Chapter 1: parentage, and Early years.
The family from which General Jackson
came, was founded in Western Virginia
by John Jackson
, an emigrant from London
His stock was Scotch-Irish
; and it is most probable that John Jackson
himself was removed by his parents from the north of Ireland
, in his second year.
Nearly fifty years after he left England
, his son, Colonel George Jackson
, while a member of the Congress of the United States, formed a friendship with the celebrated Andrew Jackson
, afterwards the victor of New Orleans, and President
; and the two traced their ancestry up to the same parish near Londonderry
Although no more intimate relationship could be established between the families, such a tie is rendered probable by their marked resemblance in energy and courage, as illustrated not only in the career of the two great commanders who have made the name immortal, but of other members of their houses.
was brought up in London
, and became a reputable and prosperous tradesman.
He determined to transfer his.
rising fortunes to the British
colonies in America
, and crossed the seas in 1748, landing first in the plantations of Lord Baltimore.
In Calvert County
, Maryland, he married Elizabeth Cummins
, a young woman also from London
, of excellent character and respectable education.
The young couple, after the common fashion of American emigrants, proceeded at once to seek for new and cheaper lands on which to establish their household gods, and made their first home on the south branch of the Potomac River
, at the place now known as Moorefields, the county seat of Hardy County
But after residing for a time in this lovely valley, John Jackson
, with his young family, crossed the main Alleghany ridge into Northwestern Virginia
, where lands yet wider allured his enterprising spirit.
He fixed his home on the Buchanan River, in what was first Randolph
, but is now Upshur County
, at a place long known as Jackson
's Fort, now occupied by the little village of Buchanan
Here he spent his active life, and reared his family.
He is said to have been a spare, diminutive man, of plain mind, quiet but determined character, sound judgment, and excellent morals.
His wife was a woman of masculine stature; and her understanding and energies corresponded to the vigor of her bodily frame.
When the young couple emigrated to the Northwest
, the Indians were still contesting the occupancy of its teeming valleys with the white men. The colonists were compelled to provide for their security by building stockadeforts, into which they retreated with their families and cattle at every alarm of a savage incursion.
It is the tradition that, in more than one of these sieges, Elizabeth Cummins
proved herself, though a woman, to have “the stomach and mettle of a man,” and rendered valuable service by aiding and inspiriting the resistance of the defenders.
In her industry and enterprise was realized King Lemuel's description of the ways of the vir.
tuous woman: “She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.”
Several patents are still in existence, conveying to her, in her own name, lands which were afterwards the valuable possessions of her posterity.
They have usually claimed that the characteristics of their race were largely inherited from her; that it was her sterling integrity, vigorous intellect, and directness of purpose which gave them their type.
The picturesque country, which now became the home or tne Jacksons, descends gradually from the watershed of the Appalachian range to the Ohio river
, but is filled with ridges parallel to the main crest, of which the nearest are also lofty mountains, while the more western subside into bold and fertile hills.
The grander heights were covered with magnificent forests of spruce and fir, intermingled with tangled thickets of laurel: but as the traveller approached the Ohio
, and the mountains sank into swelling highlands, he found the ridges fertile, almost beyond belief; the slopes, clothed to their tops with giant groves of oak and chestnut, poplar, linden, beech, and sugar-maple; the hills, separated by placid streams flowing through smooth valleys and meadows, and their sides everywhere filled with beds of the richest coal.
The waters which refresh this goodly land flow northward, and compose the Monongahela
, which contributes its streams at Pittsburg, in Pennsylvania
, to form the Ohio
in union with those of the Alleghany
The mingled currents then turn southward, and form the western border of Northern Virginia
, separating it from the territory of Ohio
As all highlands usually decline in elevation with the enlargement of their watercourses, the northern part of this district, embraced within the boundaries of Pennsylvania
, is less rugged than the southern.
Settlements, therefore, naturally proceeded from the smoother regions of Western Pennsylvania
, into the
hills of Northwestern Virginia
; and thus it came to pass that, in the latter district, the northern counties were at first the more cultivated, and the southern bore to them the relation of frontiers.
The emigrants found that they had not descended very far from the loftier ranges of the Alleghany
and Cheat mountains
before they left behind them the rigors of their Alpine
Wherever the valleys were cleared of their woods, they clothed themselves with the richest sward, and teemed with corn, wheat, the vine, the peach, and all the products of Eastern Virginia
But this fertile region could only be reached from the east by a few rude highways, almost impracticable for carriages, which wound their way among and over the ridges of a wide labyrinth of mountains.
Hither the patriarch of the Jacksons removed before the war of the American Revolution
In that struggle, he and his elder sons bore their part as soldiers; and at its close, they returned to their rural pursuits.
With the practical sagacity for which the Scotch-Irish emigrant is always noted, he and his wife bent their energies to founding fortunes for their children, by acquiring the most valuable lands of the country, while they were unoccupied and cheap.
In this aim they were successful, and their numerous children were all endowed with farms, which now make their holders wealthy.
After a long and active life, they removed to the house of Colonel George Jackson
, their eldest son, at Clarksburg
, the county seat of Harrison County
, now a village of note on the southern branch of the great Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and about forty miles from the Pennsylvanian border.
