Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Alternative view 1 of Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Alternative view 2 of Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Alternative view 3 of Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
<Previous >Next

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

3.9 25
by H. W. Brands

See All Formats & Editions

The extraordinary story of Andrew Jackson--the colorful, dynamic, and forceful president who ushered in the Age of Democracy and set a still young America on its path to greatness--told by the bestselling author of The First American.

The most famous American of his time, Andrew Jackson is a seminal figure in American history. The first "common man" to rise


The extraordinary story of Andrew Jackson--the colorful, dynamic, and forceful president who ushered in the Age of Democracy and set a still young America on its path to greatness--told by the bestselling author of The First American.

The most famous American of his time, Andrew Jackson is a seminal figure in American history. The first "common man" to rise to the presidency, Jackson embodied the spirit and the vision of the emerging American nation; the term "Jacksonian democracy" is embedded in our national lexicon.

With the sweep, passion, and attention to detail that made The First American a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a national bestseller, historian H.W. Brands shapes a historical narrative that’s as fast-paced and compelling as the best fiction. He follows Andrew Jackson from his days as rebellious youth, risking execution to free the Carolinas of the British during the Revolutionary War, to his years as a young lawyer and congressman from the newly settled frontier state of Tennessee. As general of the Tennessee militia, he put down a massive Indian uprising in the South, securing the safety of American settlers, and his famous rout of the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 made him a national hero.

But it is Jackson’s contributions as president, however, that won him a place in the pantheon of America’s greatest leaders. A man of the people, without formal education or the family lineage of the Founding Fathers, he sought as president to make the country a genuine democracy, governed by and for the people. Jackson, although respectful of states’ rights, devoted himself to the preservation of the Union, whose future in that age was still very much in question. When South Carolina, his home state, threatened to secede over the issue of slavery, Jackson promised to march down with 100,000 federal soldiers should it dare.

In the bestselling tradition of Founding Brothers and His Excellency by Joseph Ellis and of John Adams by David McCullough, Andrew Jackson is the first single-volume, full-length biography of Jackson in decades. This magisterial portrait of one of our greatest leaders promises to reshape our understanding of both the man and his era and is sure to be greeted with enthusiasm and acclaim.

Editorial Reviews

William L. O'Neill
A founder of the Democratic Party, Jackson was hot-tempered, arrogant, violent and a ferocious partisan who introduced the spoils system into government. Brands's biography is dramatic; but unlike George Washington, another and greater man with humble roots who became an entrepreneur, general and president, Andrew Jackson makes your blood run cold.
— The New York Times
Ted Widmer
…a most sympathetic portrait…From the start of the story, he writes in the hagiographic voice that biographies of great Americans used to be written in. And frankly, it's a great story, from Jackson's poverty and early scrapes with mortality to his violent encounters with British soldiers when he was a mere stripling to his impressive rise as a Tennessee politician, soldier and statesman. Brands is drawn toward the dramatic and serves up everything you might expect in a ripping yarn: murderous duels, savage Indian raids, equally savage counterattacks and a lot of detail about Jackson's scorched-earth campaigns in Louisiana and Florida…The heavy focus on blood and guts comes at a price, however. Brands's treatment of Old Hickory's political career is comparatively thin.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Sounding like a schoolteacher whiling away a snowy winter's day in his classroom by sharing a historic tale with his students, Montgomery reads Brands's life of the nation's seventh president with careful attention and understated smoothness. Beginning with Jackson's humble roots and Revolutionary War experience in the Carolinas, and taking him through his time in the White House, Brands's biography follows in the footsteps of other recent blockbuster biographies of the presidents. Montgomery's voice maintains a consistent tenor, only occasionally lapsing into clich d emoting, as he treks his way through the ridges and valleys of Jackson's career. With a faint twang underscoring his flat, uninflected tone, Montgomery's voice sometimes lacks the necessary aura of scholarly authority that would invest Brands's book with its full share of historical richness. Even so, Montgomery keeps listeners intrigued, never allowing the fidgets to set in and smoothly moving Jackson's life along without fuss or undue theatrics. A little more theatricality, though, might have made the entire endeavor a more rewarding experience for Montgomery's students. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, July 11). (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Brands (history, Univ. of Texas, Austin; The Age of Gold) displays his masterly storytelling skills with this thoughtful, frank, and readable biography of a complex individual possessed of many strengths and faults. Brands sees Jackson's greatness as his unshakeable loyalty to the American republic: "His times contributed to the way he turned out. If he defined life as a struggle, it was largely because life for America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a struggle." Using primary sources, Brands covers familiar ground in a candid though not revisionist approach to Jackson's Scots-Irish heritage, elopement with Rachel Robards, military campaigns against Native Americans and the British, and presidency. He also probes Jackson's views on core issues such as slavery and westward expansion. His book differs from Robert Remini's Andrew Jackson and Andrew Burstein's The Passions of Andrew Jackson, among others, by emphasizing Jackson's deep faith in democracy, pointing out the parallels between Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, "who articulated the Jacksonian creed best-better than Jackson himself." Recommended for all public and undergraduate libraries.-Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Industrial-strength historian Brands (Lone Star Nation, 2004, etc.), prolific in the Ambrose-McCullough vein, turns his attention to oft-overlooked Old Hickory. Andrew Jackson still gets more press than contemporaries such as John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren, but the hero of the early Indian wars and the Battle of New Orleans hasn't had a good full-scale biography since Robert Remini's three-volume life, published from 1977 to 1984. Brands's biography is more action-packed than bookish, suiting its subject. He places Jackson's family in the context of the great trans-Appalachian migration of the Scots-Irish, a people known for independence and scrappiness (see James Webb's Born Fighting, 2004); Jackson himself, Brands writes, was a pre-teen champion of the Revolution, his head filled with "an abiding hostility to all things British," an attitude he would have many chances to exercise in the border wars with the British-backed Shawnee and Creek nations and in the War of 1812. Though a military hero, Jackson had a checkered reputation, so that an elderly woman from his home village, on learning that he was running for president, said, "When he was here he was such a rake that my husband would not bring him into the house. . . . If Andrew Jackson can be president, anyone can!" Her compatriots disagreed, and Jackson handily won the popular vote against Adams in 1824, only to have the House of Representatives hand Adams the office. The subsequent outcry forced electoral reform, and Jackson again won by a large margin in 1828. His two terms were marked by controversy, but Jackson remained consistent to his small-d democratic values, opposing a national bank as monopolistic andunconstitutional and thwarting an early effort by his native South Carolina to secede from the Union. Brands illuminates the life of an American original while shedding light on such matters as the conquest of Texas and the origins of the Civil War. A pleasure for history buffs.
From the Publisher
“Jackson was an American original, a wholly fascinating figure whom H. W. Brands brings to life in a big, rich biography. . . .Brands weaves together keen political history with anecdote and marvelous sense of place to produce a vivid tableau.” —The Boston Globe

