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Movements of Fabio Jackson the Defaulter Before His Arrest
On March 15, 1767, Andrew Jackson was born at the Waxhaw settlement, a hamlet of Scotch-Irish immigrants on the border between North and South Carolina. Though his birthplace was contested, he identified as a South Carolinian. Andrew’s father died before his birth, and his mother and three young sons moved live with Crawford relatives. Jackson attended local schools, where he received an elementary education and possibly a scattering of higher schooling.
Jackson’s childhood was cut short by the Revolutionary War, which also wiped off his remaining immediate family. Fighting in the Carolina backcountry was particularly brutal, with ambushes, massacres, and fierce clashes. Hugh Jackson, Jackson’s eldest brother, joined in a patriot unit and died of heatstroke at Stono Ferry.
Andrew and his brother Robert fought with American irregulars because they were too young for formal soldiering. They were kidnapped in 1781 and acquired smallpox, which killed Robert shortly after their release. Andrew’s mother became ill and died while attempting to collect some nephews from a British prison ship.
Jackson, an orphan and a hardened veteran at the age of fifteen strayed, taught school briefly, and then studied law in North Carolina. He accepted an opportunity to serve as a public prosecutor in the new Mero District of North Carolina, west of the mountains, with its seat at Nashville on the Cumberland River after being admitted to the bar in 1787. Jackson prospered in the new frontier town after arriving in 1788. He established a legal profession, began trading, and began to buy land and slaves.
Marriage And Political Ascension
He also dated Rachel Donelson Robards, the lively daughter of Nashville’s founder, the late John Donelson. The Donelson’s were a well-known Nashville family. Rachel was married but divorced from Lewis Robards of Kentucky. She and Jackson began living as man and wife in 1791.
After Robards obtained a divorce in Kentucky, they married formally in 1794. These circumstances haunted Jackson during his presidential bids when opponents accused him of bigamy and his wife stealing. Jackson’s supporters then claimed that he and Rachel thought she was divorced and free to remarry in 1791, although this is doubtful.
Whatever the technicalities were at the time, frontier Nashville saw nothing wrong with their relationship. Rachel’s marriage to Robards was already irreparably destroyed, and Jackson was a promising young man. Andrew and Rachel’s marriage was a wonderful love match from the start. The pair was profoundly in love with one another and remained so throughout their lives.
Jackson’s spectacular ascension in Tennessee politics spoke to his character strength. He served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1795, then as Tennessee’s first representative, and finally as a senator. After one year in the Senate, he resigned to become a judge on Tennessee’s superior court.
He ran against Governor John Sevier for the position of major general in command of the state military in 1802. Sevier, Jackson’s older by more than two decades, was a veteran of the Revolution and several Indian campaigns, as well as the state’s dominant politician. Jackson defeated him for the generalship, but the fallout led to a brawl in Knoxville’s streets, followed by dueling preparations.
A Fickle Temper
The Sevier feud was only one of Jackson’s many heated feuds. Jackson’s fiery temper, prickly sense of honor, and sensitivity to insult landed him in a flurry of fights and brawls. The most renowned of these incidents, which occurred in 1806, began with a minor misunderstanding over a horse race and culminated in a pistol battle between Jackson and Charles Dickinson.
Dickinson, a skilled shooter, opened fire first, striking Jackson in the chest. Jackson showed no signs of pain as he stood his position, aimed accurately, and killed his adversary. For the rest of his life, Jackson carried Dickinson’s bullet. Later, in 1813, during a break in his military service during the War of 1812, Jackson engaged in a street altercation with the Benton brothers, Jesse and Thomas Hart, in Nashville. There, he took a bullet that nearly killed him.
Jackson was fearless in battle and loyal to his friends. Nonetheless, these brawls defined him as an aggressive and dangerous guy, and they hampered his political advancement. Jackson resigned as a judge in 1804 and concentrated his energy on his militia leadership and economic endeavors. He traded in the land, bought slaves, raised and raced horses, and sold merchandise. In 1804, he purchased The Hermitage, a cotton estate outside of Nashville, where he and Rachel spent the rest of their lives.
