This is a book about two generals during the War of 1812: Andrew Jackson, who led the American Army at the Battle of New Orleans, and his British opponent, Sir Edward Pakenham. Benton R. Patterson writes about both menís biographies, but he also studies what brought them to be leading armies against each other. Jackson would survive the war and go on to become President of the United States, while Pakenham would die and be nearly forgotten.
Patterson admits he had an easier time writing about Jackson, because there are many sources for him to draw on about him; there are not nearly as many for Pakenham. Some of the material on Pakenhamís personal life originates from a biography pamphlet by a relative of his, Valerie Pakenham.
Patterson keeps the reader enthralled in the story of these two men and their times. Pakenham was related by marriage to the Duke of Wellington and also served with him in Spain and Portugal. Patterson tells the stories about Napoleon and of his coming to power in France and his invasions of Europe, and he also writes about why the Americans decided to go to war with one of the great powers of that day, Great Britain. He tells what the American Army and Navy did when war was declared and how they most of the time failed. Many times militias and others would not obey or cooperate with their generals. Sometimes the generals were the problem. If the Americans had been better organized, they could have successfully invaded Canada and won control of that part of the British Empire.
General Andrew Jackson ended up being one of the better and more charismatic American generals, who ended up winning a battle that in the end was not needed since the war was over - but since it took a long time to get news to far distances, the two opposing armies were unaware of that fact.
General Sir Edward Pakenham was sent to take command of an army that was already positioned near New Orleans and was being manipulated by the Navy Admiral who was commanding the British Fleet in that area. Pakenhamís ship and other ships carrying more troops were behind schedule, and the Admiral could not wait to get his hands on New Orleans. The Admiral was hoping to become the governor of New Orleans when it was captured, and also to profit materially and financially from his new position. The British were already skirmishing with the Americans and being pinned down by them. The Americans had built major fortifications and defenses which the British could not overcome.
There are illustrations, some of which are drawings, with maps in the front of the book. There are endnotes, a bibliography and an index. Benton Rain Patterson is a former staff writer and editor for the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Times. He is emeritus associate professor of journalism at the University of Florida and the author of With the Heart of a King (2007), Washington and Cornwallis (2004), Harold and William (2004), and A Reporterís Interview with Jesus (2000).
The Generals is highly recommended to those interested in the War of 1812, especially the Battle of New Orleans, and those interested in Andrew Jackson.