Tag Archives: Mississippi River

Book Recommendation: Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans

jackson book cover

by Rick Bretz

Before the people voted Andrew Jackson President, he was a lawyer, self-made business man and a commanding officer and general of a United States military unit.   The book “Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans” with the subtitle, “The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny”  by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager concentrates on a short time period in  Jackson’s career but important to his future nonetheless.  The subtitle concerns the vital geographic New Orleans port and the Mississippi River in that they were both vital to westward expansion.  The outcome went a long way toward the United State’s goal of forging a strong voice in international relations.

This is the third book by the co-authors.  The others, “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates”, and “George Washington’s Secret Six” used the same strategy as this one, zooming in from a satellite’s view of America’s history and the Jackson legacy to give the reader a pinpoint, telescoped examination of an important battle at the end of the War of 1812 with Britain.  These short, 200 or so page books will not give a reader a wide sweeping view of subject but a slice in time or an event important to the United State’s history.  The authors are putting together the history puzzle one piece at a time.

The General

Jackson’s personality and leadership style brought results.  The book shows how Jackson, without any formal training, intuitively understood battle tactics and how to use the terrain to his maximum benefit.  He could make decisions in the middle of a battle but took advice when it was clear someone else in the command had a better idea, and that included the suggestions of a privateer or pirate, depending on one’s  assessment, Jean Lafitte.  He understood how to motivate his men and how to relate to the people of New Orleans during social functions.


The authors do a good job of outlining the British plan of attack leading up to the Battle of New Orleans.  The British commanders made several mistakes at the beginning that helped Jackson’s cause.  However, Jackson’s ability to forecast the British Navy and Army’s avenues of attack was as much a factor in the victory as was the British commander overconfidence in taking on solders, Native Americans, Pirates and volunteers from several states in the area.  It was a mixed recipe of anyone Jackson could muster but General Jackson made the Army a personality of one, his.  That personality was tough, resourceful, with a boiling and deep hatred of the British Army from his childhood years due to events that caused the death of his family members.

The books also gives detailed descriptions of the swampy lands in the bayou that both sides of the war had to maneuver through to build defenses and a launch point for an attack.  The challenges presented by the New Orleans terrain was in contrast to the problems the diplomatic team had in Britain when negotiating a truce.  The snail’s pace communication presented difficulties in know who had the upper hand when ironing out details of a peach agreement.  They didn’t want to negotiate a peace with New Orleans in British hands. For as the book points out, the New Orleans port and control of the Mississippi River was key to America’s Westward expansion and a victory over the British invading force for a second time meant increased prestige to the World’s countries looking on a young United States.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles And The Sea

by Rick Bretz

A look back at transportation modes throughout history tells us that when using new technology is left to humanity, moving from one place to another can bring joy or pain.  The horse could carry someone coming back to see their family or someone to conquer their homelands.  A plane can bring needed supplies like the Berlin Airlift or drop bombs bringing devastation as the world saw at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Civilization has sought to contract space and time so now a person or country’s military can move across the globe in a few hours or days.

Grand Canyon in Winter
Grand Canyon in Winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Driving across a country also gives the passenger a different perspective than say flying and looking down at the same landmark or land mass.  Driving and stopping makes the experience more personal while flying and looking down presents someone with a spectacular view but distant.

Two perfect examples of two different personal experiences are flying over the Mississippi River or the Grand Canyon before landing at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  The two land marks look awe-inspiring from your window seat in the airplane but seem are breathtaking when driving and seeing them up close, especially when you consider where you cross the Mississippi River. Let’s compare are primary ways to get from point A to Point B.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...
First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Sea Travel

