to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
Most recently in our series, we have been talking about the War of Eighteen
Twelve between the United States and Britain. In the summer of eighteen
fourteen, the two countries opened peace talks at Ghent, in Belgium. But Britain
was in no hurry to agree on a peace treaty. This week, Maurice Joyce and Stuart
Spencer tell us about how the War of Eighteen Twelve ended.
forces were planning several campaigns in the United States later in the year.
Successful military campaigns could force the United States to accept the kind
of treaty Britain wanted.
representatives to the talks demanded that the United States give control of
its Northwest Territory to the Indians. They also asked that the United States
give part of the state of Maine to Canada, and make other changes in the
States representatives were led by John Quincy Adams, son of former president
John Adams. They made equally tough demands. The United States wanted payment
for damages suffered during the war. It also demanded that Britain stop seizing
American seamen for the British navy. And the United States wanted all of
British representatives said they could not even discuss the question of impressing
Americans into the British navy.
Quincy Adams had little hope the talks would succeed. The Americans would
surrender none of their territory. Old John Adams, the former president, told
President James Madison: "I would continue this war forever before
surrendering an acre of America."
John Quincy, did not believe the British would reduce any of their demands. But
another of the Americans at Ghent, House Speaker Henry Clay, felt differently.
Clay was right. After Britain received word that its military campaigns had
failed at Baltimore and Plattsburgh, its representatives became easier to
negotiate with. They dropped the demand that the United States give the
Northwest Territory to the Indians.
still hoped for military successes in America. The British government asked the
Duke of Wellington to lead British forces in Canada. The duke had won important
victories in the war against Napoleon. Perhaps he could do the same in America.
The duke was offered the power to continue the war or to make peace.
told the government he would go to America if requested. But he refused to
promise any success. He said it was not a new general that Britain needed in
America, but naval control of the Great Lakes that separated the United States
question is," Wellington said, "can we get this naval control? If we
cannot, then I will do you no good in America. I think," said Wellington,
"that you might as well sign a peace treaty with the United States now. I
think you have no right to demand any territory from the United States. The
failure of the British military campaigns in America gives you no right to make
British government accepted this advice from its top military expert. It
ordered the British representatives at Ghent to drop the demands for American
territory. The Americans then dropped their demands for Canadian territory.
things that led to the war no longer existed. Britain's war with France had
caused the British and French to interfere with neutral American trade. And
Britain had needed men for its navy. Now, the war with France was over. No
longer was there any reason to interfere with the trade of any nation. And no
longer was there any need to seize Americans for service in the British navy.
day before Christmas, eighteen fourteen, the United States and Britain signed a
simple treaty. In it, each side agreed to stop fighting. They agreed to settle
all their differences at future negotiations.
had ended. But one more battle was to be fought before news of the peace treaty
reached the United States.
the autumn of eighteen fourteen, British soldiers at Jamaica began preparing
for an attack against New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Late
in November, this force of about seven thousand five hundred men sailed from
Jamaica to New Orleans.
British soldiers were commanded by General Sir Edward Pakenham. The general did
not take his men directly to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Instead, they
sailed across a lake east of the city.
during the afternoon of December twenty-third, General Andrew Jackson, the
commander of American forces at New Orleans, learned the British force was
was a good soldier and a great leader of men. He fought in the Revolutionary
War, then studied law. He moved west to Nashville, Tennessee. The general also
served in both houses of the United States Congress.
broke out in eighteen twelve, he was elected general of a group of volunteer
soldiers from Tennessee. Jackson was a rough man. His soldiers feared and
respected him. They called him "Old Hickory,” because he seemed as tough
as hickory wood.
was given responsibility for defending the Gulf coast. Earlier in the year, he
had attacked Pensacola, in east Florida, and forced out several hundred British
marines. Jackson believed the British would attack Mobile before attacking New
Orleans. He left part of his forces at Mobile and took the others to the mouth
of the Mississippi.
was a sick man when he got to New Orleans. And what he found made him feel no
better. Little had been done to prepare for the expected British attack.
Jackson declared martial law and began building the city's defenses.
the work on the defenses had been completed when Jackson got word that the
British were only a few kilometers from New Orleans. "Gentlemen,"
Jackson told his officers, "the British are below. We must fight them
British soldiers rested. They believed it would be easy to capture the city the
next day. But Jackson rushed up guns and men, and attacked the British by
surprise just after dark. Then, the Americans retreated to a place about eight
kilometers south of the city.
had chosen this place carefully. On the right was the Mississippi River. On the
left was a swamp -- mud and water that could not be crossed. In front of the
American soldiers was an open field.
weeks, the British soldiers waited. They tested the American defenses at
several places, but found no weaknesses. Every day, Jackson had his men improve
their positions. At night, small groups of Jackson's soldiers would slip across
the field and silently attack British soldiers guarding the other side.
on January eighth, the British attacked. They expected the Americans to flee in
the face of their strong attack. But the Americans stood firm.
artillery fired into the enemy. When the British got as close as one hundred
fifty meters, the Americans began to fire their long rifles. The rain of
bullets and shells was deadly. General Pakenham was wounded twice and then
killed by a shell that exploded near him. Only one British soldier reached the
top of the American defenses.
British finally retreated. They left behind more than two thousand dead and
wounded. Five hundred other British soldiers had been captured. Thirteen
Americans were killed. It was a great victory for the United States, but one
that was not necessary. The war had ended, by treaty, two weeks earlier.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Maurice
Joyce and Stuart Spencer. Join us again
next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – an American history series in VOA
This is program #48 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION