Nicknames: King Mob, Old Hickory, The Hero of New Orleans, Sharp Knife
Years Lived: March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845 (78 years)
Place Born: Waxhaws region between North Carolina and South Carolina
Place Died: Hermitage, Davidson County, Tennessee
Family Origins: Scotch/Irish
Occupation: Lawyer, judge, Soldier, US Representative, US Senator, US President
Family: Andrew Jackson–father, Elizabeth Jackson (Hutchinson) –mother, Hugh Jackson–older brother, Robert Jackson–older brother, Rachel Jackson (Donelson) –wife, Andrew Jackson III–adopted son and step-nephew, Theodore–adopted Indian son, Lyncoya–adopted Creek Indian orphan, eight guardian children from his wife’s family
Andrew Jackson qualifies as a great man of history because of his audacious character, fortitude and quarrelsome personality (earning him the nickname of “Old Hickory”). He was not born as a man of means like other presidents prior to him but still managed to make his way to the highest office in American politics. He was an avid supporter of the United States and served as a great military leader. He also took part in many gun duels where he was shot near the heart once by Charles Dickinson. To the amazement of onlookers, Jackson just shook it off, took aim and dealt the fatal blow, killing his opponent.
Jackson was born near the North Carolina-South Carolina border on March 15, 1767 as the third born son of Irish immigrants. His father died at age 29 from an accident just 3 weeks before Andrew was born. The only early education Andrew received was from a local “old field” school that he attended off and on during his early youth.
At the age of 13 during the American Revolutionary War, Jackson joined a local militia and worked as a courier1. His eldest brother, Hugh, died after he took part in the Battle of Stono Ferry. Both Andrew and his remaining brother, Robert, were taken prisoner by the British and almost starved to death while they were in custody. Another time while in captivity, Jackson refused to clean the boots of British Major Coffin. Coffin then slashed at him with his sword, leaving deep cuts on Jackson’s left hand and head. This incident lead to Andrew’s severe hatred of the British. During their captivity, both Jackson brothers were afflicted with Smallpox. Just before their mother secured their release on April 27, 1781, Robert died from the disease. Andrew, however, soon recovered. His mother, Elizabeth, volunteered as a nurse and worked aboard several ships in the Charleston Harbor where there had been an endemic of cholera. She succumbed to the disease a little while after Jackson’s release from captivity leaving him the only remaining survivor of his family at age 14 1.
Jackson started his career as an attorney in North Eastern Tennessee. Even though his legal education was sparse, he still qualified to work as a country attorney on the rugged Appalachian frontier. Because he didn’t come from a family of acclaim, he had to make his own way in a rough and untamed world. At the young age of 20, he was appointed as the prosecutor of the Western District and held this position for the next 10 years.
When Tennessee became a state in 1796, Jackson was elected as one of its first Representatives. The following year, he was also elected as Tennessee’s Senator representing the Democratic-Republican Party. However, he resigned from his positions within a year. He achieved his third appointed position in 1798, this time serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court for the next 6 years.
In addition to his political career, Jackson was also successful in the civilian life, gaining prestige as a plantation owner, slave owner, land investor and merchant. After constructing a homestead and the first General Store in Galletin, Tennessee on 1803, he attained a 640 acre plantation near Nashville called the Hermitage. Within the next year, he added to his property, expanding his land area to a total of 1,050 acres. On the Hermitage, Jackson grew cotton by the means of slaves. By 1820, he owned as many as 44 slaves which later grew to 150 2, 3. Jackson was a major investor in land where he negotiated the sale of much of the acreage in Western Tennessee with the Chickasaw Indians in 1818. In 1819, Jackson was one of the 3 speculators who helped in the founding of Memphis, Tennessee 4.
Jackson’s prestigious military career began in 1801 when he was appointed as the commander of the Tennessee militia, receiving the rank of Colonel. The following year, he achieved the rank of Major General 5. In 1814, Jackson, with the help of several coalition Indian tribes, was a part of defeating the Red Stick Creek Indians during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Both Sam Houston and David Crockett served under Jackson during this conflict. As a result of this campaign, Jackson enacted the “Treaty of Fort Jackson” which opened up twenty million acres for European-American settlement in modern day Georgia and Alabama.
The one military campaign Jackson will always be remembered for is during the War of 1812 against England. While the British advanced on New Orleans, Jackson took charge of the US forces in the area. Among his soldiers, he was well liked and admired but was a very strict commander. He gained the reputation as being “tough as an old hickory wood” during battle, where he obtained the nickname “Old Hickory”. On January 8, 1815 during the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson’s 5,000 soldiers were severely outnumbered by 7,500 troops on the British side. However, at the end of the conflict, the British suffered 2,037 casualties, while the Americans only had 71. Jackson was revered as the “Hero of New Orleans”. In the French Quarter of New Orleans, a statue was erected in his honor. It depicts Jackson astride his horse that is reared up on its two hind legs. An interesting point here is that when a statue was made of a war hero that is on a horse reared on its hind legs, it means the hero died in the war. Jackson, however, lived on many years to serve the nation he loved 6.
