In America, there’s always a second act — even when we get beat like the proverbial drum in the first part of the play. That’s demonstrated anew by the dedication by the National Park Service of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.
It is, appropriately, a commemoration of the War of 1812 battles in the region of Washington, D.C. The Chesapeake was a natural waterway of invasion for the Royal Navy, and the British made the most of it.
At Bladensburg, now a suburban strip-mall area of the nation’s capital, the Anacostia riverfront is part of the new trail. Ironically, it was there that American militia made a last-ditch stand against the British on a famous occasion when we lost, big time: The militiamen were routed in what observers called the Bladensburg races.
Thanks to Dolley Madison, the portrait of General Washington in the White House was preserved, but the White House and other official buildings were burned by the victorious British army, following on the heels of the fleeing Americans.
There is a little victory in this story, as the defense of Fort McHenry in nearby Baltimore led to the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner, a poem later set to music as our national anthem.
In Louisiana, we certainly want to encourage national commemoration of the War of 1812, in part — we say smugly — because we have a victory to celebrate, the defense of New Orleans in late 1814 and January 1815.
Despite budget cuts to state tourism accounts, we hope that Louisiana will make an effort to publicize the forthcoming commemorations of the War of 1812 here.
After all, we won one, albeit the battle was fought before it was known that a peace treaty ended the conflict of two centuries ago.