Robert V. Remini's prize-winning, three-volume biography Life of Andrew Jackson won the National Book Award on its completion in 1984 and is recognized as one of the greatest lives of a U.S. President. In this meticulously crafted single-volume abridgment, Remini captures the essence of the life and career of the seventh president of the United States. As president, from 1829-1837, Jackson was a significant force in the nations's expansion, the growth of presidential power, and the transition from republicanism to democracy.
Jackson is a highly controversial figure who is undergoing historical reconsideration today. He is known as spurring the emergence of the modern American political division of Republican and Democractic parties, for the infamous Indian removal on the Trail of Tears, and for his brave victory against the British as Major General at the Battle of New Orleans.
Never an apologist, Remini portrays Jackson as a foreceful, sometimes tragic, hero--a man whose strength and flaws were larger than life, a president whose conviction provided the nation with one of the most influential, colorful, and controversial administrations in our history.
Robert V. Remini is professor of history emeritus and research professor of humanities emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and historian of the United States House of Representatives. He is the winner of the National Book Award for the third volume of his study of Andrew Jackson, and he lives in Wilmette, Illinois.
It was not half an hour before dawn, January 8, 1815. A thick mist rolled from the murky waters of the Mississippi River and covered the ground separating two armies facing each other. Slowly, as the light of the new day spread across the plain, the mist gradually thinned and drifted away, revealing the British army, in magnificent array, stretched across two-thirds of the open field. A short distance in front of them and crouched behind an open ditch, American militiamen, sharpshooters, frontiersmen, pirates, blacks, army regulars, and others, waited for the attack to begin, their guns pointed straight ahead.
Then, with a screech, a Congreve rocket rose from one flank of the British army, followed by a second that ascended from the other flank. They signaled the beginning of the Battle of New Orleans.
Displaying superb military discipline, the army of redcoats charged forward. The Americans saw them and cheered. They had been waiting for hours for this moment and could scarcely contain their excitement and joy. Their guns trained on the brightly colored targets before them. Trigger fingers tensed. Suddenly the entire American line was illuminated with a devastating blaze of fire. A battalion band in the background struck up "Yankee Doodle" as artillery, rifles, and small arms emptied into the faces of the oncoming British. The initial roar of defiance no sooner echoed away than another thundering rebuke smashed into the scarlet ranks. And with each volley, dozens of redcoats crumbled to the ground.
"Fire! Fire!" ordered General William Carroll to the Tennessee and Kentucky sharpshooters. And it was executed with deadly precision. Not hurriedly or excitedly but calmly and deliberately. Hardly a shot was wasted by the skilled marksmen as row after row of American riflemen shattered the advancing column. One British officer said he never saw a more destructive fire poured upon a single line of men. Every shot seemed to find its mark; scores of soldiers pitched to the ground, many of them falling on top of one another.
Then it happened. The advancing troops lost their nerve and the column halted. "The horror before them was too great to be withstood." They could no longer face the "flashing and roaring hell" in front of them. They recoiled and began a general retreat.
The commanding officer of the British army, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, saw his men halt and turn around and he rode forward from his position in the rear to stop them. "For shame, for shame," he screamed at them, "recollect that you are British soldiers. This is the road you ought to take," he admonished as he pointed to the fiery furnaces before them.
A shower of lead balls from the sharpshooters behind the ditch greeted Pakenham's call to advance. One shattered his right arm, another killed his horse. Mounting an aide's pony, Pakenham pursued the retreating column with cries to halt and reform their line.
They heard him. Once out of range of the fierce American rifles their spirits surged again. They advanced once more. At the same time a column of 900 Highlanders off to the left side of the line were ordered to cross the field and help their comrades. The tartan-trousered Highlanders followed an oblique route to the right while the once-fleeing column headed back toward the ditch.
But the ditch saw what was happening and responded instantly. Round, grape, musketry, rifle, and buckshot raked the entire length of the Highlanders' line. The carnage was frightful. And once the British column returned within rifle range the mud ditch barked its command to halt. Round after round smashed into the British ranks. One thirty-two-pounder, loaded to the muzzle with musket balls, crashed into the head of the column at point-blank range and leveled it to the ground, some 200 men killed or wounded in this single salvo. In the fire General Pakenham was struck several times. One bullet ripped open his thigh, killed his horse, and threw both to the ground. As his aides started to lift him, a second shot struck him in the groin and Pakenham instantly lost consciousness. He was carried to the rear out of gun range and propped up under an oak tree in the center of the field. Within minutes Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham died.
The brave Highlanders halted not one hundred yards from the ditch, taking round after round from the Americans until more than 500 of them lay on the ground. At last they too turned and fled in horror and dismay. The British army lay shattered on the field.
The Americans stopped firing when the redcoats retreated out of range. Then word was passed down the line to cease fire. The men rested on their arms. The entire assault had taken hardly more than two hours, the principal attack lasting only thirty minutes.
General Jackson walked slowly down the line with his staff, stopping at the center of each command to congratulate the men on their bravery and skill. Then, the entire line suddenly burst forth with loud and prolonged cheers for their General. Jackson nodded and gestured his appreciation. The cheering continued for many minutes.
But when the Americans scaled the parapet they had built behind their ditch and wandered around the battlefield, their smiles and happy countenances vanished as they gazed upon the horror stretched out...
Chronology of Jackson's Life, 1767-1845 xi
Genealogy of the Jackson Family xv
1 Boy from the Waxhaw District 1
2 Frontiersman and Lawyer 14
3 Congressman Jackson 28
4 The Duel 42
5 Old Hickory 55
6 The Creek War 68
7 The Battle of New Orleans 86
8 Indian Removal 105
9 The First Seminole War 116
10 Governor Jackson 129
11 An Era of Corruption 137
12 "Jackson and Reform" 157
13 The First People's Inaugural 172
14 The Reform Begins 183
15 Political Upheaval 190
16 Return to Reform 208
17 The Bank War Begins 220
18 Jackson and the Union 233
19 The Union Preserved 244
20 "The Grand Triumphal Tour" 252
21 Panic! 261
22 The End of the Bank 272
23 The Hermitage Fire 278
24 Jacksonian Diplomacy 283
25 Jacksonian Democracy 295
26 Texas 309
27 Life in the White House 315
28 Farewell 327
29 Retirement 336
30 The Silver Jubilee 342
31 "We Must Regain Texas" 346
32 "We Will All Meet in Heaven" 354
Maps and Floor Plans
The Creek Campaign, 1813-1814 76
Route of British Invasion 94
Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815 98
Indian Removal-Southern Tribes 107
First Seminole War, 1818 123
Hermitage, First Floor 300
Hermitage, Second Floor 301
The White House, 1833, Main Floor 318
The White House, 1833, Second Story 319