This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Jeff Vincent is Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia. Last time, he wrote about procrastination.
This might be one of the more non-sequitur-y of our non-sequiturs. I don’t have a history degree (history was one of the subjects I didn’t like in school) but I’ve developed a serious addiction to presidential biographies.
My favorites so far are JFK and Andrew Jackson. While JFK’s presidential tenure is the more interesting of the two (missile crises, celebrities, and Russians, etc.) Jackson’s pre-presidential life is just insane. The following are three lesser known stories about Andrew Jackson's life.
Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, was born March 15th, 1767, in an area so remote for the times that it’s unknown whether it is present-day North or South Carolina. His father died shortly before he was born, and his mother was pressed into the labor force. Because of this, his childhood wasn’t much for nurturing. This might have influenced his later demeanor and outlook (I’ll let you be the judge).
The American Revolutionary War broke out when Jackson was eight, and though he was too young to fight (he probably wanted to), a few years in he would serve as a courier (I think back then having jobs while going to school was more of a requirement than something you did to pay for gas money and movie tickets). Two of his brothers died during the War, and he was held as a prisoner of the British.
During this captivity, one particularly dumb soldier, British Major Coffin, demanded Jackson clean his boots (trying to show his superiority over a thirteen-year-old kid). Jackson refused, and Major Coffin tried to cut him up with his sword. Jackson reaches up and grabs the sword blade, no problem. As a result, he suffered permanent scars on his hands and face.
“I’ll surrender to you Jackson, but you alone.”
Andrew Jackson becomes an orphan shortly after he is freed from imprisonment, another major event that (obviously) changes his life forever. He goes on to earn a law degree at the ripe old age of 22. While he vacillated between legal and governmental roles over the following years, he was in his thirties and a judge in Jonesborough, Tennessee when Russell Bean’s case crossed his desk.
Russell Bean is described as a brute and a drunk who cut the ears off his infant child. When the case landed before Jackson, Bean refused to appear. Jackson, who because of his experiences put family before all else, demanded the sheriff go an wrangle the fugitive Bean. The sheriff, being intelligent but perhaps not terribly brave, requested Jackson join his posse in going to arrest Bean. Jackson accepted.
As the posse neared Bean’s home, they found him barricaded inside with guns pointing through the windows. He threatened to shoot anyone who approached, so the law men were ready for a stand-off. Jackson, having no patience for this kind of thing, marches right up onto the porch and demands his surrender. Bean gives in without firing a single shot. His reply, according to legend, was, “I’ll surrender to you Jackson, but you alone.”
When asked why he gave in without a fight to Jackson, Bean said he looked in Jackson’s eyes and saw he wouldn’t hesitate to kill a man. Those are some scary eyes!
Duel with Charles Dickinson
This Jackson story needed to be included because it had some pretty serious American history ramifications.
To my knowledge, it’s not completely clear why Charles Henry Dickinson and Jackson came to blows. It seems to have something to do with Dickinson challenging Jackson’s honor. While Jackson was pretty darn smart, he also handled quite a few confrontations with violence.
Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel, which back then was pretty much something you couldn’t really pass on. This is where things get really interesting. According to legend, Jackson allows Dickinson to shoot first, and he does, burying a bullet in Jackson’s chest. Jackson climbs to his feet and shoots Dickinson in the head, killing him.
Because he goes on to become President twenty years later, this duel is a pretty influential moment in U.S. History. The bullet Dickinson put in Jackson, a few inches from his heart, would remain lodged there for the rest of his life and cause a whole host of health issues.
On the other side, had Dickinson won the duel (and killed Jackson), would some of the major outcomes from Jackson’s presidency have happened? The Trail of Tears, the Battle of New Orleans, and even the Civil War were influenced by Jackson’s decisions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little walk through a piece of our history. If you want an excellent Andrew Jackson book (where I first read these stories), I would recommend American Lion by Jon Meacham.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia… thanks Wikipedia!