Monday, September 26, 2011

Which president served in both those wars?

If you guessed Andrew Jackson, you were right!

A young Andrew Jackson served in the Revolutionary War:
From 1778 to 1781, the American Revolutionary War raged in the Carolinas. The war had a devastating effect on Jackson’s life. When he was thirteen, Jackson and his brothers joined the patriotic cause and volunteered to fight the British. His oldest brother Hugh died of heat stroke following the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. The following year, Jackson saw battlefield action at the Battle of Hanging Rock. In 1781, Jackson and his brother Robert were captured. After their capture, a British officer slashed Jackson with his sword because he refused to polish the officer’s boots. Both Andrew and Robert contracted smallpox in prison and were gravely ill when. Jackson’s mother arranged for their release in a prisoner exchange. Jackson survived, however, his brother died. After Jackson recovered, his mother traveled to Charleston to aid the war effort by nursing injured and sick soldiers. She contracted cholera and died leaving Jackson an orphan.

Jackson then went on to serve in the War of 1812 (which hopefully you knew!):
Jackson offered his services, but President Madison’s administration hesitated to call on him because of his reputation for rashness and his friendship with Aaron Burr. Finally, in December 1812, Madison commissioned Jackson Major General of U.S. Volunteers and ordered him to lead 1,500 troops south to Natchez and eventually to defend New Orleans. Jackson led his troops to Natchez, but in March the War Department, believing the threat to New Orleans abated, ordered the immediate dismissal of Jackson’s force and made no offer to compensate the troops or provide for their return to Tennessee. Outraged, Jackson decided that he would march his force home intact through hostile Indian lands even if he had to pay the expense himself. Jackson successfully led his poorly provisioned army back to Tennessee sharing in all the hardships his troops faced and encouraging them by his example. His troops compared Jackson’s toughness to that of the hickory tree and nicknamed him “Old Hickory.”

Tennesseans greeted Jackson with new found respect for his actions to preserve the honor of its volunteer fighting men. At last, Jackson had begun to move out of the shadow of his past, but his temper once again got him in trouble. Jackson chose sides in a dispute between two of his officers when he should have acted as a peacemaker. As a result, the argument expanded leading to a gunfight in the streets of Nashville that left Jackson horribly wounded in the upper left arm. While recovering from his wound, word reached Tennessee that settlers at Fort Mims (in present-day Southern Alabama) had been massacred by a hostile faction of the Creek Nation. Jackson received orders to put down the Creek uprising. Despite his health, Jackson gathered his forces together in October 1813 and marched south. In November, Jackson won significant battles against the Creeks at Tallushatchee and Talladega.

Jackson’s initial successes left him hungry for further victories, but supply problems and disagreements over the length of service that many of his militia signed up for, led much of his force to attempt desertion. Twice Jackson prevented mass desertion by his troops at gunpoint. However, when his troops reached the end of their terms of service Jackson was compelled to let them go. Jackson appealed to the governor of Tennessee to send him more troops. Finally, in January, new troops began to arrive and by March 1814, Jackson’s army reached 5,000 men, which greatly outnumbered the Creek warriors. At Horseshoe Bend, Jackson’s army surrounded the Creeks and inflicted a punishing defeat effectively ending the Creek War.

The victorious Jackson returned to Tennessee where he was greeted as a hero that had not only defeated the Creeks, but also at the same time provided for the future security of the region by building military roads and forts. Jackson’s successes were lauded across the country at a time when the War of 1812 was going poorly. Even the Madison Administration recognized that in Jackson they had a man, despite his lack of military training, who stood out on the field of battle where others had failed miserably. In May, the War Department rewarded Jackson with a commission as Major General in the U.S. Army over the 7th Military District, which included Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Mississippi Territory. Jackson’s immediate orders were to negotiate a peace treaty with the Creek Nation. In August 1814, Jackson met with chiefs of the Creek Nation and imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson that forced the Creeks to give up nearly 23 million acres and remove their settlements to a smaller area of land that American forces could more easily patrol.

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