If there was ever a badass among our founding fathers it would be Andrew Jackson. Why? Keep reading. Jackson was a man’s man – something not exactly promoted or prominent in today’s climate. He refused to back down from a fight, but had a gentle side, too. He loved children and was said to be tender with women (interpret that as you will). Granted, he had a reputation as a bit of a jerk (Can you be a badass without also being a jerk? Food for thought.).
Many blame Jackson for the Trail of Tears and he was indeed a slaveholder. But despite those things he remained the kind of man you’d want to share a beer with. When he became president he opened the White House doors to the general public, drawing a crowd that grew so raucous staff members ended up luring them back outside by putting tubs of spiked punch on the lawn.
While he signed the Indian Removal Act, he was the deeply devoted adoptive father of an orphaned Indian child. Contradiction much? Yes, he possessed some less-than-stellar qualities, but he was inarguably a brave and valiant founding father with a patriotic heart.
Perhaps most noteworthy was his military service which started with his enlistment at the ripe old age of 13. Jackson got started serving as a courier during the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. During those early years of service he was captured, making him our only president to date to have been a prisoner of war.
Due to his age, he was promptly forced into servitude by a British general. Legend has it the general ordered the young courier to spit-shine his boots and Jackson’s response to the order was along the line of the era’s version of “when hell freezes over.”
As punishment for refusing, the general severely cut Jackson’s face and hands, leaving him with scars he bore for the rest of his life. When Jackson was eventually liberated from the British, he simply returned to service as if nothing had happened.
In addition, Jackson was an integral and badass part of the War of 1812. When he was charged with defending the crucial port we now know as New Orleans he immediately knew his men would be sorely outnumbered by the coming British assault.
Not one to back down, he gathered every military man he could find, pulling them from every branch. Next, he requested assistance from free blacks and then, suspecting he’d need still more men, he went to Barataria Bay and recruited an infamous band of pirates.
When the British finally attacked on January 8, 1815, they outnumbered Jackson’s motley forces by more than 2:1, but it didn’t matter. His men fought ferociously and, probably using “dirty” tactics. When the dust settled and the bodies were dragged off, the British were down 2,037 men. The Americans had lost 13.
He was also the first president to have an assassination attempt made on his life and, of course, he handled it as only Old Hickory could. The assailant’s name was Richard Lawrence, and let’s just say he ended up having a lousy day.
Lawrence came after Jackson with a pair of loaded pistols, both of which misfired. Jackson, seeing his would-be killer without a functioning weapon, used the best weapon at hand: his cane. That’s right, Jackson beat the crap out of his attacker with his cane until his aides decided Lawrence had had enough and dragged Jackson away from him.
Don’t think his cane was his only defense, though, (although I kind of want my own defensive cane now). Jackson kept a pair of beautifully-maintained dueling pistols at the ready for 37 years, lest anyone should ever refer to his wife in anything but the most respectful tones (yes, really). No really.
On May 30, 1806, rival horse breeder Charles Dickinson first insulted Jackson’s horses and then his wife. The dueling pistols were then put to good use. Historians say Dickinson referred to Jackson as “a coward and an equivocator” and called his beloved wife Rachel a “bigamist.” Furious, our American Badass immediately challenged Dickinson to a duel. At the time, Dickinson was known as “the best pistol shot in all of Tennessee.”
As Jackson said, “I was born for the storm and a calm does not suit me.”
Jackson believed his best chance for winning the duel was to take his time aiming, so he decided to let the Tennessee sharpshooter go ahead and drill him with a musket ball. On the day in question Dickinson proved his reputation was well-deserved by aiming right at Jackson’s heart.
But when the musket ball struck his chest, Jackson barely flinched. Instead, he focused on steadying his shooting hand to take his shot. At first his gun misfired but with a second pull of the trigger, the ball found its way, striking Dickinson in the abdomen. The duel ended there.
The ball in Jackson’s chest ended up situated mere inches from his heart and remained in his chest until the day he died. It caused him chronic pain – no surprise there – and a rattling cough but, as a badass, he carried on.
Dickinson, however, bled to death later that same night from the gut shot from the apparently invincible future president. Jackson participated in more than 100 duels in his lifetime because nobody — and he meant nobody — dissed his wife. Or his horses.
Say what you will about Old Hickory, but he was an undeniably cool founding father. As the proverbial icing on the cake, he was unflinchingly loyal.
During the winter bridging 1812 and 1813, just as the War of 1812 got underway, then-Major General Jackson mustered an impressive 2,000 volunteers to battle. He and his men departed Tennessee intending to reach New Orleans and marched 500 miles in the bitter cold only to be disbanded by the Secretary of War when they reached Mississippi. Jackson, however, refused to make his men find their own way home and swore to keep them together and do whatever it took – including spending his own money – to get them home.
To further complicate things, 150 of the men had fallen ill during the march and there were only 11 wagons to transport those unable to walk. When regimental doctor Samuel Hogg approached Jackson asking what he should do with the remaining sick men, Jackson lost it.
Outraged, he is said to have yelled the following: “To do, sir? You are not to leave a man on the ground!” Hogg argued the wagons were already full to overflowing and half the men still needed transportation. Jackson’s retort? He ordered his officers to give up their horses to the sick men. And he dismounting his own horse so it could be used, too. He then walked all the way back home to Tennessee alongside his men. “Not a man, sir, must be left behind,” he’d told Hogg, and he meant it.
Andrew Jackson was a man’s man, and a badass’s badass, and he made sure no one ever forgot it.
There is, of course, much more. There’s always more to history than textbooks bother to mention and our nation’s history is rife with badasses, a little detail most kids today don’t know. Maybe if the badassery of our forefathers was better known we wouldn’t be in the current mess we are.
Or maybe not. Who knows? All I know is it’s our job to make sure these little details aren’t lost to re-writes and deletion, so here I am, spreading the badassery. Who’s your favorite American badass?