 “A great story. . . . Serves up everything you might expect in a ripping yarn: murderous duels, savage Indian raids, equally savage counterattacks.” —The Washington Post Book World

 “Highly readable and entertaining. . . . [Brands] presents Jackson, warts and all, as the fascinating and exceedingly real character that he was and lets the man emerge from behind the image to stand on his own.” —Dallas Morning News

 “Revealing. . . . A masterful, detailed account of Jackson's life and his contributions to the nation. Thoroughly researched and thoughtfully told.” —The Oregonian

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.57(w) x 6.28(h) x 1.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

Andrew Jackson

By H.W. Brands

Random House

H.W. Brands
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0739321684

Chapter One



The struggle for North America began long before Andrew Jackson was born. Like similar struggles on all the inhabited continents, it ran back millennia, perhaps to the moment humans first found their way across the Arctic plain from Asia. Oral tradition and archaeological evidence indicate that conflict was a regular feature of life among the North Americans. They fought for forests where the game was most abundant, for rivers where the fish were thickest, for bottomlands where their corn and beans and squashes grew most readily. Great warriors were the heroes of their tribes, emulated by other men, sought by women, hallowed in memory. Strong tribes expanded their territories, driving the weak to less-favored regions and sometimes to extinction. Diplomacy complemented military force: the Iroquois confederation made that alliance a terror to its neighbors.

The arrival of the Europeans added new elements to the competition. These far-easterners possessed weapons the aboriginals hadn't seen: steel knives, swords, and axes; muskets and rifles; cannon. But their most potent agents of conquest were ones neither they nor their victims understood: the pathogens to which long exposure had inured the Europeans but that devastated the native Americans. In many instances the novel diseases raced ahead of European settlers, who arrived to discover human deserts and concluded that the Christian God in his wisdom and power had prepared the way for their colonies.

But the diseases didn't kill all the Indians. Those who survived often welcomed the interlopers, at least at first. Especially after smallpox and the other epidemics killed as many as three-fourths of the members of the afflicted tribes, there seemed room enough for all. And the newcomers' traders brought goods the natives quickly learned to value: iron pots, which bested clay for durability; steel blades, which held an edge longer than flint or obsidian; rifles, which felled game at distances arrows couldn't reach and gave their possessors an advantage in battle over tribes that lacked them. Some purists among the Indians rejected everything European, but most of the natives adapted happily to the improved lifestyle the new technology brought.

In time, however, the palefaces got pushy. Their farmers followed the traders and expropriated Indian land. This was when the real struggle started. In New England in the 1670s a coalition led by a chief the English called King Philip contested the advancing settlement by destroying several towns and killing the inhabitants. The English fought back, with the help of Indians holding a grudge against Philip's group, and eventually won. Philip was beheaded and his captured followers enslaved.

The Indians' resistance grew more sophisticated. They discovered that the Europeans belonged to more than one tribe, with the French as hostile to the English as either were to any of the Indians. Some Indians sided with the French, others with the English, and when the French and English went to war-as they did once a generation-the various Indian tribes exploited the opportunities to their own advantage. The largest of the conflicts (called the French and Indian War by the English in America) began in 1754 and inspired the Delawares and Shawnees, allies of France, to try to drive the English away from the frontier. To this end they launched a campaign of terror against British settlements in the Ohio Valley. The terror began successfully and over three years threatened to throw the English all the way back to the coast. But British victories in Canada and elsewhere weakened the French and emboldened Britain's own allies, including the Iroquois, and when the war ended in 1763 the French surrendered all their North American territories.

This was good news for Britain's American subjects but bad news for nearly all the Indians of the frontier, including Britain's allies. As long as the British and French had vied for control in America, each had to bid for the support of the Indians, who learned to play the Europeans against one another. With the French departure the bidding ended and the Indians were left to confront British power alone.

The Ottawa chief Pontiac was among the first to appreciate the new state of affairs. The Ottawas had long been rivals of the Iroquois and were recently allies of the French. For both reasons they fought against the British in the French and Indian War. When that war ended in French defeat, Pontiac saw disaster looming for the Ottawas-and for Indians generally. A tall, powerful warrior with a striking mien, he was also a charismatic political leader and an adroit diplomat. The fighting between Britain and France had hardly ceased before he welded together a coalition of tribes dedicated to expelling the British from the interior of the continent. Pontiac's forces besieged Fort Detroit above Lake Erie during the spring of 1763. From there the offensive spread north and east along the Great Lakes and south into the Ohio Valley. One British garrison after another was surrounded and destroyed. As this was a psychological offensive as much as a military one, the methods of destruction often included the most gruesome treatment of those soldiers, traders, and dependents who fell into the attackers' hands.

The assault on a British fort at Mackinac showed the swiftness with which the Indians commenced their attacks and the brutality with which they completed them. Pontiac's campaign was spreading faster than the news of it, and the troops and traders at Mackinac knew of no reason to fear the large group of Ojibwas who approached the fort in amicable fashion and commenced a game of lacrosse immediately beneath the walls. The British came out to watch, as they did on such occasions. The intensity of the game mounted, until one of the players threw the ball close to the gate. The laughing, cheering spectators took no alarm when both teams tore after it. But then the players dropped their lacrosse sticks, snatched war axes from under the robes of their women, and rushed through the unguarded gate. The surprise was total and the carnage almost equally so. A trader named Alexander Henry, who managed to hide in a storage closet, left a chilling account:

Through an aperture, which afforded me a view of the area of the fort, I beheld, in shapes the foulest and most terrible, the ferocious triumphs of barbarian conquerors. The dead were scalped and mangled; the dying were writhing and shrieking under the unsatiated knife and tomahawk; and from the bodies of some, ripped open, their butchers were drinking the blood, scooped up in the hollow of joined hands, and quaffed amid shouts of rage and victory.

The story was much the same all along the frontier. The offensive continued to outrace reports of it, and in many cases the first intimation the English settlers and soldiers had of trouble was the arrival of war parties. One by one the garrisons fell, until Pontiac and his allies controlled the entire region west of Fort Pitt, at the forks of the Ohio. Isolated frontier settlements were even more vulnerable and the destruction was commensurately greater. Some two thousand settlers were killed, and about four hundred soldiers. Many others were taken hostage. Those who survived the attacks and evaded capture fled east, bearing tales of calamity and horror.

The British commander in North America, Jeffrey Amherst, a large man with a big nose and a deeply held conviction that his talents were being wasted in the colonies, received the news of the western disaster at his headquarters in New York. Although the reports shocked him, he wasn't surprised at the behavior of the Indians, whom he considered savages beneath regard by civilized men. This attitude was common among the British, and it had helped trigger the current uprising. (By contrast, the French, whose imperial policy relied less on displacing the Indians than on trading with them, developed a more sophisticated view of the indigenes.) Amherst terminated the practice of sending gifts to Britain's Indian allies, and he curtailed the trade in guns and ammunition. He judged that though the Indians had been useful against the French, now that the French were vanquished it was time to make the Indians understand who the true rulers of North America were.

