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[160]

Zzzthe cadetship.

It was on a summer's afternoon that he came to bid me good-by before setting out on horseback for Washington to see the Secretary of War and ask him in person for the appointment. A tall, awkward boy of eighteen, dressed in a suit of plain homespun which did not fit him, and added to the awkwardness of his homely figure, and with manners hesitating and retiring, the chances were against his making a favorable impression upon a stranger, but in his earnestness of purpose he seemed unconscious of all this, and with the hearty good wishes of a little group of friends, among them his gruff old Uncle Cummins, he started out upon his ride of 300 miles. On arriving at the capital he at once presented himself to the Secretary of War, and made known his case. Judge Spencer was then at the head of the War Department, always a stern and distant man. The execution of his son for mutiny by the order of Commodore McKenzie a short time before had made him still more stern and uncompromising, and he was in far from a giving humor. He urged that the vacancy should be given to the son of some soldier or sailor who had lost his life in his country's service, and there were, he urged, a score of applicants for the place. Young Jackson, however, could neither be bluffed nor driven from his purpose. In the end he overcame the objections of the secretary and gained his point. Judge Spencer, in giving him his appointment-papers, said:

“Sir, you have a good name, that of Andrew Jackson. Go to West Point, and the first man who insults you knock him down and have it charged to my account.”

By the skin of his teeth, as he afterward expressed it to me, Jackson passed the entrance examination at West Point. His awkward appearance and country manners made him an inviting subject for the ridicule of his companions, and they lost no time in introducing him into the mysteries of cadet life. Indeed, so unbearable became their conduct that Jackson at last turned on one of his tormentors and gave him a sound thrashing. This saved him from further annoyance, but would have brought him to a trial that would have ended in his dismissal had he not pleaded the order of Secretary Spencer to thrash the first man that insulted him. During his student life at West Point, Jackson and I corresponded regularly, and his letters used to tell me in the modest way, through life characteristic of the man, how he was faring. He was one of the hardest students ever at West Point, and during the first two years studied


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