The death of the old man, in this quiet retreat, is thus recorded by one of the most distinguished of his descendants, John G. Jackson
, of Clarksburg
of the Court
of the United States
for the Western District of Virginia
He writes to Mrs. Madison
, whose sister he had married, in
Death, on the 25th of September, putt a period to the existence of my aged grandfather, John Jackson, in the eightysixth year of his age. The long life of this good man was spent in those noble and virtuous pursuits, which endear men to their acquaintance, and make their decease sincerely regretted by all the good and virtuous.
He was a native of England, and migrated hither in the year 1748.
He took an active part in the revolutionary war in favor of Independence, and, upon the establishment of it, returned to his farming, which he laboriously pursued until the marriage of his younger son, when he was prevailed upon by my father to come and reside near him; there he lived for several years with his wife, enjoying all his mental faculties, and great corporeal strength, until a few days before his death.
I saw him breathe his last in the arms of my aged grandmother, and can truly add, that to live and die as he did would be the excess of happiness.
He left a valuable real-estate at the entire disposal of the widow, with the concurrence of all the natural heirs, as his liberality had been amply experienced by them all in his lifetime.
, his wife, survived him until 1825, beloved and respected by all who knew her, and reached the extreme age of one hundred and five
Hers were stamina
, both of the physical and moral constitution, fitting her to rear a race that were men indeed.
The reader will be detained a moment, to note the names and characters of her children, in order that the springs of General Jackson
's nature may be the better illustrated, and also that his widely scattered kindred may be enabled to ascertain their relationship to this world-famous hero.
The eldest son was George Jackson
, who lived at Clarksburg
, the seat of justice for Harrison County
, and was a prominent and influential man in the settlement of Northwestern Virginia
Having taken part with his father III the Revolutionary
War, he became a colonel in the forces which, at the close of the great struggle, expelled the Indians finally from his district.
He was one of the first delegates from Harrison County
in the General Assembly of Virginia
, was a member for that county in the State Convention by which Virginia
accepted the Federal Constitution
, and was first delegate from his district to the first Congress of the United States which sat under it. After his father's death, he removed to Zanesville, Ohio
, where his life was ended.
The second son was Edward, the grandfather of General Jackson
, who, after several removals, fixed his home on the west fork of the Monongahela
, four miles north of Weston
, the present chief town of Lewis County
He was a man of a spare and athletic frame, energetic character, and good understanding, beloved and respected by his acquaintances.
Filling for a long time the place of surveyor for the great county of Randolph
, he acquired much valuable land, and left to each one of his fifteen children a respectable patrimony.
He, with his father and elder brother, was actively engaged in the Revolutionary and Indian wars.
The third son was Samuel Jackson
, who emigrated to Indiana
, and left a numerous family near the town of Terre Haute
The fourth and fifth sons, John and Henry, lived near the place of their birth on Buchanan river; but of their many children, several found their way to the extreme West
Each of these five sons of John Jackson
was twice married, and left a numerous progeny.
There were also three daughters, who married residents of the country, and left descendants bearing the name of Davis
, Brake, and Regar.
Talent and capacity were not limited to this second generation.
The sons of George Jackson
deserve especially to be noted among the men of the third generation.
Of these, the eldest was John G. Jackson
, a lawyer of great distinction at
He succeeded his father in Congress, married first Miss Payne
, the sister of the accomplished lady who married Mr. Madison
of the United States
; and then, the only daughter of Mr. Meigs
, afterwards Postmaster-General
; who was appointed first Federal Judge
for the district of West Virginia.
This office he filled with distinction until his death about the year 1825.
He was a learned lawyer, a man of great energy and enterprise, and sought to develop the resources of his country by the building of iron furnaces and forges, mills, woollen factories, and salt-works.
These endeavors absorbed large sums of money, and at his death left his princely estate heavily embarrassed.
The other sons of this family'were Edward, a respectable physician; William L., a lawyer, and father of a relative and cotemporary of Genera] Jackson
; Colonel William L. Jackson
, late Lieutenant-Governor
of the State
, and then Judge
of the Superior Court; and George Washington
, long a citizen of Ohio
, and now an honorable exile, by reason of political persecution, for his fidelity to his native land.
It was his son, Colonel Alfred Jackson
, who, after serving on the staff of the General
, received a mortal wound in the battle of Cedar Run
, and now lies near him, in the graveyard of Lexington
The character which the founders impressed upon their house will now be understood.
From their forethought and virtues, it became the most noted, wealthy, and influential in their country.
They usually possessed the best lands and most numerous slaves, occupied the posts of influence and power which were in the gift of their fellow-citizens, and sent some member of their family to the General Assembly of their State, or the Congress
They were marked by strong and characteristic physiognomies, close family attachments, determination and industry in their undertakings, and a restless love of adven
Their race is now scattered from Virginia
More than one of them has been led, by his love of roving, to the most secluded recesses of the Rocky Mountains
, as explorers and hunters.
All of them were energetic and skilful to acquire wealth, but not all of them were able to retain it. Many of the second and third generations were noted for a passion for litigation — prompted not so much by avarice as by the love of intellectual excitement, and by a temper intolerant of supposed injustice; and almost the whole race were utterly incapable of resisting the fascination of machinery.
owned a mill or factory of some sort-many of them more than one,where they delighted to exercise the ingenuity and resources of the self-taught mechanic.
In a country like theirs, of sparse population, and more devoted to the rearing of cattle than of grain, it may easily be conceived that these toys ministered more to their possessors' pleasure than to their wealth.
Colonel Edward Jackson
, the grandfather of General Jackson
, was, as has been said, the second son of his parents.
His second marriage brought him nine sons and daughters.
His first wife, by birth a Hadden, bore three sons, George, David and Jonathan, and three daughters, of whom one married a gentleman named White
, and two, respectable farmers of German extraction, named Brake.
, the father of the subject of this work, adopted the profession of law, having pursued his preparatory studies in the family, and under the guidance of his distinguished cousin, Judge Jackson
His patronage induced him to go to that place — the last seat of his forefather's residence — to prosecute his calling.
About the same time he married Julia Neale
, the daughter of an intelligent merchant in the village of Parkersburg, in Wood County
, on the Ohio river
The fruits of this marriage were four children, of whom
the eldest was named Warren
, the second Elizabeth
, the third Thomas Jonathan
, and the fourth Laura.
was born in Clarksburg
, January 21, 1824.
The early death of his parents and dispersion of the little family, obliterated the record of the exact date, so that General Jackson
himself was unable to fix it with certainty.
Of these children none now live save the youngest, who survives as a worthy matron in Randolph County
, the General
's father, is said to have been, what was unusual in his race, a man of short stature; his face was ruddy, pleasing, and intelligent; his temper genial and affectionate, and susceptible of the warmest and most generous attachments.
He was a man of strong, distinct understanding, and held a respectable rank as a lawyer.
While he displayed little of the popular eloquence of the advocate, his knowledge and judgment made him a valued counsellor, and his chief distinction was as a Chancery lawyer.
His patrimony was adequate to all reasonable wants; the lands which he inherited from his father are now so valuable as to confer independence on their present owners.
But a temper too social and facile betrayed him into some of the prevalent dissipations of the country; incautious engagements embarrassed him with the debts of his friends; and high play assisted to swallow up his estate.
He at length became dependent wholly upon his professional labors, which yielded his family only a moderate support, while he owned no real estate
but the house in which he lived.
Not very long after the birth of his fourth child, and when Thomas
was three years old, his daughter Elizabeth was seized with a malignant fever.
He watched her sick-bed until her death, with a tender assiduity which, combined with his grief at the bereavement, and perhaps with his business troubles, prostrated his strength; and within a fortnight after his daughter
he sunk, by the same disease, into a premature grave.
This unexpected end was all that was needed to complete the ruin of his affairs.
Out of their wreck absolutely nothing seems to have been saved for his widow and babes.
The Masonic Order, of which Jonathan Jackson
was an officer, gave to the widow a little cottage of a single room.
In this dwelling she applied herself to the task of earning a living for herself and children, by her needle and the labors of a little school.
She is represented as a lady of graceful and commanding presence, spare, and above the ordinary height of females, of a comely and engaging countenance.
Her mind was cultivated and intelligent; and it is probable that much of the talent of her children was inherited through her. Her constitution had pulmonary tendencies, which were evidently entailed on het distinguished son. Her mind was sprightly, and her temperament mercurial, at one time rising to gaiety under the stimulus of social enjoyment, and at another sinking to despondency under the pressure of her troubles.
But her character was crowned with unaffected piety.
While her parentage and education would have inclined her to the Presbyterian
persuasion, the difficulty of reaching their ministrations caused her to become a member of the Wesleyan
always spoke of her with tender affection, and traced his first sacred impressions to her lessons.
When a daughter was born to him a few months before his own death, he caused her to be baptized with his mother's name, Julia Neale
In the year 1830, Mrs. Jackson
, whose youth and beauty still fitted her to please, married Mr. Woodson
, a lawyer of Cumberland County, Virginia
, whom the rising importance of the Northwest
had attracted, along with many other Eastern Virginians
, to that country.
He was a sort of decayed gentleman, much Mrs. Jackson
's senior,--a widower, without property,
but of fair character, and of a popular, social turn.
The marriage was distasteful to Mrs. Jackson
They threatened, as a sort of penalty for it, to take the maintenance and education of the children out of the widow's hands, and offered, as an inducement on the opposite side, liberal pecuniary aid if she would continue to bear her first husband's name.
But love, as usual, was omnipotent.
Upon her marriage to Mr. Woodson
, his scanty resources compelled her to accept the protection of her former husband's kindred for her children, which she had at first declined as an infliction.
The second husband's professional success was limited, and he very soon accepted from his friend, Judge Duncan
, who had also intermarried with the Jackson
family, the office of Clerk
of the Court
in the county of Fay
ette, which lies on the New River
, west of Greenbrier
After one year of married life, Mrs. Woodson
's constitution sank upon giving birth to a son; two months after, she died, on the 4th of December, 1831; and her remains await their resurrection not far from the famous Hawk's Nest
of New River
Her husband announced her death to her friends in these words:--“No Christian on earth, no matter what evidence he might have had of a happy hereafter, could have died with more fortitude.
