Coming from modest means, Andrew Jackson grew to become an American soldier, general, statesman, and the seventh president of the United States between 1820 to 1837. Before becoming president, Jackson proved his military valor as a general in the United States Army, earning the nickname “Old Hickory,” as well as serving in both houses of the U.S. Congress. During his time, he was considered to be the president of the “common man,” the preserver of the Union, and a true soldier president. See what exactly made him so famous and his accomplishments throughout his life.
He Joined The Military At Age 13
Andrew Jackson grew up in the Waxhaws wilderness region in the Carolinas; he received a spotty education in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.
During the war, Jackson’s eldest brother, Hugh, died at the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779, and after the Waxhaws Massacre in 1780, Jackson’s mother encouraged him and his elder brother to begin attending local militia drills. They then served under Colonel William Richardson Davie at the Battle of Hanging Rock on August 6, with him and his brother being captured by the British in April 1781.
They Suffered As Prisoners Of War
Even though they were no more than boys, Jackson and his brother were not treated with any special attention while prisoners of war. At one point, when a young Jackson refused to shine boots of a British officer, the officer slashed Jackson’s face and hand with his sword, leaving him with permanent scars and a deep hatred for the British. During their imprisonment, they also both caught smallpox and nearly died of illness.
After being released, his brother Robert succumbed to the disease. This experience drove their mother to become a nurse in the war, which resulted in her dying of cholera. Jackson was now an orphan at 14-years-old and blamed the British personally for the deaths of his brothers and mother.
Both North And South Carolina Claim To Be Where He Was Born
While it’s known that the seventh President of the United States was born on March 15, 1767, exactly where is still a point of controversy. The Waxhaws wilderness where he spent his formative years was so remote that a precise border between North and South Caroline hadn’t been surveyed yet.
In an 1824 letter, Jackson wrote that he had been born in his uncle’s South Carolina home, but the exact location of the cabin is still up for debate among historians.
His Parents Emigrated From Ireland
Jackson’s parents, Andrew and Elizabeth, both hailed from Ireland’s Country Antrim, what is now Northern Ireland. Then, in 1765, they set sail for a new life in the colonies with their two sons, Hugh and Robert from the port town of Carrickfergus.
They then established themselves in the Waxhaws region bordering North and South Carolina. While in the colonies, Elizabeth became pregnant with Jackson. Yet, tragically, his father was killed in 1767 in a logging accident just three weeks before Jackson was born.
He Killed A Man In A Duel
Andrew Jackson was never one to run from a fight, and he was pretty good at instigating them, too. Historians estimated that Jackson was involved in somewhere between 5 and 100 duels. So, in 1806, when a man named Charles Dickinson wrote that he was “a worthless scoundrel, a paltroon, and coward,” Jackson challenged him in a duel.
At the mark, Dickinson fired and hit the future president in the chest, barely missing his heart. Despite his wound, Jackson then shot and killed Dickinson. He carried the bullet in his body for the rest of his life along with another from a following duel.
He Was The First President Someone Attempted To Assassinate
On January 30, 1835, President Jackson was leaving the U.S. Capitol after a memorial for a Congressman. A painter named Richard Lawrence then appeared out of the crown with a pistol just a few feet away. When his gun misfired, he promptly took out another, which failed to fire as well.
Infuriated, Jackson then attacked Lawrence with a cane until he was pulled away for fear he might kill him. Lawrence would later claim that Jackson was the reason he lost his job, that money would be worth more if Jackson wasn’t president. Lawrence was later deemed insane and institutionalized.
He Adopted Two Native American Boys
Although Jackson may have led military campaigns against the Creeks and Seminole tribes and signed the Indian Removal Act, he did one thing incredibly out of character, During the Creek War in 1813 and 1814, Jackson adopted a pair of Native American infants. Feeling compassion after having had been an orphan himself, he sent the two boys to his wife.
One, named Theodore, died early in 1814, and the other, Lyncoya had been found in his dead mother’s arms on the battlefield. Sadly, Lyncoya would also die young of Tuberculosis in 1812, just months before Jackson’s election.
Ironically, He Despised Paper Money
After an experience in which he lost a lot of money over some devalued paper notes, Jackson was opposed to the issuance of paper money by state and national banks. He put his faith in gold and silver and even went so far as to shut down the Second Bank of the United States because they had the ability to print paper money.
This is ironic because not only is he currently the face of the $20 bill, but has also appeared on the $5, $10 $50, and $10,000 bills. His portrait was even on Confederate 2-cent stamps!
He Unknowingly Married His Wife Before She Had Been Divorced
Upon moving to Nashville in the 1780s, Jackson fell in love with a woman named Rachel Donelson Robards. After separating from her current husband, Jackson was under the assumption that the two had been granted a legal divorce, and she and Jackson wed. However, the divorce had been finalized, leading her first husband to claim adultery.
