On January 8, 1815, the vaunted British Army suffered an epic defeat by makeshift American forces under the command of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in what became the closing act of the War of 1812.
Jackson's improbable victory, which took place two weeks after the peace treaty ending the war had been signed, brought him national acclaim and led directly to his election to the presidency in 1828.
On the battle's 199th anniversary, Richard V. Barbuto explains Jackson's unlikely triumph in Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812 in response to the impressment of its sailors into the British Navy, British trade restrictions, and British support of Indian tribes against American expansion. All of these issues arose from the war Britain was fighting with Napoleon and France.
But in 1914, with Napoleon defeated in Europe, Britain turned its vengeful wrath on its former colony with massive attacks on Washington (burning the White House), Baltimore, and Plattsburgh, New York (on Lake Champlain). Late in the year, a powerful British force headed to New Orleans with the intent of separating part of the Louisiana Purchase from the United States.
No one expected what happened next. Jackson mounted a makeshift defense that included American soldiers firing from behind cotton bales - and sent the British retreating in disorder.
Jackson's victory was celebrated in singer Johnny Horton's 1959 song "The Battle of New Orleans," which reached No. 1 on the charts in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. It even made the Top 20 in the United Kingdom.
Barbuto is deputy director of the Department of Military History at the Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth.Among his books are Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada; Long Range Guns, Close Quarter Combat: The United States Artillery Regiment in the War of 1812; and The War of 1812: Uniforms of the U.S. Army. He last appeared at the Library in October 2012, addressing American failures in the War of 1812 in the program America on the Ropes.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.