Thursday, March 7, 2013

Andrew Jackson

There are quite a few of our earlier Presidents, who, unlike Washington and Jefferson, were not raised on plantations, but rather came from the ranks of the settlers who were expanding our borders through sheer sweat and hard toil. Abe Lincoln comes immediately to mind in this regard. His boyhood home has been long gone, although there is a cabin at Knob Creek in Kentucky which belonged to a neighbor which is similar to the one in which Lincoln would have been born. Andrew Jackson’s story is somewhat the same.

Jackson, our 7th President, was born in Waxhaw, which is on the border of North and South Carolina, making it hard for historians to accurately pin down the exact location, on March 15, 1767, just in time for the Revolutionary War. Although too young to serve as a soldier; as did his 2 brothers; he did serve as a courier in the final year of the war when he was 13.

This was the year in which a British officer ordered him to clean his boots, which the young Jackson refused to do. The British officer used his sword on the boy, leaving him with a severe gash in his hand. The hand would heal, but his hatred of the British would remain with him until his death. This was also the year in which he lost both his brothers and his mother to smallpox and ships fever, leaving him orphaned at the age of 14. For the next few years he lived with relatives and served time apprenticing as a saddle maker.

The Andrew Jackson State Park is located just about where he was born. There is no structure to replicate his boyhood home, although there is a small school cabin which served the children in the area when they were not working on the family farms.

The biggest attraction at the site is the massive sculpture done by Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s an equestrian statue, showing Jackson astride a horse, much as he is often depicted at the battle of New Orleans in 1814. It’s a quiet and peaceful place with campgrounds, walking trails and even a lake for fishing. There is a modest $2 charge to enter the grounds, but it’s worth it.

It’s interesting to compare the palatial Presidential “Libraries” of today; which began in the late half of the 20th Century; to these old homesteads, where so little remains to note the humble beginnings of some of our most illustrious Presidents. There is often much more to be said by the quiet and contemplative surroundings of these parks than by all of the documents, films and holograms which can be viewed at those more “modern” facilities. Sometimes, when viewing the past through the lens of modern technology, more becomes less; and the story of the individual becomes obscured.  In the quiet surroundings of this State Park, I found the soul of Andrew Jackson.

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