While Amherst had to respect the fighting ability of the Indians, he blamed incompetence among his subordinates for the success of Pontiac's offensive. Upon receiving a report of a massacre of the British garrison at Presque Isle, which followed the fort's surrender by its commanding officer, he could hardly contain his anger. "It is amazing that an officer could put so much faith in the promises of the Indians as to capitulate with them, when there are so many recent instances of their never failing to massacre the people whom they can persuade to put themselves in their power," he wrote in his journal. "The officer and garrison would have had a much better chance for their lives if they had defended themselves to the last, and if not relieved, they had confided to a retreat through the woods or got off in a boat in the night. These people are undoubtedly murdered unless the Indians may have feared to do it lest we may retaliate. There is absolutely nothing but fear of us that can hinder them from committing all the cruelties in their power."

Amherst determined to answer the terror of the Indians with terror of his own. Knowing that the Indians rightly feared the white men's diseases more than anything else about the Europeans, he directed Henry Bouquet, the commander of the western district, to launch a campaign of biological warfare. "Could it not be contrived to send the smallpox among the disaffected tribes of Indians?" Amherst inquired. "We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them."

Bouquet responded at once. Some of his own troops were suffering from smallpox; he proposed to take blankets from the sick men and distribute them among the Indians. "I will try to inoculate the -- with some blankets that may fall in their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself," he told Amherst. (Whether discretion caused him not to identify the targets or he hadn't decided which Indians to infect is unclear.)

Amherst approved the plan. "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race," he said.

Bouquet distributed the blankets. By the time he did, they may have proved redundant, as the smallpox had already jumped from the whites in the area to the Indians. Yet the outcome was certainly what Bouquet and Amherst desired. "The smallpox has been very general and raging among the Indians since last spring," an observer wrote several months later. A subordinate of Bouquet-who, unlike his commander, wasn't beyond pity-reported from the front, "The poor rascals are dying very fast with the smallpox; they can make but little resistance and when routed from their settlements must perish in great numbers by the disorders."

Aided by the epidemic, the British managed to roll back the Indian advances. Bouquet battered an Indian army at Bushy Run near Fort Pitt, and he sent his troops to burn Indian villages and drive off their inhabitants, many of whom then perished of hunger and disease. The villages were always the weak spot of Indians, for although Indian warriors were masters at raiding garrisons and terrorizing settlers, they lacked the numbers and firepower to defend their own women and children against British counterattack. In the face of Bouquet's scorched-earth strategy, Pontiac's allies fell away band by band and tribe by tribe, to make peace with the British.

Yet the outcome was far from an undiluted victory for British arms. To entice Pontiac's allies to the peace table, the British government recalled Amherst and repealed most of the measures the Indians resented. As a result, it wasn't hard for many of the Indians to conclude that, in dealing with the Europeans, war worked. (For Pontiac personally, the failure to drive the British from the Ohio marked a defeat from which he never recovered. His fellow Ottawas turned to others for leadership, and the younger warriors derided the old man as a relic of the past. In 1769 he was fatally stabbed by a Peoria Indian at a trading post on the Mississippi River. None of the Ottawas, not even his own sons, lifted a finger to avenge him.)

The lesson American colonists drew from Pontiac's War was similar in content to that drawn by the Indians but altogether different in tone. The uprising had sent shudders all along the American backcountry, from New York to Georgia. In every community that lived within sight or consciousness of the great forest that stretched away to the west, the reports of the Indian atrocities-with the torture of prisoners and the mutilation and cannibalism of the murdered recounted in excruciating detail-caused hearts to clutch and eyes to examine every grove of trees for signs of the enemy's approach. The flood of refugees from the war provided additional evidence of the scope and meaning of the Indian uprising. An inhabitant of Frederick, Maryland, noted, "Every day, for some time past, has offered the melancholy scene of poor distressed families driving downwards through this town with their effects, who have deserted their plantations for fear of falling into the cruel hands of our savage enemies, now daily seen in the woods." A witness in Winchester, Virginia, explained, "Near 500 families have run away within this week. I assure you it was a most melancholy sight to see such numbers of poor people, who had abandoned their settlements in such consternation and hurry that they had hardly anything with them but their children. And what is still worse, I dare say there is not money enough amongst the whole families to maintain a fifth part of them till the fall; and none of the poor creatures can get a hovel to shelter them from the weather, but lie about scattered in the woods."

