Battle of New Orleans



This unit explores historical interpretations of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 through secondary sources, both written and graphic. Students will use verbal, observatory, and writing skills to analyze both written documents and paintings. They will then read a historical account of the battle and as a group decide what the writers and artists got right and wrong about the battle. (Thanks to Becky Verner, Metro Public Schools, for her ideas on the image and written word assessment development as well as finding the original documents.)

Guiding Questions

  1. How did people in the past, before photography and film, learn about important historical events?
  2. Why did the battle near New Orleans capture the interest of the American public?
  3. Does the battle warrant the interest of people at that time and later in history?
  4. How can an event/person become a symbol for something bigger?


Students will understand:
  • Conflict can have significant costs/benefits for both the winners and losers.
  • Governments use a range of methods (both violent and nonviolent and both overt and covert) to maintain their power.
  • One event has a ripple effect on other events.
  • The symbolic value of language and images may far exceed their actual importance.


Explain to your students that Andrew Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 captured the imaginations of Americans and made him a national hero. During this war, the British had burned Washington D.C., including the White House and the U.S. Capitol. Jackson's victory at New Orleans was greeted with jubilation and pride by Americans. It was said that the U.S. had won a second war of Independence against England. Tell them today they are going to look at ways Americans celebrated that victory.
  1. Provide students with a copy of the lyrics of Johnny Horton's recording of the Battle of New Orleans while allowing them to listen to the MP3 of the song. Allow students to discuss the lyrics and visual images. [Under U.S. copyright law, teachers can play copyrighted songs and video in their classrooms as part of teaching activities. The Tennessee State Museum has provided this MP3 only to be used in this manner.]
  2. Pass out the written word worksheet and have the students fill out the questions about the Horton song. Then pass out copies of "Hunter's of Kentucky" and the "Battle of New Orleans" poem. Ask the students to answer the questions on the worksheet about those two works.
  3. Pass out the worksheet on images to all students and copies of the three painting/drawings of the battle. Ask them to look carefully at each image and then fill out the worksheets.
  4. Print out or project, in order, images, I, II, III. Have the students look at each image and then fill out their worksheet, answering the questions. Leave each image up until all students are finished. Then, as a class, go over the images and have the students point out the various things they noted in each painting.
  5. Ask the students to read the battle description provided.
  6. Starting with the image worksheet, go over each one with the students and have them point out what the artist got wrong and right about the battle. Then do the same with the written word sheets. (Talking points for teacher included.)


Give students a copy of the Battle of New Orleans drawing (IV) or project it on the board. Ask the class to identify what is right and what is wrong about the image.
  • The officer shown in the middle, probably Jackson, would not have been standing up where he could have easily been shot.
  • The American soldiers included frontiersmen, regular soldiers, and blacks. This is accurately shown although there are no accounts indicating that the blacks only reloaded the guns.
  • Accounts indicate that the barrier the Americans built was made from mud and dirt at the site, not cotton bales.
  • The British attacked across a field from the Americans. This drawing makes it seem that they were attacking from the river.
  • The ships, from which puffs of smoke can be seen, were not involved in the fight.


  • Have students conduct web searches related to the War of 1812 and the Treaty of Ghent. Would the Treaty of Ghent have been rescinded or cancelled in light of a British victory? Why or why not? Would American westward expansion been possible if the British had won the Battle of New Orleans? Why or why not?
  • Some historians have said the legacies of the War of 1812 include: 1) a sense of American nationalism, 2) setting the stage for Manifest Destiny (American expansion) to take place, and 3) paving the pathway to national politics or more specifically, the presidency, for individuals such as Andrew Jackson. (William Henry Harrison and John Tyler also earned their national reputations during the War of 1812.) Assign students to research these issues and report on why or why not they think the War of 1812 affected these issues.


Tennessee State Standards
  1. 8.5.4 Recognizes causes and consequences of conflicts.
  2. 2. 8.5.11 Identify conclusions about historical events using primary and secondary sources.
  3. 3. 8.6.1 Identify the impact of individual and group decisions on historical events.
  4. 4. 8.6.2 Recognize the impact groups have on change at the local, state, national, and world levels.

National History Standards:
Standard 3D: The student understands the interactions among all these groups throughout the history of his or her state.
Grade Level
Therefore the student is able to:
Analyze the significance of major events in the state's history, their impact on people then and now, and their relationship to the history of the nation. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]