The Life of Andrew Jacksonby Robert V. Remini
Robert V. Remini's prize-winning, three-volume biography Life of Andrew Jackson won the National Book Award on its completion in 1984 and is recognized as one of the greatest lives of a U.S. President. In this meticulously crafted single-volume abridgment, Remini captures the essence of the life and career of the seventh president of the United States. As president
Robert V. Remini's prize-winning, three-volume biography Life of Andrew Jackson won the National Book Award on its completion in 1984 and is recognized as one of the greatest lives of a U.S. President. In this meticulously crafted single-volume abridgment, Remini captures the essence of the life and career of the seventh president of the United States. As president, from 1829-1837, Jackson was a significant force in the nations's expansion, the growth of presidential power, and the transition from republicanism to democracy.
Jackson is a highly controversial figure who is undergoing historical reconsideration today. He is known as spurring the emergence of the modern American political division of Republican and Democractic parties, for the infamous Indian removal on the Trail of Tears, and for his brave victory against the British as Major General at the Battle of New Orleans.
Never an apologist, Remini portrays Jackson as a foreceful, sometimes tragic, hero--a man whose strength and flaws were larger than life, a president whose conviction provided the nation with one of the most influential, colorful, and controversial administrations in our history.
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Read an Excerpt
Boy from the Waxhaw District
It was not half an hour before dawn, January 8, 1815. A thick mist rolled from the murky waters of the Mississippi River and covered the ground separating two armies facing each other. Slowly, as the light of the new day spread across the plain, the mist gradually thinned and drifted away, revealing the British army, in magnificent array, stretched across two-thirds of the open field. A short distance in front of them and crouched behind an open ditch, American militiamen, sharpshooters, frontiersmen, pirates, blacks, army regulars, and others, waited for the attack to begin, their guns pointed straight ahead.
Then, with a screech, a Congreve rocket rose from one flank of the British army, followed by a second that ascended from the other flank. They signaled the beginning of the Battle of New Orleans.
Displaying superb military discipline, the army of redcoats charged forward. The Americans saw them and cheered. They had been waiting for hours for this moment and could scarcely contain their excitement and joy. Their guns trained on the brightly colored targets before them. Trigger fingers tensed. Suddenly the entire American line was illuminated with a devastating blaze of fire. A battalion band in the background struck up "Yankee Doodle" as artillery, rifles, and small arms emptied into the faces of the oncoming British. The initial roar of defiance no sooner echoed away than another thundering rebuke smashed into the scarlet ranks. And with each volley, dozens of redcoats crumbled to the ground.
"Fire! Fire!" ordered General William Carroll to the Tennessee and Kentucky sharpshooters. And it was executed with deadly precision. Not hurriedly or excitedly but calmly and deliberately. Hardly a shot was wasted by the skilled marksmen as row after row of American riflemen shattered the advancing column. One British officer said he never saw a more destructive fire poured upon a single line of men. Every shot seemed to find its mark; scores of soldiers pitched to the ground, many of them falling on top of one another.
Then it happened. The advancing troops lost their nerve and the column halted. "The horror before them was too great to be withstood." They could no longer face the "flashing and roaring hell" in front of them. They recoiled and began a general retreat.
The commanding officer of the British army, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, saw his men halt and turn around and he rode forward from his position in the rear to stop them. "For shame, for shame," he screamed at them, "recollect that you are British soldiers. This is the road you ought to take," he admonished as he pointed to the fiery furnaces before them.
A shower of lead balls from the sharpshooters behind the ditch greeted Pakenham's call to advance. One shattered his right arm, another killed his horse. Mounting an aide's pony, Pakenham pursued the retreating column with cries to halt and reform their line.
They heard him. Once out of range of the fierce American rifles their spirits surged again. They advanced once more. At the same time a column of 900 Highlanders off to the left side of the line were ordered to cross the field and help their comrades. The tartan-trousered Highlanders followed an oblique route to the right while the once-fleeing column headed back toward the ditch.
But the ditch saw what was happening and responded instantly. Round, grape, musketry, rifle, and buckshot raked the entire length of the Highlanders' line. The carnage was frightful. And once the British column returned within rifle range the mud ditch barked its command to halt. Round after round smashed into the British ranks. One thirty-two-pounder, loaded to the muzzle with musket balls, crashed into the head of the column at point-blank range and leveled it to the ground, some 200 men killed or wounded in this single salvo. In the fire General Pakenham was struck several times. One bullet ripped open his thigh, killed his horse, and threw both to the ground. As his aides started to lift him, a second shot struck him in the groin and Pakenham instantly lost consciousness. He was carried to the rear out of gun range and propped up under an oak tree in the center of the field. Within minutes Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham died.
The brave Highlanders halted not one hundred yards from the ditch, taking round after round from the Americans until more than 500 of them lay on the ground. At last they too turned and fled in horror and dismay. The British army lay shattered on the field.
The Americans stopped firing when the redcoats retreated out of range. Then word was passed down the line to cease fire. The men rested on their arms. The entire assault had taken hardly more than two hours, the principal attack lasting only thirty minutes.
General Jackson walked slowly down the line with his staff, stopping at the center of each command to congratulate the men on their bravery and skill. Then, the entire line suddenly burst forth with loud and prolonged cheers for their General. Jackson nodded and gestured his appreciation. The cheering continued for many minutes.
