National Guard February 2012 : Page 36
G UARD R OOTS : A NDREW J ACKSON Reared in Battle By Capt. Darrin Haas The life and career of the seventh U.S. president is deeply rooted in an eventful militia experience that began when he was a child NCE THE FIRING had ceased, Maj. Gen. An-drew Jackson walked along his defensive line and praised his soldiers for their bravery. As he completed his congratulations, Jackson’s entire force burst into loud cheers. Jackson’s outﬁt of militiamen, regulars, pirates, freed-men and local citizens had just defeated a highly skilled, professional and veteran British army and defended the O | city of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. It was a feat many didn’t think possible, especially from a militiaman with no formal military training. Some historians say Jackson was lucky. But his military career is not as sparse as some believe. His national acclaim and rise to the presidency resulted directly from his military exploits, leadership and service in the Tennessee militia. Jackson was exposed to warfare at a very young age. Born in 1767 and raised in the frontier area of South Caro-lina, his family was under constant threat of Indian attack. Jackson learned to use weapons as a child. Once the Revolutionary War began, he drilled with the local militia. At the age of 10, he learned military com-mands and basic tactics, coming to “appreciate the value and necessity of the militia.” In 1780, British soldiers attacked Jackson’s hometown 36 Na tional Guard
Reared In Battle
Capt. Darrin Haas
The life and career of the seventh U. S. president is deeply rooted in an eventful militia experience that began when he was a child<br /> <br /> ONCE THE FIRING had ceased, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson walked along his defensive line and praised his soldiers for their bravery. As he completed his congratulations, Jackson’s entire force burst into loud cheers.<br /> <br /> Jackson’s outfit of militiamen, regulars, pirates, freedmen and local citizens had just defeated a highly skilled, professional and veteran British army and defended the City of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. It was a feat many didn’t think possible, especially from a militiaman with no formal military training.<br /> <br /> Some historians say Jackson was lucky. But his military career is not as sparse as some believe. His national acclaim and rise to the presidency resulted directly from his military exploits, leadership and service in the Tennessee militia.<br /> <br /> Jackson was exposed to warfare at a very young age.Born in 1767 and raised in the frontier area of South Carolina, his family was under constant threat of Indian attack.Jackson learned to use weapons as a child.<br /> <br /> Once the Revolutionary War began, he drilled with the local militia. At the age of 10, he learned military commands and basic tactics, coming to “appreciate the value and necessity of the militia.”<br /> <br /> In 1780, British soldiers attacked Jackson’s hometown Causing more than 260 American casualties. The town meetinghouse became a temporary hospital and young Jackson tended to the wounded.<br /> <br /> Following the raid, a small force led by Lt. Col. William Richardson Davie came to avenge the attack. Jackson joined the unit as a messenger and fought with Davie at a few skirmishes.<br /> <br /> Jackson returned to defend his hometown. One night, Jackson was helping guard the house of a “staunch Whig” when it was attacked by Tories.<br /> <br /> Days later, British dragoons took Jackson prisoner. The commanding officer demanded that Jackson clean the officer’s boots. Jackson calmly refused.<br /> <br /> Angry, the officer slashed at Jackson’s head with his sword. Jackson ducked and threw up his left hand to protect himself, receiving a deep gash on his head and fingers.He would carry the scar for the rest of his life.<br /> <br /> Jackson was jailed in Camden, S.C. He was robbed, mistreated and eventually contracted smallpox. His mother arranged for his release, but it took months for Jackson to recover from his illness.<br /> <br /> At 17, Jackson started studying law. After earning the right to practice law, Jackson took a position as a public prosecutor in western Tennessee and left for Nashville in 1788.<br /> <br /> In Nashville, Jackson helped defend the settlement. He took part in a punitive expedition against the Cherokee, resulting in the deaths of several Indians and the capture of most of their equipment.Considered Jackson’s first Indian fight in Tennessee, he was called “bold, dashing, fearless, and mad upon his enemies.”<br /> <br /> In 1792, Gov. William Blount appointed Jackson as judge advocate for a cavalry regiment in Davidson County, Jackson’s first official position in the armed militia.<br /> <br /> Two years later, Jackson helped plan and participated in the Nickajack campaign which destroyed two Cherokee towns, pacifying the Indian threat around Nashville.<br /> <br /> In 1795, Jackson was a delegate to Tennessee’s constitutional convention, and on June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state. Jackson was elected as Tennessee’s single congressman in the House of Representatives.<br /> <br /> As a congressman, Jackson chaired a committee recommending full compensation for Tennessee’s militia campaign Against the Cherokee in 1793, when the militia attacked several hostile Indian towns. The bill passed, greatly raising Jackson’s popularity among the militia.<br /> <br /> After his term, Jackson was elected to the Senate but resigned the next year without explanation. He was then appointed as a Tennessee State Superior Court judge, which required him to travel throughout the state. He used the opportunity to meet and listen to complaints from militia leaders, showing concern and building friendships.<br /> <br /> MILITIA LEADER<br /> <br /> In 1802, Jackson ran for election as the militia’s major general against John Sevier, a former governor. The election ended in a tie, but the governor, a good friend of Jackson, broke the tie and Jackson became a 35-year-old major general.