1815 – The Battle of New Orleans takes place

In the annals of military pointlessness, few battles are quite as ridiculous as the Battle of New Orleans. It was fought 16 days after the official end of the War of 1812, of which it was a part, due to the fact that the peace treaty was signed in Europe, and the news took two months to reach America.

The Battle of New Orleans was important to later American history, though. It ended the war with a decisive American victory (in a war where neither side had managed to seize the advantage over the other), and it brought to prominence a commander named Andrew Jackson, who would later become the seventh President of the USA.

Referenced in:
I Ain’t Marching Anymore — Phil Ochs
Lydia the Tattooed Lady — Groucho Marx
The Battle of New Orleans — Johnny Horton

1839 – The Wreck of the Hesperus is inspired

“The Wreck of the Hesperus” is a narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which is based on the twenty ships that were lost in the Great Blizzard of 1839, which hit the New England coast of America on January 6 of that year. In particular, Longfellow is believed to have been inspired by the sinking of a ship named Favorite on that day.

In the poem, the Hesperus is wrecked when it dashed on a reef named Norman’s Woe, an actual reef on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, USA, much like the Favorite was.

Referenced in:
Lydia the Tattooed Lady – Groucho Marx

1939 – The New York World’s Fair opens

Dedicated to the promise of tomorrow, the New York City World’s Fair opened on Sunday, April 30, 1939. A crowd of more than two hundred thousand people braved the queues and the heat to investigate the attractions of the Fair. Many of the attractions were still not completed, but no one much cared. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the opening address, which many of the crowd watched on the two hundred television sets – television being a new invention at the time.

Best known for the iconic Trylon and Perisphere built especially for it, the World’s Fair ran from April to October in 1939 and 1940, closing its doors for good on October 27, 1940. It was the largest World’s Fair ever – even the 1964 World’s Fair, which was held on the same site, was not as large.

Referenced in:

Lydia the Tattooed Lady – Groucho Marx

1815 – Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo

So much in life depends on the slightest chances, and nowhere moreso than in war. The Duke of Wellington, who commanded the winning forces at Waterloo, later stated that the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life.

Napoleon commanded a French army 69,000 strong, while Wellington led a force consisting of 24,000 were British troops, with another 6,000 from the King’s German Legion, 17,000 Dutch troops, 11,000 from Hanover, 6,000 from Brunswick, and 3,000 from Nassau. Compared to Napoleon’s more disciplined and experienced force, Wellington’s was much less organised and coherent, especially the Prussian forces that were in the midst of a reorganisation.

But in the event, and despite the inevitable chaos and mischance of battle, the Anglo-Prussian Alliance was victorious. Defeat at Waterloo was the final reverse for Napoleon. From ruling most of Europe, he was reduced to a life lived in exile in St Helena, where he died six years later.

Referenced in:

Waterloo – ABBA
Waterloo – Iced Earth
Huogoumont – Judicator
Slattery’s Mounted Fut – Percy French
Lydia the Tattooed Lady – Groucho Marx