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A presenter I met at IBAM, recently passed away. I was saddened by the news, but then recalled a lovely memory of him. John Gleeson was his name. He was professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He had developed the Celtic Studies Program there.

I was presenting from 4-5p.m. one year. He came early for his 5 o’clock presentation about Irish films. When we had time to talk, I quickly noticed how enthusiastic he was. He must have been a very good teacher. As we talked, I praised his brother, Frank. With good nature, he said, “I taught him everything he knows.”

I laughed at his joke. He knew I enjoyed the joke and he told it to me when we saw each other at other IBAM events.

 Rest gently, John.

Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans
    By Brian Kilmeade
Random House
On January 8, 1815, one of the most important events in American History happened. That event was the Battle of New Orleans. The American Republic was only 29 years old. Britain, the premier power in the world, hand never accepted that it had been forced to surrender at Yorktown. “The British had failed to respect American sovereignty.” They had impressed 5,000 American sailors into their navy. They encouraged Indian tribes to attack settlers.

After Napoleon’s defeat, a huge British fleet of 60 ships carried an invasion army that attached the United States. It defeated the American army and burned Washington D.C. The President’s mansion was so badly burnt that it later had to be painted white—hence White House.

The invasion fleet then sailed to Baltimore’s furiously shelled Fort McHenry. But the Fort did not surrender! During the bombardment, the “Star Spangled Banner” was written.

Then the British sailed south to the Caribbean to invade New Orleans. It looked like the British, with over 14,000 soldiers, could easily do this. Except they didn’t know that General Andrew Jackson was determined to outsmart them and defeat them. They laughed at Jackson and called in a “backwards Napoleon.”

Irish Americans can be very proud of Irish American Andrew Jackson. His family came from Larrick Fergus in Co. Antrium. And as Presbyterians they never forgot their cruel treatment by the Church of England. They joined the War for American Independence and were strong supporters of the future United States.
The exciting story is told by Brain Kilmeade. He writes with such energy that we constantly feel the excitement of the events.

Kilmeade is co-host on “Fox and Friends.” Born in 1964, he lives on Long Island with his wife and three children. During the War for Independence, the British invaded South Carolina. A British cavalry officer slashed young Andrew and scarred his forehead and hand. His mother and two brothers died during the war and teenage Andrew was raised by neighbors. “Great Britain had left him an orphan, and one day he would settle that score.”

As a young man, he moved to Tennessee, became a lawyer, a judge, and ran for Congress. He was then appointed to command the Tennessee militia. At the time of the Battle, Jackson was 48 and was “red-haired, blue-eyed, and a rangy, six-foot one.”

He was intensely strong-minded and resolute. He had “unrivaled courage, natural leadership, and uncanny battlefield instincts.” He didn’t even consider defeat.
Jackson understood the strategic importance of New Orleans. “New Orleans was the great gateway to and from the heart of the county. America’s inland waterway—the Ohio, the Missouri, and the numerous rivers amounted to an economic lifeline for farmers, trappers, and lumbermen. Flatboats and keelboats were a common sight, carrying manufactured goods from Pennsylvania, as well as crops, pelts, and logs.”

The army Jackson put together to defend New Orleans was typically American. There were no class or racial divisions. It included militiamen from Tennessee and Kentucky, Indians, freed slaves, woodsmen, French colonials, and pirates. The pirates were superb artillery men. A British general said, “In campaigns in Spain and France…he had never seen anything like the murderous accuracy of Jackson’s riflemen.”

In late December, 1814, Jackson learned that the British Army was setting up camp. He roared his promise, “By the Eternal, they shall not sleep on our soil.” He led his small army in a surprise attack. The British were routed and realized that taking New Orleans wouldn’t be so easy. There were several approaches to New Orleans. Jackson blocked several, forcing the huge 8,000 man British Army to attack on a narrow front. This made his 4,732 army roughly equal to the British.

Jackson positioned his men behind a canal and he had them build an earthen wall to fire from. He outsmarted and out fought the British. “Thanks to Jackson’s military instincts, his impeccable planning, and his ferocious leadership, America prevailed in the most important fight for its young life.”

A man of single religious faith, Jackson wished to give thanks to the “Ruler of All Events.” He has the Bishop of New Orleans to organize “a service of thanksgiving for the signal interposition of Heave in giving success to our arms.”

“Jackson took a seat under the alter for the chanting of The Dream.” After the service, he visited the Ursuline convent to thank the sisters for their all-night prayer vigil on the eve of the battle. The Mother Superior promised the Almighty an annual mass of thanks. And “to this day on January 8, the Ursuline nuns conduct a Mass of Thanksgiving” for the victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

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