Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the United States Army and served in both houses of the U.S. Congress. As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the “common man” against a “corrupt aristocracy” and to preserve the Union.
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His fiery personality brought him both friends and enemies during his life time and possibly continues to hound him after his death.
Although a lawyer by profession, he married Rachael Donelson Robards who was still married at the time. Rachael was estranged from her husband, Lewis Robards, and they thought that the divorce had dissolved her first marriage.
When Lewis Robards brought forth a civil suit against Rachael labeling her as a bigamist, she was devastated. Very quietly, she and Jackson went to Natchez, Mississippi and remarried.
That event cost Rachael her reputation and brought the couple much sorrow and grief. Most of Nashville’s polite society refused to receive her and this possibly hastened her death.
Duels, Executions, and the Trail of Tears
Due to his temper, Jackson fought several duels and killed Charles Dickenson in a duel over a horse race. Dickenson shot first and injured Jackson, but as custom demanded, he had to stand in place as Jackson cooly aimed and fired at him. Dickenson died instantly.
Although the killing was entirely legal by the laws at that time, many people considered Jackson to be a cold blooded murderer. Jackson didn’t have to shoot to kill. Again the couple was banished from polite society in Nashville.
As a crusty Indian fighter, he executed several of his soldiers who attempted to desert their posts, thus earning the nickname, “Old Hickory,” during his military campaigns in Florida, Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans.
He later was responsible for turning the Cherokee Nation out of their homelands on the forced march of the Trail of Tears in spite of their victory in the Supreme Court. Many Native Americans died as they walked to Oklahoma in the cold winter months.
Jackson owned over a hundred and fifty slaves, many of whom despised him because of his brutal discipline. The slaves were his property and he saw to their general well-being; but never did he hesitate to have a slave whipped if he thought such punishment was deserved.
Punishment of Jackson’s slaves was usually harsh and severe. He often sent out slave hunters to capture and return the run-aways. When he attended the slave funerals, they secretly laughed at him for they knew that he himself would have to die some day and perhaps endure the punishments of hell for himself.
Jackson and the Bell Witch
John Bell’s oldest sons, John Jr., Jesse and Drewry served under the General at the Battle of New Orleans. When Jackson heard tales of the Bell Witch in 1819, he decided to ride out to the farm with a group of men and a wagon. As they approached the property, the wagon stalled and the horses strained at their traces but couldn’t move the wagon.
The General alternately coaxed and cursed the horses for several minutes. After a time, he grew tired, calmed down and said, “By the eternal, boys! That must be the Bell Witch.” Suddenly a female voice rang out from the woods and told them to move along, and she would see them later on that night.
The group had dinner at the Bell home and waited. Nothing happened for a time until one of the men announced that he was a “witch tamer” and had a silver bullet in his pistol that would kill the witch.
He went on to say that the witch must be afraid of him. Immediately he screamed as an invisible spook kicked him around the cabin and out the door. Jackson and his men left shortly afterward.
Andy Jackson would never comment on this particular experience until several years after his presidency when he finally told a reporter that he’d rather take on the entire British army than the Bell Witch.
Old Hickory build a beautiful home, the Hermitage, on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee in 1819 where he and Rachael lived until their deaths. All the family members were eventually buried in the family cemetery in the garden.
Although they had no children of their own, the Jackson’s adopted many children and lived there until 1825, when Rachael began suffering from heart-related problems. Rachael died in 1828 while Andrew was running his presidential campaign, and Jackson buried her in the garden. After her death, he went to Washington D.C. alone as a widower.
Andrew Jackson died in 1845 at the age of 78 from tuberculosis and heart failure. The family buried him alongside Rachael in the garden. It is interesting to note that Jackson specified in his burial arrangements that his own coffin must rest 6 inches higher in elevation that that of his beloved Rachael.
In 1856, Andrew Jackson, Jr. sold the estate to the state of Tennessee for $48,000 on the terms that the state would allow the Jackson family to remain in residence for the duration of their lifetimes as tenants.
Then in 1887, the state transferred the title of the estate to the Ladies Hermitage Association. The new owners went about acquiring the Jackson’s original furnishings for the mansion but made very few changes over the next few years as the house fell deeper into disrepair.
The last two elderly people who worked for the Jackson family witnessed some strange events at the residence as long as they continued to work there, and they refused to explain why they were absolutely terrified to remain at the mansion after dark. The couple worked during the daylight hours without fail but insisted on leaving the premises before sunset every day.
In 1893, renovations began on the residence. Since they were concerned about thieves and vandals when the Association first took possession of the mansion, some of the members of the Ladies Hermitage Association decided to take turns spending the night at the house until they could hire a security guard.
The ladies put a mattress down in the parlor that first night and later awoke to the sound of a horse thundering up and down the main stairway. They also reported hearing the voice of an angry Andrew Jackson ordering them to wake up and get to work.
In addition, those women heard chains dragged across the front porch, pots and pans slammed around in the kitchen and dishes crashed to the floor and broke as if perhaps the President was having a temper tantrum.
They didn’t get any sleep but stayed until daylight and inspected the house to find nothing out of place and the doors locked as they’d left them the previous night.
Several witnesses reported that these episodes repeated every night without fail until the Association found a security guard who would take the job.
Since the house has been restored, none of the workers have reported any more disturbances in the house but they have seen apparitions of former slaves on the balcony of Jackson’s former bedroom. Others still claim to see slaves walking around the premises recently.
The Jackson ghost appears to be a busy ghost, as he travels around visiting his former residences.
As the First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln was among the first to report a sighting of Andrew Jackson in the White House. He cursed, swore, and stomped around in the Rose Guest Room in the First Family’s Living Quarters. Others have reported hearing and seeing him laughing loudly in the Red Room on the Main Floor.
In addition, visitors to the New Orleans battle site have reported that he rides his horse through the area.
Also residents in Jonesborough, Tennessee have seen him walking at the courthouse where he first practiced law. Other than the Hermitage, no known sightings of the President have been reported in Nashville.