Thursday, May 10, 2012
War of 1812 Bicentennial
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 – a proud moment for our country and for Mississippi.
Events planned for the bicentennial will pay tribute to this early war that served as the backdrop for the writing of our national anthem. During the Battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” as he watched the pivotal defense of Fort McHenry.
Although the War of 1812 predates Mississippi’s statehood, the old Natchez Trace played an important role in the conflict, which lasted from 1812 to 1815.
In fact, its legacy as a vital military highway during the war is a major reason we have the national parkway today. The three-year bicentennial celebration presents a great opportunity to honor this unique part of Mississippi’s history and one of our national treasures.
In the Name of Freedom
The War of 1812 is best described as a war fought between the United States and Great Britain over freedom of the seas. British warships made a practice of seizing American ships and capturing American sailors, which was a direct cause of the conflict.
The grievances would impel our country to make its first declaration of war on June 18, 1812. The skill of the young U.S. Navy soon proved to the British that America was ready and capable of defending her freedom. In many ways, the often-overlooked War of 1812 affirmed America’s newfound sovereignty and the strength of our sea power.
A Critical Transportation Route
But the home front was a significant part of the war effort, too, as the service of the Natchez Trace confirms. The thoroughfare – one of the oldest trails in North America and long used by Native Americans and settlers – became a critical route for transporting troops, supplies, and information from Tennessee settlements to the Gulf Coast. Many soldiers died during the strenuous marches and were buried along the Trace, making it a cemetery of the war’s patriots.
General Andrew Jackson famously used the Natchez Trace to lead his troops to and from the Battle of New Orleans, where he commanded American forces to victory in the war’s last major battle. It is said the future President earned the nickname “Old Hickory” during a journey along the corridor after a soldier remarked that Jackson was as tough as hickory wood.
Bringing History to Life
Today, the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville to Natchez is a popular scenic drive for residents and visitors in our region. Celebrating the War of 1812 bicentennial is a way to ensure that the cherished historic route remains a living testament to the trials and triumphs of America’s early days and the heroes who kept our country free.
The National Park Service, Natchez Trace Parkway Association, and the 7th U.S. Infantry Living History Association are coordinating events to bring this heritage to life. The first event, “Muster on the Natchez Trace: Prelude to the War of 1812,” will be held May 26-27 at the Gordon House Historic Site in Tennessee. More than 100 reenactors will take part in re-creating a muster day on the eve of war, when regular and militia units would meet to train. Mississippi and Alabama also are planning to host events over the next three years. More information about the War of 1812 bicentennial and the Natchez Trace can be found online at www.nps.gov/natr.
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