The Duel That Never Happened
By Henry Piarrot
In 1767, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson were only a few weeks away from the birth of their third child when Andrew was killed in a logging accident near their South Carolina home. To honor her late husband’s memory, Elizabeth gave her newborn son his name. Consistently, encouraged by his mother to join the ministry, King George would put an end to Andy’s aspiration when the 12 year old joined the Continental Army after his oldest brother Hugh died during the battle at Stone Ferry. Two years later, Andy and his other brother contracted small pox while they were in a British prison camp together. Andy recovered, but unfortunately Robert died only days before they were to be released.
As a result, young Andrew Jackson would forever be hardened by the abuse he and his family received from the English. Tragically, later that same year, the 14 year old ex-patriot became an orphan when his beloved mother lost a desperate battle with cholera.After three years with relatives and three more studying law, Jackson became a lawyer at the age of 20. In late 1788, he became a public prosecutor for the western district of North Carolina and was sent to what is now Middle Tennessee. There he met the love of his life.
In addition to being the daughter of his new landlord, Rachel was also the often abused wife of a very violent man. Her husband’s great temper led her to seek refuge in her widowed mother’s home. Andy adored Rachel and he emphatically devoted himself to her defense. Believing Rachel’s husband had divorced her, the couple married in 1791. When they later learned that the divorce was not final until the fall of 1793, they quickly re-married in January of 1794. Although Andrew honestly believed that Rachel was free when they first wed, it did not stop some from accusing him of stealing another man’s wife and branding them adulterers.
Consequently, the slightest question of his wife’s virtue would provoke Jackson to tremendous acts of violence. A horsewhip was his preferred implement of satisfaction for defending his wife’s honor. More than once, dueling pistols were used.In April 1803, State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Jackson was campaigning to be major general of the Tennessee militia. At that time, John Sevier had just completed three terms as governor and by law could not serve another consecutive term. So, he chose to run for major general.
Intense rivals, each represented one of the two political factions in Tennessee and already cared little for each other. The younger Jackson managed to achieve a tie vote by his popularity among the young officers of the militia and the current governor Roane, also from the west, insured Jackson‘s victory. Sevier retaliated by having his allies in the legislature pass a law dividing Tennessee into east and west districts, giving Jackson control only in the west.
More complications arose when Jackson disclosed evidence of a land fraud based in North Carolina and his assertions seemed to implicate John Sevier in the scam. Then, Jackson passed the information to Governor Roane, who used it to keep himself in office after the next election. Slanderous name calling ensued, resulting in Sevier telling Jackson in public, "I know of no great service you have rendered the country, except taking a trip to Natchez with another man's wife.”
Jackson responded with outrage. Suddenly, the last governor of Tennessee and the state supreme court judge fired at each other, only to injure an innocent bystander. Still unsatisfied, Jackson repeatedly challenged Sevier until he finally agreed to a duel.
When the two angry men met outside the dueling grounds, they drew pistols on each other again. The loud foul language and the drawing of swords ultimately led to a frightened horse running away with the dueling pistols. Fortunately, their “seconds
” managed to talk them out of the contest.
Hnry Piarrot is ahotel manager in Sevier County. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org