Andrew Jackson, the first U.S. president born in a log cabin, was the son of poor Scots-Irish immigrants who scratched a living from the soil of the South Carolina backcountry. His father died about two weeks before he was born, leaving the strong-willed mother, Elizabeth, to raise the Jackson boys. During the Revolutionary War, 13-year-old Andy joined the Patriot militia as an orderly and courier.
On April 10, 1781, the militia had gathered at a Presbyterian church when British troops surprised them. Andy and his brother Robert escaped into the woods, only to be captured the next morning at a nearby cabin. A Tory officer ordered Andy to clean his boots, and the fiery boy shot back: “Sir, I am a prisoner of war and claim to be treated as such!” The furious officer brought his sword down on the young Patriot’s head, leaving a scar he carried the rest of his life.
He grew up with the frontier – saddlemaker, schoolteacher, lawyer, planter, land speculator, Indian fighter, U.S. congressman, senator, judge, general, hero of the Battle of New Orleans. “He knew little grammar and many scars, few classics and many fast horses,” the writer Carl Sandburg observed.
While a judge in Tennessee, he sent a succession of deputies to apprehend a huge man wanted for a heinous crime. They all returned empty-handed, so Jackson himself arrested the criminal. Asked why he finally surrendered, the man said, “I looked him in the eye, and I saw shoot. And there wasn’t shoot in nary other eye in the crowd.”
When Old Hickory was elected the seventh U.S. president, frontiersmen rode hundreds of miles to join the inaugural party, overrunning the White House with muddy boots. Refined ladies and gents said it was the beginning of mob rule. Jackson knew better. He knew it was just American democracy on its way to growing up.