The War of 1812 was a major turning point for the United States, and a severe test of the young republic’s resolve. During the three years of war, the country endured many hardships. However, it also achieved a number of decisive battlefield victories—triumphs that demonstrated the American people’s ability to overcome great odds, and that helped forge a new sense of national identity.
The last battle of the war, the Battle of New Orleans, was such a dramatic and unexpected victory that it immediately took a prominent place in American popular culture. Under the leadership of General Andrew Jackson, a few thousand U.S. troops, including militiamen from Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana, successfully held off a much larger force of British troops and kept New Orleans from falling into enemy hands. This triumph made Jackson a legend and set him on the road to the White House. The battle itself, meanwhile, was celebrated in poems, paintings, dances, and songs.
A favorite theme of many songs was the key role rural militiamen and backwoods hunters played in the victory. The War of 1812 was the first conflict to bring men from many Southern states and territories together to fight for the U.S. Soldiers from each region sang songs praising their own superhuman abilities and exaggerating their accomplishments, in a sort of humorous boasting competition with the men from other parts of the country. As you read this song about Kentucky militiamen in the Battle of New Orleans, you might ask yourself how stories and songs about the battle might have shaped the way people at the time thought about themselves—both as Kentuckians and Americans.
For more background information on this period, visit these presentations.