Perfectly in her senses, calm and deliberate, she met her fate without a murmur or a struggle.
Death for her had no sting; the grave could claim no victory.
I have known few women of equal, none of superior merit.”
The infant, thus early bereaved of her care, lived to man's estate, and died of pulmonary disease, doubtless inherited from his mother, in the State of Missouri
, then seven years old, with his brother and sister, had been sent for to visit his mother in her sickness, and he remained to witness her death.
To his Christian friends he stated, long afterwards, that the wholesome impression of her dying instructions and prayers, and of her
triumph over the grave, had never been erased from his heart.
In his manhood, he delighted to think of her as the impersonation of sweetness, grace, and beauty; and he could never relate, without tenderness, the events of his departure from his uncle's house, when she had him mounted behind the last of his father's slaves, “good old Uncle Robinson,” and recalled him so anxiously, to give the last touch to the arrangements for his comfort.
She had no other legacy to leave him than her prayers; but these availed to shield him through all the untoward incidents of his orphanage and his eventful life; and they were answered by the most glorious endowments of grace and virtue which the heart of a dying parent could crave for a child,--a cheering instance of God's faithfulness to his people and their seed.
The orphans thus thrown upon the wide world, received shelter at first from their father's sisters, Mrs. White
--for whom Thomas
always cherished a tender gratitude--.and Mrs. Brake
His home was with the latter, about four miles from Clarksburg
He was then a pretty and engaging child, with rosy and almpst feminine cheeks, waving brown hair, and large pensive blue eyes.
It was said of him that, in the waywardness and levity which are usually seen at his age, he never was a child.
The little fellow had a manly innate courtesy, and strange, quiet thoughtfulness, united with a determination beyond his years, which drew wonder and love from his relatives.
An incident, which is most fully authenticated, occurring when he was but eight years old, shows that nature made him, from the first, of another mould from that of common men. He appeared one day at the house of his father's cousin, Judge John G. Jackson
, in Clarksburg
, and addressing Mrs. Jackson
by the title of aunt, which he usually gave her, asked her to give him dinner.
While he was eating it, he remarked, in a
very quiet tone, “Uncle Brake and I don't agree; I have quit him, and shall not go back any more.”
His kind hostess remonstrated against this purpose as a childish whim.
He listened most respectfully to all her reasoning, but returned to the same resolute declaration,--“No; Uncle Brake and I can't agree; I have quit, and shall not go back any more.”
It would seem that the husband of his aunt, though an honest, was an exacting man, and had made the mistake of attempting to govern the orphan through force, instead of through his understanding and conscience.
And the singular child, having concluded that his stay under his authority would never be congenial, had calmly determined, with the same inexorable will which he displayed in after years, to end the connexion at once.
From Judge Jackson
's he went to a favorite cousin's, lately married and living in her own house, and asked leave of her to spend the night.
In the course of the evening he announced his purpose of leaving his home, and, after listening respectfully to her remonstrances likewise, returned resolutely to his old formula: “No; Uncle Brake and I don't agree; I have quit there; I shall not go back any more.”
Accordingly, the next morning, he set out from Clarksburg
alone, and travelled on foot to the former home of his grandfather, in Lewis County
, about eighteen miles distant, then belonging to Cummins Jackson
, the half-brother of his father.
There he was kindly received, and, in the affectionate protection of his uncle and of two maiden aunts, afterwards Mrs. Carpenter
and Mrs. Hall
, then residing with him, found the home he wanted.
It was the more attractive to him that his elder brother, Warren
, was now sharing the same refuge.
This remarkable man deserves our notice, not only for his paternal kindness to the orphan, but for the influence which he exerted, and for that which, contrary to all human calculation, he failed to exert upon him. He was
then approaching middle life, a bachelor, of lofty stature and most athletic frame, and full of all the rugged energy of his race.
The native powers of his mind, although not cultivated by a liberal education, were so strong, that some of his acquaintances have declared him to be, in their opinion, the ablest man they ever knew.
His will was as strong as his understanding, and his passions were vehement and enduring.
As a friend, he was steadfast, and generous, without stint; and, though forbearing and slow to take offence, as an enemy he was equally bitter and unforgiving.
Such was his liberality, that his poorer neighbors and dependants adored him. He never had political aspirations for himself, but his unbounded influence usually gave the honors of his country to the person whom he favored.
Yet his business morals, save when he was bound by his own voluntary promises, which he always sacredly fulfilled, were accounted unscrupulous; and he was so passionately fond of litigation, that his legal controversies consumed a large part of the income of a liberal estate and the earnings of his own giant industry.
He owned a valuable farm and mills, and was one of the largest slaveholders in the county of Lewis
His occupations were agriculture, and the preparation of lumber and flour, diversified with the hardy sports of a forest country.
In this plain but plentiful home, Thomas
lived until he became a cadet of West Point
, with one noted interval, which shall be related.
