Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Donald R. Hickey's "Glorious Victory"

Donald R. Hickey, whom the New Yorker described as "the dean of 1812 scholarship," teaches history at Wayne State College in Nebraska. He has written several books on the conflict, including The Rockets’ Red Glare: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812 and The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.

Hickey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Glorious Victory: Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, and reported the following:
Great Britain’s Reconnaissance in Force, treated on page 99, was the second of four battles fought south of New Orleans in late 1814/early 1815 when the British invaded the Gulf Coast near the end of the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson won all four times, which was not only a tribute to his generalship—which was superior to that of any other commander in the war—but also a reflection of the difficulties of waging offensive warfare in the North American wilderness.

The three offensive campaigns that involved at least 10,000 men in this war—the double-barreled U.S. assault against Montreal in 1813, the British invasion of northern New York in 1814, and the culminating battle of the Gulf Coast in 1815 (which was the Battle of New Orleans)—all failed, largely because it was so much more difficult to keep an army that was marching through the wilderness supplied and reinforced than it was to dig in and hold a position near one’s supply lines and reserves. In sum, neither side figured out how to overcome the stupendous logistical problems of waging war in this environment. And that, more than anything else, explains why this campaign failed and why the war ended in a draw on the battlefield, with neither side in a position to demand concessions from the other.

Hence, even though the end of the war in Europe in the spring of 1814 had meant the British could re-deploy men, ships, and material to the American war and thus were now in the driver’s seat, they had to settle in the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the contest, for a settlement that simply restored the status quo ante bellum, that is, the state that existed before the war.
Learn more about Glorious Victory at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue