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Tennesseans at War, 1812-1815: Andretv Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans.

Tennesseans at War, 1812-1815: Andretv Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans. By Tom Kanon. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2014. 272 pp.

Historians of the War of 1812 cannot agree on the causes of the conflict or the results. Maritime issues--including impressment of American sailors and the seizure of American ships--along with Indian depredations, land expansion, national honor, and liberal anxiety have all served as explanations for the origin of the war. Likewise, the results remain appropriately vague and unclear. Some historians suggest that the United States lost the war because the British burned Washington, DC. Others maintain that the United States won the war because the Treaty of Ghent did not admit American defeat. Still others have suggested that Great Britain won the war because they raided without impunity, and they held on to Canada against repeated American invasions. Finally, some historians have straddled a middle ground, maintaining that neither side won because the war ended in a draw. Even with the passing of 200 years, Americans still question why the war began and who won.

Much of the recent scholarship on the war has emphasized the lack of military results and the civil strife along the Canadian border, the struggle between an undersized American fleet and the superior British Navy, and the intense barbarity of the war in the Chesapeake region. Very few scholars have attempted to reconcile the war in the Gulf South--a complicated conflict that involved Spanish and British forces; Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw tribes; Frenchmen and Spaniards in Louisiana; and maroon communities that sought isolation and freedom. This complicated, multicorner dichotomy threatened all American communities west of the Appalachians. Tom Kanon's Tennesseans at War, 1812-1815 finally provides an explanation as to how those from the Volunteer State navigated the crisis and, arguably, contributed to the American victory that was the War of 1812.

As Kanon reminds us, the war in the Old Southwest unquestionably reveals an American ascendency and victory. By the time the fighting had ended, American forces had defeated the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend; Spanish forces in Pensacola, Florida; the British Navy at Fort Bowyer; and British-trained Peninsula veterans at New Orleans. The young United States had also solidified its hold over Louisiana by incorporating French and Spanish Louisianans into the American regime; broken Native American power in the Southeast, and ultimately forced them by treaty to relinquish their homelands; revealed Spanish weaknesses that, by 1821, resulted in the American acquisition of the Florida peninsula; and reinforced the institution ot slavery by suppressing insurrections, demanding the British return black refugees (runaway slaves) and destroying the British-built-and-provisioned Negro Fort on the Apalachicola River. By the time the fighting had completely stopped, the United States had asserted unquestioned federal control over all lands between Mobile Bay and the Sabine River and, within six years, would secure the entire Florida Peninsula. Yet, this could not have happened without Andrew Jackson and his Tennessee volunteers who left their homes and families to defend the young nation--they had created, strengthened, and maintained an ordered American society on the Southwest frontier.

Kannon's fine study will join Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr.'s Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1981) as the standard texts for understanding the War of 1812 along the Gulf. His even-handed approach complements Owsley's focus on the British and Indians. This book also highlights how Tennessee provided soldiers, supplies, and materials, as well as Jackson's leadership, to the conflict. These contributions, as Kanon reminds us, permitted Jackson to become the second George Washington--the representative of a new American age springing forth from the West. Ultimately, the war shaped the country and molded the legacy of the Volunteer State.

--Gene Allen Smith

Texas Christian University
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Author:Smith, Gene Allen
Publication:Presidential Studies Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 29, 2015
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