He received all the privileges of a son of the family.
The relation existing between him and his uncle was, from the first, remarkable.
He treated the little boy more as a companion than as a child, soothing for him all the ruggedness of his nature, imparting to him his plans and thoughts as though to an equal and counsellor, making him his delighted pupil in all the rural arts in which he was himself an unrivalled adept, and always rather requesting than demanding
his compliance with the discipline of his household.
The child was thus stimulated in the work of his own self-government from a very early period, and left to an independence of action more suited for a man. But he did not disappoint his uncle's confidence.
His peculiar method with the boy may perhaps be accounted for in part by the singular temperament of the race — passionately attached to the idea of independence; in part by the relaxation of parental restraints, which usually prevails in new countries; and partly by the profound sagacity of the guardian, who saw at a glance the noble nature with which he had to deal.
He showed his affection, also, by earnestly seeking for Thomas
, as well as for his elder brother, the best education he could place within their reach.
He required of them a regular attendance upon the country school of the neighborhood, which Thomas
was prompt to render; but Warren
chafed under its restraints.
He was now a hardy lad of fourteen years old, and, Jackson-like, began to feel his self-reliance, and to find the bread of dependence irksome.
His discontent was probably increased by the consciousness that his little brother was more the favorite than himself.
He therefore demanded that he should be allowed to seek his own fortunes, and choose his own home.
His uncle, characteristically, gave him leave to please himself; and he departed, after a few months' residence.
But he also induced Thomas
, partly by his affection for him, and partly by the assumption of the authority of a senior, to go with him. They resorted at first to the house of Mr. Neale
, a maternal uncle, a most respectable man, living on the Ohio river
, at that island which has been made famous by the name and misfortunes of Blennerhasset, and the eloquence of Mr. Wirt
This relative also received them with cordial kindness.
found that his love dictated the same policy which the affection of Cummins Jackson
requiring them to pursue their studies diligently at school.
He soon wearied again of the restraint, and, taking his little brother, the next spring he went down the Ohio river
, and disappeared from the knowledge of his friends for a time.
In the fall of the year they returned, by the charity of some steamboat-master, travel-soiled, ragged, and emaciated by the ague.
Their story was that they had floated down to the junction of the Ohio
with the Father
of Waters, seeking adventures and a livelihood, until at length they contracted to cut firewood for the furnaces of the steamers, on one of the lonely islands of the Mississippi
, near the southwestern corner of Kentucky
Here the two children had spent the summer alone, living in a temporary cabin, earning their bread by this rough labor, amidst the dreary forests of cottonwood, and encircled by the turbid river; until their sufferings from the ague compelled them to seek a way homewards.
How strange a world this for the fair and pensive child of nine summers!
But such was the sturdiness of his nature, that he seemed scarcely to feel either its incongruity or its hardship.
On their return to their native region, Thomas
declared that he should go back permanently to the protection of his uncle Cummins Jackson
, because he had experienced his kindness and loved his home.
seemed still to feel some repugnance, and preferred to seek a refuge with one of his father's sisters, living near the old home of the family, on Buchanan river, Mrs. Isaac Brake
Here he was kindly received.
The comforts of Thomas
's home soon repaired the ravages of the ague in his body; but in Warren
the disease had taken so fatal a hold that it could not be exorcised; it passed into a phase of pulmonary decline, and after a few years of lingering sickness, which seemed to be sanctified to the production of thorough gentleness and piety, it carried him to his grave in his nineteenth year.
None of the little family now remained save
, sheltered under the stalwart but kindly arms of his uncle, and the girl Laura
, who received her nurture from her mother's relatives in Wood County
Although they henceforth never occupied the same home, and could not meet very often, he always cherished for this sister the warmest affection.
The first pocket-money he ever earned for himself, he expended wholly in buying her a dress of silk.
It has been stated that Thomas
always received from Cummins Jackson
the liberal treatment of a son. Thenceforward /his opportunities for education were just such as they would have been, had he been the heir of such a citizen.
Classical academies were, unknown in the country; and the sons of the most respectable persons, with the exception of a few who were sent Eastward for an education, were content with the plain studies of a country school.
But the practical success and usefulness of many of the sons of the soil, besides General Jackson
, have given proof that book-learning is by no means the only instrument of an efficient education.
He seems to have been at all times eager for self-improvement.
A worthy man, Mr. Robert P. Ray
, then taught an English school at Cummins Jackson's mills, where Thomas
, in company with the sons of the surrounding landholders, received the usual plain education of the country.
Out of that school came several others who have not only been respectable citizens of their district, but have risen to influence as legislators or professional men. Thomas
showed no quickness of aptitude for any of his studies, except arithmetic; in this he always outstripped his schoolmates, seemingly without effort.
In all other branches his acquisitions were only made by patient labor.
If he professed to be prepared for a recitation, all might be certain that he was thoroughly prepared; from the first, the intense honesty of his nature, and the sober judgment, with which
he preferred the substance to the name of an acquisition, were singular.
Nothing could induce him to leave a lesson behind him unmastered.