First True Automobile (Internal Combustion Engine) 1885/1886 (Karl Benz) 1804-First Steam Locomotive for the road hauled freight in Wales 1903-Wright brothers achieve sustained flight flying a properly   engineered aircraft in NC 4000BC-First sailing boats built from reeds in Egypt.
Steam Engine Auto (1769) 1825-The Stockton and Darlington Railroad company hauls freight and   passengers over 9 miles using George Stephenson steam locomotive for tracks 1904 First airplane maneuvers (Turn and Circle) Wright Brothers) 1000BC-Vikings build long ships using oarsmen.
Electric Carriage (1832-1839) 1826-Col John Stevens demonstrates the feasibility of steam   locomotives on experimental track in Hoboken, NJ. 1905 First Airplane Flight over a half hour (33 minutes, 17 seconds) Orville   Wright 1100AD-Chinese build junks with watertight compartments and strong   sails using a rudder to steer.
1886 (First Four Wheeled, four Stroke Engine) Daimler/Maybach 1830-Peter Cooper operates the first American built steam locomotive   on a common carrier railroad. 1908-First Airplane fatality Lt. Thomas Selfridge, US Army Signal   Corps. During evaluation flight propeller hit bracing wire. 1400s-Three and Four Mast ships introduced for cargo transportation,   military power, and passenger travel
1876-1895 George Baldwin Seldon combine internal combustion engine   with carriage 1857-George Pullman invents the Pullman sleeping car. The first   comfortable overnight sleeper. 1910- First licensed woman pilot. Baroness Raymonde de la Roche who   learned to fly in 1909. 1819-First Steam ships used to cross Atlantic using steam and wind   power.
1893-Charles and Frank Duryea set up first Car manufacturing company 1881-Mary Walton receives patent for an elevated train noise   dampening system. 1914-First Aerial combat between German and allied pilots 1845-First ocean-going liner using engine power and propeller driven built
1908-Henry Ford introduces Model-T 1855-First land grant railroad completed, The Illinois Central 1910-First Flight from shipboard 1914-Panama Canal opened
1913-Ford Motor Company perfects moving assembly line 1856-First Railway bridge across the Mississippi completed between   Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa 1927-First solo nonstop transatlantic flight (Charles Lindbergh) 1825-Erie Canal Opens
1921-Italy constructed first limited access road (Auto Strada) 1932-German   Bonn-Cologne Autobahn Constructed, 1922-First Blue Print for US National   Highway System, 1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act allocating funds for   extensive US Highway System. 1862-President Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act authorizing the   construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad 1929-First blind flight using instruments. Took off and landed using   instruments. (James Doolittle) 1811-First steamboat used on Mississippi River.
1938-1940-Merritt Parkway opened as first US fully controlled access   parkway (Barrier Toll Plazas) from Hartford to New York City. 1869-The Central Pacific and Union Pacific meet at Promontory Summit,   Utah for the driving of the Gold Spike. 1932-First woman to fly transatlantic solo. (Amelia Earhart) 1900-First cruise ship, the Prinzessin Victoria Louise, built for the   Hamburg America Line, begins moving passengers using 120 first class cabins.
1899-First Speeding infraction in NYC committed by Cad Driver going   12 MPH in 8 MPH zone. 1872-George Westinghouse patents the first automatic air brake. 1933-First round-the-world solo flight (Wiley Post) April 15, 1912-RMS Titanic Sinks crossing the Atlantic
1868-First Traffic Light used in London operated by Gas Lamps 1970-Congress passes the Rail Passenger Service Act creating Amtrak 1952-First Jet Liner Service between London and Johannesburg, South   Africa. (23 hours, 38 minutes) 2012-Oasis of the Seas, largest cruise ship in the world
1913 photograph Ford company, USA
1913 photograph Ford company, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have a favorite way to get to their destination.  What determines the final decision? A fellow traveler bases where to place his soul thinking about several factors–time, money, convenience and the fear of travelling by certain modes.  Phobias can play an important role when travelling, sometimes more than funding.  Beyond a person’s individual preferences, the comparison chart above shows that each form has benefited from the creativity, intelligence, courage, sacrifice and fortitude of many people to arrive where we are today.

Other Modes: Walk, Jog, Bicycle, Tricycle, Motorcycle, Scooter, roller-skate, inline skate, Skateboard, escalator, surfboard, swimming, snowmobile, four-wheeler, Riding Lawn Mower, Farm Tractor, Public Bus, Horse, Camel, Llama, Oxen, Donkey, Mule, space shuttle, space capsule, hang gliders, trolley cars.

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The Top Eight Wingmen

Let’s face it. If you are going out on the town,  you want to take the best guy who will have your back in case there is trouble.  The following is a list of the top eight “wingmen” that you would want to call on to help you take care of business.  In today’s terms, they would be people, who if they cut you off when driving, you would just let go, smile, and wave as if to say, “That’s OK, anytime, it’s your world and I’m just trying to get along in it.”  On the other hand, if you needed a wingman for a night out, these people would be your “go-to” guys.  For any misunderstanding, they would make the offending people “understand.”

