Andrew Jackson and The War of 1812

The War of 1812 was a seminal moment in both the history of the fledgling United States of America and in the life of Andrew Jackson. Increasing tensions between Great Britain and its former colonies, prompted (at least in part) by the disruption of American shipping and the impressment of American sailors on the high seas, erupted into actual conflict when the United States declared war on June 18, 1812. “Mr. Madison’s War,” as it was sometimes derisively called, would ultimately be fought in multiple regions of the nation and would spill over into British Canada, the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Jackson earns the nickname “Old Hickory”

In December 1812, President Madison, with some hesitancy, promoted Tennessee Militia commander Andrew Jackson to Major General of U.S. Volunteers and directed him to mobilize 1,500 men and proceed to Natchez, Mississippi, and ultimately on to New Orleans to meet an anticipated British advance against the Crescent City. When the threat failed to materialize, the War Department ordered Jackson to disband his force and have the men return north on their own without offering compensation for their travel. The general angrily refused and led his command back personally. While on the journey, Jackson earned the nickname “Old Hickory” for his willingness and ability to experience the same hardships as those he led.

The Treaty of Fort Jackson follows a counterattack on the Creeks, results in new land for America

  • The War of 1812 “Red Sticks”

    The war in the South heated up when the “Red Sticks,” a faction of the Creek Indians angered by the encroachment of white settlement onto lands they claimed, massacred approximately 250 men, women and children at Fort Mims, just north of Mobile, Alabama.

  • Jackson Assembles Forces

    Jackson again assembled a force and led an aggressive campaign against the Creeks, which culminated on March 27, 1814, in the decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend, where more than 800 “Red Sticks” perished.

  • The Treaty of Fort Jackson

    In the Treaty of Fort Jackson that followed, the defeated Indians were forced to relinquish their claim to 23 million acres (approximately half of Alabama and a portion of Georgia) to the United States. Jackson returned home as a military hero and was soon rewarded with promotion to Major General, U.S. Army, commanding the 7th Military District.

Britain doubles down in America after defeating Napoleon in 1814

Jackson had little time to bask in his newfound popularity. Great Britain defeated Napoleon’s forces in early 1814, freeing additional troops to join the fight in America and launch a new maritime campaign. Learning that, after attacks on Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, the British planned to attack the Gulf Coast, Jackson sprang into action. He assembled and moved a force to Mobile, where he repaired Fort Bowyer and then successfully defended it against an attack in September 1814. This action denied the British their preferred overland route to New Orleans. He then continued to Pensacola in Spanish Florida, where American forces captured the town and evicted the British, who were inciting Indians and supplying them with arms to attack American settlers.

Jackson answers with a diverse American army

Jackson and his troops arrived at New Orleans in December, and the general immediately began to strengthen the defensive positions and seek reinforcements to man them. Jackson amassed a force consisting of U.S. Regulars, militia from four states, African American Free Men of Color, Choctaw Indians and Baratarian pirates, creating a uniquely American army in the process.

The War of 1812 ends in a short, stunning British defeat at the Battle of New Orleans

The campaign lasted for several weeks and included multiple engagements, including a naval battle on Lake Borgne, a night attack by the Americans, an artillery duel, the British bombardment of Fort St. Philip on the Mississippi River and the land attacks on Jackson’s main line at Chalmette. The climactic engagement, known as the Battle of New Orleans, occurred on January 8, 1815. In that 37-minute contest, 8,392 British soldiers attacked 5,359 Americans with disastrous results—2,037 Redcoat casualties in comparison to a mere 71 for Jackson’s army. The dream of a British victory died at Chalmette.

A savior of the nation, a future president

Andrew Jackson was hailed as the savior of the nation and was later joined by wife Rachel for the great victory celebration in New Orleans. The Treaty of Ghent, officially ending the War of 1812, was ratified by the United States Senate on February 16, 1815, and Jackson left New Orleans for The Hermitage several weeks later. Both the man and the nation had been forever changed in ways that neither could then foresee. It was Jackson’s fame from his service in the War of 1812 that ultimately catapulted him into the White House in 1828.

What additional resources are available for further reading?

Brian Kilmeade Don Yaeger, Andrew Jackson and The Miracle of New Orleans
Robert V. Remini, The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory