Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Old Hickory's" Stomping Grounds

Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage

The next phase of the spring break history trip took us to The Hermitage - estate of President Andrew Jackson. Hero of New Orleans, slave owner, hater of the National Bank, preserver of the Union, and Indian remover - Jackson, much like Jefferson, is an American enigma. He was a freedom lover who was one of the government's firmest defenders, yet he denied these same tenets to his chattel and the Native Americans of the South. The Hermitage, like many plantations, began as a simple log cabin. The property was purchased by the orphaned Jackson in 1804 for $3,400. Jackson worked for the next four decades, through peace, war, and his presidency to build and expand his estate. For more information on the Hermitage's history, visit their website.

A view of the Hermitage from the area where the slave cabins would have been located.

The Restoration Curse strikes again! It never fails, happens on every historical trip I go on. Something is always being fixed up! The roof, bricks, and front facade were receiving some much needed work during our visit.

"Why, I do declare! Where is my Mint Julep?" Me on the Hermitage patio.

Andrew Jackson's office, where much of his official business as both president and businessman took place. He oversaw many spheres of plantation life including a distillery, dairy, carriage house, cotton gin and press, and slave. (This photo was taken illegally indoors by me but I had the flash turned off, so no harm done! The docent wasn't looking...)

A den area in the Hermitage. Notice the bust of Jackson at far left. Spot o' tea?

The dinning room.

"Old Hickory" stands guard in this room as well.

This room is a small corridor next to the dinning room where final preparations for the food was administered to by Jackson's slaves.

The kitchens and food storehouses are connected to the main house.

The outdoor kitchen where the meals were prepared.

The interior of the smoke house where meat and other foodstuffs would have been stored.

One of the slave cabins was receiving a face lift as well. These construction workers are placing additional claps of wood and new grouting between the logs for support. At the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned over 160 slaves. These chattel servants worked over 1,000 acres of plantation farmland - some of them for their entire lives.

Some more information on the slaves of the Hermitage. Click to enlarge and read.

The path into the garden, leading to the cemetery.

The tomb of Andrew and Rachael Jackson, among other family members. Rachael died after much heartache following the presidential campaign of 1828. The followers of opponent John Quincy Adams called her a hussy and loose woman because she married Jackson while still married to her previous abusive husband (which was technically correct). However, the Adams Campaign took the matter to a level of complete degradation. According to the Hermitage website, "The public controversy over her marriage to Jackson placed a great deal of strain on Rachel emotionally and physically. Rachel also feared Washington’s social circles and had no desire to return to it. She had already fallen gravely ill once in the fall of 1828, but her health had begun to recover and even Jackson noted such in a letter he wrote on December 22, 1828. In a matter of hours after writing those words, Rachel collapsed and died from what modern day physicians believe was a heart attack. Grief stricken, Jackson buried Rachel two days later in the Hermitage garden with a large assemblage of mourners on hand. One month later, Jackson left The Hermitage for Washington to assume the nation’s highest office bereft of the love of his life. "

[Andrew Jackson, head-and-shoulders portrait, nearly in profile to  left, leaning against pillow of which ticking appears in lower left  corner]
This photo was taken just days before his death. (Library of Congress photo)

Andrew Jackson rests beside his beloved Rachael. He died only yards away inside the Hermitage on June 8, 1845. He was buried here on June 10 with over 10,000 mourners in attendance.

Additional information on the Jackson's, their deaths, and their legacy.

On the opposite end of the tomb (segregated from the white dead people) is the humble tombstone of one of the many Jackson slaves. Although he was a slave owner, Jackson noted on his deathbed to his family and slaves that he hoped to see them all in heaven, "both black and white." Too little too late? Maybe, maybe not.

History students Eric Sral, Justin Shope, me, and Dustin Faust at Jackson's tomb.

Two of the general's swords and his pistol in the adjacent museum. The left one was likely worn by Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.

His eyeglasses and pocket watch.

Like the rest of Tennessee during the Civil War, the Hermitage was not exempt from the ravages of war. Click to enlarge.

A tintype photo of Andrew Jackson's grandson, Captain Samuel Jackson of the 44th Tennessee Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. I find it incredibly ironic that President Jackson was one of the most fiery defenders of the Union, yet his grandson died in a war to be free of it. History can be as unusual as it is fascinating, huh? More to come!

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