During Teddy Roosevelt’s  early years, especially after college, he became a tough guy.  He went out to the Dakota Territory in the late 1800’s to start a ranch.  During that time, he learned to ride a horse well and went on hunting trips.  One story from the book, “TR: The Last Romantic”, notes that he tracked down

Theodore Roosevelt in 1885 with his highly-dec...
Theodore Roosevelt in 1885 with his highly-decorated deer-skin hunting suit, and Tiffany-carved hunting knife and rifle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

some thieves over several days who stole some of his property by following them down a cold river.  He caught them, brought them back to town so the authorities could deal with them.  He took on big business monopolies, corruption in government, and when they told him it was impossible to build a canal, he did it anyway. He also was a big game hunter and explored Africa with his son fighting off disease and other hazards associated with trekking off deep into the jungle.  He’s at the top of the list also because his sons were tough also.  By awarding Teddy Roosevelt the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his actions on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War, he is one of only two father/son combinations to earn the Medal of Honor. (The other being General Arthur MacArthur and General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur)  His son Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., earned a Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day while Allied Forces assaulted Utah Beach. He said about diplomacy, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  That means, he’ll reason with you to a point but after that back up. He was a tough guy, but also was a prolific writer and the Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for settling the Russo-Japanese War.  So if you had President Roosevelt as a wingman along for night out, he could help you fight your way out of a situation or negotiate a way out also.

2. Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

Ghengis Khan monument, Terelj National Park
Ghengis Khan monument, Terelj National Park (Photo credit: Michael Foley Photography)
If Genghis Khan was on your trail, you are in big trouble.  The only way he is not number one is he is one of those guys that will always have you in a fight when you go out on the town.   There is no negotiating with this warrior. He was ruthless and took his mean streak out on the towns and villages he conquered by killing every man and young male in sight and then taking the women with him.  Researchers say that if you checked today’s citizens in the Far East and European regions he rode through during his salad days (I don’t think he ate much salad) for DNA samples, that 1 out of 500 people could be traced back to his gene pool. That’s a lot of riding. One of his more famous quotes as he formed his Mongol Empire is, “It is not sufficient that I succeed-all others must fail.”  So for today’s standards, he would go into a night club, drink everything, run everyone out of the place, and then have all the girls to himself.”  This guy had one purpose, take all of the money, the land, and pretty much everything he saw.
3. General and President George Washington (1732-1799)

The equestrian sculpture of George Washington ...

Several authors have covered the particulars about the Father of our Country.  Historians have documented and published his life several times.  This is about his worthiness to be a “Wingman” on a night out. Washington was tall measuring at 6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 2.  This meant that he was taller than most men at that time, height being an automatic intimidator. Washington also had a temper that he fought to control. He learned to keep his anger in check because he wanted to keep control and a clear mind when making decisions. Foremost in his mind, he thought that a Virginia man of status should conduct himself with the utmost integrity and demeanor.  A Wingman with a temper isn’t all bad.  He was courageous in battle and did not tolerate cowardice or anything less than bravery from his soldiers and leaders. He was also prepared to make tough decisions, like executing deserters to show his men that he would not tolerate undisciplined soldiers in his Army. Recently, in a British poll listing their greatest military enemies, George Washington came in first.  It’s been 229 years since the end of the Revolutionary War and the United Kingdom still ranks him above Napoleon and Hitler. Taking the colonies away from them has been a rock in their shoe for a long time. Forget about him being your wingman.  You would want to be his wingman on any excursion into the concrete jungle for that matter.
4. Chief Crazy Horse (1840-1877)

The Lakota Chief Crazy Horse gave the War Department fits during the western territory expansion in the middle 1800s.  Crazy Horse began stealing horses