If he had not been able to finish a previous one at the same time with his class-mates, he would continue to study it while they proceeded to the next, and when called on for his share of the succeeding recitation, he would flatly declare that he knew nothing about it, that he had not yet had time to begin it, and that all his time had been occupied upon the other.
Thus he was, not seldom, nominally behind his class; but whatever he once gained was his forever; and his knowledge, though limited, was perfect as far as it went.
His temperament at this time was cheerful, amiable, and generous; and his demeanor instinctively courteous.
His truthfulness was at all times proverbial.
To an intimate friend he once said, that so far as he remembered he had never violated the exact truth in his life, save once.
This instance was one which many would justify, and most would palliate; but he himself condemned it. While lieutenant of artillery in the Mexican War
, his company were ordered to proceed by a narrow path through a dense thicket of “chapparal,” which was believed to be infested with guerillas.
himself saw the leaves of the shrubs riddled with fresh bullet-holes; and the men were so intimidated by the dread of the unseen foe, that when the head of the column approached the dangerous spot it recoiled, and in spite of the expostulations of the officers, refused to advance.
At length the young lieutenant went alone, far before his men, and waving his sword shouted to them:
You see there is no danger; forward!
Yet, as he confessed, he knew at the moment that he was in extreme peril.
At school he was also noted for a strong sense of justice, which made him as respectful towards the rights of others as tenacious of his own. As long as he was fairly treated by his playmates,
his temper was perfectly gentle and complying; but if be believed himself wronged, his resistance was inexorable.
In his occasional combats with his fellows, while superiorstrength might sometimes overpower him, it could never force him to acknowledge defeat.
The victor might cuff him until he desisted from sheer weariness, but Thomas
was still unsubdued, and ready to renew the fight whenever his antagonist dared to assail him. He was withal never moping nor surly, but always ready for the merry romp or play.
He was not peculiarly swift of foot, but he usually led his playmates in jumping and climbing.
When the school was divided into two companies for a game of bat and ball, or prisoners'-base, he was always captain of one, and his side was sure to win.
In all Western Virginia
, the owners of land and their sons were accustomed to labor on their farms with their own hands, more than any population of equal wealth and comfort in America
This was the consequence partly, of the industrious habits which the Presbyterian Scotch
, the ruling caste in those regions, brought from their native lands; partly of the comparative scarcity of labor, both slave and hired; and partly, of the absence of the abundant means of literary and professional cultivation, which an older society offers to the wealthy.
Even in the households of slaveholders, like Cummins Jackson
, who in that country were few, the males, when not at school, were regularly occupied in rural labors, except in that large allowance of time reserved for country sports.
The reader will thus understand that Thomas
, although in no sense reduced by his orphanage to a condition beneath that of the youths around him, was occupied, like his uncle, in the works of the farm and mills.
Here he was always resolute and efficient.
One of his most frequent tasks seems to have been, to transport from the woods the huge stems of the poplars and
oaks, to be converted by the saw-mill into lumber.
He became thus a famous driver of oxen.
If any tree was to be moved from ground of unusual difficulty, or if it was more gigantic than the rest, the party of laborers was put under his command, and the work was sure to be effected.
In this manner his life was passed from nine to sixteen years of age, between the labors of the school and of the farm.
He was then, like his father, of short stature, but compact and muscular.
He was capable of fatigue, and of indomitable physical endurance.
His bearing was unpretending, but manly and courteous.
But his constitution, even then, gave signs of infirmity.
An obscure disease of the stomach and other organs of nutrition had seized upon him, harassing him with chronic irritations or prostrations of the nerves, sleepless nights, and lassitude.
A year or two later, notwithstanding the means used to re-establish his constitution, these symptoms assumed the more ominous form of a slight paralysis.
The latter, however, wore away after a time; and, about his second year at West Point
his system seemed to escape a part of its burdens; he grew rapidly to a tall stature, and thus, instead of remaining short, like his father, he was conformed to the usual standard of his race.
But the other affection clave to him, like a Nemesis, during his whole youth and the war with Mexico
, and never relaxed its hold until after he came to Lexington
in the Military Institute, when he subdued it by means of the waters of the alum springs of Rockbridge
, in connection with his admirable temperance.
His habits of uncomplaining endurance, and his modest reluctance to every display savoring of egotism, concealed the larger part of these sufferings.
It should be remembered, in order that we may appreciate his capacity and energy, that his arduous studies at the military academy, and his brilliant
services in Mexico
, were performed by him while hag-ridden from time to time by this wretched tormentor.
The post of Constable in the northern half of Lewis County
became about this time vacant.
His friends procured the appointment for him, for two reasons: one was, that the life on horseback, it was hoped, might remove his disease and give him a firm constitution; the other was, that the little salary of the place might enable him to realize his ardent desire for a liberal education.
So general was the favor borne him, and the desire to forward his aspirations for advancement, that the Court
winked at the irregularity of appointing a minor to this office, accepting the suretyship of his uncle as a sufficient guarantee.
We now see the manly youth, with his account-book and bag of bills and executions, traversing on horseback the hills of Lewis
, a county then so large that the major parts of five counties have since been carved out of it. To readers who are not Virginians
, a word of explanation may be needed concerning the office of Constable in our State.
