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December 24, 1814 and January 8, 1815.

I'm writing this brief blog to share our "War of 1812" exhibit in the Madison Exhibit Room. The 209th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans is today, January 8th; a decisive military victory for the United States.

This beautifully framed military commission and etching of James Madison was donated by Ronald Dickson in 2005.

The document opens with:

Know Ye. That reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Patriotism, Valour, Fidelity and Abilities of Bernard Henry I have nominated and by and with the Advice and Consent of the SENATE, do appoint him a Captain in the Flotilla  [in the-double scored out] Service of the United States.

Flotilla? Yes, that is what it reads. I did a little surface research and found that there was a Federal Statute, "Flotilla Service Act", that was passed April 16, 1814. This Act was a public law that established a temporary Mid-Atlantic Naval Auxiliary Service. British attacks on various strategic weapons storage areas and other sites was anticipated by American leaders, and this Naval Flotilla was preparatory move.

The commission was signed by President James Madison on December 24, 1814. The other signature on this commission looks like "Benjeman Hammond" "Acting Secretary of the Navy". I could not find his name in the listing of Secretaries of the Navy, though there was a Benjamin W. Crowninshield, however, that doesn't match what is on the document.

I thought the seal and embellishments were very interesting.

Also on December 24th 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the eldest son of King George, III. It took over a month for word of the treaty to reach the United States, however the British ambassador and the treaty did not arrive until February. Madison signed the treaty and exchanged ratified copies on February 17, 1815; officially ending the war.

The artifacts featured in this exhibit are military uniform buttons, collar stays, shot, and flints, also donated by Ronald Dickson in 2021.

Our attractive informational panels (below) were designed by Charles Brewer.


"The Decision for War" (left panel) was sponsored by The U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812, President General, Washington, D.C.

"The Second War of Independence" (right panel) was sponsored by The Virginia State Society of the National Society of The United Daughters of 1812.

January 8, 1815: The Battle of New Orleans was fought between the British Army under Major General Sir Edward Pakenham and U.S. General Andrew Jackson. Jackson had a much smaller number of troops, reinforced by over 2,300 militiamen from Kentucky, Native Americans and a number of enslaved men. They faced a superior force of approximately 8,000 well trained British soldiers, battle-hardened having already fought and defeated Napoleon Bonepart. The American victory was decisive, ending Britain's plans to invade the frontier. Much like George Washington and later Zachary Taylor, flung Jackson into national adulation and eventually, the presidency.


National Archives

Library of Congress

The National Park Service


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