to these men and their efforts in keeping the young United States a free and independent nation. There is also a brief mention of Laffite’s pirates and the appendix includes two of Jackson’s reports to the Secretary of War following the main battle. Additional information is found in the notes at the end of the paper.
Plantation Houses on the Battlefield of New Orleans by Samuel Wilson, Jr.
The ground on which the battle was fought belonged to a number of plantation owners. While the house currently seen on the battlefield wasn’t one of these, Wilson provides intriguingand contemporary information about the homes of François Balthazar Languille, Edmond Macarty (Jackson’s headquarters), Jean Rodriguez, Ignace de Lino de Chalmet, Antoine Bienvenu, Colonel Pierre Denis de La Ronde, Pierre Robin Lacoste, Jacques Philippe Villeré (British headquarters), and Charles Coulon Jumonville de Villiers that were present, but no longer exist.
The Battle on the West Bank by Richard Henry Dixon
While the main battle was fought on the same side of the river as the city, the British also launched an attack on the opposite bank, where they were far more successful. Had they not received orders to withdraw, the tide of battle might have been far different, for the enemy could have used American guns to pummel Jackson’s main force. Dixon also includes an excerpt from Lieutenant George Robert Glieg’s account of what happened from the British perspective, and Charles L. Dufour’s chronological “Campaign for New Orleans.”
Negro Soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans by Marcus Christian
Jackson’s army was a ragtag collection of men from many walks of life and many regions of the world. This essay examines the roles that black men (free and slave) played in the battle, comparing and contrasting how General Jackson and Governor Claiborne treated these people.
The Weapons of the Battle of New Orleans by William A. Meuse
The disparity of losses between the British and the Americans is just one aspect of what Meuse explores as he describes muskets, rifles, pistols, swords, tomahawks, knives, artillery, and ammunition.
One drawback to this collection involves copyediting, such as “View Carré” instead of “Vieux Carré” for the original part of the city, what we call the French Quarter. Two other errors involve the given name of Major General Ross, the officer who would have commanded the British Army had he not been killed by a sniper at the Battle of North Point in September 1814. His first name is repeatedly given as Alexander, when it was actually Robert. Another factual error was the statement that the Duke of Wellington was married to Kitty Pakenham’s sister. In actuality, he married Edward’s sister, Kitty.

Even so, The Battle of New Orleans is a valuable resource that belongs in any War of 1812 collection. I’ve read numerous accounts of the war, and of this event in particular, but much of the information included here is rarely found in other volumes. Although no index or pictures accompany the text – both of which would have enhanced this collection – each essay is easily read in one or two sittings and the topics are specific enough that a researcher need consult only the specific pertinent essay to find what is required.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
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