I have interrogated biographies of Andrew Jackson. My primary question has been how did Jackson get from Tennessee to New Orleans. This question first troubled me with the 1959 release of Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.”
“In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans”
I sang along with great relish, while recognizing that the historical inaccuracy in the song was a geographical impossibility. I “knew” that Jackson (and his troops) marched into Alabama from Tennessee before heading to New Orleans.
The historical marker that I found as a small child gave me reason to believe that they camped overnight on Old Line Road, near my family’s homeplace on Indian Ridge. I did not know exactly what route they had taken.
In a Chicago classroom, my insistence that Jackson did not reach New Orleans by way of the Mississippi River was considered to be “off topic” and I was warned to “stay on subject.” That meant focusing on the “Indian Wars” and the War of 1812 as they played out in the Illinois Territory and the Great Lakes region. So, I turned my attention back to the Fort Dearborn Massacre and Tecumseh’s War.
The question of Jackson’s route through Alabama resurfaced in March 2018 as I worked on my genealogy and family history. Finally, the Red Stick War and the War of 1812 in South Alabama and along the Gulf coast were central topics in my studies.
I approached the topics like a middle school student. I read biographies of Andrew Jackson and drew a timeline emphasizing his “line of march” through Alabama.
Jackson’s line of March from Tennessee to New Orleans is clearly rendered in Remini’s Andrew Jackson and the Course of the American Empire 1767-1821. That presentation is repeated in Remini’s Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars.
In addition to biographies of Jackson, I read other books about the Red Stick War and/or the War of 1812. The books that I read focused on how this period in U.S. history played out in the Mississippi Territory, including what was to become Alabama.
In reading these works, as well as uncited reviews of them, I have been exposed to competing theories of history and models of historiography. I have been reminded that knowledge is socially constructed. People in different social positions ask different questions and these inform the possible answers.
In attempting to construct my genealogy, I have identified several ancestors who arrived in Alabama during and just after this time period. This time period has become personally relevant. The works that I read help me to understand the context of their arrival. This provides a basis for me to better understand my ancestors.
Braund, K. E. H. (2012). Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
Jackson, H. H. (2015). Rivers of History: Life on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, Cahaba, and Alabama. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
Meacham, J. (2008). American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York, N.Y: Random House.
Remini, R. V. (2001). The Battle of New Orleans. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.
Remini, R. V. (2001). Andrew Jackson and his Indian wars. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.
Remini, R. V. (1998). The Life of Andrew Jackson. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row.
Remini, R. V. (1977) Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row.
Waselkov, Gregory A. (2009). A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
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In the meanwhile sing along with Johnny Horton while trying to replacing the Mississipp’ with “Coosa and Alabama.”