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Andrew Jackson and America's First Military Victory

by Robert V. Remini

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-88551-7
Publisher: Viking

A well-composed yet ultimately unexciting account of the War of 1812 battle by the author of the National Book Award—winning three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson. After providing the briefest of backgrounds to cover the origins of the War of 1812 and the initial events of the conflict, Remini (professor emeritus, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) quickly jumps in to tell the tale of the battle that turned the tide of the war and served as one of the most important military victories in the history of the early American republic—the battle that pitted a motley American force of militiamen, pirates, and woodsmen from Kentucky against the British veterans of Waterloo in the bayous outside of New Orleans. Though his descriptions of the battle are rich with detail, there’s little here to bring the events into a human scope. Remini writes classic history in the “great men, great events” style, but this effort is missing flavor; it’s altogether devoid of the social particulars that are some of the most compelling aspects of well-rounded histories. Despite Remini’s desire, as discussed in the preface, to go beyond the limitations of biography and recount one momentous event, there’s scant evidence that this account is much more than a chapter in the life of Jackson. Remini emphasizes the significance of the participation of the pirate Jean Lafitte in the American defense of the city; however, he then offers only a fleeting glimpse of this. More glaring is his lack of attention to the slaves who fought on both sides of the battle and to the stories of the backwoodsmen whose military prowess is acclaimed, yet of whom we know nothing. A stirring narrative of a battle, but not much more. (History Book Club selection)