General Andrew Jackson's father was also named Andrew Jackson. He was an Irishman, who came to the Waxhaw settlement, on the line between North and South Carolina, about ten years before the Revolution. He had built a log cabin, cleared a little land, and raised a crop of corn, when he sickened and died. In this sad time his son, Andrew Jackson, was born. Andrew's mother lived with her relatives, and spun flax to earn a little money.
From a little fellow "Andy" was a hot-tempered boy. Some larger boys once loaded a gun very heavily, and gave it to Andy to fire, in order to see him knocked over by the "kick" of the gun. But the fierce little fellow had no sooner tumbled over, than he got up and vowed that he would kill the first one that laughed, and not one of the boys dared to provoke him. He grew up in a wild country and among rough people. What little schooling he got was at an old-field schoolhouse.
When he was but thirteen the Revolutionary War began. In the South the struggle was very bitter, neighbor battling against neighbor with any weapons that could be found. Of course, a fiery fellow like Andrew wanted to have a hand in the fight against England. Whenever he went to a blacksmith's shop he hammered out some new weapon. Young as he was, he was in two or three skirmishes. In one of these, Andrew and his brother were taken prisoners. A British officer ordered Andrew to clean the mud off his boots. Young Jackson refused, and got a sword cut on his head for it. His brother was treated in the same way. The two wounded boys were then confined in a forlorn prison pen, where they took the smallpox. Their mother managed to get them exchanged, and brought the sick boys home.
When Andrew Jackson was eighteen years old he went to the village of Salisbury to study law. At this time many settlers were crossing the mountains into the rich lands to the westward, and young Jackson moved to the newly settled country of Tennessee. Here, in the fierce disputes of a new country, it took a great deal of courage to practice law.
Jackson was not only brave; he was also a quick-tempered man, who got into many quarrels during his life, and sometimes fought duels. The rough people among whom he lived were afraid of him. One day he was eating at a long table which the keeper of the tavern had set out of doors for the crowd that had come to see a horse race. A fight was going on at the other end of the table; but fights were so common in this new country that Jackson did not stop eating to find out what it was about. Presently he heard that a friend of his, one Patten Anderson, was likely to be killed. Jackson could not easily get to his friend for the crowd, but he jumped up on the table and ran along on it, putting his hand into his pocket as though to draw a pistol. He cried out at the same time, "I'm coming, Patten!" and he opened and shut the tobacco box in his pocket with a sound like the cocking of a pistol. The crowd was so afraid of him that they scattered at once, crying "Don't fire!"
Jackson was an able man, and an honest one in his way. He was once a judge, he kept a store, he went to Congress, and then to the United States Senate. When the "War of 1812" with England broke out he was sent as a general of Tennessee volunteers to defend New Orleans. When he had waited some time at Natchez he was ordered to disband his troops, as they were not needed. Those who sent such an order from Washington did not stop to ask how the poor Tennesseeans were to make their way back to their homes. Jackson refused to obey the order, pledged his own property to get food for his men, and marched them to Tennessee again. The men became devoted to him, and gave him the nickname of "Old Hickory."
But after a while war broke out in the Southwest in earnest. Tecumseh, in his Southern trip, had persuaded a half-breed chief, who was known to the whites as Weathersford and to the Indians as Red Eagle, to "take up the hatchet" and go to war. The Indians attacked Fort Mimms, in which four hundred men, women, and children were shut up. They burned the fort and killed the people in it. Weathersford tried to stop the massacre, but he could not control his savages.
When the news of this slaughter reached Tennessee Jackson was very ill from a wound in the arm and a ball in the shoulder which he got in a foolish fight. But in spite of his wounds, the fiery general marched at the head of twenty-five hundred men to attack the savages. He had a great deal of trouble to feed his troops in the wilderness; the men suffered from hunger, and some times rebelled and resolved to go home. Jackson once ordered out half his army to keep the other half from leaving. Again, the half that had tried to desert was used to make the others stay. At another time he stood in the road in front of his rebellious soldiers, and declared in the most dreadful words that he would shoot the first villain who took a step.
In spite of all these troubles with his wild soldiers, Jackson beat the enemy by rapid marches and bold attacks. In 1814 the savages had fortified themselves at a place called Horseshoe Bend. Here Jackson had a terrible battle with the Indians, who fought until they were almost all dead. At length most of the savages submitted, or fled into Florida, which at that time belonged to Spain. The white men had vowed to kill Weathersford, the chief; but that fearless fellow rode up to Jackson's tent, and said that he wanted the general to send for the Indian women and children, who were starving in the woods. When the white soldiers saw Weathersford, they cried out, "Kill him!" But Jackson told them that anybody who would kill so brave a man would rob the dead.
Jackson was suffering all this time from a painful illness, and was hardly able to sit in the saddle. But he marched to Mobile, which he succeeded in defending against an English force that had landed in Florida, and had been joined by Florida Indians. Jackson resolved that the Spaniards should not give any further aid to the enemies of the United States. He therefore marched his army into Florida and took the Spanish town of Pensacola, driving the English away.
It soon became necessary for him to go to New Orleans to defend that place. The English landed twelve thousand fine men below that city. Jackson armed the free negroes and the prisoners out of the jails, but, after all, he had only half as many soldiers as the English. The general, though yellow with illness, was as resolute as ever. He had several fights with the English as they advanced, but the decisive battle was fought on the 8th of January, 1815, when the English tried to carry the American works by storm. Jackson's Southwestern troops were many of them dead shots. They mowed down the ranks of the British whenever they charged, until more than one fifth of the English troops had been killed or wounded and their general was also dead. Though the English had lost twenty-six hundred brave men, the Americans had but eight killed and thirteen wounded.
One little English bugler, fourteen years old, had climbed into a tree near the American works and blown his bugle charge, to cheer the English, till there were non left to blow for. An American soldier then brought him into camp, where the men made much of their young prisoner, because he was so brave.
This wonderful defense of New Orleans ended the "War of 1812." General Jackson became the darling of his country. When the United States bought Florida from Spain, he was sent to take possession of that country.
In 1828 Jackson was elected President of the United States. He was a man of the plain people, rough in speech and stern in manner, but his popularity was very great. He was the first President who put out of office those who had voted against him, and appointed his own friends to their places. He enforced the laws with a strong hand, and he managed affairs with other nations in such a way as to make the country respected in Europe.
General Jackson died in 1845. He was, as we have seen, a man of strong will and fierce passions. But he was faithful to his friends, affectionate with his relatives, and exceedingly kind to his slaves. He had no children, but he adopted a nephew of his wife and brought him up as his son. He also adopted an Indian baby, found after one of his battles in its dead mother's arms. His splendid defense of New Orleans showed Jackson to be one of the very ablest generals American has ever produced.