Johnny Horton’s ‘Battle of New Orleans’ Was Based on an Old Irish Tune, Had a British Version
When the British and Americans met at the Battle of New Orleans, the War of 1812 was actually over but American General Andrew Jackson and British General Edward Pakenham had not been informed. When the two armies met at 5:00 AM on Sunday January 8, 1815, it only took a half hour for the Kentucky and Tennessee marksmen to cause over 2000 British casualties including General Pakenham. The American losses are generally reported as 8 killed and 13 wounded.
On the evening of the battle the Americans broke out fiddles and celebrated with an old Irish tune that they renamed "The Eighth of January" in honor of their victory. The melody was resurrected in 1950 by songwriter Jimmy Driftwood who added the words which we know as "The Battle of New Orleans." It became the number one song of 1959 when it was recorded by Johnny Horton.
Here's an interesting sidelight to this story: Johnny also recorded a version to be released in England in 1959 in which the British won. Talk about re-writing history! (You can hear that version by visiting the WKDQ Facebook page)