But when the Americans scaled the parapet they had built behind their ditch and wandered around the battlefield, their smiles and happy countenances vanished as they gazed upon the horror stretched out...
Meet the Author
Robert V. Remini is professor of history emeritus and research professor of humanities emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and historian of the United States House of Representatives. He is the winner of the National Book Award for the third volume of his study of Andrew Jackson, and he lives in Wilmette, Illinois.
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America is replete with larger than life characters who seem to characterize the American spirit. Andrew Jackson is encapsulated and described in vivid detail in Robert Remini's biography of the 7th president. A true gauge of the effectiveness of a biography is how well balanced the author treats his subject. Remini does largely succeeds in making Jackson a real person. This is not glowing hagiography nor hatchet piece. His temper, duels as well as his bullying of the Indians are not glossed over but given fair treatment and shown to be character flaws. Jackson, like many men of his era, sought battlefield glory. That glory was able to get him on the national stage and eventually to the presidency. Conversely, his strengths are also revealed; most telling is his loving devotion to his wife Rachel. While the actual events surrounding his courtship and marriage to the former Rachel Donelson are shadowed by controversy, what is not in dispute is the fact that their relationship that was real and loving. Rachel's premature death in 1828 (shortly after his election as president) had a lasting effect on him. Her piety made a difference in his life to the point he eventually became a member of the Presbyterian Church after his term in the White House. Remini does an excellent job of placing Jackson's candidacies, elections and term of office within its proper, historical context. Seen as having been robbed by John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay and their "corrupt bargain" which fueled his populist campaign in 1828. His efforts to return the American government to the people and avoid the creation of a permanent ruling aristocracy can provide encouragement to those fighting that same battle today. The book shows both the successes and failure of the Jackson administration. The latter can be seen in his woeful appointment of members of his cabinet. However, his triumphs, most notably the abolition of the Bank of the United States, are chronicled and extolled without cheerleading. Trying to tell the story of a man who was soldier, lawyer, general, representative, governor, senator and president can make for a long story. The author originally had 3 volumes dedicated to his subject; his reducing it down to one volume was a wise decision for the benefit of arm chair historians such as myself. BOTTOM LINE: "The Life of Andrew Jackson" is a life worth reading about.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in early American history. Andrew Jackson was a polarizing figure who had earned the respect of everyone including his military and political enemies. The man was fearless and extremely confident and it is amazing how much he had experienced in his life. He was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War who later became a victorious general in the War of 1812. His intuition served him well and was one of the many qualities that made him a great leader. Other remarkable accomplishments include serving as a U.S. Senator, successful lawyer, judge, and serving two terms as President of the United States. The book touches on numerous historic events in America from the Revolutionary Era to the period of James K. Polk's presidency at the time of Andrew Jackson's death. The author did a great job at describing Andrew Jackson's character and while reading the book I occasionally caught myself chuckling over the boldness of some of Jackson's statements and actions.
I would definitely recommend this abridged version of Andrew Jackson by Remini. The books did a wonderful job of Jackson's rise in status. I personally would have liked to have read more about his Indian policy, or at least equivalent to the amount of time spent on his banking policy. That being said Remini has book devoted to Jackson's policy toward Indians. This is a great book for those interested in learning the about the character of Andrew Jackson. After reading this book I find myself fascinated with his character. I would attribute my spawned love and fascination for Jackson to this book and since reading it I have purchased Remini's three book set, Fathers and children(Jackson's Indian Policy)- By Rogin, and A Being so Gentle (Jackson and Rachel)- by Brady. Hope this review encourages you to buy this book.
This biography was one of the most detailed and informative biographies I have ever read. It has in-depth descriptions of all of "ol Hickory's" achievements including his successful military leadership in stopping the British from advancing towards New Orleans. It also tells of his faults such as his excessive gambling and drinking, his ill willed temper, and his famous duels. The way the book Jacksons military career starting during the American Revolution with being held captive and slashed severely with a sword and the deaths of his whole immediate family due to war related causes. This led to his immense hatred towards the British. Jackson also served in the War of 1812 and the first Seminole war. Both of which he commanded American forces including Tennessee militia and volunteers. Jackson was also a major part of the creation of the state of Tennessee. He was the first congressman for Tennessee; he was in the House of Representatives and also the senate. After serving in the senate he later moved on to being Governor of Florida then on to chairman of the Senate Committee on Military affairs. This led up to his presidency from 1829-1837. Jackson was adamant about keeping the union together. When all the hostility in the South happened about seceding from the union, he was outraged. Jackson was also against the national bank and ended it by vetoing its 1832 re-charter and withdrawing US funds. The only thing I didn't like about this book was how it will go off on tangents about people who Jackson had encounters with. Some of these tangents were really long and I felt that they were unnecessary. One of the most intriguing parts of this book was the controversy of Jackson's marriage to Rachel Donelson Robards; she was previously married and divorced but the finalization was delayed. Their first marriage in 1790 was not legal, so they remarried in 1794 legally after the divorce was finalized. What sets Jackson apart from the rest of the Presidents was his dueling. Jackson partook in 13 duels; he killed one man Charles Dickinson after Dickinson shot him in the ribs. The bullet lodged in Jackson's ribs was so close to his heart that it couldn't be safely removed. This is a must read for people who are history buffs or just love American history. This biography gave me an insight to one of the greatest American leaders this country has ever had. After reading this biography, I now know why Andrew Jackson is on the twenty-dollar bill.