Few people know that January 8th was once a national holiday. And today, you would not find very many people who even know why that date was important in American history.
Because it was on January 8th, 1815, that the United States survived and became more than just an experiment in democracy. It has been called the second day of independence.
Some people think that the Battle of New Orleans that ended with an American victory on January 8th, 1815 was unnecessary. They say that the Treaty of Ghent was already signed, making the war over.
Well the treaty was not yet ratified by the Senate to make it official. In fact, the government had fled Washington months before, due to the British invasion. If the British had captured New Orleans, the treaty would have been meaningless.
An interesting side note: the British did not recognize the Louisiana Purchase. And in fact, according to the Constitution, it was not a legitimate territorial acquisition. For a territory to become part of the United States, the citizens have to vote and approve it. And Napoleon did not have the authority to sell it to the US, because the former treaty between France and Spain, was that if the territory was ever abandon by the French, it would have to revert back to Spanish territory. So the only ones in the world who recognized Louisiana and everything west of the Mississippi as US territory at the time, was the United States. And since Napoleon was now gone, probably no other country recognized US sovereignty over Louisiana.
And if England had won New Orleans and held the territory, it would pretty much have been over for the United States. It is doubtful the remaining country would have held together. The northeastern states did not want the War of 1812 because they had trade and business dealings with Great Britain. The Hartford Convention in late 1814 was an attempt by them to succeed from the United States and form their own separate government and country. And we already had the rumblings of succession in the southern states, but that would be delayed for 45 years.
So the United States had everything to lose if the larger and more experienced Royal Army had made it over Jackson's line on the plain of Chalmette.
As much as we can hate Andrew Jackson for the Indian Removal in the 1830s, he is the one who saved this country at New Orleans in 1815. If not for him, our country would not be here. He had the leadership and determination to take charge and command a rag-tag army to defend against the army who had just beaten Napoleon. No one else would have done it. If not for him, today we would probably have Queen Elizabeth on our twenty dollar bills.
(Below: the congressional medal given to Jackson for his victory in New Orleans.)
After the Civil War, the country stopped celebrating January 8th. It was afterall, the only holiday we had that celebrated a battle and military victory, during a time when our country was divided by war and weary of fighting. It is interesting that unlike other nations, we do not have holidays that celebrates a military victory. We do not celebrate the Battle of Midway, or Gettysburg. We stop and celebrate the Battle of Yorktown or Lexington. We do not even have a holiday to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany or Japan.
If the Battle of New Orleans was the only holiday we ever had that did celebrate a military victory, then maybe it was important?