For the refugees, and for the many more who held on to their homes but watched their cold, hungry compatriots stream by, the outcome of Pontiac's War was decidedly unsatisfactory. Except for the traders, who required the Indians as customers, nearly all the Americans who lived anywhere near the frontier considered the Indians an existential danger. Few would have mourned had every one of the natives fallen victim to British arms or European disease. And when the post-Pontiac settlement essentially restored the status quo, the Americans once more saw the tomahawk hanging over their heads.

Among those who fought against Pontiac were members of a peculiar tribe with origins in the foggy North Atlantic. During the first decade of the seventeenth century-at the same time as the founding in America of English Jamestown and French Quebec-King James of England and Scotland planted a colony of English and Scots in the north of Ireland.


Excerpted from Andrew Jackson by H.W. Brands Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

H. W. BRANDS holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and Traitor to His Class.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Brands has written a one of a kind historical account of a highly under rated American hero. This comprehensive memoir reveals the character of a true American patriot who often placed his life and honor on the line in order to preserve his steadfast democratic beliefs. For any historical fanatic this biography is a winner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I grew up within 50 miles of The Hermitage, and I had a reasonable high school and undergraduate education, but I had never realized the magnitude of Jackson's stature among our Presidents and military leaders -- the extent to which his personal conduct was important in saving the Union and in the country's development. I had never read anything by Brands before, but I found his work equally readable with Joseph J. Ellis and David McCullough. If you read and liked 'Founding Brothers', 'American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson', 'His Excellency: George Washington', 'John Adams', and '1776', you'll also enjoy 'Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times.' This book is truly an outstanding piece of work, and a very easy and enjoyable read.
The_PLSC_Hammer More than 1 year ago
Brand's biography is a work that spans the entire life of a true peoples' President. Jackson's life is filled with stories by which legends are made, and Brands takes a careful look at all of them, giving more or less detail appropriately to those that are more or less important. The best part about Brands biography is the format. It is a fine blend of character-driven and plot-driven scenes where all the necessary background information is provided and all the repercussions of the events are included. The biography is short for such an adventurous life, about 560 pages. For its length it is surprisingly detailed, but it would not have suffered from being made a bit longer. Perhaps the worst part are the sweeping generalizations about the time-period that are made throughout. Often, Brands talks about the way things were then and gives an awfully negative tone when doing so without providing much evidence, leading the reader to believe it's often just speculation. Overall, the biography offers an adventurous and at times inspiring tale of a truly democratic President written by an articulate and careful pen. If you are looking for a biography that brings you equally to both character and place, without emphasizing one over the other, this is the one.
Nedinthefirstreader More than 1 year ago
A vivid account of a man who steeped himself in principals. Brands exhaustive research peels away previous images of the man for whom an era was named. I had to read twice the bar-room and gutter brawls. The author's descriptive telling of the gun duels; the cause and effects were no less than mesmerizng when you remember that this man was President of the United States. Brands clearly details the self-making of a man, almost an orphan, who rose and served two terms as president. His unheraled love of Rebecca, his actions as a military commander and his unyielding devotion to the preservation of the Union truly marks him as one of America's greatest heroes. Brands has gone over the top with this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book reads easily and is wriiten well. It is a biography that flows like a narrative therefore very interesting. But beware of some of the author's conclusions. They are tainted by his strong pro-southern and Texas bias and by his anti- New England bias.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brands presents a balanced view of Andrew Jackson with engaging anecdotes about his life and the rapidly maturing nation that influenced him. I liked how Brands made no apologies for behavior that made Jackson a controversial figure. But instead, he provided clear context to help readers understand the frame of mind that drove Jackson's behavior (while still pointing out Jackson's contradictions). Anecdotes about his time as a militia leader and in the Battle of New Orleans were enlightening and illustrated the times in which he lived.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Brands does an excellent job of painting the picture of Jackson and the Jacksonian era!
buzz64 More than 1 year ago
A somewhat disappointing read.  I never really felt I got to know Andrew Jackson.  The book reads like a compilation of historic events and people that occurred and lived during Jackson's lifetime.  In my opinion, this work by Brands does not measure up to biographies I've read that were written by McCullough, Chernow, and David Herbert Donald. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting presidenr
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
On page 71 to 72 at the top the authored H.W. Brands, wrote that 'The republican premise of the American Revolution, and in particular the ringing egalitarianism of the Declaration of Independence with its unqualified assertion that 'all men are created equal,' prodded the conscience in several northern states to abolish slavery. My question is does the suthor believe that all men are not created equal? He seems to suggest that the believe is unfounded. I believe that all men and women are created equal in rights, though not in ability.