Andrew Jackson 1767-1845 A brief biography

Beginnings of Jackson's Career as General (1805-1813)

Jackson and Aaron Burr

In 1805-07, Jackson became innocently caught up in the schemes of Aaron Burr, which would have involved gathering an independent army to seize Spanish land, and perhaps bringing some of the Western states into the political entity. By the end of the affair, Jackson had gotten on the wrong side of some important people, jeopardizing his military ambitions.

Aaron Burr was in the west, looking for allies in his scheme, and Jackson entertained Burr, and listened to some of his plans. Though he clearly believed nothing traitorous was afoot, he willingly gave Burr assistance in getting boats and good officers.

Some time later, a young man, assuming for the moment that Jackson was thoroughly in on the conspiracy, gave away the fact that they were planning to seize New Orleans, a recently acquired part of the United States, and vital port city.

One key player in this was General James Wilkinson, who had gotten the Louisiana governorship Jackson wanted, and whom Jackson had already disliked.

Jackson was cautious about accusing anyone directly, but wrote a carefully worded letter to President Jefferson offering the services of his militia in case of "insult of aggression made ... FROM ANY QUARTER". It appears to have only puzzled Jefferson.

When the conspiracy was revealed, Jackson defended Burr in court, but condemned Wilkinson, whom he blamed for the illicit aspects of the scheme.

The defense of Burr cost him dearly with Madison (the political heir of Jefferson). This and the condemnation of Wilkinson caused great trouble in the War of 1812. Wilkinson was not convicted, and Jackson had to operate in Wilkinson's military sphere. And President Madison, of the party of Burr's enemy Jefferson, came to distrust Jackson. 

Start of the War of 1812

During the Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. tried, at first, to remain neutral. This meant the U.S. was trying to carry on trade with some nations in the French sphere, and since England very much dominated the seas, it was mainly England with whom the U.S. ran afoul in the area of trade. England forcibly stopped and boarded many American ships. They also forced American sailors to serve on British ships, which was called impressment.

In addition to having these grievances against Britain, many factions in the U.S. were eager to expand and capture parts of Canada, and perhaps also encroach on the territory of Spain, an ally of Britain at the time. Henry Clay and John Calhoun, in congress were loudly in favor of war. James Madison asked congress to declare war, which they did on June 18, 1812.

The administration was very slow to call on Andrew Jackson for reasons noted above. But in October 1812, Jackson's ally, Governor Blount, got a call for 1,500 volunteers to support Wilkinson in the defense of New Orleans. The administration indicated a preference not to have Jackson commanding those troops, but Blount sent him nonetheless. Jackson performed masterfully in moving his men 1,000 miles in brutal winter conditions 

Then he received an order to dismiss the troops and return home. The men were far from home in dangerous Indian territory, and had Jackson simply dismissed the troops as he was told, they must have sought for safety by going to Wilkinson, who was nearby. It seemed like an underhanded way to get Jackson's men without getting Jackson. This is how Jackson took it, so he was determined instead to march the troops the several hundred miles home. It was during this expedition that Jackson got his nickname "Old Hickory".