The Justices of the Peace, besides the County
Courts which they hold jointly, are authorized to decide singly, in their own neighborhood, upon controversies for property or money, where the sum in dispute does not exceed twenty dollars. Of this little court, the Constable
is the executive officer, serving its warrants, summoning its witnesses, and carrying into effect its decisions.
The Justice, as conservator of the peace, may also issue his warrant for the arrest and examination of any person suspected of crime, however grave; and in this preliminary stage of proceedings, the Constable
is his agent.
This officer is also charged with the regulating of certain misdemeanors, and with the enforcement on slaves and free negroes of the police regulations peculiar to their condition.
He is, in a word, a sort of minor sheriff.
The countrymen of young Jackson
testified that he filled this
office with industry and fidelity.
In everything he was scrupulously exact; his engagements were uniformly kept; and the little claims intrusted to him for collection were always safe.
While never cruel in the exercise of the powers of his place, he strictly enforced upon others a punctual compliance with their promises.
In these duties his nerve was sometimes tried; but he always carried his point.
One instance may be related, as illustrating his courage and resource.
About two miles from the little village of Weston
, the county seat of Lewis
, there lived a man, who, under a garb of great religiousness, concealed an unscrupulous character.
held an execution against his property for a little claim of ten dollars, which the creditor had more than once urged him to collect.
After indulging the debtor for a time, and advising him rather to earn or borrow the sum than suffer the sale of some article of his property, he exacted from him a firm promise that, on a certain day, he would meet him in Weston
, and, without further trouble, pay him the debt.
He then told the creditor that, on the evening of that day, his money would be ready for him. At the appointed day, Jackson
was in Weston
, but no debtor appeared; and when the creditor came to receive his claim, he redeemed his punctuality by paying it out of his own purse.
He then quietly remained in the village until the next morning, when, as he expected, the delinquent appeared in the street with a very good horse., It seems that there was, in their rude community, a sort of lex non script
, established by usage, and more sacredly observed, perhaps, than many of the statutes of the Commonwealth
, forbidding that any person should be taken by force, on any plea, from the back of his horse, and justifying the most extreme resistance to such a disgrace.
Selecting a time, therefore, when his debtor was dismounted, Jackson
went up and taxed him with his breach of promise, reminded him of his long
endurance of these deceptions, and was proceeding to seize the horse to satisfy his execution.
The other party, who had no idea of ever paying his debts, resisted, and a furious fight began in the street.
During the engagement, he availed himself of a momentary advantage, and remounted his horse.
Here, now, was a dilemma for the young representative of the law. On the one hand, his adversary seemed safely enthroned in that position which the sacred custom of the vicinage pronounced unassailable.
But, on the other hand, it was not in his nature to accept defeat where his conscience told him he was in the right.
Clinging to the horse's bridle, he looked around, and perceived at some distance the low-browed door of a friend's stable standing open.
To this he forced the horse, amidst a shower of unregarded cuffs from his enemy, who found himself, by these ludicrous tactics, placed between the alternatives of being struck off by the lintel of the door, or else sliding from the saddle and relinquishing the horse.
He prudently adopted the latter, and Jackson
secured the prize triumphantly in the stable, while yet he respected, at least in the letter, the common law of the neighborhood.
But these occupations proved more favorable to the health of his body than of his character.
They necessarily separated him much from home influences, and brought him acquainted with the worst people of his vicinage.
Nor could his home influences be considered very auspicious.
His aunts, before this period, had married, and the establishment of his uncle was that of a bachelor.
, though temperate and energetic, was himself utterly devoid of Christianity, of a violent and unscrupulous character, and much given to assume, in its ruder phase, the character of a sporting gentleman.
He kept race-horses, made up country race-matches, and employed his nephew as his favorite rider, whenever he expected a close
It was the gossip of all the country-side, that if a horse had any winning qualities in him, they would inevitably come out when young Tom Jackson
rode him in the race.
Moreover, the general morals of the community were loose, and irregularities too often found most countenance from those of highest station.
The Christianity of the region was not influential; ministers were few, and deficient in intelligence and weight, being chiefly the most uncultivated members of the Baptist
communion, or of the itinerant fraternity of the Methodists.
If the citizens saw anything of Episcopacy or Presbyterianism, it was only from the transient visits and sermons of ministers from a distance.
The state of religious opinion was just what the observing man would expect from such influences.
The profession of Christianity was chiefly confined to the more ignorant classes; and among them Church discipline and Christian morals were relaxed.
Men of the ruling houses, like the Jacksons, were too often found to be corrupted by the power and wealth, with which the teeming fertility of their new country was rewarding their talents.
Minds such as theirs, self-educated by the activity and competition of their bustling times, were too vigorous to acknowledge the intellectual sway of a class of ministers who dispensed, for sermons, their crude notions of experimental piety, in barbarous English
There were few cultivated minds to represent the authority of the gospel.
Consequently, most of the men of position were openly neglectful of Christianity, and some were infidels.
No one will wonder, then, that as young Jackson
approached manhood, his conduct became somewhat irregular.
He was, as he himself declared, an ardent frequenter of races, of “houseraisings,” and of country-dances.
