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Andrew Jackson and his Mother by Jonathan F. Kelley


It is a most singular, or at least curious fact, connected with the histories of most all eminent men, that they were denied—by the decrees of stern poverty, or an all-wise Providence—those facilities and indulgences supposed to be so essentially necessary for the future success and prosperous career of young men, but acted as “whetstones” to sharpen and develop their true temper! The fact is very vivid in the early history of Andrew Jackson—a name that, like that of the great, godlike Washington, must survive the wreck of matter, the crush of worlds, and, passing down the vista of each successive age, brighter and more glorious, unto those generations yet to come, when time shall have obliterated the asperities of partisan feeling, and learned to deal most gently with the human frailties of the illustrious dead.

Andrew Jackson, senior, emigrated from Ireland in 1765, with his wife and two boys—Hugh and Robert, both very young; they landed at Charleston, S. C, where Jackson found employment as a laborer, and continued to work thus for several years, until, possessed of a few dollars, he went to the interior of the state and bought a small place near Waxhaw. About this time, 1767, Andrew Jackson, Jr., was born, and during the next year—by the time the infant could lisp the name of his parent—the father fell sick of fever and died. Mrs. Jackson, left with three small children, in an almost wild country, where nothing but toil of a severe and arduous kind could provide a subsistence, was indeed in a most grievous situation. But she appears to have been a woman of no ordinary temperament, courage, and perseverance, for she continued cheerfully the work left her—rearing her boys, and preparing them for the situations in life they might be destined to fill. Mrs. Jackson was a woman of some information, and a strong advocate for the rights and liberties of men; as, it is said, she not only gave her boys their first rudiments of an English education, but often indulged in glowing lectures to them of the importance of instilling in their hearts and principles an unrelenting war against pomp, power, and circumstance of monarchical governments and institutions! She led them to know that they were born free and equal with the best of earth, and that that position was to be their heritage—maintained even at the peril of life and property! and how well he learned these chivalric lessons, the countrymen of Andrew Jackson need not now be told, as it was exemplified in every page of his whole history.

Hugh, Robert, and Andrew, were now the widow's hope and treasures; Hugh and Robert were her main dependence in working their little farm, and Andrew, never a very robust person, was early sent to the best schools in the neighborhood, and much care taken by his mother to have him at least educated for a profession—the ministry. This resolve was more perhaps decided upon from the naturally stern, contemplative, and fixed principles of young Jackson; as at the early age of fifteen, he was by nature well prepared for the scenes being enacted around him, and in which, even those young as himself, were called upon to take an active part. This was in the days of the revolution, when the weak in numbers of this continent were about to try the experiment of living free and independent, and establish the fact that royalty was an imposition and a humbug, only maintained by arrogance and pomp at the point of the bayonet.

The British had begun the war—already had the echoes of “Bunker Hill,” and the smell of “villainous saltpetre,” invaded and aroused the quiet dwellers in the woods and wilds of South Carolina, and the chivalric spirit that has ever characterized the men of the Palmetto state, at once responded to the tocsin of liberty. It was with no slight degree of sorrow and aching of the mother's heart, that she saw her two sons, Hugh and Robert, shoulder their muskets and join the Spartan band that assembled at Waxhaw Court-house. But she blessed her children and gave up her holy claim of a mother's love, for the common cause of the infant nation.

Cornwallis and his army crossed the Yadkin, Lord Rawden, with a large force, took the town of Camden, and began a desolation of the adjacent country. Being apprised of a “rebel force” in arms at Waxhaw, he immediately dispatched a company of dragoons, with a company of infantry, to capture or disperse the “rebels.” About forty men, including the two boys Jackson, were attacked by these veterans of the British army, but aided by their true courage, a good cause, and perfect knowledge of the country, they gave the invaders a hot reception, and many of the enemy were killed; and not until having made the most determinate resistance, and being overwhelmed by the great majority of the opposing forces, did these patriots retreat, leaving many of their friends dead upon their soil, and eleven of their number prisoners in the hands of the British. It was during this fight that Andrew Jackson—a mere lad—hearing the noise of the conflict, while he sat in the log-house of his mother, besought her to allow him to take his father's gun, and fly to join his brothers. And it was vain that the parent restrained him, knowing the temperament of the boy, from this dangerous determination; for with one warm embrace and parting kiss upon the brow of his mother, Andrew Jackson buckled on his powder-horn and bullet-pouch, and rushed to the scene of battle. But his friends were already flying, and hotly pursued by the enemy. Andrew met his brother Robert, who informed him of the death of their elder brother, Hugh; the two boys now fled together and concealed themselves in the woods, where they lay until hunger drove them forth—they sought food at a farm house, the owner of which proved to be a tory, and gave information to some soldiers in the vicinity—the Jacksons were both captured and led to prison. In the affray—for they yielded only by force—Robert was cut on the head by a sword in the hands of a petty officer, and he died in great agony in prison. It was here and then that the firm and manly bearing of the boy was exhibited; for he stood his griefs and imprisonment like a true hero. Not a tear escaped him by which his enemies might be led to believe he feared their power, or wavered in his allegiance to the cause of his country.

“Here, boy, clean my boots!” said an officer to him. But the bright defiant eye of the boy smote the captor with a look, and as he curled his firm lips in scorn, he answered,

“No, sir, I will not!

“You won't? I'll tie you, you young saucy rebel, to your post, and skin your back with a horse whip, if you do not clean my boots.”

“Do it,” said the lion-hearted boy—“for I'll not stoop to clean the boots of your master!”

The infuriated ruffian drew his sword, and to defend his head from the blow, Andrew threw up his little hand and received a gash—the scar of which went with him to the tomb at the Hermitage. A Captain Walker, of South Carolina, with a dozen or twenty men, during the imprisonment of Andrew Jackson, made a desperate charge upon a company of the British, near Camden, and captured thirteen of them; these prisoners he exchanged for seven of his countrymen, including the boy Andrew Jackson, prisoners of the enemy. Andrew hurried home—his poor old mother was upon her death bed, attended by an old negro nurse of the Jackson family, and suffering not only from the great multitude of grief consequent upon the death of her heroic sons, but for want of the common necessaries of life, the invaders having stripped the widow of her last pound of provisions. The life-spark rekindled in the eye of the mother, as she beheld her darling boy safe at her bedside—she grasped his hand with the firmness of a dying woman, and turning her eyes upon the now weeping boy, said,

“Andrew, I leave you,—son, you will soon be alone in the world; be faithful, be true to God and your country—that—when—the—hour of death approaches you—will have—nothing to—dread—every thing—to hope for.”

       * * * * *

Andrew was taken ill after the burial of his mother, and but for the constant and tender care of the old black nurse—the last of the Jackson family—would have then passed away; he recovered—he was alone—not a relative in the world; poor, and in a land ravaged by a foreign foe, could a boy be more desolate and lonely? With a few “effects” thrown upon his shoulders, he went to North Carolina, Salisbury, where he entered the office of a famed lawyer—Spruce M'Cay—was admitted to the bar in 1778—went to Tennessee—served as a soldier in the Indian wars of 1783—chosen a Senator 1797—Major General in 1801—whipped the British in the most conclusive manner at New Orleans in 1815, and triumphantly elected President of the United States for eight years in 1829. Andrew Jackson followed his mother's advice, and he not only triumphed over his hard fortune, but died a Christian, full of hope, in 1845.


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