Presidential sites: The Hermitage well worth a visit to Middle Tennesses

Published 9:15 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

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By Betty Etchison West
For the Enterprise

There has always been some controversy between North and South Carolina about where Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, was born.
There is a stone marker on each side of the border that supposedly marks Jackson’s birthplace. The book, “Cabins, Cottages, and Mansions” by Nancy and Christopher Benbow says: “The North Carolina marker, the older of the two stone markers, includes a carved depiction of a log cabin and a declaration that it marks the actual site of Andrew Jackson’s birth. The South Carolina marker cites a letter, written by Andrew Jackson himself, stating that he was born on the Barnes Crawford’s plantation, historically shown as having been located in Lancaster County, S.C.” So the controversy continues and will probably never be settled. Sometimes Jackson’s birthplace is listed as Waxhaw North/South Carolina.
Jackson’s father died before Andrew was born in 1767 and his mother died when he was young. When he was 13,Jackson joined the militia and was thus involved in the Revolutionary War. His two brothers were killed during the war and Andrew was injured when an officer told his to polish his boots and the young Andrew refused. The officer struck Jackson on the head with his sabre, a scar that he carried all of his life. That bit of arrogance tells a great deal about the personality of Andrew Jackson.
After the Revolutionary War, Jackson went back to school and then he decided that he wanted to be a lawyer. He came to Salisbury, North Carolina, where he read law. He set up a law office in North Carolina and then moved to Tennessee, where he boarded at the Donelson boarding house. It was there that Andrew Jackson fell deeply in love with the Donelson’s daughter, Rachel, who was believed to be divorced from an abusive husband. Andrew and Rachel were married. After the Jacksons had been married for a couple of years, Rachel’s first husband showed up and said that he never got a divorce. Devastated, Rachel and Andrew separated, and Rachel went with her first husband, only to be mistreated again. She fled, and, after she was assured that she and Mr. Robards were divorced, Rachel and Andrew were remarried in 1794.
Andrew Jackson served in a number of positions and was evidently successful financially because after living at a couple of other plantations, Andrew Jackson bought the land which became the Hermitage in 1804. That plantation was originally 425 acres but additional purchases made it a plantation of about 1,000 acres. Andrew and Rachel moved to their plantation and lived in a square block house which had three rooms, one room downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The Jackson home appeared to be a happy one. Andrew Jackson, who had a fiery temperament, seemed to be totally different at home.
Then came the War of 1812. Jackson, a Major General in the Tennessee militia, joined the U.S. Army, where he received that same rank. Much to Rachel’s chagrin, Andrew left his Tennessee home to serve his country. It was his leadership of the troops that won the 1812 Battle of New Orleans that made Andrew Jackson famous.
When General Jackson came back to his Tennessee plantation, his wife, Rachel, would have been so happy if he had just settled down and enjoyed being a gentleman farmer. He did decide to build bigger house. Work on that house began in 1819. The Jacksons did not occupy the house until 1821 after Jackson had served as Governor of the Florida Territory. The book, “Cabins, Cottages & Mansions” by Nancy and Christopher Benbow, describes the Jackson house: ”The two story mansion’s bricks were made in a kiln located on the farm itself. The first floor had four rooms connected by a central hall, as did the second floor. The ground rooms consisted of two parlors, a dining room and the Jacksons’ bedroom. The larger parlor had a doorway leading to Mrs. Jackson’s garden on the side of the house.”
Andrew Jackson served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Senator from Tennessee. After he had served in those offices, Rachel wished that her husband could have been content to just live at the Hermitage.
Not so.
He ran for President of the United States and was defeated by John Quincy Adams. He again ran against Adams and won by a landslide. It was during that campaign when the slander about Rachel being an adulteress because she married Jackson while she was still married to Robards reared its ugly head again. Andrew Jackson did everything he could to keep Rachel from hearing the accusations, and he was successful until she went to Nashville to buy a dress for the inauguration. She saw a brochure there with the accusations, and she became hysterical. She died a few days later. A heart-broken Andrew Jackson buried his beloved wife in the garden at the Hermitage.
In 1831, during Jackson’s first term as President, he decided to remodel his Tennessee mansion. Two wings were added to the house, one containing a library and the other dining room.
In 1834, there was a fire at the Hermitage and almost all of the house was destroyed. The Benbows in their book, provide the following information concerning the rebuilding of the Hermitage: “They (the builders) did so using plans similar to those of the 1831 design, but added a back portico, a large front portico with Corinthian columns and a passage between the library and the farm office. The white painted front portico with its six columns altered the typical plantation house look of the mansion, transforming it into a Greek revival mansion.” This is the house to which Andrew Jackson returned after he had served two terms as President of the United States. It is also where he died on June 8, 1845. Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States is buried in the garden at the Hermitage beside his beloved wife, Rachel. The inscription on the marble slab which is over his grave simply says, “General Andrew Jackson,” the title of which he was most proud.
In order to visit The Hermitage, a person from Mocksville, North Carolina, will have to travel 414.6 miles across Western North Carolina, across the Appalachian Mountains, and about one-half way across the state of Tennessee to Nashville by way of I-40 and then another 15 miles on a side road to reach Hermitage, Tenn., where the home of Andrew Jackson is located. As that visitor walks up the guitar-shaped carriageway and gets a glimpse of the beautiful Hermitage mansion, he/she will begin to believe the long trip was not made in vain. The house the visitor in 2022 will see is the 1834 mansion as it was remodeled after the fire. The entrance hall is beautiful with its sweeping staircase and its wallpaper which depicts the story of Telemachus searching for his father Odysseus.
Visitors will be guided through each room by a docent, dressed in period costume, who will point interesting features in every room. Particularly interesting is the portrait of Rachel which hangs in Andrew Jackson’s bedroom. Andrew Jackson wanted the portrait there so Rachel would the last thing he would see before he went to sleep and the first thing that he would see when he woke up in the morning—quite a love affair was that of Andrew and Rachel Jackson
The Ladies’ Hermitage Association administers the Hermitage. Call 1-615-889-2941 for information about the hours when the house is open to the public and for other information you may need about the Hermitage, a perfectly beautiful Southern mansion.