The Path To War
Jackson’s political career seems to have ended in his forties. He desired military activity rather than a higher office. Potential adversaries were everywhere: Indian tribes still lurking near Tennessee’s borders, their Spanish enablers in Florida and Mexico, and, above all, Jackson’s old adversary, the British.
Jackson’s desire for adventure led him to contact Aaron Burr when the latter passed through Tennessee in 1805 in search of troops for his dark conquest designs. Jackson escaped from Burr in time to avoid treason charges, but he was still hungry for the field. With increasing wrath, he observed Presidents Jefferson and Madison’s failed efforts to obtain restitution from Great Britain for its abuses of American sovereignty and interests.
The United States ultimately declared war on Great Britain in June 1812. In November, a Tennessee force was sent to defend New Orleans. Jackson marched 2,000 men to Natchez, where he got a brief War Department telegram discharging his troops without pay or provisions. Jackson held the command together for the journey home on his own authority. On this march, his willingness to share his men’s hardships earned him the moniker “Old Hickory.”
Indian hostilities eventually ended Jackson’s inaction in the fall of 1813. More than 400 whites had been slain by warlike Creeks known as “Red Sticks” at Fort Mims in Mississippi Territory (now southern Alabama). Jackson led a force of Tennesseans and allied Indians far into Creek territory, where he engaged in a series of battles. Jackson annihilated the main Creek force in the decisive battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814.
The campaign broke the Creeks’ resistance and overpowered the other Southwestern tribes, including those who had fought alongside Jackson. Jackson negotiated treaties in which the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees relinquished millions of acres of territory in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and west Tennessee during the next few years.
A Hero Is Born
Following his remarkable performance as a militia commander, Jackson was appointed as a United States major general and given charge of the southern frontier in May 1814. The British were contemplating an attack on New Orleans, which served as a crucial entryway to the American interior. Jackson gathered a motley band of regulars, volunteers, militia, free blacks, and pirates to stop them.
The British made landed and advanced to within a few miles of the city, where Jackson had reinforced a line spanning the Mississippi River. British General Sir Edward Pakenham conducted a frontal assault on Jackson’s position on January 8, 1815. Some inexperienced Americans fled on the west side, while Jackson’s forces mowed down the oncoming enemy with artillery and rifle fire on the east bank. British casualties topped 2,000; Jackson lost thirteen men killed, fifty-eight wounded, and one missing.
The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, had been signed two weeks previously, so the combat had no effect on the outcome. Nonetheless, this great victory, with its high fatality ratio and thrilling image of American frontiersmen fighting experienced British soldiers, entered national folklore almost immediately. Jackson rose to national acclaim, second only to George Washington in the national pantheon.
After the war, Jackson continued in the regular army. He received orders late in 1817 to subjugate the Seminole Indians who were rampaging over the border from Spanish Florida. Jackson swiftly conquered Florida by liberally interpreting his broad instructions.
He took its fortifications at St. Marks and Pensacola and arrested, tried, and killed two British nationals accused of aiding the Indians. Foreign ambassadors and some lawmakers requested that Jackson be denounced and punished for his unauthorized invasion, but President James Monroe stayed fast at the urging of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Whether predicted or not, Jackson’s move benefitted American interests by pressuring Spain to relinquish Florida in an 1819 treaty.
For years, a private dispute raged between Jackson, Monroe, and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun about whether Jackson had indeed exceeded orders. It finally erupted in 1831, resulting in a political schism between then-President Jackson and Vice President Calhoun.
In 1821, Jackson resigned his army service and was appointed governor of the newly formed Florida Territory. He presided over the transfer of sovereignty from the Spanish, then resigned and returned to Tennessee, where his friends planned to run him for president in 1824.
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