Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans

Winston Groom, Author . Knopf $26 (292p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4436-8

Groom is a novelist (Forrest Gump ) and popular historian, with a string of well-reviewed books on war (e.g., Shrouds of Glory ). A diligent researcher, he nevertheless has no pretensions as a scholar. His strength is a remarkable ability to recreate and revitalize events long considered familiar. He's best at structuring his narrative around personalities, and the Battle of New Orleans offers him a colorful cast. Andrew Jackson was a backwoods politician wearing the epaulettes of a general. Smuggler and buccaneer Jean Laffitte rejected a British bribe to become an American patriot. Around them coalesced a hard-bitten army. Five thousand regular soldiers and militiamen from Tennessee and Kentucky; free blacks and Creole aristocrats; displaced Acadians; gunboat sailors and pirates turned artillerymen—all confronted twice their number of British, most of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. At stake was New Orleans and the Mississippi River basin: the developing heartland of an expanding nation. Groom is defensibly hyperbolic in describing Jackson's unexpected victory as the wellspring of a pride and patriotism that endured into the 20th century. His vivid account of how that victory was won merits a place in both public and private collections. Photos, maps. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 03/13/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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