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Story Archives: 'Old Hickory' a Natchez legend before earning 'greater glory'
|'Old Hickory' a Natchez legend before earning 'greater glory'|
In the years before he became president, Andrew Jackson visited Natchez country several times, lived here briefly, raced horses at Bruinsburg and bought and sold slaves.
Once while at the Mississippi Territory capital of Washington, six miles east of Natchez, Jackson, commander of Tennessee volunteers, defied the orders of his commander, General James Wilkinson.
A man with flaws and a man of contradictions, Jackson was also an officer known for his leadership both on and off the battlefield. He was in a large part responsible for the removal of the southern Indians from their ancestral homes, yet he adopted a Native American child orphaned during a military battle he waged against the Creeks.
He was hot-headed and stubborn, but loyal to a fault. At the age of 13 during the Revolutionary War, he joined the Carolina volunteers to fight the British. During the war, he was captured and attacked when he refused to obey an order to clean the boots of a British officer. Jackson maintained that as an American he was a prisoner of war and not a servant.
The officer responded by slashing Jackson's head and hand with a sword leaving scars that, coupled with the fact that his family was wiped out by the Red Coats during the revolution, fueled Jackson's lifelong hatred of the British.
So when during the winter of 1813 Jackson arrived in Natchez with 1,500 Tennessee volunteers in route to New Orleans to fight the British, what he did here solidified his reputation as a man of iron will who would do anything for the men who served under him.
Encamped on McCullough's plantation east of Natchez at Washington, he allowed his men to rest briefly after the long journey. The winter passage had been so cold that the flatboats transporting the volunteers from Tennessee broke ice along the Cumberland and Ohio rivers before reaching the Mississippi, where chunks of ice floated southward.
JACKSON DEFIES ORDER
Dr. Samuel Cartwright, a longtime Natchez doctor, said in 1845 when delivering a eulogy of Jackson in Natchez that "while occupied in disciplining and drilling his troops, he (Jackson) received orders to disband them, and deliver every article of public property to General Wilkinson, of the regular service."
But Jackson refused to obey the order because, said Cartwright, of "his moral obligations...He had pledged the faith and honour of a soldier, to his men, to their mothers, and to their wives, before he took them from home, that he would act as a father towards them, and would see them all safely back that did not gloriously fall in the service of their country.
That order from the nation's capital arrived in Natchez country on March 21, 1813. It was dated Feb. 6 and stated that his division was no longer needed at New Orleans: "The causes of embodying and marching to New Orleans the troops under your command having ceased to exist, you will, on receipt of this letter, consider it dismissed from public service and deliver over to Major-General Wilkinson all the articles of public property which may have been put into its possession."
Jackson called in his field officers to discuss the matter. According to one officer, Jackson told him them: "There is only one thing to do. The order must be disregarded. We will go home. But we will not disband till we get there. We have nearly two hundred sick, for whom transport must be provided. We have no more than four days' food on hand. More than that must be found. We have no money. Supplies and means of transport must be impressed. I have no authority to obligate the government for such, but I will obligate myself personally.
"The quartermaster-general, Major Lewis, will proceed to impress all wagons and pack-animals to be found. He will also impress all live cattle fit to march with the command. I will give my own paper to guarantee the owners reimbursement. The inspector-general, Major Carroll, will make out a list of the men too sick to march and provide carriage for them in the wagons to be impressed by Major Lewis. As for pay, I suppose the Volunteers will not expect any!...Now, gentlemen, let us do the best we can in this really terrible situation. But let it be understood once for all that I am going to take this command home to Tennessee and disband them thereŚnot hereŚcost what it may!"
It was during this journey back home along the wilderness trail (Natchez Trace) that Jackson's men gave him the endearing name, "Old Hickory."
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