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THE GREATEST FURY by William C. Davis


The Battle of New Orleans and the Rebirth of America

by William C. Davis

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-399-58522-7
Publisher: Dutton Caliber

A massively detailed narrative of one of the greatest victories in U.S. military history.

Early in the morning of Jan. 8, 1815, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson was having coffee at a home in New Orleans when an artillery ball passed through the room. Grabbing his sword, Jackson looked to his staff and said “Come on—we shall have a warm day.” Over the next several hours, writes historian Davis (The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, 2011, etc.), former director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Jackson led his ragtag force to a smashing victory that both secured the West for the United States and set Old Hickory on the road to the presidency. The last major engagement of the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans served as a showcase for Jackson’s tenacity, skill, and leadership. Davis effectively depicts how Jackson overcame obstacles such as poor health, an ineffective Louisiana legislature, and a bitter feud with the governor to shrewdly build up the city’s defenses, a strategy that proved wise when the anticipated British assault ended in disaster. Throughout the narrative, the author sprinkles intriguing details: One of the few Americans to die at the battle was Thomas Jefferson’s nephew; Edward Pakenham, who led the British forces at New Orleans, was the Duke of Wellington’s brother-in-law; the supposed lethal effectiveness of the “Kentucky riflemen” was largely a myth, as Jackson’s artillery inflicted most of the damage. Unfortunately, the author also missteps. Repetitive phrases abound, and the “rebirth of America” referenced in the subtitle appears in an epilogue, which makes that part of the book feel tacked-on. Most fundamentally, the narrative is clearly aimed toward military enthusiasts and thus occasionally bogs down in descriptions of troop movements, engagements, and armaments. As is his wont, Davis delivers a highly descriptive and prodigiously researched book, but general readers should look elsewhere.

A weighty military history for students and scholars.