South of the Border
The Battle for the Big Easy

The Battle of New Orleans, a big battle in a little war fought 200 years ago, shaped U.S. history more than most Americans realize.

Appeared in: Volume 10, Number 2 | Published on: October 10, 2014
Don Hickey is a professor of history at Wayne State College in Nebraska. A longtime student of the War of 1812, he is best known for The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Bicentennnial edition, 2012).
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  • David Graeme

    You state, “With only 500,000 residents (many of whom were French descendants or
    recent American immigrants whose loyalty was suspect), Canada seemed an
    easy target for the far more populous United States, which boasted a
    population of 7.7 million in 1812.” Bear two things in mind here: the first is that a substantial proportion of the “… recent American immigrants” were either Tory refugees from the United States who had been driven out during the American Revolution, often violently and frequently with only what they could wear and conceal about their persons as their personal property, or the children of these refugees; their loyalty to Britain could not possibly be described as “suspect” and many of them harbored virulent, specific hatred of the United States. The second point is that Britain had granted the French residents of Canada complete religious freedom right from the start: American attempts during the early stages of the Revolution to enlist the French as co-belligerents or even allies against a common enemy foundered on the inability or unwillingness of the Americans to guarantee the same religious freedoms to the French in Canada that the French already enjoyed under British rule. Remember also that the New England states, many of which either bordered Canada or traded regularly with Canada, were reluctant to join “Mr. Madison’s War” until the effectiveness of the Royal Navy’s blockade in strangling US maritime trade forced them to do so. The British also had (as mentioned in the article) some ruthless allies in the indigenous peoples of Canada, who may not have been treated all that well by the British but had been treated far more badly by the Americans in the Old Northwest. Finally, a small point, but the Duke of Wellington was not known as “the Iron Duke” until much later, when he was a not-very-popular Prime Minister in the early 1830s.

    • ljgude

      Indeed, I grew up in a small town in Western New Hampshire in the 50s and traces of early 19th century issues were visible just beneath the surface. At school we sang ‘My Country ’tis of Thee every morning – American words set to God Save the Queen. There were families in town who gave their children Tory names – like Royal. Our Town History shows that the town kept their books in Pounds, Schillings and Pence until the mid 1790s. Curiously, the French and Indian War was endlessly rehashed. The Revolution? Not so much. SO there were loyalists in the population too and, as you say, people who had economic incentives to not go to war with Canada.

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