<br /> <br /> In that role, Jackson showed concern for his soldiers.According to one historian, he “brought a higher level of discipline to the militia.” He held regular drills and managed the business of commanding the militia with skill.<br /> <br /> In May 1812, Jackson learned that Creek Indians had killed civilians and taken a woman captive near the Duck River. Jackson pledged to quickly raise 2,500 soldiers to “carry fire and sword to the heart of the Creek Nation.”<br /> <br /> Before he could get his revenge, Jackson learned that those who participated in the massacre had been killed by a Creek war party. Also, Jackson was notified that war had been declared against Great Britain and his forces were now needed elsewhere.<br /> <br /> In October 1812, 1,500 volunteers were needed to defend New Orleans from a southern British invasion. Jackson was given command and commissioned as a major general of the United States Volunteers.<br /> <br /> He assembled more than 2,000 soldiers in Nashville and moved south. All forces were to mass at Natchez, Miss., before continuing to New Orleans.<br /> <br /> Once in Natchez, Jackson’s force was dismissed from service by the secretary of war, who said the force wasn’t needed. Jackson was ordered to turn over all property to Gen.James Wilkinson in New Orleans. His troops were to fend for themselves in Natchez.<br /> <br /> Jackson disobeyed the order. He felt that “those brave fellows who followed me at the call of their country, deserve more from their government.” He marched his entire force home and at his expense.<br /> <br /> Jackson had 150 men on the sick list when they set out for Nashville. Many could not even sit upright. With only 11 wagons to transport them, Jackson ordered all of his officers to give up their horses for the sick. He did the same and marched alongside his soldiers every day, cheering them on.<br /> <br /> The soldiers were awed at Jackson’s strength. As the march wore on, Jackson’s men said he was “tough as hickory.” Soon the soldiers just called him “Hickory,” and later added the prefix “Old,” giving Jackson the nickname he would carry for the rest of his life.<br /> <br /> Within a month, the troops reached Nashville. Stories of Jackson’s conduct circulated rapidly and soon all of Tennessee knew his nickname.<br /> <br /> Jackson sent his soldiers home. At age 46, he became a proud father figure to those in the militia and the public.<br /> <br /> In August 1813, a militant group of Creek Indians called Red Sticks attacked and killed hundreds of settlers at Fort Mims. Tennesseans were infuriated and the governor ordered Jackson to call out the militia, giving him a chance for “vengeance and atonement” for the Duck River massacre the year before.<br /> <br /> With his arm in a sling after being shot in a recent duel, Jackson led his troops south. They soon attacked the Creek village of Tallushatchee which held 200 hostile warriors.They surrounded the village and slaughtered all the inhabitants.Private David Crockett said, “We shot them like dogs.”<br /> <br /> Jackson then attacked the town of Talladega and killed 300 Creek warriors.<br /> <br /> But over the next month and a half, Jackson’s army met with disaster. Enlistments expired, soldiers went home, And supplies were scarce. Jackson didn’t have the men or food to continue fighting.<br /> <br /> His army almost completely dissolved until 800 raw recruits arrived. Jackson then went back on the offensive and fought the battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopco Creek.<br /> <br /> Jackson then gathered more reinforcements and continued training. By March 1814, he had 5,000 troops under his command. On March 27, Jackson attacked 1,000 Red Stick warriors at Horseshoe Bend.<br /> <br /> Jackson wrote, “The carnage was awful.” His forces killed roughly 900 Red Sticks and crushed the Creek Nation.<br /> <br /> Nashville gave Jackson a hero’s welcome and he was soon offered the rank of major general in the U.S. Army, which he accepted.<br /> <br /> Jackson turned his attention to defending the southeast from a British invasion. First, he strengthened the defenses at Mobile, Ala., and then he attacked Spanish-controlled Pensacola to drive out British soldiers.<br /> <br /> He then learned the British were about to launch a full-scale invasion of New Orleans, so he hurriedly moved there to set up defenses.<br /> <br /> By mid-December the British started deploying troops below New Orleans and launched a series of strikes against the city. On Jan. 8, 1815, the British attempted a frontal assault on Jackson’s lines.<br /> <br /> The British suffered 2,000 casualties compared to 16 for the Americans.<br /> <br /> FINAL MILITARY CAMPAIGN<br /> <br /> Overnight, Jackson became a national symbol as the “Hero of New Orleans.”<br /> <br /> After the war, the Army downsized and Jackson now commanded the entire southern division.<br /> <br /> Jackson’s final military campaign was into Florida. First, he destroyed a runaway slave fort close to the Gulf of Mexico.Next, during an attempt to arrest hostile Indians, a battle erupted at the village of Fowltown. The warriors were driven off and the town burned, thus starting the First Seminole War.<br /> <br /> In March 1818, Jackson led a force into Florida destroying the town of Tallahassee and Miccosukee and seizing the Spanish fort at St. Marks.<br /> <br /> After the war, Jackson was offered the position of military governor of Florida. He accepted and, in June 1821, Jackson resigned his commission. His military career may have ended, but his political one was beginning.<br /> <br /> He would become the seventh president of the United States, a position he probably would never have attained without his militia experience and fame.<br /> <br /> Capt. Darrin Haas is deputy director of the Tennessee National Guard’s joint public affairs office.