POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

In 1815 We Took a Little Trip...

by David Trumbull -- January 6, 2012

The governor shall annually… issue a proclamation setting apart January eighth as New Orleans Day… to the end that the memory of the services of the soldiers and sailors of the war of eighteen hundred and twelve, and the lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of our arms in that war, may be perpetuated. -- General Laws Part I Title II Chapter 6 Section 12F

For many Americans of my age the strongest association with the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans is the song of the same title which, as performed by Johnny Horton, was the Grammy Award "Song of the Year" in 1960 The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood (June 20, 1907–July 12, 1998), who based the melody on a traditional American fiddle tune, "The 8th of January."

One of the great American popular songs of my youth aside, quite a lot came out of the War of 1812, sometimes called the "Second War of Independence."

The Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783) ended with the King of Great Britain acknowledging, in the Treaty of Paris, the independence that the United States had asserted on July 4, 1776. The War of 1812 ended foreign interference with Americans on the seas and also ended British support of American Indians seeking to limit westward expansion of the young nation.

The Battle of Baltimore and the defense of Fort McHenry (September 12–15, 1814) was an important American victory and the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to pen the "Star Spangle Banner," which, set to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven," was a popular unofficial national hymn well before congress, in 1931, made it our official National Anthem.

The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, in its Tenth Article stated that: "Whereas the Traffic in Slaves is irreconcilable with the principles of humanity and Justice, and whereas both His Majesty and the United States are desirous of continuing their efforts to promote its entire abolition, it is hereby agreed that both the contracting parties shall use their best endeavours to accomplish so desirable an object."

The United Kingdom and the United States both, in 1807, had, by law, abolished the slave trade. The American law took effect on January 1, 1808, the earliest date possible under Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. law called for forfeiture of property and monetary fines. Following the Treaty of Ghent, congress strengthened the law to make the importation of slaves punishable by death. Having twice fought for our liberty, Americans were more and more awakening to the evils of slavery.

If most of us remember from school anything of the Battle of New Orleans, it is that the Treaty of Ghent ending the war was signed on December 24, 1814, but the sailing ships of the day did not get the message to New Orleans for some weeks. That is why the last battle of the war was fought two weeks after the end of the war!