Alleged photo of Crazy Horse of the Black Hill...
Alleged photo of Crazy Horse of the Black Hills Oglala Sioux. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
from the Crow tribe at the young age of 13.  He led his first war party before he was 20 years old.  Crazy Horse was known for his bravery in battle. He fought with Red Cloud to keep settlers out of Wyoming as well as many other battles during the nation’s westward expansion.  He was a fierce defender for the Lakota Indian way of life. He surrendered due to the decline in the Buffalo population which severely limited the food supply.  While he stayed in the United States to fight the US Army. his contemporaries, Sitting Bull and Gall, retreated to Canada.  Crazy Horse fought General Nelson Miles’ unit and eventually surrendered.  He was arrested for leaving the reservation to take his sick wife to her parents. General George Crook  thought he was getting a war party together. He was killed while being led to the guardhouse on the reservation by a soldier’s bayonet. Chief Crazy Horse is one fighter who you hate if you are on the other side.  If he’s on your side, however, you are thinking, “Well, we’re out numbered but we got Crazy Horse with us.  We got a good chance to make it out of here.”
5. Lt. General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller (1898-1971)
Marine Colonel Lewis B. Puller, right, who dis...
Marine Colonel Lewis B. Puller, right, who distinguished himself during the Inchon landing, studies the terrain before advancing to another enemy objective beyond Inchon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller was a Marine’s Marine. He once said, “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!” He was awarded five Navy Crosses for his actions in battle beginning in 1930 with the Haitian Campaign and ultimately receiving his last one for his actions during the Korean War in 1950.  He is the most decorated Marine in history. He was a tough Marine who didn’t like to retreat in battle.  He fought guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua.  He commanded units and fought alongside his men in the Pacific Theater in World War II as well as the Korean War.  There are many tough leaders and officers but Chesty Puller was a tough, take no prisoners, Marine wearing an officer’s uniform.  For that enlisted Marines loved him. In boot camp, recruits before hitting their bunks, “Good Night Chesty, wherever you are!” Yes, Lt. Gen can be my wing man any day.
6. King Leonidas I (Died August 480 BC)
Public monument of King Leonidas and the 300 S...
Public monument of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
King Leonidas is on the list for a couple of reasons. He was at the front of the force at the Battle of Thermopylae, taking on a far superior Persian Army with the purpose of wiping out Sparta.  Leonidas is also on the list because he was one of the few Spartan kings to successfully complete the public school for Spartan youth in order to qualify for Spartan citizenship.  This “school” was not the ordinary books, learning, and sitting by the fireside and chatting school.  This was more like a military beat you up so we can toughen you up, I wish this was over soon, school.  This school prepared young Spartan men for battle so that one of them could fight like 20 or 30 ordinary men.  They were taught tactics, weapons, hand to hand combat among other Spartan necessities.  At the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persian King Xerxes large Army, Leonidas brought 300 of his best Spartan soldiers along with and augmented force from other Greek city-states that numbered close to 7,000.  Xerxes Persian Army is believed to have been between 100-300 thousand strong.  Leonidas’ force held off the Persians for seven days while fighting for three of those days, inflicting a mass number of casualties on the Xerxes forces.  Leonidas and his forces made a historic last stand at the Thermopylae pass but were over run.  However, his forces taught the Greek City-States what could be accomplished if they joined forces in defense of their homeland. Any guy that can go through Spartan training has to be someone you need  at the local pub if you get in a jam.
7. President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
Andrew Jackson (1767 – 1845) English: Portrait...
Andrew Jackson (1767 – 1845) English: Portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States Deutsch: Andrew Jackson, siebter Präsident der USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Andrew Jackson, a self-taught, effective lawyer, did not like people sullying his reputation and honor. He was born near the border of South and North Carolina. He made his way to Tennessee. With a name like, “Old Hickory”, he had to be tough and he was. If someone made a disparaging remark toward him, Andrew Jackson would fight or challenge you to a duel.  He killed a man during a duel because  he utterred a slur against his wife, Rachel. He fought as a civilian and as a member of the military. He was a Major General during the War of 1812 and was a hero of the Battle of New Orleans.  He considered himself a representative of the average person.  He drank, fought and   it known to political leaders that they didn’t need to make a career of politics.  He was for a simple and stream lined government.  He also recommended the elimination of the Electoral College because he favored a democratic majority vote rules system.  Like another President, George Washington, he was tall, 6 foot, inch.  He was someone who liked to do it his way.  He would listen but the decision would be his and that would be the end of it.  If you crossed him at the local pub, you had better be prepared to throw punches or face off in a duel.

8. Colonel Jim Bowie (1796-1836)
SOG Bowie Knife
SOG Bowie Knife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He has a knife name after him.  That should be enough but he also volunteered to defend the Alamo along with several other people against General Santa Anna’s forces.  By all accounts, Colonel Bowie met his end at the Alamo while sick in bed.  He went out fighting.  He was firing at his attackers as they stormed his room.  He was also a brawler and fighter who didn’t hesitate to accept an impossible mission, the defense of the Alamo.  He is also on this list for another reason, David Bowie, the musician and singer, changed his last name from Jones to Bowie because he said; it was the “ultimate American knife.  It is the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions.’  You can’t argue with that.  Well, you could, but Col Bowie would have my “six.”

That’s my list.  If you have any one else you think needs to be on the list, or you want to leave a comment or suggestion, feel free to do so and I will respond.
On the Bench but a Phone Call Away
General “Black Jack” Pershing, Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Davey Crockett, General Chuck Yeager, All of the “Original Seven” in the Mercury Space Program (Scott M. Carpenter, Gordon L. Cooper, Jr*., John H. Glenn, Virgil I ‘Gus’ Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, and Donald K. ‘Deke’ Slayton)