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Mother of a President

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Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson lived close to the Camden-Salisbury Road in the Waxhaws during the Revolutionary War. Because of her home’s proximity to this busy trek, she met many who traveled to and from Charles Town. News from the war, as well as participation in it, became a routine way of life. Rather than focusing on the seasonal farming of their livelihood, hostilities assaulted their tranquility.

Fighting and battles became the new normal, as the British moved troops to control the colony of Carolina. Men, women, and children all did their part and bore the scars.

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Her brother-in-law fought and survived the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. In May, 1780, she nursed the wounded and dying from the Battle of Waxhaws where Banastre Tarleton earned his name Bloody Ban. Her oldest son Hugh, at age sixteen, died at the Battle of Stono Ferry. She relentlessly sought and gained the release of her two younger sons, Robert and Andy, from the British Camden prison. Robert then died from the small pox he caught at the jail. She continued to play a heroine’s role in this war when she left to nurse her nephews on one of the British prison ships in Charles Town’s harbor, and she was buried in an unknown grave after contracting disease from the prisoners.

Setting an example of fortitude and bravery for her family and community, Elizabeth never wavered in making both arduous and costly decisions. Whether it was to board a ship in Ireland with her husband, as well as an infant and two-year-old, to travel to an unknown world or to intentionally travel to a plague-ridden, sea-water jail, this heroine met her life challenges.

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Elizabeth’s life story will confront you.  As you read about her demanding life in colonial and Revolutionary War South Carolina, I think Elizabeth’s life will captivate you, as she did me. She was one of many ordinary women who lived extraordinary lives.  A story-teller and staunch Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, she lovingly took care of her family. Sharing hospitality to both friends and strangers was not a chore, and her home was one of welcome.

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I recommend reading Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson’s fictionalized biography. There are more details about the Revolutionary War in South Carolina than in my other two. This character-driven book shares the every- day life of a woman who defends her hearth and home in the cause of freedom and liberty.

 "This is a biography on Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, the mother of President Andrew Jackson. This Scots-Irish Presbyterian woman who was a devout Patriot. She believed in the importance of education and made sure her sons received the available opportunities to learn at the church school in the Waxhaws. Sticking by family and friends was an honor and not a responsibility to her, as she struggled to survive in the Waxhaws of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War." ~ goodreads.com

John Adams said, “Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

Elizabeth’s life so dared me.

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Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson – the Mother of President Andrew Jackson

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Brave Elizabeth is a biog­ra­phy of Eliz­a­beth Jack­son, the mother of Pres­i­dent Andrew Jack­son.

I believe that envi­ron­ment and hered­ity influ­ence a per­son, and it was fas­ci­nat­ing to me to research the mother of one of our Pres­i­dents. Here is a snip­pet of her life.

Andrew and Eliz­a­beth Jack­son were liv­ing in Boney­be­fore, Ire­land, in 1764. They were ten­ant farm­ers and not mak­ing enough money from their crops and sheep to make ends meet. Taxes con­tin­ued to go up, and the weather con­tin­ued to cast blights on their har­vests. The Scots-Irish cou­ple worked hard, but life under the British rule was a hard-scrabble exis­tence. Dis­re­spect and prej­u­dice for their Pres­by­ter­ian reli­gion was also challenging.

A new life in a new land cap­tured their thoughts.

In April 1765, Andrew and Eliz­a­beth Jack­son crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies with their two chil­dren. Hugh was two, and Robert only a babe. The eight week voy­age from Larne, Ire­land, was uneventful.

They bought land close to Elizabeth’s fam­ily and erected a small one-room cabin. They planted crops and started over. Hap­pily for two years, the Jack­sons worked hard and strug­gled to eke out a liv­ing in this red clay, but in March 1767, while chop­ping wood on a cold, spring day, Andrew Jack­son had an acci­dent and died shortly there­after. Eliz­a­beth, nine months preg­nant with their third son, was a widow at thirty with all the respon­si­bil­i­ties of a sin­gle mother in eighteenth-century America.

Though small in stature, Eliz­a­beth was strong and resilient in spirit. She adapted to life’s changes and dis­ap­point­ments and put oth­ers’ needs before her­self. Work­ing hard and push­ing for­ward through chal­lenges was the model she set for her sons.

After Andrew’s death, her sis­ter and brother-in-law, Jane and James Craw­ford, asked Eliz­a­beth to move in with their fam­ily. Jane had been sick for sev­eral years and needed help with the house­keep­ing. Their eight chil­dren needed more super­vi­sion than she could give, so the Jack­sons joined the Craw­ford household.