The two were legally wed in 1794, but the rumor was brought back to the surface during Jackson’s presidential campaign when his political opponent began to spread slander about her supposed adultery. When Rachel died just weeks after the election, he was convinced the rumor led to her early demise.
He Was The Cause Of The Trail Of Tears
In 1830, Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act. This act forced the removal of the Native Americans from the South to the West throughout his presidency, allowing the fertile land of the South to be settled.
The removal of the Native Americans from one side of the country to the other resulted in the forced relocation of around 60,000 people and is known as the Trail of Tears. This is because the relocated peoples suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation with thousands dying while traveling or shortly after arriving at their location.
He Won The Popular Vote For President Three Times
In 1829, Jackson won nearly 54% of the popular vote, leading to him winning the election, a percentage he almost matched four years later. He also won the most popular votes, although not a majority in his first presidential run in 1824.
Since neither candidate won a majority of electoral votes, the 1824 election was handed over to the House of Representatives. From then on, in his annual messages to Congress, Jackson repeatedly lobbied for the abolition of the Electoral College.
“King Andrew I”
As a political leader of the Democratic-Republican, Andrew Jackson made it clear that he was the absolute rule of his party’s administration and was not known to go to Congress and had no issues with using his presidential veto power.
For this, the opposing Whig party claimed that they were defending the democratic liberties that the United States was based on. They then began referring to Jackson negatively in political cartoons by calling him “King Andrew I.”
He Prevented A Civil War
Jackson was president during the nation’s first-ever secession crisis. Following Jackson’s reelection in 1832, South Carolina declared the right to nullify federal tariff legislation and threatened to secede otherwise. In December 1832, Jackson passed a Force Bill to Congress that would allow him to send federal troops to South Carolina to prevent secession and enforce laws.
The bill was delayed long enough for the Force Bill and compromise tariff bill were both passed in 1833, avoiding civil war. Lincoln would later cite Jackson’s actions when trying to prevent secession before the American Civil War.
He Was A Supporter Of Oppressive Ideas
A slave owner himself, Andrew Jackson opposed all policies that would result in the outlaw of the practice of slavery in the western territories that the country acquired as the United States expanded.
When abolition supporters attempted to send anti-slavery tracts to the South during his presidency, Jackson was infuriated. He banned their delivery, and went so far as to call them monsters, claiming that they should “atone for this wicked attempt with their lives.”
He Helped The United States Acquire Florida
As commander of the army’s southern district, Jackson ordered an invasion of Florida in 1817. After they captured Spanish posts at St. Mark’s and Pensacola, he claimed the surrounding lands the property of the United States.
This resulted in an uproar from the Spanish government and a heated debate in Washington about the issues. While many cursed Jackson for his actions, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams defended him and proved to help speed up the American acquisition of Florida in 1821.
He Was A Successful Military Commander
Andrew Jackson served as a major general in the War of 1812, commanding forces in a five-month campaign against the Creek Indians, allies of the British. The campaign ended in an American victory after the Battle of Tohopeka or Horseshoe Bend, in 1814, in Alabama.
Jackson once again led American forces to victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. This victory, although it was won after the news of the Treaty of Ghent had reached Washington, elevated Jackson to the status of a national war hero.
Issues With His Cabinet
During his first term, many of the Washington Elite and Jackson’s own cabinet made it clear the issues that they had with Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife regarding social differences. Eaton had defended Jackson’s wife, Rachel, during his presidential campaign, so Jackson felt in his debt.
Many of his cabinet members assumed that Jackson would be a one-term president, so they began trying to position themselves as candidates for the next election. For this, Jackson dismissed his entire cabinet except for the Postmaster General. From then on, Jackson’s close group of trusted advisors were regarded as his “kitchen cabinet” by his opponents.
He Was An Attorney
In his late teens, Jackson began reading law and earned admission to the North Carolina bar in 1787. He then moved west of the Appalachians to what would become modern-day Tennessee. There, he began working as a prosecuting attorney in the settlement that would eventually become Nashville.
Jackson set up his own private practice and eventually met his future wife, Rachel. He was successful enough as a lawyer that he was able to build a mansion known as the Hermitage near Nashville and buy slaves.
He Made A First For Tennesse Politicians
In 1796, Jackson joined a convention that was charged with drafting the new Tennessee state constitution and became the first man to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee.
Although he declined reelection and returned home in March 1797, he was almost immediately elected into the U.S. Senate. He resigned just a year later and was elected as judge for Tennessee’s superior court. Not long after, he was chosen to head the state militia, a position that he held until the breakout of the War of 1812.
Jackson’s Later Life
Following the inauguration of Martin Van Buren in 1837, who had been Jackson’s vice president during his second term, Jackson returned to his plantation, the Hermitage, in Tennessee.
Although he had retired from public life, he remained influential, helping to bring Texas into the United States in 1845, as well as aiding James K. Polk in winning the presidency in 1844. Throughout 1844 and 1845, his health began to decline rapidly, and he died at the age of 78 on June 8, 1945, of congestive heart failure.