But still his industry remained; his truthfulness and honesty continued untarnished; and the substantial foundations of integrity were never undermined
in his nature.
His irregularities were never more than temporary foibles, and they yielded to the wholesome influences of the first two years discipline at,the military academy, and to the encouragement of better prospects and gratified aspirations.
During the first year's course, the “demerits” incurred show some remains of his wilder habits; but even then his comrades found in him nothing low or vile.
And thenceforward he appeared at home, during vacations, perfectly exemplary in his demeanor, and at the school, regular, laborious, truthful, scorning everything base; modest, yet self-reliant; and although inexperienced in some of the forms of society, ever full of intrinsic dignity and courtesy.
It is manifest that his nature was intensely ambitious and aspiring.
He thirsted eagerly for knowledge, and for wellearned distinction.
He knew himself to be a depressed scion of a noble and influential stock; and while he felt no morbid shame at his poverty, he longed to reinstate himself in the foremost ranks of the kindred, from which orphanage and destitution had thrust him down.
This was the ruling desire, the purpose of his early manhood, and it gives us the key to many of the singularities of his character; to his hunger for selfimprovement; to his punctilious observance, from a boy, of the essentials of a gentlemanly bearing, even where he was ignorant of its conventionalities; to the uniform assertion of his selfrespect.
The wonder is, that the circumstances which surrounded him did not make him, simply, another Cummins Jackson
The generous kindness of this uncle, the force of his example, the similarity of the two in the strength and ardor of their natures, and the impress of a will so energetic and commanding, would seem naturally to tend to that result.
But the nephew appears to have imbibed all the good traits of the uncle, and to have escaped the bad. How shall the formation
of such a character, in such a state of society, be explained?
Was it not due to that noble constitution of his nature, that reverence for the true and the right, that manly courage which the Creator impressed upon it, for his own ulterior ends, coupled with the purifying force of a Christian mother's teachings and prayers?
Of this uncle General Jackson
always spoke with grateful affection; as he was evidently his favorite nephew.
displayed his restless love of adventure by going, when he was forty-nine years old, to seek gold in California
He was also impelled in part by disgust at the persecutions of some of his neighbors, with whom his feuds had become perfectly inveterate.
His ample farm and competency could not detain him; he crossed the plains with a well-equipped company of gold-hunters, of whom he was recognized as the chief, in 1849, and died the autumn of that year in the wilds of the mining region.
Had he made a will, it is believed that General Jackson
would have been a chief heir; but death disappointed such generous purposes if he had them; and his estate is destined to be divided among almost a hundred nephews and nieces.
It will be best here to anticipate so much as will be necessary, to complete the history of young Jackson
's official life in Lewis
The law requires the county court to take bond and security of every constable to the amount of not less than two thousand dollars, for the faithful transaction of all the business committed to him. When a creditor places any claim in the hands of such an officer for collection, he usually exacts a receipt from him acknowledging the trust undertaken, and the amount and nature of the demand.
The officer thus incurs a responsibility from which he must absolve himself, either by collecting and paying over to him the
amount of the claim, or by making every lawful effort to do so, and showing that it was impracticable, by reason either of the insolvency or evasion of the creditor.
When the hope of an immediate appointment, as cadet of the Military Academy, was suggested, young Jackson
's abiding desire for a liberal education forbade his hesitating for any smaller concerns.
He instantly resigned his place.
It chanced that this was a season of stringency in the currency of the region, and his uncle found himself unable at the time to raise ready money for his outfit.
By his advice, Thomas
sold such claims for cash as could be thus disposed of, and transferred the remainder of his papers and business to him for adjustment.
It would appear that even these prompt means failed to realize enough for his expenses.
One can readily conceive that a boy of eighteen, with all his punctuality, would not be a thoroughly methodical accountant.
So, when the settlements with suitors were made, in the absence of that personal recollection on which he largely relied, the more greedy succeeded in making him their seeming debtor for more than he had left in his uncle's hands.
The consequence was, that a few suits were brought against the latter, as his security, for the payment of sums thus claimed.
He, indeed, probably regarded this as rather good luck than ill, as it gave him additional occasion to exercisehis restless mind in his beloved work of litigation; and his generosity to Thomas
made him cheerfully pay the deficit.
On the return of Thomas
from West Point
, he looked thoroughly into these transactions, and demanded a more accurate settlement of his accounts.
To one claimant, for whom he had collected a variety of small sums at different times, thus making a somewhat intricate series of transactions, he said that this party ought to be able to remetmber the receipt of various payments on account, for which the written evidence was now lost; and that when the recollection
was distinct and undeniable, he should insist on having credit.
He required his antagonist to go over the whole account on this plan.
When he sought to avoid allowing payments, which Jackson
well knew had been made, by saying “he had no recollection of them,” the latter would reply, “Yea, but you must recollect them;” and, by his firm countenance and reference to attendant circumstances, would constrain his unwilling party to make the just admissions.
In this way he forced him to allow in Court sundry abatements of his claim.
Finally, all the sums for which, as constable, he was bound to any one, were fully paid either by him or his uncle.