Busy with the daily chores of plan­ning and prepar­ing meals for four­teen indi­vid­u­als in a fire­place, tend­ing to the needs of eleven chil­dren and her ail­ing sis­ter, mend­ing, spin­ning, man­ag­ing a gar­den, churn­ing, etc., Eliz­a­beth con­tin­ued to weave cloth for the com­mu­nity. She earned money from the neigh­bors by sell­ing the cloth and was known for the qual­ity and exper­tise of her work.

Eliz­a­beth wanted her sons to have a for­mal edu­ca­tion. All three boys attended the church and com­mu­nity schools, but Hugh and Robert had more apti­tude for out­door activ­i­ties, and they wanted to farm. Andy learned to read at an early age, and his mother thought he might become a min­is­ter. His per­son­al­ity was not for a scholar’s life though, and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War inter­rupted his education.

Elizabeth’s faith in God and His Prov­i­dence was a major ingre­di­ent in her char­ac­ter. She had a small Bible that she car­ried in her pocket, and she prayed often. She taught her sons the impor­tance of obe­di­ence to the Bible’s teach­ings and encour­aged them in their loy­alty to each other and the rest of their fam­ily. Eliz­a­beth urged deeds and words hon­or­ing God, fam­ily, and country.

The Wax­haws set­tle­ment was con­nected to Charleston via the Catawba Path, also known as the Cam­den Sal­is­bury Road, with many trav­el­ers. Mer­chants and Indian traders car­ried their wares to mar­kets. Farm­ers drove their cat­tle to sale. New set­tlers in the Con­estoga wag­ons or on foot were daily vis­i­tors. All of these trav­el­ers kept trade, cul­ture, and news flow­ing into the upcoun­try where the Jack­son fam­ily lived. Because of the prox­im­ity of the Craw­ford home, vis­i­tors kept them in the know with infor­ma­tion and intelligence.

On 20 June 1779, sixteen-year-old Hugh died after the Bat­tle of Stono Ferry near Charlestown. The two-hour bat­tle was not a win for the Patri­ots, but the mili­tia fought bravely. Hugh was not wounded but died of heat exhaustion.

Eliz­a­beth nursed the dying and wounded after the horrific Bat­tle of Wax­haws. She didn’t shy away from either the pain or wounds of the soldiers that were slaughtered by the British at this battle. Later, she hid with her fam­ily from the British, who stole and burned the patri­ots’ farms.

Robert and Andy were under the com­mand of the expe­ri­enced Major William Richard­son Davie. Because of his youth, only thir­teen, Andy served as a mes­sen­ger. Guer­rilla war­fare and destruc­tion was the aim of both sides, and enemy neigh­bors paid back old insults.

Then in the spring of 1781 both Robert and Andy were cap­tured by the British, along with oth­ers in the Wax­haws mili­tia. They were taken to the Cam­den Jail. Small­pox was in every cell, and before long both boys were afflicted. Eliz­a­beth Jack­son was deter­mined to res­cue her sons from this hell­hole. She auda­ciously went to see Lord Raw­don and asked for him to add her sons’ names to a pris­oner exchange that was in the works. He was not unhappy to release two sick prisoners.

Their mother nursed them for sev­eral weeks, but Robert was too weak and died. She never left Andy’s side until he could walk by himself.

Hor­rific tales about how the Patri­ots were being treated on the British prison ships in the har­bor of Charlestown began to cir­cu­late. Eliz­a­beth found out that sev­eral of her nephews were on those ships suf­fer­ing with cholera. Know­ing their chances to sur­vive were small with­out some kind of nurs­ing, Eliz­a­beth and a cou­ple of women from the Wax­haws com­mu­nity decided they needed to go help the young men. In the fall of 1781, three women left home on a mis­sion of mercy.

Elizabeth’s nephews sur­vived, but she did not. She caught cholera and was buried in an unmarked grave in Charleston.

Eliz­a­beth taught her sons the dif­fer­ence between right and wrong, and free­dom and oppres­sion; the impor­tance of help­ing fam­ily and friends; rev­er­ence for truth, jus­tice, and free­dom; and a deep patri­otic devo­tion to coun­try.

Eliz­a­beth Hutchin­son Jack­son was a Patriot, a South Car­olina Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War Hero­ine, and the mother of Pres­i­dent Andrew Jack­son. Her story is worth remembering.

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