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A Bloodless Victory

The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory

Once celebrated on par with the Fourth of July, January 8th—the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans—is no longer a day of reverence for most Americans. Although the United States’ stunning 1815 defeat of the British army south of New Orleans gave rise to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party, and the legend of Jean Laffite, the battle has not been a national holiday since 1861.

Joseph F. Stoltz III explores how generations of Americans have consciously revised, reinterpreted, and reexamined the memory of the conflict to fit the cultural and social needs of their time. Combining archival research with deep analyses of music, literature, theater, and film across two centuries of American popular culture, Stoltz highlights the myriad ways in which politicians, artists, academics, and ordinary people have rewritten the battle’s history. While these efforts could be nefarious—or driven by political necessity or racial animus—far more often they were simply part of each generations’ expression of values and world view.

From Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign to the occupation of New Orleans by the Union Army to the Jim Crow era, the continuing reinterpretations of the battle alienated whole segments of the American population from its memorialization. Thus, a close look at the Battle of New Orleans offers an opportunity to explore not just how events are collectively remembered across generations but also how a society discards memorialization efforts it no longer finds necessary or palatable.

About the Author

Joseph F. Stoltz III is a historian at the Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Endorsements

"Clearly a labor of love that has been years in preparation, this refreshingly engaging, detail-rich narrative draws on a truly impressive body of scholarship. A worthy new contribution to cultural memory studies."

- Len Travers, author of Hodges' Scout: A Lost Patrol of the French and Indian War

"At a time when Andrew Jackson plays such a prominent role in the political fight over public memory, Stoltz demonstrates that Old Hickory's greatest military triumph was a contested battleground of myth and memory during his lifetime and remains so today. In lucid prose and with in-depth research, he reminds us that there is still much to learn about Jackson and his legacy."

- Mark R. Cheathem, author of Andrew Jackson, Southerner

"Joseph Stoltz's lucid, well-documented, and well-written account of how perceptions of Jackson's famous victory have changed over the years reveals a fascinating subject for both history buffs and academics to ponder. The author has bridged the diverse fields of military history and public opinion."

- Daniel Walker Howe, author of What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848

"Joseph Stoltz’s A Bloodless Victory engagingly reminds us how we forget and remember the past. Americans have reexamined, reinterpreted, and revised the history of Andrew Jackson’s glorious victory at New Orleans, and this book rescues the study of this important battle by forcing readers to look at the ways people presently think about themselves."

- Gene Allen Smith, author of The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

"Memorialization of history: a hot political topic today, but not a new phenomenon. In this timely book surveying the Battle of New Orleans, Joseph F. Stolz III superbly illustrates how Andrew Jackson fashioned a political career and a new party, the Democrats, on the back of his military success."

- John McCavitt, coauthor of The Man Who Captured Washington: Major General Robert Ross and the War of 1812

"Stoltz skillfully walks readers through two hundred years of history and memory. Far more than a battle history, A Bloodless Victory's wide scope weaves together culture, art, literature, politics, memorialization, and material culture to show how a moment of national military triumph worked its way into many facets of American life. Stoltz has crafted a highly readable and engaging study of how historical meaning is created, fought over, and remade."

- Philip Levy, author of George Washington Written Upon the Land: Nature, Memory, Myth, and Landscape

Reviews

"In A Bloodless Victory, historian Joseph F. Stoltz III investigates the different ways white Americans created, contested, and eventually monetized public memory of the Battle of New Orleans. He explores the ways in which narratives are created and recreated and how selective memory of events changes with new political contexts... I applaud Stoltz for his ability to take on such a large topic in such a short space"

- Patrick Blythe, Seminole State College of Florida - H-Net Reviews

"Stoltz's book is a comprehensive study of the battle of New Orleans's presence in the American historical imagination and will serve as the definitive book on the topic."

- Thomas A. Chambers, Niagara University - Journal of Southern History

"Well researched and presented in clear, precise, and robust prose, Stoltz's engaging read reminds us that interpretations of history are often subject to the eyes of the beholder."

- Samuel C. Hyde Jr., Southeastern Louisiana University - Journal of American History
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Books on the War of 1812
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