Born on March 15, 1767 to Scot-Irish parents, Andrew Jackson went on to become the seventh president of the United States. Though he was very popular among the common citizens, Jackson was also one of the most controversial presidents due to his personality and certain actions. Here are 10 facts from the interesting life of Andrew Jackson.

 

#1 Andrew Jackson is the only American president to be held a prisoner of war

In 1780, at the age of 13, Jackson joined the local militia during the American Revolutionary War. Along with his brother Robert, he was taken prisoner by the British and nearly starved to death. In captivity, he once refused to clean the boots of a British officer, who attacked him with a sword leaving scars on Jackson’s left hand and head. Although Jackson was released in 1781, he lost his mother and two brothers during the conflict. Due to these incidents, Jackson deeply resented the British.

Andrew Jackson disobeys British officer (lithograph)
Andrew Jackson disobeys British officer in 1780 (1876 lithograph)

 

#2 Andrew Jackson led America to a decisive victory in The Battle of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson was major general in the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Due to his success and bravery, he led the American forces against the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. In the battle, Jackson’s 5000 soldiers defeated an army of over 7500 British. The British had 2037 casualties as compared to America’s 71!

Battle of New Orleans
Battle of New Orleans – General Andrew Jackson stands on the parapet by painter Edward Percy Moran in 1910

 

#3 He was nicknamed ‘Old Hickory’ because of his toughness

Although he was a strict officer, Jackson was popular among his troops. They said he was as ‘tough as old hickory’ and hence he was nicknamed ‘Old Hickory’. Jackson is also known to carry a cane made of hickory with which he used to beat people.

 

#4 Andrew Jackson fought in over a dozen duels

A duel is combat, with certain rules, between two individuals and Andrew Jackson was involved in more than a dozen duels in his life. The most famous one is his duel with Charles Dickinson. Charles published an attack against Andrew in a local newspaper and Andrew responded by challenging Charles for a duel. Dickinson was an expert shot. Jackson gambled on the chance that Dickinson’s aim might be a bit off target in his hurry to shoot first and hence he let Dickinson shoot first. The rules of dueling require you to stand at the same spot till the duel is over and thus after being hit, Jackson took aim at a still Dickinson and killed him. However, the bullet that hit Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. In fact, for a number of years Jackson carried two bullets in his body.

Charles Dickinson
Charles Dickinson

 

#5 Jackson’s wife committed bigamy

Rachel Donelson Robards, who was to be Jackson’s wife, had an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards and after separating with her husband in 1790, she married Jackson. However it was found that she was not divorced and hence her marriage with Jackson was invalid. After she had officially divorced her husband, Rachel remarried Jackson in 1794. All this led to people defaming Rachel and many of the duels Jackson fought were because of this reason.

Rachel Donelson Jackson in a painting by Ralph E.W.Earl
Rachel Donelson Jackson in a painting by Ralph E.W.Earl

 

#6 Andrew couldn’t become President in 1824 because of the ‘Corrupt Bargain’

In 1824, Jackson ran for presidency against John Quincy Adams but although he won the popular vote, Jackson was not able to establish an electoral majority and the result was determined by the House of Representatives. In what is referred to as the ‘Corrupt Bargain’, Quincy Adams was made the President in exchange for Henry Clay becoming Secretary of State. All this led to a split in the Democratic-Republican Party.

Andrew Jackson in a 1824 painting by Thomas Sully
Andrew Jackson in a 1824 painting by Thomas Sully

 

#7 He was called ‘Jackass’ by his opponents in 1828 Elections

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams

The 1828 election was a rematch between incumbent president John Quincy Adams and Jackson. The campaign turned dirty with Jackson’s wife accused of adultery and bigamy due to a prior incident. Jackson was referred by his opponents as ‘Jackass’ during the elections. Jackson said he liked the term and used it as a symbol of the Democrats. Jackson won the election with 54% popular vote and 178 out of 261 electoral votes to become the seventh president of the United States of America. However his wife died on December 22, 1828, two months before he took office  and was buried on Christmas Eve.

#8 Andrew Jackson was responsible for the Indian Removal Act

Jackson was re-elected president in 1832. The most controversial aspect of his two terms was the Indian Removal Act which was passed in 1830. This ultimately forced Native Americans to relocate from south-eastern parts of the United States in what is known as the ‘trail of tears’. An estimated 4,000 Native Americans died due to this march.

#9 He was the first president on whom an assassination attempt was made

On January 30, 1835, an unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence, after observing Jackson’s movements for weeks, got up from his shop saying, “I’ll be damned if I don’t do it.”. He approached Jackson and fired his first pistol at Jackson’s back but it misfired. He made another attempt with a second pistol but it misfired too. The weapons he chose were vulnerable to moisture and it was extremely humid that day. After the failed attempt, Jackson went on to beat Lawrence near death with his cane and had to be stopped by people standing nearby. The court found Lawrence not guilty on reason of insanity and he was confined in a mental institution till his death.

Jackson Assassination Attempt depiction
Jackson Assassination Attempt as depicted in an 1835 etching

 

#10 He has appeared 13 times on US postage stamps

On 8 June, 1845, Jackson died of chronic tuberculosis, dropsy, and heart failure. He was 78 years old. As he was a controversial year, the US Post Office waited 18 years before they released a stamp in his honor in 1863. Although now Andrew Jackson has appeared in thirteen different postage stamps and only presidents Washington, Franklin and Lincoln have appeared on postage stamps more times than Jackson.

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