Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. He was a polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s. His political ambition combined with widening political participation by more people shaped the modern Democratic Party. Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed "Old Hickory". As he based his career in developing Tennessee, Jackson was the first President primarily associated with the frontier.
Andrew Jackson in Trail of Glory
Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Jackson had already developed a reputation for a quick and explosive temper by the time of the Creek War. Even his ostensible allies, the Cherokee, had nicknamed him "Sharp Knife". In February, 1814, Jackson was poised to bring an end to the conflict, but several stumbling blocks remained, the primary one being that the enlistments of the militias that made up most of his forces were on the verge of running out. While headquartered at Fort Strother, Jackson was introduced to Houston by General John Coffee. Jackson was relieved to see a true solider, but also inadvertently offended Houston's adopted family, the Cherokee, by calling them "savages". Nonetheless, Jackson was impressed by Houston's willingness to defend his family.
Jackson launched his attack the following month on a Red Stick position located on a bend in the Tallapoosa River. This attack, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, was the decisive blow against the Red Sticks. Jackson became a national hero. Houston once again came to Jackson's attention during the battle. The younger man led the frontal assault on the Red Stick position after his commanding officer, Major Lemuel Montgomery, was killed. Jackson was impressed with Houston's bravery. He saw to it that Houston was promoted to lieutenant, and brought Houston into his inner circle.
In April, Jackson and Houston entered into an arrangement that would change the course of history. After Colonel Homer Milton had alienated Jackson's Cherokee allies, he turned to Houston to help mend fences. In a private meeting, Jackson made it clear that the Cherokee and the Choctaw would one day be broken right along with the Creek. Houston proposed the alternative of relocation. He agreed to start outlining a plan, but in exchange, wanted Jackson's full support for everything Houston did. Before Jackson could give an answer, William Weatherford, the leader of the Red Stick faction, interrupted the meeting by personally surrendering to Jackson.
Jackson was impressed by Weatherford's boldness, so much so that he agreed to Houston's plan. He proposed a delegation led by Houston travel to Washington, D.C.. He also shared his plan for dividing up Creek territory in such a way as to cut the Creeks off from Spanish territory, and his burning desire to push Spain out of North America altogether. While Houston was dubious about punishing the Creeks, and Jackson's long term schemes against Spain, he did accept Jackson's proposal to go to Washington.
Conclusion of the Creek War
In August, Jackson was able to force a peace. The Treaty of Fort Jackson forced the Creeks to cede half their land; Jackson made no distinction between those who had been the USA's allies and its enemies. Word reached Washington days before the Battle of the Capitol. While President James Madison did not approve for any number of reasons, he realized it would be foolish to nullify the treaty.
Jackson began planning for the fight in Louisiana. This included marching into western Florida Territory and occupying the town of Mobile. He kept abreast of the situation in the North, learning of Houston's victory at the Battle of the Capitol in September, 1814, and that Houston would be joining Jackson's men in the coming months.
Jackson took residence in New Orleans in December. Not long after, Louisiana governor William C.C. Claiborne had proposed that freedmen form two battalions, and Jackson had accepted those battalions. This did not sit well with plantation owners all over Lousiana, who protested to Jackson. Jackson, while holding an ill-view of blacks, was utterly disgusted with the plantation owners for their short-sightedness.
Houston and his men arrived on December 14, 1814. Time was of the essence, however, as Admiral Alexander Cochrane was known to be on his way. Jackson enlisted Patrick Driscol (with Houston's support) to train the two Negro battalions, fully expecting to meet the British in two weeks at most. Driscol agreed, after convincing Jackson to detach Charles Ball and the black sailors, as well as three cannons. Jackson agreed, although not without some grumbling. Driscol also convinced Jackson to award a $200 bonus to any freedmen who joined, particularly laborers.
Word came on December 23, 1814 that a British force, under the command of General John Keane, had, after an initial successful push, set up camp 10 miles south of New Orleans on a plantation belonging to Major Gabriel Villeré. Villeré had escaped, prompting Keane to halt the advance for fear of being overwhelmed by Jackson. Keane's decision not to attack was lucky for Jackson; the volunteers under his command were in no position to meet a surprise attack. However, Jackson made the most of Keane's caution. That very night, Jackson ordered a multi-pronged attack, which included a bombardment of the British position by the schooner Carolina (commanded by Daniel Patterson), as well as a ground assault led by Jackson himself. While the assault ultimately foundered, it served the purpose of halting the British advance, and giving the Americans time to fortify the Rodriguez Canal.
On January 1, 1815, Houston, word came that British general Robert Ross, now quite ill, wished to be surrendered to the Americans. Jackson ordered Sam Houston to parlay with the British to arrange transfer of to the Americans. Jackson was determined to appear gallant to his enemy. During the course of the parlay, Houston took note of the British positions, and shared his observations with Jackson. Specifically, Houston was concerned that the British were widening the canals southern of their lines. Jackson realized that the British could be preparing to land a force on the other side of the river. He also realized that the only force to meet them would be under the command of General Daniel Morgan, who had no taste for fighting. Jackson ordered Houston to prepare to cross the river to support Morgan. He also ordered Patrick Driscol and his new unit be ready as well.
For his part, Driscol was quite open about his belief that the British plan was to overwhelm Morgan's position, take the guns under his command, and turn them against the Americans. Houston had no choice but to accept the logic of this.
- Ibid., CH. 36.
- Ibid., Ch. 37.
- Ibid., Ch. 38.
- Ibid., ch. 40.
John Quincy Adams
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Martin Van Buren