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Goodbye, Old Hickory
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, died at 78 on this day in 1845. So check out what will surely be the first of many blog posts on Old Hickory.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, died on this day, June 8, 1845. He was 78.
Old Hickory was born between North and South Carolina a decade before the revolution came to the colonies. His parents arrived from Northern Ireland. This heritage would prove to be both helpful and a hindrance throughout his life.
Death – A Family Tradition
Jackson’s father died three weeks before he was born. His older brother, Hugh, died after a battle in the American Revolution. Other family members will end up dying as well, but we will get to that soon enough.
During the war, young Jackson served as a courier for the colonial militia. He and his brother, Robert, were captured by British soldiers and held captive. Smallpox broke out; both the Jackson boys caught it and were finally released to their mother, but only at the point of almost death.
On the way home, a rainstorm made the journey worse, and finally, the disease took Robert’s life. His mother served as a nurse helping soldiers from both sides with their battle wounds. A short time after nursing Jackson to health, she caught cholera and died. At 14, Andrew Jackson was an orphan.
Like most warm-blooded Americans of Irish descent, Jackson blamed everything on the British. It was a long list of grievances; the death of his entire family, Indian uprisings, the cost of imported beer, daylight saving times perhaps. From an early age, anger was a constant companion.
Mr. Jackson Goes to Washington
Jackson would become a lawyer, move to Tennessee, where he actually founded Memphis. It was here that Jackson would launch his political career by first becoming a congressman, then-senator. However, while working in DC, George Washington and John Adams would arouse apoplexy in Jackson, causing him to quit and move back to Tennessee. He became a judge and overseer of the state's militia.
Aaron My Aaron
Settled back in friendly confines, Jackson continued to master the art of pissing people off. He needed something to break his way to get people to like him.
Around 1805, former Vice President Aaron Burr had done the country a huge favor and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel a year earlier. Weirdly, people thought this was bad, and Burr wandered out west hoping to find perfectly sane people. Jackson befriended him.
In a strange plot twist, Jackson believed Burr wanted to create a new empire. To save his own hide, Jackson wrote President Jefferson exposing the treasonous plans. It worked. Jackson gets into the good graces with a bunch of people, especially headman Tom.
We Took a Little Trip
Jackson was a master battlefield commander. Even after wars were finished, Jackson was still kicking butt. In 1814, Colonel Jackson captured New Orleans by using, according to Johnny Horton, gators as cannons. The battle was waged technically after the War of 1812 was over, but Jackson wouldn’t miss an opportunity to kill some Brits.
The Battle of New Orleans launched Jackson into national fame. More military victories followed, which led to the recruitment to run for president in 1824. That was a real dozy, ultimately sent to the House of Representatives to pick the winner. They voted for John Quincy Adams, son of the second president, John.
If you didn’t think Jackson was pugnacious before, all doubts went out the window when he lost. He spent the next four years railing against corruption, building his base, and rode to victory in 1828 and reelection four years later.
Jackson and Me
I have read a lot on Jackson, especially when I was a boy. When I did go in, I would venture over to the Civil War and US President section of history in the school library. There was a short book on Jackson that I immediately devoured. I probably didn’t realize it then, but I was definitely drawn to Jackson's zeal. Outside of Lincoln, Jackson is arguably the subject matter I am most familiar with. He's not an easy one to respect, much less like and admire.
In my opinion, there are two camps when discussing Jackson.
1. The focus on racial issues. Slave owner, Trail of Tears – that type of stuff. All bad, for sure. Almost all these guys (presidents) were racists. That is not an excuse; it's our collective history.
2. The other is focused on Jackson's rise to the presidency. There is no doubt that Jackson is the fulfillment of American achievement. Overcoming the challenges of being an orphan, despising the corruption of aristocracy, Jackson broke the mold of the six men who occupied the office before him.
Jackson did not live an arcadian life, that's for sure. Two bullets resided in his body till the day he died, and he kept score of the people who wanted to implant more. He is far from forgettable.
What are your thoughts on Jackson? Don’t you agree Burr got a bad rap? Tell us below.