IN CLAIBORNE AND JEFFERSON
“The career of
General Jackson, as a public man, is so well known,
that it is not my purpose to review it in this place; but many incidents
of his private history have come to my knowledge from an association with
those who were intimate with him, from his first arrival in Tennessee.
These, or so many of them as I deem of interest enough to the public, I
propose to relate.
Jackson was a
restless and enterprising man, embarking in many schemes for the
accumulation of fortune, not usually resorted to by professional men, or
men engaged in public matters. In business he was cautious. He was a
remarkable judge of human character, and rarely gave his confidence to
untried men. Notwithstanding (page 148) the impetuosity of his nature,
upon occasion he could be as cool and as calculating as a Yankee. The
result was, that though he had many partners in the various pursuits he at
different times resorted to, he rarely had any pecuniary difficulty with
any of them. He was in the habit of trading with the low country, that is,
with the inhabitants of Mississippi and Louisiana.
remember the charge brought against him pending his candidacy for the
Presidency, of having been, in early life, a Negro trader, or dealer in
slaves. This charge was strictly true, though abundantly disproved by the
oaths of some, and even by the certificate of his principal partner.
Jackson had a small store, or trading establishment, at Bruinsburgh, near
the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, in Claiborne County, Mississippi. It was at
this point he received the negroes, purchased by his partner at Nashville,
and sold them to the planters of the neighborhood. Sometimes, when the
price was better, or the sales were quicker, he carried them to
Louisiana. This, however, he soon declined; because, under the laws of
Louisiana, he was obliged to guarantee the health and character of the
slave he sold.
occasion he sold an unsound Negro to a planter in the parish of West
Feliciana, and, upon his guarantee, was sued and held to bail to answer.
In this case he was compelled to refund the purchase-money, with damages.
He went back upon his partner, and compelled him to share the loss. This
caused a breach between them, which was never healed. This is the only
instance which ever came to my knowledge of strife with a partner. He was
close to his interest, and spared no means to protect it.
It was during the
period of his commercial enterprise in Mississippi that he formed the
acquaintance of the Green family. This family was among the very first
Americans who settled in the State. Thomas M. Green and
were young men at the time, though both were men of family. To both of
them Jackson, at different times, sold negroes, and the writer now has
bills of sale for negroes sold to
Abner Green, in the
handwriting of Jackson, bearing his signature, written, as it always was,
in large and bold characters, extending quite half across the sheet.
At this store,
which stood immediately upon the bank of the Mississippi, there was a
race-track, for quarter-races, (a sport Jackson was then then very fond
of,) and many an anecdote was rife, forty years ago, in the
neighborhood, (page 149) of the skill of the old hero in pitting a cock or
turning a quarter horse.
This spot has become classic ground. It was here Aaron Burr was first
arrested by Cowles Mead, then acting as Governor of the Territory of
Mississippi, and from whom he made his escape, and it was at this point
that Grant crossed his army when advancing against Vicksburg. It is a
beautiful plateau of land, of some two thousand acres, immediately below
the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, and bordered by very high and abrupt
cliffs, which belong to the same range of hills that approach the river's
margin at Vicksburg, Grand Gulf, Rodney, Natchez, and Bayou Sara. At this
point they attain the height of three hundred feet, and are almost
perpendicular. The summit is attained by a circuitous road cut through the
cliffs, and this is the summit level of the surrounding country.
This plateau of land, where once stood the little village of Bruinsburgh,
has long been a cotton plantation, and a most valuable one - it was before
the late war.
A deep, and,
to an army, impassable swamp borders it below, and the same is the case
above the Bayou Pierre. To land an army at such a place, when its only
means of marching upon the country was through this narrow cut, of about
one hundred feet in width, with high, precipitous sides, forming a
complete defile for half a mile, and where five thousand men could have
made its defense good against fifty thousand, is certainly as little
evidence of military genius as was the permission of them to pass through
it without an effort to prevent it.
To a military
eye, the blunders of Grant and Pemberton are apparent in their every
movement-and the history of the siege and capture of Vicksburg, if ever
correctly written, will demonstrate to the world that folly opposed to
folly marked its inception, progress, and finality.
formed in this section of country by Jackson were devoted to him through
life, and when in after life he sent (for it is not true that he brought)
his future wife to Mississippi, it was to the house of Thomas M. Green,
then residing near the mouth of Cowles Creek, and only a few miles from
circumstances of the separation, or the cause for it, between Mrs. Jackson
and her first husband, I am ignorant; I know
that Jackson was much censured in the neighborhood of his home.
At the time of her coming to Green's, the civil authority was a disputed one (page
150); most of the people acknowledging the Spanish. A suit
was instituted for a divorce, and awarded by a Spanish tribunal. There was
probably little ceremony or strictness of legal proceeding in the matter,
as all government and law was equivocal, and of but little force just at
that time in the country.
It was after
this that Jackson came and married her, in the house of Thomas M. Green.
That there was anything disreputable attached to the lady's name is very
improbable; for she was more than fifteen months in the house of Green,
who was a man of wealth, and remarkable for his
pride and fastidiousness in selecting his friends or acquaintances. He was
the first Territorial representative of Mississippi in Congress -was at
the head of society socially, and certainly would never have permitted a
lady of equivocal character to the privileges of a guest in his house, or
to the association of his daughters, then young.
During the time
she was awaiting this divorce, she was at times an inmate of the family of
of Second Creek, where she was always gladly received, and he and his
family were even more particular as to the character and position of those
they admitted to their intimacy, if possible, than Thomas B. Green. This
intimacy was increased by the marriage of two of the Green brothers to
nieces of Mrs. Jackson.
In 1835, when
Jackson was President, the writer, passing from Louisiana to New York with
his family, spent some days at Washington. His lady was the youngest
Abner Green; he was in company with a daughter of Henry
Green and her husband; her mother was niece to Mrs. Jackson. We called to
see the President, and when my lady was introduced to the General, he was
informed she was the daughter of his old friend,
of Second Creek. He did not speak, but held her hand for some
moments, gazing intently into her face. His feelings overcame him, and
clasping her to his bosom, he said, "I must kiss you, my child, for your
sainted mother's sake;" then holding her from him, he looked again, "Oh!
how like your mother you are - she was the friend of my poor Rachel, when
she so much needed a friend – I loved her, and I love her memory;" and
then, as if ashamed of his emotion, he continued: "You see, my child,
though I am President through the kindness or folly of the people, I am
but a weak, silly old man."
We spent the evening with him, and when in his private sitting (page151)
room his pipe was lighted and brought to him, he said: "Now, my
child, let us talk about Mississippi
and the old people." I have
never in all my life seen more tenderness of manner, or more deep
emotion shown, than this stern old man continually evinced when
speaking of his wife and her friends.” (page 152)
By William Henry
Sparks, The Memories of Fifty Years, published in 1872 from MOA, U
Submitted by Sue B.