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Jackson's Bodyguard: Lawyers Who Fought in the Battle of New Orleans: Jackson

• Andrew Jackson was born in the Waxhaws, on the border between North and South Carolina, in 1767. His family had immigrated from Northern  Ireland. Jackson never knew his father who was killed in an accident shortly before Jackson’s birth.

• 13-year-old Jackson and his two older brothers volunteered in the American army during the Revolutionary War. Both of his brothers died during the war. The British captured Jackson. After Jackson refused to clean his shoes, a British officer struck Jackson with his sword, permanently scarring him. While imprisoned, Jackson contracted smallpox. His mother Betty died from cholera, while nursing American soldiers, leaving Jackson an orphan. Because of these Revolutionary War experiences, it has been said Jackson bitterly resented the British all his life.

• At age 17, Andrew Jackson decided to become a lawyer, and by age 20, Jackson was admitted to the North Carolina bar. After moving to Tennessee in 1788, Jackson became a successful lawyer, often representing merchants against debtors.

• In 1796, Jackson was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention of Tennessee and Tennessee’s first representative to Congress.

• In 1797, Jackson was appointed United States Senator from Tennessee. He resigned the following year, when he was elected Judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. After serving for six years, Jackson resigned his judgeship in July 1804, never practicing law again. He returned to his plantation, the “Hermitage,” located near Nashville, to resume planting and pursue business interests. In 1813, Jackson commanded Tennessee’s forces in the Creek War, defeating the Creeks in March of 1814.

• On May 28, 1814, President James Madison commissioned Jackson as major general in the United States Army, commanding the Seventh Military District, which included Louisiana. Madison had declared war against the British in 1812, beginning the War of 1812. The British burned Washington D.C. in August 1814. After being repulsed in Baltimore in September 1814, the British fleet regrouped in Jamaica and sailed to New Orleans. Jackson first captured Pensacola in early November 1814, and then arrived in New Orleans on December 1, 1814. Jackson declared martial law on December 16, 1814, after the British overpowered American gunboats at the Battle of Lake Borgne. Governor William C.C. Claiborne ordered the local militia into service and volunteer companies were formed. Captain Peter V. Ogden formed a volunteer troop of 40 cavalrymen, at least nine of whom were lawyers.

• Jackson led the Americans, which included militia, regular army and volunteers, to a decisive victory over Major General Sir Edward Pakenham and his British forces at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The Treaty of Ghent – which would end the War of 1812 – had been signed on December 24, 1814 in Belgium. The Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks after the peace treaty was signed, but due to delays in communication, Jackson and Pakenham were unaware of the treaty. Furthermore, “the war was not over when the treaty was signed on December 24. The treaty specifically stated that fighting between the United States and Britain would stop only when both governments ratified the treaty (in the case of the United States, that meant approval by Congress). Congress ratified the treaty on February 15, 1815.” National Park Service, Treaty of Ghent.

• Jackson revoked martial law on March 13, 1815, after receiving official news that the Treaty of Ghent had been ratified, thus ending the war. In April 1815, Jackson left New Orleans and returned to Tennessee.

• Jackson served as Florida’s governor in 1821 and was elected again as Tennessee’s United States Senator from 1823-1825.

• Jackson unsuccessfully ran for President in 1824, losing to President John Quincy Adams. Four years later, Jackson defeated Adams, becoming the 7th U.S. President. Jackson was re-elected in 1832.

• After leaving the White House, President Jackson retired to his home, the Hermitage, where he died at age 78 in 1845.

Top left image: Courtesy United States Senate.

Right image: General Jackson addressing the Volunteers before the Battle of New Orleans. Frost, John, Pictorial Life of Andrew Jackson.  Hartford, 1847: 40.

Bottom left image: Jackson on horseback commanding his victorious American troops at the Battle of New Orleans. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.