Oh, the Folly of War
By Laurence M. Vance
“In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.”
The Battle of New Orleans ended with an American victory on January 8, 1815. The last major battle of the War of 1812, it made former congressman and future president Andrew Jackson a national hero.
The United States had declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. Of the five occasions when the United States issued a declaration of war (the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, & World War II), it was the closest vote in Congress to declare war.
The only thing that most Americans know about the War of 1812 is that the British burned the White House and Capitol building in August of 1814. I shudder to think how few Americans know that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
The Battle of New Orleans will no doubt be commemorated on this its 200th anniversary. But there is just one problem with the Battle of New Orleans: the War of 1812 was already over.
The peace treaty that ended the war between the United States and Great Britain was signed in the Flemish city of Ghent on December 24, 1814. But as Pierre Berton writes in his War of 1812: “It was as if no war had been fought, or to put it more bluntly, as if the war that was fought was fought for no good reason. For nothing has changed; everything is as it was in the beginning save for the graves of those who, it now appears, have fought for a trifle.”
And even worse, although the Treaty of Ghent was ratified by the British Parliament on December 30, 1814, and by the U.S. Senate on February 16, 1815, all hostilities should have ended on Christmas Day in 1814. But with no telephone, telegraph, or Internet, news of the treaty did not reach North America for several weeks.
Oh, the folly of war.
The British and American troops who participated in the Battle of New Orleans did not have to fight. The British and America troops who fought against each other in the Battle of New Orleans were not enemies. The British and American troops who were wounded while fighting in the Battle of New Orleans should not have suffered the loss of one drop of blood. The British and American troops who died in the Battle of New Orleans died in vain.
But even with the tremendous increase in knowledge and the advent of instantaneous global communication, the folly of war is still evident.
U.S. troops did not have to go and fight in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. The Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghans were not our enemies. Nothing that happened in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan was worth one drop of blood of one American soldier. Every U.S. soldier who died in a jungle in Vietnam, a desert in Iraq, or a villages in Afghanistan died in vain.
Young men should stay out of the military. The track record of the U.S. government is not good. American young men (and women) will be sent to fight unnecessary wars. They will falsely be told that some foreigner is their enemy. They will needlessly have to shed their blood. They will die in vain.
Oh, the folly of war.