U.S. President Andrew Jackson Early Life and Physical Description

About the U.S. President Andrew Jackson, early life and career before the presidency, history and biography, physical description.


7th President


On the Way to the White House: When the War of 1812 broke out, Jackson was appointed major general of volunteers because of his political prominence. He raised an army of 2,000 and hoped to fight against the British. When his superiors ordered him to disband his troops, he led them instead in an expedition against the Creek Indians. The Creeks were successfully massacred in the time-honored frontier fashion, and Jackson proved himself an effective commander, despite the fact that he was suffering from dysentery and from serious wounds incurred in his most recent duel. Impressed with his determination, his troops called him "Old Hickory," because he was as tough as hickory wood. When the British attacked New Orleans in 1814, General Jackson was responsible for the defense of the city. He assembled a makeshift army (including backwoods militia, French pirates, Choctaw Indians, and freed Negro slaves) and led them brilliantly while holding back the British and digging in around the city. In the climactic battle on Jan. 8, 1815, the British out-numbered Jackson nearly two to one, but they marched directly into a deadly American cross fire and suffered a crushing defeat. American losses included only 8 dead and 13 wounded, while British combined casualties were 2,036--including the three highest-ranking officers. Ironically, at the time the battle was fought, Britain and the U.S. had already signed a treaty of peace, but neither side at New Orleans had yet heard the news from the other side of the Atlantic.

As commanding general at the greatest American victory of the war, Jackson emerged overnight as the most notable American military hero since Washington. Though he retired to the Hermitage for several years, Old Hickory remained before the public eye as a prominent presidential possibility. In 1818 he enhanced his reputation by leading a punitive expedition against the Seminole Indians in Florida. During this campaign, Jackson violated the specific instructions of his government and captured several Spanish forts, helping to drive the Spanish out of Florida and thereby endearing himself to jingoists throughout the country.

In 1824 the Tennessee legislature nominated Jackson for the presidency. In the complex election that followed, Jackson finished first in the field of four, but since no candidate had received an electoral majority, the decision was left to the House of Representatives. When the House chose John Quincy Adams, who had finished second to Jackson both in popular and electoral votes, Old Hickory was understandably furious. He and his supporters spent the next four years in determined attempts to undermine Adams and largely succeeded in ruining Adams's presidency.

His Person: Jackson was tall and gaunt--6 ft. 1 in., but weighing only 140 lb.--and carried himself in the ramrod-straight military manner. His face was long and thin, and his eyes were clear, dark blue. He had bushy, iron-gray hair, brushed high above his forehead. Jackson was noted for his terrible temper; at times he would rage uncontrollably for hours. His favorite expletive was "By the Eternal!" and the cartoonists of the day immediately seized upon this curse as one of Old Hickory's identifying characteristics.

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