On January 8, 1815, Major General Andrew Jackson led a small, poorly-equipped army to victory against eight thousand British troops at the Battle of New Orleans. The victory made Jackson a national hero. Although the American victory was a big morale boost for the young nation, its military significance was minimal as it occurred after the signing (although before ratification) of the Treaty of Ghent that officially ended the war between the U.S. and Great Britain. The battle was fought before word of the Treaty reached the respective armies in the field. The anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans was widely celebrated with parties and dances during the nineteenth century, especially in the South.
Remember New Orleans I say,
Where Jackson show’d them Yankee play,
And beat them off and gain’d the day,
And then we heard the people say
Huzza! for Gen’ral Jackson.
A traditional fiddle tune commemorating the event came to be known as “Jackson’s Victory” or “Eighth of January.” Listen to a version of this tune played on fiddle and guitar by Bill and Jessie Robinson in the collection Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940 to 1941.
“Eighth of January.” Performed by Bill Robinson, fiddle, and Jesse Robinson, guitar; Recorded at Visalia FSA Camp, August 30, 1941. Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940 to 1941. American Folklife Center
In the 1940s, ethnographers Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin collected several versions of “Eighth of January” from migrant workers who had left the dust bowl of Oklahoma to work in California. It was a favorite tune for square dancing. Search the collection on the terms eighth of january for several more versions of the tune and one version of the words to the song as recalled by Mrs. Mary Sullivan.
In 1958, James Morris (Jimmy/Jimmie Driftwood) composed lyrics to the old tune and recorded it as “The Battle of New Orleans” (recorded on Jimmie Driftwood Sings Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs, Victor RPM 1635). In 1959, Johnny Horton recorded a version of Driftwood’s song, and the song rose to the top of the hit parade that year (recorded on Johnny Horton Makes History, Columbia 1478).
- Explore the Andrew Jackson Papers, one of twenty-three presidential collections in the Library’s Manuscript Division. The collection documents the many phases of Jackson’s life, including his military career, his transactions as a land-holder and businessman, his personal life, and his controversies with associates and strangers. Included is Jackson’s personal Account of the Battle of New Orleans.
- Read the text of a February 1815 House of Representatives resolution proposed to honor Major General Jackson and the men under his command at the Battle of New Orleans. In his resolution, Congressman Troup of Georgia commends Jackson for “illustrating the patriotic defence of the country with brilliant achievement, and signalizing the Americans by steady perseverence, incessant vigilance, patient suffering, undaunted firmness, and in victory moderation and clemency…” The resolution is found within the Annals of Congress, formally known as The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. The Annals cover the First Congress through the first session of the Eighteenth Congress, from 1789 to 1824, and are just one of the documentary history resources on the United States Congress found within A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation.
- Search on Andrew Jackson in America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets for more songs honoring Andrew Jackson such as “Huzza! for General Jackson” and “Old Hickory’s Days.”
- Listen to the “British Field March,” said to be the tune used by the British to retreat in the Battle of New Orleans. Search on the term Battle of New Orleans in the collection Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection to find both the audio version of this march and a transcription.
- See the profile of Andrew Jackson featured in the Miller Center’s American President External Web site.