In 1822, the Tennessee congress chose Jackson for president. At the same time, he was re-elected as US senator. During a long drawn out process, Jackson would be defeated by John Quincy Adams who would go on to become the sixth president of the US. The loss to the presidential office, however, sharpened Jackson’s political character. Many of his supporters viewed him as a “man of the people” who had been deprived the presidential title by the “corrupt aristocrats of the East”.
In 1825, Andrew Jackson stepped down from his Senate seat and fully pursued his objective to become the 7th President of the US. He re-established the old democratic-republican party, re-naming it the “Democratic Party” 7. With the support of the newly united party, Jackson easily defeated Adams in the 1828 election.
The campaign for the election was a personal one for Andrew Jackson. His opponents personally attacked his wife’s reputation, calling her a polygamist. Jackson had thought that Rachel’s divorce with her first husband had been finalized when they married in 1791. They had to “re-marry” in 1794 when Rachel and her first husband finally obtained a divorce 8. Although this was true, Jackson said he would forgive those who slighted him but he would never forgive those who offended his wife’s name. On December 22, 1828 just before his inauguration into office, Rachel suddenly died of a heart attack. Jackson placed the blame on John Quincy Adams because of his supporters incessantly ridiculing her 9. Rachel was buried on Christmas Eve.
Jackson became the first President to ever encourage the community to appear at the White house ball to commend his inauguration. As a result of this invitation, many of the poor citizens from the surrounding area attended in their homemade clothes. This crowd grew so large that Jackson’s security couldn’t keep them out of the White House. The mob rushed inside the immaculate halls and packed together, standing on anything they could in order to get a look at the new President. The throng had become so large that attendants had to pour beverages into tubs and place it on the lawn in order to lure people outside. Because of Jackson’s disorderly mass of people, he became known as “King Mob”.
Jackson won the 1832 election almost uncontested. Jackson was the first President to have an assassination attempt made on him. This happened just outside the US Capitol on January 30, 1835. Jackson was leaving a funeral as Lawrence, an unemployed man from England, aimed a pistol at him and fired. Fortunately, it malfunctioned. The attacker grabbed another pistol, which malfunctioned as well. It is thought that both guns misfired because of the humidity in the air 10. After Lawrence was subdued and disarmed by others present (including David Crockett), Jackson attacked him with his cane. Because of the public’s interest in this attack, an investigation was done regarding the two misfires. Both pistols were tested again and again. In every instance, they fired with no malfunctions. It was believed by the populace that Andrew Jackson was protected by the same Divine Power that protected the young nation. This same attitude followed Jackson throughout the rest of his life.
After serving two terms as the 7th President of the US, Jackson retired to The Hermitage, his estate in Tennessee. He continued to be a leading and very instrumental political figure, always claiming that he would die with the Union and never supported any discourse of state secession 11.
The remainder of Jackson’s life was spent in peace and solitude. He stood at a lanky 6’ 1” and usually weighed around 135 pounds. He was also known for his cutting blue eyes and reckless array of red hair. His hair eventually grayed by the time of his first inauguration at age 61. Jackson was a sickish man. He suffered from incessant headaches, abdomen pain and a irking cough. This was caused by a musket ball that had lodged into his lung and was never taken out. On June 8, 1845 when he was 78, Jackson died of chronic tuberculosis, dropsy and heart failure after he had lived at the Hermitage for eight years.
We remember the name of Andrew Jackson because of his military heroism where he led his vastly outnumbered US troops to an overwhelming victory against the British in New Orleans. His name will live on because he was the first president who was born with nothing, lost everything but by strength and will power, he gained a reputation for himself. He was also very instrumental in continuing to build the fortitude of the United States and upheld the tradition that was began by the founding fathers. His story is inspiring because he is a true American.
1. Remini 1988, The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal, and Slavery.
2. Remini (2000), p.51 cites 1820 census
3. “Hermitage”. Thehermitage.com. Archived from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
4. “Jackson Purchase”, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
5. Buchanan, John. (2001). Jackson’s Way: Andrew Jackson and the People of the Western Waters. New York: John Wiley & Son, Inc.
6. Remini, Robert V. (1999). The Battle of New Orleans. New York: Penguin Books. p. 285
7. Rutland, Robert Allen (1995). The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton. University of Missouri Press. pp. 55–56.ISBN 0-8262
8. Remini, Robert V. (1999). The Battle of New Orleans. New York: Penguin Books. p. 285
9. Robert Remini, John Quincy Adams (2002) p. 119
10. Jon Grinspan. “Trying to Assassinate Andrew Jackson”.Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved November 11,
11. James C. Curtis, Andrew Jackson and the search for vindication (1976) p 14